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.

Lunar Garden – The Burren

On our last day staying in Galway, the Other Half and I rented a car and daytripped to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. Both are located along the western, Atlantic coast of Ireland. After visiting the Cliffs , we made our way to The Burren Centre in Kilfenora, Co. Clare. The centre had a short film and small exhibit explaining the formation and history of the Burren, about 250 square kilometers of limestone karst landscape. However, I was disappointed when the Burren walk I had been told would take place was in fact not going to happen because it was off-season hours.

After a half hour or so of trying to locate the entrance of the Burren National Park to attempt a hike on our own, we gave up. This was one of the areas I really wanted to see, having looked forward to it since we planned the trip. Frustrated, we began the trip back to Galway via the scenic, Atlantic coastline. As we drove northwest, we noticed a change in the landscape. More and more limestone was appearing around us with just hints of plant life.

DSC_0472sm DSC_0499smAnd soon we found ourselves in the Burren. We pulled the car off the road and jumped out to explore. It was utterly surreal. I’ve never seen a landscape like this before.

DSC_0481smThe Burren first existed as a sea floor over 335 million years ago. Ice, ocean, and plate movements began altering the area to its present form. We often came across rocks and boulders left behind by glaciers.

DSC_0496smThen we began to notice traces of life among the cracks.

DSC_0473smAnd a bit more…

DSC_0482smAnd more!

DSC_0479smThis was the reason I wanted to visit this special area of the country. Even though the Burren only covers about 1% of Ireland, “over 70% of Ireland’s 900 native plant species are found here.” The crevices of the landscape act as seed beds for a diversity of plants, many of which would never grow together in the same habitat.

DSC_0494smThe national park website describes the plant diversity within the one ecosystem best by saying “Arctic-alpine plants living side by side with Mediterranean plants, calcicole (lime loving) and calcifuge (acid loving) plants growing adjacent to one another and woodland plants growing out in the open with not a tree nearby to provide shade from the sun. Also found here are certain species which although rare elsewhere are abundant in the Burren. Even more amazingly they all survive in a land that appears to be composed entirely of rock.”

DSC_0480smDSC_0495smDSC_0484smDSC_0476smNot unlike other growing areas in Ireland, the Gulf Stream plays a large part in creating this ecosystem. In addition, “soft rain, relative absence of frost and the carboniferous bedding of the plants” round out the equation. I would love to visit this area again during the summer months to see all the wildflowers in bloom.