Forestry Support package

Announcing €1.3 billion package for new Forestry Supports

Funds to be delivered through new Forestry Programme.
Premiums for planting trees to be increased by between 46% and 66% and extended to 20 years for farmers

On the 3rd November, Minister Pippa Hackett announced a proposed investment by the Government of €1.3 billion in Irish forestry. The funding will be for the next national Forestry Programme and represents the largest ever investment by an Irish Government in tree-planting. The programme will now be the subject of state-aid approval by the European Commission.

The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD and Minister Hackett announced a proposed investment by the Government of €1.3 billion in Irish forestry. The announcement was marked by the Taoiseach and Minister Hackett as they plant some native trees at Teagasc Oakpark Carlow.

Minister Hackett said she is ‘thrilled to have secured a package of €1.318 billion for forestry. This will support the biggest and best-funded Forestry Programme ever in Ireland. It comes at an appropriate time, given the urgency of taking climate mitigation measures. Planting trees is one of the most effective methods of tackling climate change as well as contributing to improved biodiversity and water quality. One of my main aims is to re-engage farmers in afforestation. I’m delighted therefore to be proposing a new 20-year premium term exclusively for farmers, as well as introducing a new small-scale native woodland scheme which will allow farmers to plant up to 1 hectare of native woodland on farmland and along watercourses outside of the forestry licensing process’.

Click here to download

New Afforestation Rates for FP23-27

Vietnam Blog Pt2 by Billy Allexander

After our adventures in Hà Giang, the next morning we made the 6-hour drive to Sa Pa town in Lao Cai province. I was returning to familiar territory here though this country is so vast there is always something new to discover. As before we lodged with Uoc in his Mountaineer Hotel for the duration of our stay here. We settled in, relaxed and began preparing kit for our planned 2-day trek to Ngu Chi Son or as we say in English ,Five Finger Mountain, at 2858m a stiff enough proposition.

Up at 0530 for some final adjustments to the packing, the trick is to travel light but not to omit essentials and then a lovely Asian breakfast with some excellent coffee to fortify me for the trail conditions. The ascent was a full day trek, botanising and climbing along the way as there was a plethora of plants to enjoy. The diversity was huge and again our shared pool of knowledge was severely challenged. However, I am confident that we all learned lots from each other, not least the value of the conservation work we were engaged in. However the trek was very challenging for every one of us, a very tough climb, walking through Luculia and Hypericum flowers at the lower levels, before entering the forest. It was reminiscent of Kells Bay as the mist descended around us. Thankfully we had 5 porters carrying enough food for a couple of days. The weather was excellent for hiking, cool, dry, and overcast. Sadly, the recurrent buzz of chainsaw in the distance was a reminder of the different values placed on our arboreal heritage. We also heard several rock-breaking explosions. Even in the far reaches, the pace of change is accelerating rapidly.

I stopped to take some photos of a Brassaiopsis dumicola with Thanh beside me. Suddenly he started shouting excitedly at me. I had no idea what the problem was until he pointed to it. Directly in front of me, only inches away on the Brassaiopsis tree, was a snake. What a beautiful animal, and I was extremely grateful it wasn’t hungry! A privileged encounter and I’m sure the snake was happy to meet me too. Eventually, after almost 8 hours of unrelenting difficult and at times dangerous climbing, we reached our destination. As you see from the photos, the rewards such as the tranquility, the views, the plants, and the feeling of contentment are close at hand and tangible. Unfortunately, the nagging feeling that our species disregard for the environment will shorten its lifespan is a recurring thought. But let no one fool you, these treks though hugely rewarding, are at the same time extremely physically challenging and dangerous. We were fortunate to avoid the rains on our walks, as this immediately greatly increases the risk.

