Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
PLANTS are vital for the survival of the human race and this fact can be explored by other avenues if interested but if we go further down the line and bring this aspect into our everyday lives, we can make a difference and be pro-active in promoting plants for our general wellbeing and help nature at the same time.
The availability and cost of food is distorted around the world with polar opposites occurring as a constant, such as the cheap, wide variety and plentiful food in developed countries and the scarcity in poorer countries. In a time of recession or at the present situation with the coronavirus, people have jumped into growing vegetables and to a smaller extent fruit, all of which is not necessarily for a monetary need but rather a mental comfort and that is not a bad thing either.
We grow our own vegetables and fruit because we like the lifestyle and nature of tending crops that you can harvest and eat. The GYO (Grow Your Own) movement started many decades ago and more recently a newer movement started in Waterford called GIY (Grow It Yourself), which has encouraged another generation to grow some of their own food crops.
It could be a primeval state in that we are continuing from our ancestor’s time but in addition we do like to grow our own edible crops as they are fresh and contain no pesticides. On a pure monetary value we do not save much but we value the peace, calming effect of interacting with nature, and that is priceless.
There is a conscious shift towards wildflowers which are not only pretty to look at but they also benefit pollinating insects. Local authorities have carried this out further by leaving areas uncut and also sowing patches with a wildflower meadow mix. They are very colourful along the roadsides and most importantly this has encouraged an increase in the insect population. Homeowners are doing the same by sowing a popular brand containing up to 45 native flowers in designated bare areas of their garden.
While many of the wildflowers are either annuals or bi-annuals and rely on repeated sowing or self seeding to continue growing, there is another category called perennials, which are longer living and their large range can provide flowers from early spring until the autumn. The old fashioned cottage garden Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ (red) and ‘Lady Stratheden (yellow) are still popular and have a lovely lax growing habit, as does the blue flowering Catmint Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ or ‘Walker’, and in the same vein the pale primrose coloured daisy like Anthemis ‘E C Buxton’ is a firm favourite as it flowers from May until October against attractive ferny foliage. The bergamot Monarda has unusual flowers and comes in shades of pink to red, and Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ is unusual with its crimson thistle like flowers. Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is a relative newcomer and has compact multicoloured evergreen foliage above which lime green flowers appear from March to June.
The last perennial is a brilliant plant called Erigeron ‘Sea Breeze’ for many situations such as a ground cover or growing on clay banks or ditches and has daisy like flowers which are lilac with a yellow eye, and as the name suggests it will do well along coastal gardens.
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When we grow plants such as summer patio flowers and also vegetables, it is important that we care for them and that means regular watering with a weak liquid feed twice a month and, it is especially vital during periods of hot, sunny and windy weather, otherwise the plants will scorch up and die. The best time for watering is during the evening and possibly an extra light dose if needed in the morning.
The short time for lawn treatment such as sowing or repairing has passed but if you have been caught short, by all means complete the maintenance but do not water the area in and just be patient and let nature encourage germination at some stage.