The Holidays: Part II

Am just back from an amazing week in Rosslare of all places and the sunny south east lived up to its reputation. Funny how everywhere looks so much better in the sunshine and Rosslare strand was like the south of France all week. My family and I stayed at kelly’s and now all need to join weight watchers having stuffed our chops from the time we woke up ‘til last thing at night. The gardener at Kelly’s really deserves a mention: the planting is superb and just goes to show that sandy, exposed sites can be planted just as beautifully planted as anywhere else and that there are lots of things that will do very nicely thank you in such a situation. A small dune protects the back garden and the inner edge of this has been planted in Mediterranean style grasses, Phormium and Cordyline. I normally loathe the latter two plants, but they look perfect for a seaside garden. The thuggish Phormium acts like marram grass in holding the light sandy dune in place. Inside the garden another thug thrives and looks spectacular – Echium pininana a canary island native – gives the place a really exotic feel. These are underplanted with day lilies, leucanthemum shaggy, a lovely fluffy version of the common shasta daisy, a lovely red day lily (whose name I don’t know) and lots of Kniphofia lucifer. All were thriving in the dry heat. Shady groves were provided by huge cedar trees and olearia traversii. One of many lovely moments was provided by a bunch of starlings. I was sitting in the sauna, which has a large window overlooking the sea and the dunes. Outside is a huge Phormium which was covered in these much maligned and tenacious little birds sticking their beaks into the spent flower heads seeking seeds. It was a lovely sight and one I haven’t seen before.

I came home to find the garden dry as a bone and poor plants wilting everywhere. Have carried out a massive cutting back and deadheading operation and gave it a good watering (how I dread the introduction of water charges) and it is looking a little perkier.

Too hot to sit here and type any longer – off outside to do some more pottering.

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The Holliers Pt 1

This weather is just bloody amazing. We are so unused to this fantastic sunshine and heat we don’t know what to be doing with ourselves; it is warmer than many continental holiday hotspots. With my fair freckly skin I make sure never to burn on holliers abroad, slathering on the high factor sunscreen. Yesterday, after three swims in Sandycove I discovered that I look like a very large and angry tomato and feel like a right eegit. I spent today dressed like a Mullah in my loosest pyjamas and stayed out of the sun (ouch!). The garden looks all wrong. I haven’t seen so many brown and baldy lawns since 1976 and the plants in mine don’t know what has hit them. Geared as it is to a very damp and cool temperate climate my patch is full of damp and shade loving plants. My hellebores are looking very dry and droopy and apart from the gravel garden which has more Mediterranean type planting (ish), the beds are not looking great. There are many plusses though – the slugs and snails hate the dry ground and have not been able to do as much damage as they would like. The bees are magnificent this year – thousands of them, both bumble and honey bees buzzing everywhere. There are also lots of insects which are great as they encourage song birds, frogs and hedgehogs. Of course our old friends the weeds are having a ball. For some reason I have a bind weed infestation this year. Try to pull it out at source, i.e. don’t just snap off the visible bits. If you want to risk it you can spray glyphosate on rubber gloves and run your hands along the leaves and stalks, but you do run the danger of contaminating nearby plants, which if they don’t die, may mutate and be badly damaged. Willow herb is everywhere. Such a pretty name for such a dull and tiresome little plant; its green is just a sort of bleugh shade and the flowers are a sickly pink.
I am going away on Friday and off later in the summer for a longer trip so here are some tips for garden management before heading off.

• Cut back hard any plants that are almost finished blooming, you might get a later flush and if you don’t the garden will not look as untidy on your return.
• Cut the grass very well and edge.
• If you don’t have an irrigation system installed (as if), ask a nice neighbour or pal to water it if the dry weather continues.
• Buy large plastic saucers for placing underneath container plants in the garden centre and water well and fill the saucers before leaving.
• If planting up new containers use water retaining crystals – they do work.
• Make sure any plants that are likely to take off during your absence are surrounded by twiggy sticks or stakes.
• Lay slug traps or pet and bird friendly slug pellets.
• Dead head roses and other shrubs.
• Give away lettuce and other salads that are liable to bolt while they are still useful.