A great evening was had around a Vietnamese hot pot in our hut. The 2 live chickens which had accompanied us on the ascent would only had one-way tickets. As the chicken legs were used as stock I became vegetarian for that night. The local corn wine, along with some beers were recommended by the resident sommelier to wash down the hot pot. With fourteen people squeezed into a small hut, a sense of accomplishment after our climb, and full bellies a very convivial evening was had with a sharing of stories across cultures and much mutual apprecdiation. Then we repaired to bed. Goodnight John-boy. It wasn’t quite the Waltons with 14 of us competing for very limited space.. Not much of a sleep for me, the snoring, the snoring, did I mention the snoring!!!

But on the starriest of starry nights, it was a rare privilege to be sleeping on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, far from civilisation.
Plant of the day – Brassaiopsis dumicola
Snake of the day! Trimeresurus jerdonii, a very rare snake, commonly as Jerdon’s pitviper, the yellow-speckled pit viper, is a species of venomous snake. Identified by Prof. Truong in IEBR, Hà Nội.

Early to rise as always, I was thankful that the coffee pot was brewing nicely! Beautiful to sit, surrounded by nature watching sunrise stealing slowly over the mountains. After the obligatory noodle soup, and the packing we were back on the road. As always the descent, just as hard on the bodyfame and potentially more dangerous, is a lot quicker than the ascent. There was also less time spent botanising, as we had spotted most of the plants along the climb the previous day.
Plant of the day – Daphniphyllum longipetiola

Our last day trekking in Sa Pa was to see the Aesculus wangii (horse-chestnut) in its threatened habitat. After 2 hours of a wild goose chase through hillsides of Cardamom plantings we saw nothing and insisted to our guide that we turn back. We eventually arrived back to the roadside and there were a small number of this endangered tree to be seen! They are being felled by the cardamom farmers at an alarming rate to allow further expansion of their cash crop.
Plant of the day – Aesculus wangii (it had to be!)

A short distance,17km from Sa Pa at 2,200m is the Sapa Glass Bridge. As tourist attractions go it is quite impressive though much of the structure is in poor condition and a bit shabby. It is obviously a large project that became financially challenged. The main attraction is the glass walkway, hundreds of feet high emerging from the sheer face of a cliff, you enter a tunnel through rock before getting a lift up to the Glass Bridge. If is funny to watch as everyone, and I mean everyone is scared when walking on clear glass with a vertical drop of hundreds of feet directly below. There is a great natural forest to the back of the Glass Bridge, very rich in mature trees, Schefflera, Magnolia, Daphniphyllum, Quercus, Acer etc. I spent a few hours botanising here before returning to the lift back down.
Plant of the day: Schefflera hoi and Magnolia sapaensis

At 3,147 metres, Fansipan the highest mountain in the Indochinese Peninsula, is a must do if in Sa Pa. As I was a bit pressed for time, I didn’t go up it this trip, but having climbed it 3 times I would highly recommend it. On my first time here in 2014, I climbed it over an amazing 3 day / 2-night trek. Now there is a 15-minute cable car to the top so depending on your joy of nature or love of trekking perhaps the best option is to take the cable car up and walk down. N.B. It is still a long full day trek, and do not do it alone, make sure to have a guide with you. The weather in and around Sa Pa is extremely unpredictable, the mists can descend at any time and visibility is only a few metres. If possible don’t do Fansipan in bad weather. All the walks in the surrounding mountains are recommended, but please remember they are challenging, and the locals will assume you are up to the challenge.

On our return to Hà Nội we stayed in a nice hotel at the edge of the Old Quarter in the French Quarter. I found this to be the perfect place to stay without the mayhem of the Old Quarter but just beside it for walks. We were joined by Peter Zale of Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. He is another veteran of many plant trips in the region. We had our goodbye dinner in Lục Thủy Restaurant beside the Hoàn Kiếm Lake, and from there we went our various ways.

Maurice Parkinson – A plant list

On October 26th 2022, we were treated to a wonderful and inciteful talk by RHSI member Maurice Parkinson.  Plantsman and lifelong gardener Maurice Parkinson, owner of Ballyrobert Gardens and Nursery, shared his extensive knowledge of plants and how to use them as he talked about Late Season Colour in the Garden.

