Sunday, 20 January 2019

When Is a Weed Not A Weed?

The weather has turned a bit colder, yet not quite cold enough to hurt. I recorded no frost night this week, and the plants in the glasshouse are thriving. In total since September, there have been only three frost nights here in Abbeyside. However, the forecast for the week ahead looks wintery. I'll be rooting out my thermals and garden gloves. However, before I look ahead, here are my thoughts on the week just finished. As always recently, it started with Monday.

Monday, 14th January:

An update on my recent purchase and planting of Acer japonica Red Flamingo. The leaves are gone but the bark becomes the interesting focus. It turns pink in winter, and the colder the weather the more pink it turns. As you know, it has been extremely mild here in Dungarvan. So mild, in fact, that we say it is wicked mild. It's a Dungarvan phrase. Anyway, ar aon nós, the bark has turned pink and may yet deepen in colour as the remainder of winter weather continues. I noticed also that the plastic ties have become too tight and it is time to cut them loose. Then, in the interests of stability, I will re-tie the tree a bit looser. Akin to yesterday's article, I'll look for something other than plastic.

Tuesday, 15th January:

Today I am on the @waterfordgreenway once again. I am walking the section near Dungarvan. Actually, I'd be reprimanded for mentioning that, because it's actually Abbeyside. Ar aon nós agus araile again, I need help identifying this plant. It is growing profusely on a steep bank and is now in full flower. I feel that it may be classified as a weed.
On the basis that it is a weed, I'm wondering why are some plants called weeds? I once came upon a definition that a weed is a plant in the wrong place. If this plant were in my suburban garden perhaps I'd not want it and therefore calling it a weed gives me permission to murder it. Simple really. On the other hand, when my mam visits my garden she usually has two questions: Is that new? And secondly, Is that a weed? (Seriously, can you actually imagine there being a weed in my garden?) My standard reply is: If you like it, it's a flower and if you don't like it, it's a weed.
As a final thought, we might not appreciate the flowers as much if there were no weeds.
So, the questions remain: What's it called and is it friend or foe?
Update: the Internet had spoken and clarified the conundrum. The plant is an invasive weed called Petasites fragrans otherwise known in Brexit English as Winter Butterbur. Apparently, it has a vanilla scent.

Wednesday, 16th January:

What could be more useful than a gardening book as a Christmas gift? I got not one, but two. They are entirely different too. The first is The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by Lisa Leendertz. Intended as a "toolkit for connecting with the world around you", it offers ways of appreciating the natural rhythms of the year. It is a book to be dipped into now and again. For example, the section relating to January includes details of the extra daylight from 1st to 31st, curious tales of Rastafarian celebration of Christmas on January 7th. Rastafarians believed Jesus was black and was born in Ethiopia. There is a beautiful section devoted to the mid-winter Snowdrop and songs relating to Burns Night, celebrated in Scotland on the 25th.
The second book is The Writer's Garden: How gardens inspired our best-loved authors, by Jackie Bennett. It features 19 well-known authors and the influence that a specific garden had on their career. So, rather than start at the beginning, I started with a favourite author, Charles Dickens.
Receiving this book touched me because I have centred my writing around my small, humble garden. In many respects, I am my own much-loved author, as I find opportunities for gratitude in my garden and in my writing of it.

Thursday, 17th January:

Guess what's for dessert this evening? This haul of fresh rhubarb is really a surprise at this time of the year. Regular readers will remember me moving Marion's rhubarb to its new home on the raised bed. It was covered with a thick mulch of gladioli leaves and topped off with a horse numna. The weather has been so mild that the conditions for growth were obviously just right, and the growth was sufficient for a decent dessert for two this morning. No, we don't have morning dessert. The growth was just right this morning, and there's a theory going around somewhere that says fruit and vegetables should be harvested in the early morning. Out came the sharp knife, and off I went to the custard shop for yellow custard. What shall we have for dinner before it, I wonder?

Friday, 18th January:

I am returning to the photograph of 6th January to add the following...
Heather's many uses were sufficient to earn it a place in the Old Irish Brehon Laws on trees and shrubs. This meant that the unlawful clearing of a whole field of heather was subject to a fine of one "dairt", or year-old heifer.
Heather was also linked by some medieval scholars with the ancient Irish Ogham alphabet. Each letter of the alphabet was named after a different native tree or shrub, and the letters Onn or O and Úr or U were said by some authorities to be named after Heather. (Irish Wild Plants: Myths, Legends & Folklore by N. Mac Coitir p. 144)

Saturday, 19th January:

Just leaving this here today. I’m off cycling my first 200k of the year so there really isn’t much time for gardening or photographs or writing. The collage is a combination of each season taken using my bitmoji You don't know about bitmojis? Every keen gardener is encouraged to create one. In this case I opted to wear the same outfit throughout the four seasons. But a close look through the following screens shows that I am wearing heavier winter wear. Met Éireann mentions that Arctic air will bring sleet showers and some snow on high ground early next week. I'll be back from my cycling trip before it arrives.

