Gardenwise | Sorbus – They’re Super!

Wed, Oct 14, 2020

I’m feeling a lot of love for Sorbus at the moment – they are such a super little tree. Our native Sorbus aucuparia is also commonly known as the rowan or mountain ash, which confuses people a lot – this is the kind of confusion that the use of botanical names, as opposed to common ones, helps to avoid. Anyway. You’ll know Sorbus aucuparia by its pinnate leaves – small leaflets arranged either side of a common stalk – and its abundant bunches of scarlet berries, visible from mid to late summer onwards. It’s a small, dainty tree, and this, as well as its long season of interest – bunches of creamy blossom in spring and good autumn leaf colour – make it a good candidate for a small garden. It’s also good for exposed locations, being completely unfazed by poor soil and strong winds.

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Gardenwise | The Benefits of Going Under Cover

Thu, Oct 08, 2020

No matter how lovely your garden is, you must admit that sometimes it would be really convenient if you could just add a roof. Fresh air is all very well and we need the rain for sure, but wouldn’t it be lovely if we could enjoy the garden without the rain actually falling on us while we do it?

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Gardenwise | Stretching the Seasons

Wed, Sep 30, 2020

Since that decided nip arrived in the air last week, it feels as though autumn is definitely here, although the golden sunny days might hang around for a little while yet if we’re lucky. It can be easy to give up on the garden at this time of year and I’ve definitely been guilty of that myself over the last month or so. As summer ends and growth slows, things tend to get overgrown and a bit neglected, plants sprawling and looking past their best – just like humans do at the end of a party. Not that anyone can remember what a party’s like just now, obviously.

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Gardenwise | Berry Nice Indeed

Tue, Sep 22, 2020

It’s getting to the time of year when berries abound on plants both wild and cultivated. This is when they can be enjoyed in the ornamental garden and hedgerow – visually, at least. A few weeks further on and a cold snap will see them stripped off by hungry birds, but just now, as the season turns and the leaves begin to do likewise, the jewel like clusters still adorn the branches.

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Gardenwise | A Sense of Place for Perfect Paving

Mon, Sep 14, 2020

One of the more important principles of garden design is good flow – a well designed garden will fit in and sit well, not just with the home or building to which it belongs, but with the wider environment outside, whether that be town or country, seaside or city centre. It’s well worth keeping this in mind before you make your final choice of paving, as your patio or terrace, steps and paths are probably your largest investment in terms of outlay when you are planning changes to the garden or indeed creating a new one.

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Gardenwise | What’s In a Name?

Tue, Aug 25, 2020

When I’m discussing planting plans with clients they’re sometimes nonplussed by the botanical names of plants, and it’s hard to blame them - after all, not many of us are familiar with Latin in the twenty first century. There’s a very good reason for using them, though, and it’s not just to baffle you with hard to pronounce tongue twisters.

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Gardenwise | Late Summer Blues

Wed, Aug 19, 2020

Nature, for reasons best known to herself, seems to favour shades of yellow and pink. That is, I am sure there are botanists and scientists who know why this is, but I only know that it is so. Check out the wildflowers growing by the roadside or in fields – they are still looking fabulous even in late August here in the west of Ireland – and you’ll see what I mean. There are plenty of pinks, yellows and whites, but apart from the odd vetch scrambling up a blackberry bush, blues are few and far between. And even the vetches are mostly mauvey - purple.

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Gardenwise | Rain , Rain Go Away…..

Wed, Aug 12, 2020

Regular readers of Gardenwise might remember me mentioning, earlier in the summer, that I always dread hearing about a hosepipe ban, because nothing is more guaranteed to result in torrential rain shortly thereafter. I’ll leave you to judge for yourself whether that observation has this year been justified, pausing only to point out that the ban has, for some weeks, been lifted.

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Gardenwise | The Aromatic Herb that Won’t be Forgotten

Wed, Aug 05, 2020

We were roasting lamb the other day and I headed out to the garden for a few sprigs of rosemary, as you do. For ages after cutting, the gorgeous aroma clung to my hands, reminding me yet again what a super plant this is – so much so that I think it deserves a Gardenwise column all to itself.

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Gardenwise | Doing the hard work – so you don’t have to!

Mon, Jul 27, 2020

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a garden designer must have a great life altogether, wafting about among pretty flowers, stopping here and there to smell the roses, and smile as a butterfly flutters past. Sure it’s hardly a job at all! Except, of course, that’s not quite how it works in real life, so today ladies and gentlemen, a behind -the -scenes glimpse of one part of the design process, the Site Assessment. The parameters of this can be vary from a thorough walk through with observations and photos taken from every angle to a complete site survey with measurements.