The list of plants he used during the talk are as follow:-
Acer palmatum Senkaki
Agapanthus Navy Blue
Alstroemeria Indian Summer with Fuchsia Rufus
Aster Island Samoa
Aster Island Tonga
Aster Island Barbados
Aster Little Carlow with Rudbeckia Goldsturm
Aster Neron with Cotinus Golden Spirit
Centaurea nigra
Chrysanthemum Dixter Orange
Chrysanthemum Jessie Cooper
Cornus alba Sibirica
Cornus Midwinter Fire
Cortaderia Sunningdale Silver
Cyclamen hederifolium
Crocus speciosus
Eucryphia Rostrevor
Fuchsia Delta’s Sarah
Fuchsia Hawkshead
Helianthus Monarch with Anemone Andrea Atkinson and Hydrangea Annabelle
Hemerocallis Cherry Cheeks
Hemerocallis Cocktail Party
Hosta Gold Standard
Hosta Sum and Substance
Hydrangea paniculata Limelight
Hydrangea paniculata Skyfall
Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Fraise
Kniphofia Wrexham Buttercup
Malus Lough Tree of Wexford
Malus Ross Nonpareil
Miscanthus Flamingo
Miscanthus Ghana
Miscanthus Malepartus
Molinia Transparent
Persicaria Indian Summer
Persicaria Orangefield with Crocosmia Zambesi
Rosa Flower Carpet Sunset
Rosa moyesii
Rosa Our Molly
Schizostylis Cindy Towe
Schizostylis Pink Princess
Sorbus randaiensis
Stachys Hummelo
Veronicastrum Pointed Finger with Helianthus Lemon Queen
Weigela Wings of Fire


Contact details for Ballyroberts Garden and Nursery

Ballyrobert Gardens, 154 Ballyrobert Road, Ballyclare, Co. Antrim, BT39 9RT,  United Kingdom

028 93440101

Email – for plant enquiries, order enquiries etc – regarding group visits and events

Entrance fees
Entrance to the nursery is free however entrance to the garden is £5.99.
For groups larger than 15 people the entrance fee can include a free tour if booked in advance.

On site there is a self-service tea room that serves tea, coffee and fresh scones.
For groups larger than 15 people table service can be organized if booked in advance.

Opening Times – Garden & Nursery
1 March to 30 September:
Mon- Sat: 10-00am to 5-00pm (last entry 4-30pm, we like to go home!)
Sun: Appointment only.

Closed 12th and 13th July.

1 October to 28 February:
The Cottage Garden and Nursery is closed during this period. Visitors/customers wishing to visit during this period should contact us to arrange suitable date/time.

Ugni molinae – Orlaith Murphy

Ugni molinae, long-overlooked member of the myrtle family was first described by Molina, an Italian Jesuit living in Chile. Appearing in his book The geographical, natural and civil history of Chili which was published in 1809, it generated considerable interest in the English firm of Veitch. They saw potential for the shrub to grow in England so sent the plant hunter William Lobb off to Chile to investigate, he promptly returned with shrub in hand and cultivation began in 1851.

What hits you first about this Myrtle like shrub, is the smell of the delicious fruit. From late summer clouds of fragrant strawberry waft as you pass, tempting you to pick them – but hang in there and let them ripen into mid-autumn, even later and you’ll get them at their very best! Your wait won’t be in vain – the flavour lives up to its delicious smell, a gentle spicy strawberry, almost slightly sherbet will tantalise your taste buds.

Growing as a small evergreen shrub, a metre by a meter, unpruned, its myrtle like leaves are small, waxy and deep green with pale pink flowers in summer. But it is the berries that steal the show and though commonly found in the markets of Chile it is rarely seen in other parts of the world. Queen Victoria did her best to promote it in the 19th century; it is rumoured that it was her favourite fruit and she would have it sent by train to London from the mild climate of Cornwall.

