Irish Wild Flowers

The Other Half and I did a lot of hiking (which is what we call walking when we do it outside in rural areas) during our trip to Ireland. I soon began to notice the recurrence of certain wildflowers. On one of our formal garden stops, the Other Half proudly presented me with a little pocket guide, Irish Wild Flowers by Ruth Isabel Ross,  he’d found in the gift shop. Seven euro later and we were equipped with a key to puzzle out a lot of the flowering plants for the rest of our trip.

Cross-leaved Heath

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Erica tetralix is a native, evergreen shrub flowering May through September. At first I thought this plant was bell heather, but the clusters of flowers were one-sided. Plus, we found this little one on the peat bogs of Connemara National Park. The plant prefers this wet, water-logged ground with acidic soil.

Bell Heather

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Erica cinerea is an abundant, native evergreen that blooms from June through September. This shot was taken further up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park. Bell heather is often found on hills, moorland and dry acid soils.

Common Heather (Ling)

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Calluna vulgaris is a native, evergreen shrub that blooms from July through September. When we planned our trip to Ireland, I immediately imagined the countryside filled with fields of heather. I was not disappointed when we traveled to Co. Wicklow and the Wicklow Mountains. The heather and gorse made for a beautiful combination that covered the hillsides. The shrub prefers acid soil and the drier areas of mountains, moors and bogs throughout Ireland.

European Gorse

DSC_0202sm DSC_0217sm DSC_0218smUlex europaeu is a native, evergreen shrub that blooms  year around with peak bloom time in April. The first day we noticed this flowering shrub was a daytrip to the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. Swaths of yellow flowers were in the company of some fading heather. When I drew closer, the plant didn’t look quite as soft and lovely. The shrub has bluish-green spines covering the lengths of the stems. At this time of year, a lot of its flowers were going to seed. We also spotted gorse in the hedges of Co. Galway.

Tormentil

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Potentilla erecta is a widespread, native perennial that blooms from May through September. We came across this pretty, yellow flower with heart-shaped petals when we were exploring Connemara National Park in Co. Galway. The plant prefers acidic or slightly acidic soils, often making its home on moors, heaths, and acidic grasslands.

Thrift

DSC_0598sm DSC_0599smArmeria maritima is a native, evergreen perennial that flowers from May through September. I’ve tried to grow this little flower on the Lot before, but it didn’t live more than a few seasons. A common name for  it is “Sea Pink,” and yes, we found the plant along the edge of the ocean in Roundstone, Co. Galway. The Irish name Noinin an chladaigh, when translated, is “Daisy of the Sea Shore.” The thrift reminded me of a little sea creature clinging to the rocks at low tide.

Additional Resources

In addition to the little pocket guide, I used a few online resources to cross-reference and read up on the above plants. Here they are if you’re curious!

Irish Wild Flowers

Wild Flowers of Ireland

Fall Garden Chores

When the Other Half and I returned from gallivanting around the lovely Emerald Isle, we were greeted with colder temperatures and rain. The rain subsided this past weekend, so we were able to get out into the garden and get some seasonal chores done in the sunshine and crisp, autumn air. Having lived on the Lot for six years now, we find ourselves following a similar routine each October.

Get ‘Em in the Ground

Whether it be end-of-season plant sales or spring bulbs, in our Zone 6a the time is now to get those suckers into the ground. I still had a weigela, goji berry, and rose to work into the landscape yesterday. I have yet to find a place for a beautiful, little rue I brought back from Portland with me. I try to plant any stragglers as close to the beginning of the month as possible so they can become settled in their new home before the winter arrives. Halloween has been a nice deadline for planting spring bulbs.

Bring in the Crockery

We have a handful of planters on the Lot, most being terracotta. Our first winter here, I found terracotta is not something you leave to overwinter in the garden. Moisture will freeze, expand, and destroy those lovely planters. Statues, supports, planters, wind chimes, solar lights… all of it is stowed in the garage or in the basement until spring.

Unhook Rain Barrels & Hoses

The first winter we had rain barrels installed, I learned a full, half-frozen rain barrel is unwieldy and may crush you if given the opportunity. Drain the barrels and unhook / stow the pvc now. Pull up soaker and garden hoses and put them away.

