12-5-2019 While Magnolias and Cherry Blossoms were outdoing themselves with a magnificent show of flowers, apples were taking their time this year. But now they’re covered in beautiful white flowers with a touch of pink, and their fine scent attracts lots of pollinating insects. The young Braeburn tree isn’t flowering yet, but its neighbour Early Victoria, two years older, is joining the more mature trees by blossoming fully.
Aphrodite’s Gardens has been busy planning and planting new projects on top of the ongoing maintenance work. The weather has been great, and it’s a pleasure to finish projects within schedule.
A word about first communions, confirmations and other events: If you have an event coming up and would like to get your garden into shape beforehand, please get in touch way ahead of the event. First of all, planning takes time. It makes sense to look at ideas and options for a while, to discuss them and find out what you really want, and then go for it when the time is right. Second, some plants are available at certain times of the year, while unavailable at other times. Planning ahead allows for the best choice of plants at the right moment and can save a lot of money. Third and most important, plants are living beings who need time to settle in after planting. A newly planted border still looks ‘empty’ for a while, until plants start to grow and fill the space. Getting started a year before the event allows ample time for planning, planting and growing. Getting started in January for a May event is a good idea. Getting started ten days before the event, however, is not so great. There are still things that can be done short-term, but it will likely be a stressful experience to all involved, people and plants alike. So start thinking about next year’s first communions, confirmations, weddings, anniversaries…. now! Do get in touch and we’ll start planning. You can then watch out all summer and autumn for plants and planting schemes you like or dislike and let your ideas grow.
31-3-2019 The weather remained mild and is now sunny and even warm during daytime. It’s a very good spring for Magnolias and Ornamental Cherries, who keep their flowers much longer than in other years. All the usual spring suspects are flowering profusely. Bluebells are just starting to open, so if you get a chance to visit a woodland area, go there and look for the magic blue carpet. The Braeburn apple tree is opening its leave buds! While the older apple trees are holding back this year, the young tree leads the way. If you’re out and about, look at the trees at the road side. Some trees have unfolded their leaves already, while others still show no sign of spring at all. Sometimes one tree in a row of trees will be much further advanced than its siblings. Aphrodite’s Gardens has been travelling abroad and spotted a massive 100 year old Manna Ash in Amsterdam’s Hortus Botanicus. The tree has been grafted, and 100 years down the line it’s easy to see the difference between graft (smooth bark) and root stock (broken bark).
1-3-2019 Due to the mild weather, leaves and flowers are appearing early this spring. Bees are busy already, and even the odd butterfly is flapping its wings in the sunshine. The young apple tree is still resting, but there’s a slight fattening of buds. During the past few weeks, Aphrodite’s Gardens has been working on a major project: Planting up a new garden with lots of native shrubs, rockery plants, perennials, a mixed native shrub hedge and an evergreen hedge. Native trees and shrubs are a great asset. They look beautiful. They do well in our climate. They provide wind shelter. They offer accommodation and food for wildlife. And they’re fairly easy to look after and – depending on the appropriate choice of plants – don’t grow too tall for the domestic garden. Most of them can also be bought bare-root for winter planting and are therefore very good value. In between working on this project, time was filled by the usual fruit pruning, the creation of plant supports from home-grown willow and a visit to Fota Gardens to see the unbelievably beautiful magnolia trees in flower.
23-1-2019 The new year is off to a mild start. The grass is growing, bulbs are pushing their leaves out of the ground, elder and other shrubs are starting to unfold first leaves, and lots of plants are flowering, seemingly unimpressed by the concept of winter.
While snowdrops, daffodils and Camellias are not an unusual sight in January, Hebe, Vinca and the odd rose flower are certainly unexpected. Now is also the time for less showy flowers. Hazel, alder and willow are important early food for bees and other insects.
The young apple tree is still resting.
Aphrodite’s Gardens is back in action after the winter break, planting bareroot native shrubs and trees and continuing the usual maintenance work. Fruit pruning season has started, so if you’d like to get your fruit trees and bushes into shape, give us a call!
14-12-2018 While temperatures are mild, the past weeks have seen lots of wind and rain, including flood warnings. In the garden, winter flowering plants are displaying their beauty. Eleagnus has tiny cream coloured flowers that emit an enticing perfume. Willow flowers are an important winter food for bees.
Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), a much dreaded garden weed, has died down on the surface, but below ground its root system is going strong. Thankfully, roots are white and therefore easy to distinguish from other roots. It’s a plant one has to admire, really. In Ireland it flowers in white or a very pale pink, but there’s a beautiful blue-flowering relative (Ipomoea indica) covering walls and trees in the Mediterranean and further afield.
The young apple tree has settled in after a difficult year and will hopefully get through the winter and grow stronger next year.
18-11-2018 The first cold spell including frosty nights has passed and we’re back to mild and rainy weather. Trees are dropping their leaves and strengthening their roots by swaying in the autumn wind.
The young apple tree is holding its ground.
Meanwhile, an extremely brave-hearted Gladiolus is flowering! All summer, Gladioli here and in other gardens did nothing whatsoever, due to the extraordinary weather. And now, in November, this one Gladiolus is in bloom. The last Cornflowers of the season and the almost continuously flowering Potato Vine are keeping it good company.
Beautiful sunshine and mild weather are upon us and turn autumn planting and other garden work into a treat.
The apple tree, like its older siblings, is hanging on to its leaves for another while. There’s no more new growth now. Plant parts are maturing, the wooden stem is toughening for the coming winter.
Ivy is in flower now, later than usual. It’s buzzing with bees and other insects. Apparently ivy pollen is very good food for bees. Some bee keepers harvest honey produced from ivy pollen specifically, while other bee keepers leave that honey in the hives to help bees through the winter.
To my delight, a few clients asked me recently whether their shrubs that had previously been trimmed into round shapes could be pruned to look more natural. Yes, that’s possible, of course, even though re-naturalizing a shrub has to be done over the course of a few years.
The constant close trimming of the shrub, year after year, causes branches to grow in a very dense way, often crossing over each other and twisting. Very little light reaches the centre of the shrub. New growth is limited to the visible “surface” of the plant.
While lots of shrubs can tackle constant trimming really well, another option is to prune in a way that lets light and air into the centre of the shrub, gives each branch space to stretch and unfold and lets the shrub find a more natural shape.
Photos: Braeburn apple tree; ivy flower with wasp; re-naturalized Pittosporum.
Autumn is moving closer. Next weekend, we’ll experience the autumnal equinox when days and nights will be of equal length. The weather has changed, even though days are still mild and often enough sunny.
There’s not much to report about the young apple tree. It is standing strong and tall, ready to face the autumn winds.
The Dogwood shrub (Cornus sanguinea) has decided to send out a second flush of sweetly scented flowers. Fuchsia are flowering extremely well, and one Acidanthera plant has made a late effort and pushed out beautiful flowers.
Now is a good time to start planting bulbs for spring flowers, like daffodils, tulips, crocus, iris, snake’s head fritillary etc. If you’re not sure how and what, give me a call!
Mid July to mid August have seen beautiful summer weather. Sunshine, warm weather, some rain, some clouds, some mist. The apple tree is doing well, growing slowly but surely.
Meanwhile, it’s older sister tree is producing masses of red apples which are almost ready to eat!
The Gunnera plant has survived the drought and is recovering nicely. The Potato Rose (Rosa rugosa) is still flowering and still producing new flower buds.
More difficulty! The weather changed from cold and wet to hot and dry fairly suddenly mid-May. Now Ireland is experiencing a drought, including hosepipe ban, and high temperatures. The usual cloud cover is gone most days.
Yet, the apple tree is unfazed by these weather conditions. Its leaves are green and in good shape. The side shoot hasn’t grown in the past month, but the main shoot has. Not by much, but still!
This is due to apical dominance, one of the laws of tree growth. The top bud (also called apical bud) gets to grow the strongest, as it is the one to bring the tree towards the light. Light is necessary for photosynthesis, the tree’s way of producing energy. Side shoots don’t grow quite as strongly. Certainly in times of hardship (such as drought), energy is conserved and used mainly for survival.
Different plants have different ways of conserving energy. You may have noticed that some trees, while green and strong overall, have a few dried out twigs hanging down.
Other plants shed most of their leaves altogether in order to keep their core parts alive.
Yet others, who are strong enough to keep going, extend their flowering period to ensure seed production and hence survival.
Today’s rainy weather is a blessing.
Photos: Apple tree; side shoot same length as one month ago; main shoot slightly longer than one month ago; Beech (Fagus sylvatica) drying out some twigs; Gunnera tinctoria shedding leaves; Potato Rose (Rosa rugosa) still producing flower buds while already forming rose hips.