More recently I read a post from Nick Macer of Pan Global Plants in the UK extolling the virtues of this wonderful plant. Most of the plants you find in nurseries are the same generic stock however Nick has a particularly good form called Ugni molinae ‘Villarica Strawberry’. This is a Paul Barney introduction from Pucon, Chile and is a hardier form of the species which gives us even more of us the chance to grow this fab fruiting plant outside permanently. See

What to do with Dahlias – Paul Smyth

Dahlias have really came to end with this weeks rotten weather. Here’s a shot of my seedlings this year through my favourite prop, an old steel potato basket.

There’s two options now, either dig up the tubers, dry them a little and store them in crates – somewhere dry and frost free or to leave them in situ, cover the tubers with dry leaves and protect them from water with a bell cloche or transparent waterproof cover.

Both methods work pretty successfully. I also occasionally just leave them in the ground, a gamble in some areas but on the relatively frost free and free draining slopes of Co Carlow I have got away with it. If you have a particularly wet garden or frost pocket I would strongly recommend at least protecting them.  As our climate changes, leaving Dahlias in the ground will likely become more commonplace. Though like any plant they do lose vigour after a few years.

I’ll try a combination of the methods above and late next spring plant out some tubers and take cuttings of the shoots on others. Dahlias are extremely versatile when it comes to how you propagate them.

Make a container pond

Extract from the RHS

Wildlife container pond step-by-step
Think you don’t have space for a pond? We have the perfect solution – a pond in a pot. Repurpose an old Belfast sink, plastic sand pit or recycling box. Making your very own wildlife-friendly container pond is a perfect weekend project.

Quick facts

Pond-skaters will quickly find your mini-pond
Container ponds are great for everyone, even if you only have a balcony or roof terrace
Smelly, stagnant water is rarely a problem if you use rainwater and a few plants

What you’ll need to make your container pond;

A container such as a half barrel, plastic trug, child’s old sand pit, a recycling box, or Belfast sink
A sheet of pond liner to line your container if it isn’t watertight
Some bricks, stones or several logs OR A plank of untreated timber and square of chickenwire
3-5 pond plants suitable for small ponds

Top Tip
Worried about small children around water? Make a bee drinker instead using a large plant saucer filled with pebbles and water.

A pond in a pot in six steps

Pick your position – Position your container somewhere you can enjoy, ideally with a little sun but not for the whole of the day otherwise the water can warm up too much or evaporate too quickly.

Make it watertight – Test it with some water to see it it leaks. If so, make it watertight by fitting with a flexible pond liner, securing it in place with a silicone-based sealer. Here we just needed to put in a plug.

Make it wildlife friendly – Create a ramp so that frogs and other wildlife can get both in and out of your container pond. We used a stack of stones but bricks, logs or a plank of untreated wood covered in chickenwire for little legs to grip onto works well too.

Fill it with rainwater.


Begin planting – Gently lower in a mix of floating and upright pond plants. Three to five plants is usually enough for a mini-pond – they may look small to start but pond plants can grow very quickly.

Sit back and let nature do the rest!

Vietnam Blog – October 2022 by Billy Alexander

Sometimes an opportunity comes along that is just too good to miss. So when, as I was coming down from the high of Southern Symposium Seven in early October, a number of disparate life strands merged and it suddenly made perfect sense for me to combine a little bit of plant exploration in Việt Nam with a family reunion in Thailand, I wasn’t long in making the necessary arrangements and in no time at all I found myself in Hà Nội. This is a wonderful city, vibrant, busy, and a little bit crazy.

I rate Hà Nội as one of my favourite cities anywhere, it brings me back to my boyhood fascination of looking at anthills, except here the ants are millions of people on their bikes, motorbikes, rickshaws, cars, buses all criss crossing each other knowing where they are going and determined to get there. It’s like the Fair of Spancil Hill, the Galway Races, the All-Ireland Final and the Dublin Horseshow all rolled into one.The footpaths are not for walking on, they are crammed with motorbikes, stalls, restaurants right up to the middle of the road, hawkers and all humanity. Simply no rules of any description but somehow it works out.I recommend staying in the Old Quarter, but a couple of days of city-life is enough for this country boy. The weather at this time of year is very pleasant, dry and sunny every day, and comfortably hot, in the high 20s.

