Encourage wildlife into your garden

Creating a wildlife-friendly garden can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Not only does it provide a sanctuary for local species, but it can also bring a greater sense of connection to the natural world. Here are some tips for encouraging wildlife into your garden:

Provide food: Planting native flowers, shrubs, and trees will provide a source of food for local birds, butterflies, and bees. Consider planting a variety of flowers that bloom at different times throughout the year to provide a consistent food source.
Offer shelter: Providing shelter for wildlife is just as important as providing food. Nesting boxes, birdhouses, and brush piles can provide homes for birds, bats, and small mammals.
Create a water source: A small pond or birdbath can provide a source of water for wildlife. Make sure to keep the water fresh and clean to attract a variety of species.
Minimize pesticide use: Pesticides can be harmful to wildlife, so try to minimize their use in your garden. Instead, consider using natural pest control methods such as companion planting or encouraging beneficial insects.
Connect with nature: Observing the wildlife in your garden can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Consider installing a bird feeder or nest box near a window so you can watch the activity from the comfort of your own home.

By implementing these tips, you can create a thriving and diverse ecosystem in your garden. Not only will you be providing a sanctuary for local wildlife, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the beauty and diversity of nature right in your own garden.

Forcing Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a unique plant that is often grown for its flavorful stalks, which are used in a variety of culinary applications. One way to get an early harvest of rhubarb is by forcing it in situ. This technique involves manipulating the conditions in which the plant grows to trick it into thinking it’s spring, even when it’s still winter without having to dig up the entire plant.

To force rhubarb in situ, you’ll need to start with a mature plant that has been in the ground for at least two years. In late winter or early spring, before the new growth begins, select a mature plant.

Next, mound soil or compost around the base of the plant, covering the crown of the plant to a depth of about 10-12 inches. Water the soil well, and then cover the entire plant with a thick layer of straw, leaves or mulch.  Alternatively uee a large upturned pot or ‘rhubarb forcer’.

Make sure to keep an eye on the weather, as you may need to remove the covering if the temperature goes above freezing. If the weather is mild and no snow or frost is forecasted, you can leave the covering on for up to 6 weeks.

Within four to six weeks, you should see new growth emerging from the top of the plant. Once the new growth reaches about 6 inches in length, it’s ready to be harvested. Carefully cut the stalks from the plant, leaving about 2 inches of growth on the plant.

It’s important to note that forcing rhubarb in situ in this way may stress the plant and it may take some time for it to recover and produce again. Also, it’s not recommended to force the same plant year after year, as it can weaken the plant and reduce the overall health and productivity.

In conclusion, forcing rhubarb in situ is a fun and unique way to get an early harvest of this flavorful plant. With the right technique and care, you can enjoy fresh rhubarb in the middle of winter without having to disturb the plant’s root system.

Starting your snowdrop collection

Snowdrops, also known as Galanthus, are a genus of bulbous perennial plants in the family Amaryllidaceae. They are known for their delicate, white flowers that bloom in early spring, making them a favorite among gardeners and plant enthusiasts. Galanthophiles, or those who are particularly interested in collecting snowdrops, often seek out unique and rare varieties of the plant to add to their collections.

One of the most sought-after types of snowdrops is the double snowdrop, which features multiple rows of petals on each flower. These can be difficult to find in the wild, but are often available for purchase from specialty nurseries or at plant shows and sales. Another popular variety among galanthophiles is the “giant” snowdrop, which has larger flowers and leaves than the common snowdrop.

Collecting snowdrops can be a rewarding hobby, as the plants are hardy and easy to grow. They prefer well-drained, humus-rich soil and a semi-shaded location. They can be planted in the fall or early spring, and once established, they will naturalize and return year after year.

To start a collection, it is best to purchase plants from reputable sources, as they are often propagated by division and not seed. Many galanthophiles also like to trade with other collectors to obtain rare varieties. Also, it is important to take note of the flower’s characteristics, such as its shape, size, and color. This will help identify the variety and ensure that it is correctly labeled.

As the snowdrops begin to bloom, it is important to keep an eye out for signs of disease or pests. If any are found, it is best to remove the affected plant to prevent the problem from spreading. It’s also important to avoid overcrowding, as this can lead to poor air circulation and an increased risk of disease.

Collecting snowdrops can be a challenging and rewarding hobby. With a little patience and care, it is possible to build a beautiful collection of unique and rare varieties of this beloved spring flower.

There are many cultivars of snowdrops that are well-suited for a collection. Here are a few examples:

Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’: This cultivar is known for its large, white flowers with a green V-shaped mark on the outer petals. It is a vigorous grower and a good choice for naturalizing.