Sunday, 20th January:
Won't be long now! Spring is on the way. I did have daffodils earlier (in fact, they were in bloom for Christmas day). They were bought for indoor windowsill and bloomed so much earlier. Now, as with daffodils that haste away so soon, they are finished flowering just as the outdoor ones are getting ready to show colour.

That's it for this week. Hope you enjoyed the journey.


My Saturday bike ride was a bit special, so I'm adding it here:
There's another Dungarvan. It's in Co. Kilkenny and about 90k from the real one. Today (Saturday), it was foggy in the other one. I can't say about my Dungarvan because I left it in darkness at 7am and arrived back in darkness at 5.30. I know it's possible that it be foggy and dark at the same time. Truth be told I really can't say. On the weekend Dungarvan Cycling Club launched its next-generation summer gear, I ramped up my miles quite considerably. My friend Declan and I toured Waterford, Kilkenny and just a tiny corner of Tipperary on our first 200k of the year. Mild weather, calm winds, good burgers and steady pace. 
I thought about taking it easy today (Sunday). In fact, I did take it easy but on the bike again. The famous group five paced me sensibly to Lismore for sausage rolls, and the lovely Group 4 got me home at a brisk pace. Altogether, a great weekend ar an rothar.
Strava details or RideWith GPS details

Please comment: 

  • Do you just hate weeds?
  • Do you tolerate them? 
  • Feel free to comment on any other aspect of this article also.

Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig garden articles. He loves winter rhubarb (same as last week), Irish myths & legends and emojis. He also likes early daffodils and Rastafarian history, but not weeds that are not flowers.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

When is a Geranium not a Geranium?

The past week has been very mild, very calm and very dry. It was a great week for cycling and for enjoying the garden. Unfortunately, Crystal Palace were beaten by Watford and Brexit remains characteristically complicated. I wonder what will the week ahead bring? On the other hand, rather than look ahead, I pledge to look to the present, and it will bring memories and ideas to record. I have become very comfortable with a short daily note, and I plan to follow this formula. Here are my notes for last week:

Monday, January 7th:
The heated propagator gets turned on today and seed sowing will continue fast and furiously for the next 8-10 weeks. That’s a lot of seeds. The first two packets are sown in a warm 22 degrees Celsius, and I expect germination in about 7-10 days. From then on it will be a case of get them out and get the next set in.
That’s when the trouble starts. I will need lots of shelving in the glasshouse. At present, the entire right side is shelved and is filled to capacity with plants and dormant wintering tubers. The left side, seen above, shows lots of wasted space. The timber is ordered and arriving later today, so I'll be a busy bunny tomorrow to get this space shelved. I’ll need to do it in such a way that the shelving can be removed in summer to allow the tomatoes to grow tall.

Tuesday 8th January:
The season started yesterday with two packets of geranium. The 10 seeds of one and the 16 seeds of the other are sown and incubating at 23 Celsius. I was reminded this morning that they are not geraniums at all, but pelargoniums. These two separate species are very distinct, yet the names seem to be used interchangeably. I decided to get more information by asking Alexa the gardener. I finally settled on this short paragraph from Allwoods Nursery in Sussex: The first recorded species of Pelargonium to be cultivated was P.Triste which is native to South Africa. It was bought over by ship to Leiden Botanical Gardens before 1600 and made its way to the UK in 1631 when an English gardener bought some seeds in Paris and introduced it to England. However, the species was not recognized as any different from a Geranium and this is where the confusion was created. It was only much later in the 1700s that the two were officially classed as individuals. Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I briefly log winter here in Waterford, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things.

Wednesday, 9th January:
I'll tell ya one thing... Them shelves will be Carlsberg shelves when they're done! The measuring and cutting are complete. Some of the lower shelving is complete and it's so sturdy I could lie across it. I tried to construct these in such a way that it will be possible to lift sections away as necessary and to move the entire structure outdoors next summer. I will then be able to use them separately or combined to add height to all the begonias. In the meantime, I'll complete the job tomorrow so that everything is ready for the steady stream of germinated seeds arriving in about two weeks.