On my second day I met up with the plant -hunters. Dan Hinkley, Windcliff, Indianola, Washington; Scott McMahan and Tim Marchlik, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Georgia; and Mark Weathington, JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, North Carolina; all are veterans of plant collecting expeditions in this area. I have explored Northern Việt Nam a number of times, but I count myself lucky to be in such august company. We met up in Hà Nội for dinner before heading north the following morning to Ha Giang and Quản Bạ for two days of treks in the Karst mountains of this region. We were joined by our expert support team of Dzu, Thanh, and Kheng from the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources (IEBR) and Nam, the foremost Magnolia expert from the Department of Forestry. After an 11-hour drive, we arrived in Hà Giang in the northeast corner of Việt Nam near the border with China.

Day 2 trekking in Tùng Vài:
Thankfully our next day’s trek had lots of walking through well maintained Paddy fields. This was an area with a lot of endemic magnolia species. The weather was very close and tropical. After yesterday’s adventures I was happy to stay close and walk in pace with the group. We encountered a lot of friendly rural people, who came out from nearby villages to farm in the clearings and eke a living off the land. We came across an amazing stand of the Caryota sp. (Fishtail) palms and some very attractive Trachycarpus palms and even some orchids in flower (Photo). Even travelling with such a group of experts it was so difficult to definitively identify the plants we encountered. These forays really teach us how little any one of us knows. It will be back to the books during the long winter nights.
Plants of the day, the amazing Amentotaxus hatuyenensis and Magnolia aromatica.
These are extremely rare plants, and we were indebted to Nam for showing us these very special and rare plants.

About Kells Bay Garden

A spectacular sub-tropical garden which has thrived for 150 years in the mild microclimate of Kells Bay. Almost 45 acres, through which the Deligeenagh River tumbles through woodland and glade is crossed by The SkywalkIreland’s longest rope-bridge. It has Europe’s largest collection of tree ferns and Ireland’s largest palm tree. Tea rooms, cafe, Thai restaurant and a specialist garden centre are open daily.

Kells Bay, Kells, Caherciveen, V23 EP48, Co. Kerry
066 9477975;;
Opening Times:
Open daily all year round from 09.00 – 18.00. Late evening opening during April through to the end of September. By appointment in January.

Billy, Mark, Scott, Dan and Tim

Airfield Estate Gardens

Ardan Garden

Ballintubbert Gardens and House

Ballycommane Garden

Ballyedmond Castle Garden

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballyrobert Gardens

Bantry House and Garden

Belvedere House Gardens & Park

Benvarden Garden

Birr Castle Demesne

Blarney Castle and Gardens

Burtown House and Gardens

Colclough Walled Garden

Collon House

Coolaught Walled Garden

Coolwater Garden

Dawros Gallery & Garden

Dower House

Dromana House and Gardens

Festina Lente

Fota House – Victorian Working Garden

Gash Gardens

Glenarm Castle Walled Garden

Glenavon Japanese Garden

Hester Forde Garden – ‘Coosheen Garden’

Hunting Brook Gardens

Irish National Stud and Gardens – The Japanese Gardens and St. Fiachra’s Garden

Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum and Gardens

June Blake’s Garden

Kilfane Glen and Waterfall

Kilgar Gardens

Killruddery House and Gardens

Killyreagh Garden

Kilmokea Country Manor and Gardens

Kilravock Garden

Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden

Lodge Park Walled Garden

Loughcrew Gardens


Mount Stewart House and Gardens

Mount Usher Gardens

Oakfield Park

Old Deanery Garden

Patthana Garden

Rothe House Museum and Garden

Rowallane Garden

Salthill Garden

Seaforde Gardens

Seanabea Cottage


Strokestown Park Gardens

Tourin House & Gardens

Tullynally Castle Gardens

Tyrrelstown House Garden

Woodville Walled Garden

Website development: Neal Walsh Web Solutions