Galanthus ‘Magnet’: This cultivar has small, pure white flowers with a green V-shaped mark on the outer petals. It is a reliable bloomer and has a good fragrance.

Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’: This cultivar has large, white flowers with a green V-shaped mark on the outer petals. It is a reliable bloomer and has a good fragrance.

Galanthus ‘John Gray’: This cultivar has large, white flowers with a green V-shaped mark on the outer petals. It is a reliable bloomer and has a good fragrance.

Galanthus ‘Plenus’: this is a double snowdrop, which features multiple rows of petals on each flower. It is a great addition for a collector who is looking for something unique and rare.

Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’: This cultivar has large, white flowers with a green V-shaped mark on the outer petals, but the unique characteristic is the edge of the inner petals is yellow.

These are just a few examples of the many cultivars of snowdrops available for collectors. It is important to research and purchase plants from reputable sources to ensure that they are correctly labeled and of good quality.

Permaculture for urban gardens

Permaculture is a holistic approach to gardening that focuses on creating a sustainable and self-sufficient ecosystem. It is a way to grow food, medicine, and other useful plants in an urban environment while also promoting biodiversity and preserving natural resources. Here are some tips for urban gardeners looking to incorporate permaculture principles into their gardening practices:

Start by observing: Before you start planting, take the time to observe the natural patterns and systems in your garden. Look at the sun and shade patterns, the flow of water, and the existing plants and animals in the area. This will help you understand the unique characteristics of your garden and how to best work with them.

Use companion planting: Companion planting is a permaculture technique that involves planting different species of plants together that have a beneficial relationship. For example, planting beans and corn together can help fix nitrogen in the soil and provide shade for the beans.

Incorporate vertical gardening: Urban gardens often have limited space, so it’s important to make the most of the space you have. Incorporating vertical gardening techniques, such as hanging baskets, trellises, and wall gardens, can help you grow more plants in a small area.

Create a food forest: A food forest (even a small one) is a technique that involves creating a multi-layered ecosystem of edible and medicinal plants. This can include fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, and other useful plants. The idea is to mimic a natural forest, where different plants work together to create a self-sustaining ecosystem.

Use natural pest control: Instead of using chemicals to control pests, try using natural methods such as companion planting, using beneficial insects, and creating a diverse ecosystem. This can help you create a more sustainable and self-sufficient garden.

Make use of greywater: Greywater is the water that comes from sinks, baths, and washing machines, and it can be reused in the garden. This can help to reduce the amount of fresh water you need to use for irrigation, which is especially important in urban areas where water is often in short supply.

Permaculture is a great way for urban gardeners to grow food, medicine, and other useful plants in an environmentally friendly manner. It may take a bit of extra effort, but it is worth it to create a sustainable and self-sufficient garden in the city.

Spring Pruning

Spring is a great time to prune many plants. Proper pruning can help improve the health and appearance of your plants, and can also help encourage new growth. There are a few key things to consider when pruning your plants in the spring:

Determine the type of plant you are pruning: Different plants have different pruning needs. For example, some plants benefit from hard pruning, where you cut back a significant portion of the plant, while others only need light pruning. It’s important to research the specific pruning needs of the plants you are working with.

Consider the plant’s growth cycle: Some plants are more sensitive to pruning at certain times of the year. For example, it’s best to prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees immediately after they have finished blooming. This will allow them to grow new flowers for the next season.

Use the right tools: Make sure you have the right tools for the job. For most pruning tasks, a sharp pair of pruning shears will do the trick. For larger branches, you may need a pruning saw or loppers.

Here are a few examples of plants that are commonly pruned in the spring, along with some techniques you can use:

Shrubs and hedges: Many shrubs and hedges benefit from pruning in the spring. For example, boxwood, yew, and privet can all be pruned in the spring to maintain their shape and size. To prune these plants, use a pair of sharp pruning shears to remove any dead, damaged, or overgrown branches.

Rose bushes: Spring is a great time to prune rose bushes. Start by removing any dead or damaged branches, and then prune the remaining branches back by about a third. This will help encourage new growth and improve the overall health of the plant.

Trees: Some trees, such as fruit trees, benefit from pruning in the spring. To prune a fruit tree, start by removing any dead or damaged branches. You can also thin out the canopy of the tree by removing branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. This will help improve air circulation and light penetration, which can help the tree produce more fruit.

Perennial flowers: Many gardeners choose to leave dead herbaceous plants and grasses over winter to provide structure to the garden, as well as food and shelter for wildlife. However, more care is needed when cutting back in spring to avoid damaging new shoot growth.  This will help encourage new growth and improve the overall health of the plant.

Overall, spring is a great time to prune many plants. By following these tips and techniques, you can help improve the health and appearance of your plants and encourage new growth.