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Sounds of the Sea Part II – Plants for a Coastal Garden

Wed, Jul 22, 2020

Last week we looked at some of the garden design issues facing those lucky enough to have a garden close to the coast. This week I’d like to share with you some of my favourite plants for growing in these challenging locations. The great benefit to living and gardening close to the sea is that frost is very rare, so you will get away with a wider variety of tender plants without winter protection than you would further inland. The downside, of course, is that strong, salty winds will be almost constant unless your garden is very sheltered, so plants need to be chosen with this in mind.

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Gardenwise | Sounds of the Sea

Tue, Jul 14, 2020

A coastal garden is usually a challenge, and being based on the western edge of our beautiful island, a lot of my clients have gardens by the sea. The biggest challenge is usually the wind – not just its strength and frequency, but the salt it carries with it which can be so harmful to sensitive leaves and flowers. Being the west of Ireland, rainfall is high and soil by the sea often tends to be sandy, full of rocks and low in nutrients. But there are few amongst us who don’t love the sea – and that can often lead to the biggest challenge of all – how to create a sheltered garden without losing your view of the rolling waves.

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Gardenwise | Wild about the Meadow

Tue, Jul 07, 2020

Since lockdown was lifted I’ve been travelling along the highways and byways on my way to clients’ gardens, and the wildflowers along the roadside verges never fail to take my breath away. In a ‘normal’ year, they are as much a marker of the seasons as the leaves on the trees, from wild primroses in April, to cow parsley and foxgloves in May, and the hundreds of nodding heads of the dog daisies in June. How precious they seem this year, when travel restrictions kept us confined, apart from daily walks, to whatever we had growing in our own gardens! There are still more to look forward to as summer unfolds, especially here in the Burren lowlands, with sky-blue scabious, aromatic wild marjoram and many others still waiting to flower, before the multitude of golden grass seed heads takes over in late summer.

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Gardenwise | Foodie Fun for Growing Gardeners

Wed, Jul 01, 2020

Everybody knows a sun-ripened strawberry straight from the plant is nicer than one from the fridge – so why don’t more of us grow our own fruit and veg? Maybe because it can actually be quite hard work, with the rewards not always guaranteed. But it’s worth having a go if there are little ones in your house - it’s never too early to introduce them to the delights of homegrown produce. The trick is to make it easy for them, and easy for yourself.

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Gardenwise | Spread a Little Sunshine

Tue, Jun 23, 2020

This week Gardenwise brings you lots of glorious yellow, in the form of the statuesque sunflower. A hardy annual that grows and lives for just one season, the sunflower is also the international emblem for hospice care – and I’m hoping that you can help to bring a little of its sunshine to our local hospice, to help continue the vital work of caring for patients and their loved ones.

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Gardenwise | How to be Water Wise

Wed, Jun 17, 2020

I always dread hearing a hosepipe ban announced, for legal reasons. And why is that, you might ask? Well, it’s on account of Murphy’s Law, which states that “although several weeks of sunny weather may create the expectation of a good summer, a declaration of drought will immediately be followed by dark clouds, heavy rain and a chance of localised flooding”. So the hosepipe ban came into effect earlier this week and we haven’t had a dry, sunny day since. I rest my case.

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Gardenwise | Saving Summer – how to gather in the garden

Wed, Jun 10, 2020

I’ve always been a firm believer that gardens are to be enjoyed, not just worked in – and the last few months have brought home just how valuable they can be. With restrictions easing and indoor visits allowed from this week, lots of us still won’t be comfortable with visitors indoors, especially if someone in the house is vulnerable from a health point of view. So this summer more than ever, we need to get good at gathering in the garden. Here are a few hints to help you make it happen.

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Gardenwise | Hooked on Herbs – the Garden Gateway

Wed, Jun 03, 2020

Whoever would have thought a couple of months ago that a visit to the garden centre would become such an eagerly awaited event? Suddenly somewhere you popped into to pick up a few bits without thinking – a bag of compost, a bird feeder and a six pack of lettuce plants – became a Destination. Outfits were chosen and displayed on social media. Lists were made and a flask and sandwiches packed in the car just in case the queues were so long you couldn’t get home in time for lunch.

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Gardenwise | Paving the Way to a Great Garden

Wed, May 20, 2020

At this most enchanting time of year – ‘Sweet the evening air of May’, and all that – what better subject to focus on than paving? Sand and cement, jointing, hardcore and quarry screenings? Unromantic it may be, but good paving is far more important to your garden than pretty flowers.

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Gardenwise | Clothe your Walls with Clematis

Wed, May 13, 2020

I’ve always loved clematis ever since I started gardening – a wall or fence completely smothered in its blooms is a lovely sight to behold. As a garden designer, I include them in planting plans for clients quite a lot – depending on the individual garden (and the garden owner ) - because, if chosen carefully, clematis can make a glorious addition to any garden.

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