Gardening with Nature on the Edge of the Atlantic

A Late Christmas Present

Great excitement as I finally got my Christmas present to myself and had it assembled in the copse. It was made by the very talented Nick Iain who has a stall full of lovely plants and pots in Skibbereen market. It adds a bit of dignity to the garden at a time when the wildflowers and the dogs are running amok.

In the last few years, I only weed around the areas where I am planting vegetables and allow the wildflowers to take over the rest. This is the path to this year’s potato and onion garden. The various varieties of Hawkweed and foxgloves almost hide the compost bin and in combination with Catmint provide a feast for the bees.

The foxgloves and Hawkweed have also taken over in the new lantern garden despite the fact that it is in the shade for half the day. I am enjoying them now as they will gradually disappear as the camellia and azalea mature over the years.

Each year I struggle with my herbaceous beds which although tiny seem to have an inordinate amount of couch grass which is almost impossible to eradicate. I have managed to empty one section and removed as many roots as possible. I am also replanting the area and putting in the plants that have been most successful so far. Surprising peonies do very well and this new variety Canary Brilliant has settled in and flowered very quickly. I am taking this as a good omen although the grass is already making an appearance again.

This Peony is still interesting even when it has lost most of its petals.

This Salmonberry has also been a great success. It is one of the shrubs that spreads prolifically by suckering. In a large coastal garden this can be very good news as I always have areas that need resilient, attractive plants. When the time is right, I intend to dig up the ‘new’ plants and move them around the garden.

The American dogwood Cornus Kuosa also does well in this climate and the mature trees have a particularly attractive shape. This white variety is now largely hidden from me although it looks very good from my neighbour’s field! I hope to plant one or two more of these in more open spaces so that I can appreciate both their beautiful flowers and their graceful shape.

The roses started to bloom particularly early this year so I hope it does not mean that they will end sooner. I am not a fan of most modern roses and have mainly planted older varieties in a long bank on the driveway and rosa rugosa in the hedgerows. This rose Madam ‘Emille Moulier’ has the best fragrance as far as I am concerned and immediately reminds me of my childhood garden. For some reason I did not plant any close to the house. Another task for next year.

A section of the driveway with its mixture of roses, catmint and foxgloves.

The climbing and rambling roses are just starting to bloom at the bottom of the drive despite almost total neglect. One year I will get the chance to prune them properly although the Chevy Chase Rose below has had endless care and is the only rose that is not really thriving.

Unfortunately, I have lost the label for this lovely flower. It is a reminder that I need to pay more attention to my plant catalogue. A reminder that I am likely to ignore as I prefer working in the garden to ‘homework’.

Elderflower cordial season has started and I have managed to make six litres so far. This relative Sambucus Nigra Black Lace is very pretty and has a much heavier scent than the common elder. I had always thought that you could not use this for cordials but in any event I rarely have enough flowers to try.

This is a self-seeded Echium that has survived the storms of the winter despite being in an exposed position. It is another bee magnet and should provide nectar for months to come.

I think that this is the common carder bumble bee feeding off the echium.

Over forty goldfinches spent the winter in the garden and I miss their squabbling. A couple of pairs remain and are mimicking the robins by following me everywhere. They usually perch at the top of the nearest shrub or tree and whistle and chatter incessantly. I can’t decide if they are wanting food, greeting me or telling me to buzz off. Regardless I enjoy their company and look forward to their friends’ return in the autumn. It feels as if they are posing for these photographs as they know that they look beautiful.

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