Utilize Those Clippings

The Other Half and I are not fans of paying the city to dispose of grass clippings and leaves. Both ingredients are gold for providing nutrients to the lawn and garden. The Lot always has its grass clippings mulched back into the turf. During the fall season, some of those clippings and shredded leaves are placed in both the compost bin and raised veggie beds as a balanced combination of greens and browns.

Make the Veggie Beds

Growing season is coming to a close in Zone 6a. Beyond the parsnips and a handful of cool crops, most plants are finished producing. We usually clean up the vegetable beds in the fall, removing any decaying produce and plants. The beds are then filled with equal parts shredded leaves and grass that will break down over the winter.

What Not to Do in the Garden During Fall

It kills me each fall, but when the garden is overgrown and crazy at the end of the summer and October has arrived, put away the pruners! When a plant is pruned it responds with a new flush of growth. Energy will be put into this action instead of into stores for the winter and the upcoming growing season. Don’t send those mixed messages to your plants. It’s just not nice.

Are there exceptions? Of course! If you need to prune away seed heads of aggressive self-sowers, that’s okay. Most of the time those guys are thugs anyway. I’ve also cut back hostas after the first frost has zapped the foliage.

National Botanic Gardens, Ireland

Among the many gardens and green spaces we visited while in Ireland, the Other Half and I spent a wonderful morning in the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland. The gardens are located in Glasnevin, a neighbourhood of Dublin, and span 19 hectares (about 47 acres) of land. According to literature provided by the Heritage Service of the Office of Public Works, the gardens were “conceived as a national institution to serve the scientific community and agricultural interests of the country” and “have a distinguished record in the progress of Irish botany and an international reputation in the development and history of horticulture world-wide.” Admission to the garden is free.

Garden Entrance

The current collection of plants includes approximately 20,000 species and cultivars. The gardens spanned throughout glass houses and outdoor beds. A rose garden, heather collection, grass garden, holly hedges, rock garden, bog garden, fern garden, herbs and vegetables, rhododendron collection, woodland garden, alpine yard, burren garden, and various groves of trees were just some of the plants growing on the property.

Plant Combinations & Design Ideas

One of the reasons I love visiting botanic gardens is to view examples of plant combinations actually installed and growing in a bed. Most of the plants are mature, so it is easy to walk around them and see the height, form, color, and texture. Also, plants requiring the same soil and light are featured together. Here are just a few of my favorite combos:

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The Mighty Trees

“Some of the finest individual specimens in the Botanic Gardens are trees.” I could not agree more. Repeatedly while visiting Ireland’s landscape I was amazed at the truly magnificent trees. It didn’t make a difference if we were in the countryside or in the middle of a manicured, urban setting. They were so huge compared to the area I live. They were so old! The collection was quite impressive, and I was even able to meet a few trees I had not met before. The different colors and textures of bark, leaves, and overall shape of the trees were really interesting.

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The Macro View

With a landscaped area of these proportions, it was fun to pull back the camera and take a more macro look at the overall composition and combination of the different plants. This level of design is something I have yet to master as a gardener. Take a look at these lines, colors, shapes, and textures.

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Fraoch mór

And it wouldn’t be Ireland without the heather! The heather had reached the height of its blooming period by this time and was beginning to fade. Still it was so dainty and pretty. Here are some additional shots of the heather collection in the gardens.

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 Garden Fauna

I was able to get a few good pictures of some garden residents. How did that snail make it up into that plant?

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 Pleasant Surprises

And then there were some parts of the garden that were fun discoveries. We couldn’t make much sense of the map (we believe it may have been outdated), so this led to a lot of wandering around the property. That’s when we’d stumble onto something unexpected. For example, this “Yew Walk” (or Addison Walk) is the last remaining plant installment of the garden’s original planting in 1740.

Yew WalkThis was a pretty mosaic we spotted up along the path. When drawing nearer, we found it was created with skillfully placed succulents.

DSC_0325smDSC_0328smThis old wisteria had been trained along metal poles and chains to grow together and create a type of tent or gazebo covering. I would love to be here when it is in bloom.

DSC_0285smThese nasturtiums were ridiculously huge and happy next to the veggie garden’s compost demonstration area.

DSC_0277smAlso in the veggie garden area was this fun herb garden. Each plant had its place in this sculpted hedge.

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