Thursday 10th January:
Work has come to a standstill because I am allergic to tree sap. Even a small amount of cutting and contact with this timber has flared up my sensitive skin allergy. I'm on double dose antihistamine, hoping to relieve a flare-up. Rounds 2 and 3 will recommence when it's safe. In the meantime, despite some discomfort, satisfaction levels are high.
Friday 11th January:
Rhubarb munchissima. This early shoot is proving to be a nutritious mid-winter dessert for some garden creatures. As yet, I have been unable to identify the well-fed recipients as they seem to be camera shy. Likely some nocturnal slug or caterpillar type. Winter has been so mild that many are still alive, so mild that the rhubarb has shot up early.
I had planted it last August and covered it with several layers of mulch and a horse numna. The plant has thrown out delicate shoots along the edge. I think I will leave it as is and allow some post-Christmas munching. Later, in order to keep the slugs away, I will crush eggshells around the base. I generally eat an egg every day and keep the washed shell. At present, I'm up to 38 so there should be enough to form an impenetrable barrier.

Saturday 12th January:
Built as the sister castle to Ardfinnan Castle in 1185 by Prince John to guard the river crossing, the castle site was originally occupied by Lismore Abbey, an important monastery and seat of learning established in the early 7th century. Currently owned by the Cavendish family. All information from the Wiki People.
On a slightly smaller scale, the glasshouse shelving has been completed to the second storey. I may add a third if necessary. I noticed that the tomato seedlings on the ground were receiving much less light than before, so I potted up six to grow on for planting in March or April. Incidentally, they will be planted back where they came from as soon as the shelving is removed. Finally, looking for bits and pieces after a small construction project is a project in itself. I was missing the drill chuck. It had mysteriously moved into the centre of a heather plant.

Sunday, 13th January:
Out and about in Abbeyside. These insect boxes have been placed on the trees beside the Greenway. Well done to whoever got this going. In other news, the oceans and roadway ditches are riddled with discarded plastic. Let's be serious about getting priorities right. Yes, I know it's not an either/or situation. Every attempt to live and let live is important. I'm wondering are there people who are stupid enough to see the beauty and worthiness of the picture, yet throwing away items that will not biodegrade? Is there even a small possibility that some insects within have been harmed by minuscule pieces of plastic?

Have you any pet hates when it comes to gardening?
Have you anything special planned for 2019?

Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig garden articles. He loves growing from seed, measuring twice before cutting once and he really really loves Lismore. Additionally and also, he likes rhubarb and Geraniums but not with custard.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Four Day Week

There are only four days this week. You may be shocked to read that in plain text. I have decided, to realign my blog with current international calendars. Thus, I am moving towards starting each week on Monday. Therefore, so and because.... this article is shorter, recalling only Thursday to Sunday.

Thursday, January 3rd:

My front garden is called by many names: the forgotten garden, the neglected, the shaded or the dull. I have a solid bias against it simply because I do not live there. Quite simply, it’s a place I pass by when coming and going. Today is the turn of the front garden to be in the limelight and the plant is Cortaderia, commonly known as Pampas Grass. I do not know the variety. I do know that it looks good in winter. The photo is not of the entire plant, merely the seed-heads. Each one is sturdy and can survive strong winds. Surely there must be thousands of seeds being readied for scattering. I have never seen even one seed produce a next-generation plant. Must investigate further. I am struck by the thought that plants produce enough seed to continue the species. If there’s not enough its goodbye plant. Equally, producing too much seed is very wasteful. Seeds compete for nutrients while attached to the parent, so a weakened quality is the result of oversupply. Weakened quality is a recipe for extinction. Also, if there’s an oversupply it is more likely that seeds will have to compete against one another where they germinate. This is what strengthens a species... the survival of the strongest. But in a situation where many seeds are strong and healthy, it does not make sense that they grow very closely together. I think the Cortaderia produces so many seeds simply because germination is not straightforward. Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.
Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I log my winter garden here in Dungarvan, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things, such as thousands of tiny seeds on a very large plant.

