Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
THE exciting thing about plants is the fact that they are living forms and, therefore, they are constantly changing although you might not be aware of this as some are much slower growing than others.
I find that one of the most fascinating aspects of living animals or plants is the miracle of growth and development. The more I learn about plants the less I know about them and, while humbled about how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, it spurs me on to understand the science of all living things. Even a simple stroll in the woods, along the beach or Anne Valley leaves me inspired at the beauty of nature and these unforgettable moments are all to be had outside in the fresh air.
As you know, I enjoy being outside as I find it good for the body, mind and soul… all of which could be debated at some time but now and then I have magic moments in the garden and what makes it extra special is that they are often unexpected.
It is usually something simple such as a flower opening, and I can see its beautiful shape and colour, and perhaps it might have a scent or it could be the taste of a fruit or tomato just picked from the plant and this summer seeing a jay for the first time in 20 years or the four young hedgehogs following their mother across the yard. These are all unforgettable moments.
I have said it on a number of occasions but, believe it or not, we just happen to live in a corner of Ireland that is considered very favourable for a huge range of plants. I suppose the same could be said for our lives when I think of the harsh weather that sometimes batters the west of Ireland or the severe frosts that occurs in the midlands.
We sometimes take it for granted when many of our plants just grow away like weeds and you might be amused to hear that Griselinia, much used as a hedge, is considered to be special abroad and is classified as a subantarctic forest plant. Actually, we have used griselinia singly in some city gardens where it is trained into a trunk and makes a beautiful small evergreen specimen, under which we had a patio area.
Anyone can help things along by being creative in whatever space is available. I will admit it is trickier when that space is limited and your ideas are big but do not let that hold you back and by all means do a bit of planning before you jump in at the deep end. I find that while you might leap into a project with enthusiasm, it might be better to work at it at a slower pace as your ideas evolve and you will end up with a better finished project in the end.
I do admire and appreciate those plants that not only survive during these dull months but thrive and in many cases produce beautiful flowers. One such plant is the more unusual Camellia sasanqua, which has small fragrant flowers in red ‘Yuletide’, pink ‘Hugh Evans’ or bicolour ‘Rainbow’.
TIP OF THE WEEK
“To every plant there is a season” to borrow or mangle up a phrase but, there are mixed messages out there that advocate planting some subjects that simply will not grow at this time of year. I would avoid sowing any seeds until late January and then only a small pot of slow germinating types and I do not suggest planting strawberries or perennials until the spring as they will just sit there and rot over the winter. By all means plant trees, shrubs and fruit right through the winter as they will be fine and slowly make new roots but avoid heavy waterlogged soil.