We would like to wish you a very happy new year as we all look forward to a more positive year ahead.
A new year brings new opportunities. One of the first will be for all members regardless of where they are living to enjoy a couple of online lectures. The first will be on Thursday 21st January when IGPS member, Rosemary Maye, will talk about how to have colour at every season. Rosemary says: “Seventeen years ago we were enticed to a romantic old house in the countryside but with no colour in the garden. I love colour and immediately set about planting. Join me on a year’s journey in my garden.”
Watch out for the email giving details of how to register for this Zoom lecture. Once you are registered you will receive a further email giving you the necessary codes.
The January issue of the Newsletter along with a bumper seed list should arrive with you by the middle of the month. The cover features a fabulous picture of the Palm House at the National Botanic Gardens being lit up by the sunrise on a snowy morning.
Our former Chairman, Paddy Tobin, has kindly agreed to share a recent entry from his blog, An Irish Gardener. This one is called ‘Come in from the cold, Darlings!’ and includes lovely photographs of some of his early snowdrops including the Irish cultivar, Galanthus ‘Castlegar’.
“Come in from the cold, Darlings!”
Snowdrops may well live up to their French name, “Perce-neige”, snow-piercer , but the same weather can make it uncomfortable for the gardener to enjoy them in the garden. A number of snowdrop cultivars have already opened in the garden with many others above ground, even in bud but waiting for warmer days to open fully.
A selection of snowdrops brought from the garden to open in the warmth of the house.
When the weather is miserable, and the progress of the snowdrops being held in suspense, I like to pick a few and bring them into the house where they will open quickly in the warmer conditions indoors. This also gives a good opportunity to photograph them – it is so much more comfortable for the photographer also. There is none of that lying on wet, cold and muddy ground to get down low enough to capture a good view of the flower.
The “studio” set-up on the kitchen worktop with light from the window, soft light rather than direct sunshine. The black cloth is draped over a chopping board to give a background to the photographs – perhaps, I should have ironed the creases out of it first, but they didn’t appear in the photographs!
Inside, the flowers can be raised to a level more comfortable for photography and it is an enjoyable activity. Generally, I far prefer the photographs of snowdrops taken in the garden as I feel they are more natural but this is a good alternative. I use a black background as it shows off the flowers but also because it is far better than having the paraphernalia of the kitchen cluttering up the background.
Hopefully, the weather will improve shortly and we will be able to return to the garden.
Top left; Galanthus ‘Castlegar’
Top right; Galanthus ‘Lapwing’
Bottom left; Galanthus ‘Colossus’
Bottom right; Galanthus ‘X- Files’
As well as giving a lecture later in the month, Rosemary Maye has shared a useful and timely post about training roses to encourage more abundant flowering, this is a post from her Facebook page, The Insomniac Gardener.
A little trick to get more rose blooms
I’ve done this for the past few years having read about it online. Called the Sissinghurst method it involves forcing the long canes of a rose bush onto curved supports or hoops placed around the edge of the bush. This supposedly tricks the rose into thinking it’s threatened and needs to make more flowers to make more seed and therefore you get more roses. I did it for the last 2 years with Rosa Constance Spry which had never flowered very well for me. It was a big success so am trying it again on a few more reluctant bloomers. You can do this in February but I like to get it done early so I don’t damage the emerging buds as I’m twisting the canes.
Sometimes gardening is not all plain sailing. Maeve shares her thoughts on having to share her city garden with badgers.
I grew up in the townland of Lisdrumbrocus which translates as the fort on the ridge of the badger. There were active setts on the ridge but I never saw a badger. Twenty five years ago I moved to south Belfast, to a city garden, albeit one larger than most. I gradually dug and planted, developed borders, and made a circular lawn. At first all went well. Then the badgers started digging; my feature lawn began to look like a rugby field after two teams had played on a wet day. I discovered that our garden was on the badgers’ main highway between their extensive setts in the grounds of the teacher training college and further setts in Lagan Meadows.
I sought advice. Lion dung. Not exactly readily available in a city. Next up, an electric fence. This was acquired from the sort of hardware emporium-cum-general store found in every farming county in Ireland. But our badgers proved to be as lithe as limbo dancers and continued undeterred. Solar-powered glowing ‘eyes’ to give the impression of another animal already in residence would surely be the answer. Several were bought and erected; perhaps I didn’t get the height right or else Belfast badgers are particularly brave and willing to confront larger animals.
Badgers are shy so the advice to play a speech-based radio programme overnight sounded eminently sensible. I bought two cheap transistor radios, wrapped them in plastic bags, and tuned them to the BBC’s World Service which broadcasts serious and worthy programmes through the night. It worked for a week. Sadly, these were urban badgers which are habituated to human voices from TVs and radios, but for a short time my visitors were both well fed and well-informed too. A further solution was gleaned from an over-heard conversation in a posh hotel in Madeira. It required the male members of the family to offer their services to ‘water’ the lawn just before bedtime. I’m not saying this is ineffective but, with just one male resident and a tendency in this country for frequent rain, it was never properly tested.
The main cause of the problem is my dry sandy soil which is an ideal place for chafer beetles to lay their eggs and the best solution so far has been the application of nematodes to deal with chafer grubs. By making a serious investment in nematodes over several years, I believed I had reached a manageable equilibrium where Brock and his mates mostly left snuffle holes in their hunt for worms rather than the six inch deep caverns caused by the excavation of chafers.
Imagine my horror last spring when I started to discover gaping holes in the borders. My lily bulbs had become their latest tasty snack. I give up!
And a burst of colour to finish. Jennifer Strevens has sent us a photo of her alstroemeria strutting its stuff out of season while Ross McGookin has sent a much more seasonal one, this time a Christmas Cactus.
Why not make 2021 the year you get in touch with a short article or photo? Email us at email@example.com? We would love to hear from you.