Friday, January 4th:
I enjoyed looking back to something I wrote in February 2017. I am reminded that I am about six weeks ahead of schedule this year. The seed sowing will be started next week.
"The last time I turned on the old propagator was way back in nineteen ninety something. Donald J Trump, now the Oval Office occupant, was an important businessman. Now, as I return to a former active love of growing from seed, this madcap president is surrounded by staff looking to turn him off.
I'm under starter's orders. The time for looking at the garden from within is over. Winter has been very kind to us here in Dungarvan. There have been only a few frost nights and rainfall has been well below average. I've spent many weeks flicking through catalogues and gardening in my head. And now is the time to get things moving again. I had cleaned my worn-out propagator in early January only to find that it's not a propagator any longer as it refuses to heat up. Nothing for it but to bite the bullet and seek a replacement.
I put out the word and waited for some feedback. I had been googling, but everything I looked at seemed fantastic. The internet has a way of making everything look like the bees' knees. Within a short while, thanks to David in Friendly Gardeners I followed up on a recommendation to purchase a Vitopod from Greenhouse Sensations. Incredibly, it was delivered to me within 36 hours, and assembled/installed immediately.
The seed packets are ready, all 57 of them. Yes, I'm aware I've got a small garden and I will not be able to plant most of what germinates. I will proceed undeterred, however. Likely I will just give any surplus plants to friends locally. Most of my seeds are annuals and vegetables.
Being a slightly organised person, (Ahem, note added January 2019 for Michele) I've figured out a planting order. I know I'm a few weeks behind schedule, and the new propagator will be loaded to the brim for the next six weeks.
I began with a real favourite, pompom dahlia. I had dozens of these many years ago and now it's time to grow them again. I'll be creating a small section for these lovely colourful plants along with several others that will flower in late summer until the first frost. So let the journey begin."

Saturday, January 5th: 
Molly on duty. Actually, despite having had breakfast, she searches for birdseed scattered earlier. Start the day slowly. Be like Molly.

Sunday, January 6th.
Today is Nollaig na mBan, otherwise known as Women's' Christmas. It is not connected in any way with the photos here. It's easy to see that there is no connection. The stones removed from the back at Ballinclamper have been placed here and there on the gravel. They have been moved several times because in my view there's nothing worse than the wrong stone in the wrong place. At the moment, I remain quite pleased with the one on the left. In some mysterious way, it may seem that the heather actually grew around it, except for the fact that readers know the stone is only a week old.
The photo top right excites me for a different reason. There are 10 circular holes in the lighter stone, likely homes to some sea creature families. Now that I realise that may have been the case, I figure I will half bury this stone in a shady spot. I will position it so that the holes will not flood with rainwater, and perhaps some garden insects will move in.
Finally, the photo on the bottom right is a stone version of a rag doll. It actually is. I'm sorry if you cannot see it.
So, to finish foff for this "week"...
  • Do you celebrate Nollaig na mBan, the traditional wonen's Christmas?
  • Where you are, what is the first day of the week?
  • Finally, just connect in the comments section about anything that you like here.
Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig garden articles. He admits to being slightly organised, yet it's a severe waste if DNA because his usual habit is to walk into someone's house with X things and walk out with X minus 1. There's a link on his blog to a good article about personal forgetfulness, but naturally... Yeah, you guessed!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Alexa and Maggie

Christmas was very good. Turkey was moist on the 25th, but by 28th it lacked a certain flavour. Mrs. Brown and her Boys lit up the evening's TV as they grappled with Maggie, but all along the garden remained interesting. Here's how I logged the week:

Thursday, December 27th: Top left,'s now time to update the DCC logo to our new club sponsor. Also, time to visit a local beach to get some smooth stones. I think it may be illegal, but I'll live on the edge in the knowledge that some stones that may have come from far-flung shores will add to the garden during 2019. The peanut feeder has been a haven of refuge for hungry birds. It is a busy spot between 8-10am and is also the scene of rude intolerance by some dominant creatures. Fights are a common occurrence. Euonymous White Fire is standing erect and adds good variegated foliage. Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I briefly log winter here in Waterford, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things, particularly peanuts.
Friday, December 28th: I stumbled upon this forgotten nook. Last winter I used a broken pot to give some shelter to the creatures. I filled it with twigs and leftover leaves and it has weathered well. I do hope there are many little creatures wintering cozily. Later I placed a bird feeder above it and look what has happened. Some seed has fallen and rooted. In fact, it is thriving! I am going to leave things as they are in the hope that these grasses or whatever will set seed during the coming summer.
Saturday, December 29th: In 2015 we completed a mini garden makeover. One of the areas we wanted to re-style was a small patch underneath the clothesline. It is approximately 3 metres square. We got really good advice from Michael McKenna in Blackwater Garden Centre. He suggested planting a simple arrangement of Helleborus (Christmas rose) and ferns. The idea was that the area would be a particular focus of interest just for a short time of the year. It is a very sheltered spot, bounded by a wall on two sides and glasshouse on a third. The combination of three ferns and three Helleborus is stunning. The Helleborus will look great for January and February and the ferns will look great next summer. Right now we have the luxury of both! The following year we added several clumps of bluebells which are just peeping above ground. They will be in bloom in April/May. All in all, the arrangement is very simple and uncluttered. Sadly, Michael passed away last year and Blackwater Garden Centre has closed down, yet his memory remains with us in our garden.

Sunday, December 30th: I am usually on my bike on Sunday mornings. I lasted a mere 10 minutes today because of a pulled muscle while bringing a breakfast plate to the dishwasher a few minutes before departure. Later, I hobbled around the garden to get the customary four photos rather than the sensible RICE therapy. Clockwise from top left: 1. I put a basil plant in the glasshouse a few weeks ago but now it is a mouldy mess. Is this an annual? I must ask Alexa. It doesn’t look like it’ll survive. 2. The begonias are dormant and cozy, all 42 of them. I find it amazing that what now looks dead will bring forth such magnificent foliage and flower colour next July. 3. Plenty spider webs adorning the glasshouse. I’ll be tempted to evict them but not today. 4. Every glasshouse should have a Christmas candelabra, seeing as it is in some ways an extension of the house. This and some other lights are on a timer to light up the far end of the garden between 5-10pm. It looks good from the kitchen window. Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I briefly log winter here in Waterford, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things, such as spiders.

Monday, December 31st: I completed this very special entry as a separate post, available HERE
The Beast from the East
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019: Happy New Year from Abbeyside. Today’s photo is from last March when the Beast from the East arrived and stayed. Projections seem to suggest we are in for a severe weather change at some point this month. If it happens, some plants are in for a shock. I’ve seen new growth much earlier than usual. This new growth will surely be subjected to severe hardship. Also, here’s a message for Instagram and Facebook higher management: Ye are making a right dog's dinner of things. Of course, ye already know that. In my case, it's not really too much of an issue because I don't care that ye put processes in place to reduce the number of people who see my writing/photos, in favour of putting paid advertising under my nose. Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I briefly log winter here in Waterford, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things, such as personal principles and integrity.
Seaweed: "bia trá"
Wednesday, January 2nd: I had a really busy day and nearly didn’t get time to write. I missed out on getting photos, so I was glad to have a few from yesterday to use. It has been on my list since early December to get seaweed but it stayed on my list and didn’t get done. Finally, I got to Ballinclamper on New Year’s Day with a few buckets. Both were quickly filled to the brim with the magic stuff. Also, some stones and driftwood. I did search carefully to see if there was any discarded metal detector but I gave up. Just couldn’t find one! Within less than an hour, back home, all the seaweed was carefully deposited on parts of vegetable bed Numero Uno. More beach visits planned. I think four will be enough. I am reminded of several Irish novels in which harvesting seaweed is mentioned. It was such an important part of farming life until about 1960. I searched and it shows up to 100 various Irish words for seaweed. The one that caught my eye was “bia trá”, literally beach food.

Happy New Year. Thanks for being here.

Just a thought:

  1. How was Christmas?
  2. What are you most looking forward to in the garden in 2019?
  3. Alexa or Google Home? Vote now...
Please leave a comment or two below. Get it off your chest. I'm taking bets on Alexa.

Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig. He loves cycling, Christmas Rose and even Alexa, at times. He also likes stones and driftwood from far-flung shores. He does not like the Beast from the East, nor Facebook/Instagram management policies. A line has been crossed.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Cheering Up My Monday

It's New Year's Eve, a very special day on the annual calendar. It's very special for me also, as I recorded a real gem in the garden yesterday. I held it back, especially for today. 

This is my favourite winter moment of the year! I sat outside in my sheltered corner in very mild weather yesterday as low sunshine moved across the garden between scattered clouds. I was watching the birds on the feeder when my eyes were drawn to what I thought was a butterfly. Surely not, I said? It was not, in fact. I needed to move closer to inspect. It was a leaf trapped on a single thread of spider’s silk, and rotating with such grace at a distance of mere centimetres from the wall behind. In fact, furthermore, there were two. I was reminded of a dream-catcher. I was reminded also of a wind-chime although this scene was silent. I too moved silently for my phone, lest I break the spell and recorded this beautiful short-lived event. I imagined the delicate flow of air that obviously set the leaf in motion. Two minutes later the moment was gone. This tiny macro-universe was subject to climate change.
Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I briefly log winter here in Waterford, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things, such as macro-universes.