Getting ready for Spring

Spring is the perfect time to get your garden ready for the growing season. Here are a few tips to help you prepare your garden for spring:

Clean up the garden bed: Start by removing any dead plants, weeds, and debris from the garden bed. This will help to prevent pests and diseases from overwintering and will create a clean, healthy environment for your new plants.

Compost: One good thing about clearing away all of that organic matter from the garden is that you can put much of it in the composter. In the spring you should make a point of turning over the compost pile. It has been working hard over the winter and you’ll find that the bottom layer will make an excellent mulch – perfect to spread around your flower bed.

Prune shrubs and trees: Pruning helps to stimulate new growth and can also improve the overall appearance of your garden. Be sure to prune any dead or damaged branches, and trim back any overgrown shrubs or trees.

Plan your plantings: Take some time to plan out your plantings for the season. Consider the location, size, and care requirements of each plant, and choose a mix of annuals, perennials, and vegetables to create a diverse and beautiful garden.

Start seeds indoors: If you want to get a head start on the growing season, you can start seeds indoors in a sunny window or under grow lights. This is a great way to get a jump on the season and ensure that you have a wide variety of plants to choose from.

With a little bit of preparation and planning, you can get your garden ready for a productive and beautiful spring season.

RHSI Russborough

How to summarise the year? No lock downs. Mild winter and sunny days.

The garden volunteers worked enthusiastically every Wednesday and Saturday. New gardeners joined us and we hope they will continue. There is always more work than resources so new recruits are welcome. Former volunteers have kept in touch on WhatsApp providing encouragement and support.

It poured rain for the plant sale in May but we sold a lot of plants, and encouraged visitors to come back another day. At Kaleidoscope in July volunteers sold strawberries, tried archery and tai chi, and enjoyed music and mud.
There were good crops of gooseberries, blackcurrants, and autumn raspberries with lots of jam to sell. We finally gave up on the summer raspberries and dug them up. The apple crop was harvested by Falling Fruit and donated to Food Cloud. From the glasshouse we had tomatoes, cucumber, and delicious melons.

The wooden benches, donated in memory of RHSI members, were carefully restored and well used by visitors to sit and admire the garden.

Thirteen different groups with over 200 people were shown around the garden as part of their visit to Russborough house. If you know of any organisation that would like a tour of the garden, please contact the RHSI office and we will be happy to show you around.

Plans for 2023 include a re-sown, and we hope, scutch free wildflower bed, further restoration work on the old boiler house, and redesigning the holding bed area. Plant sales are our main source of income so propagating and dividing will continue to be important.

It is your garden so do come and see it. We have had photography groups, artists, entomologists and weddings. All are welcome.
Open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11th January and feel free to bring your gloves and secateurs.

Christmas 2022 Greetings

Dear RHSI members

I hope you have plans for an enjoyable festive season and can meet up with friends and family in person or be in contact through the wonders of technology which, thankfully, reach far beyond the crackles and pauses of the old long-distance phone call!

We’re full of plans for 2023, all of which are a result of the energy and enthusiasm of volunteers who give their time and talent to making our society such a vibrant organisation. Many thanks to you all.

A particular delight is to let you know that Paul Smyth is to be the new Head Gardener at RHSI Bellefield. You’ll have an opportunity to visit in February to see the snowdrops and appreciate Angela Jupe’s wonderful gift to the society. We look forward to meeting you there. Meanwhile, please see a message from Paul below.

Best wishes for a Happy and Peaceful Christmas.
Chair, RHSI

“I’m delighted, honoured and very excited to announce that I am taking on the role of head gardener at Bellefield House and Gardens in Co Offaly. To be known as RHSI Bellefield.

I was extremely lucky to have been mentored by Bellefield’s last owner Angela Jupe who bequeathed the house and gardens to the RHSI to become their training garden.
Angela was a visionary thinker, garden designer, plantswoman, architect, and collector to name but a few of her varied skills and interests. She was an important figure in my career and someone I always turned to.

I have been involved since Angela’s death in the upkeep of the site along with a few other key people who have worked tirelessly to maintain the house and gardens.

We will have various open days next year, starting with some in February for Snowdrop season. Bellefield has one of the finest collections in Ireland of both named and naturalised snowdrops. Keep an eye on our brand new Instagram page @rhsibellefield for updates.

To Angela I say thank you. We hope to honour your generosity and to inspire new generations of gardeners. Bellefield with its 2 acres of walled garden, parkland, pasture, meadows, woodlands and bog is a remarkable site, with lots of potential. It is an honour to be able to be trusted with the task of being the new custodian of this remarkable place.

I look forward to welcoming some of you there in the year ahead!”


RHSI Medal of Honour

The RHSI are delighted to announce that Jan Ravensbery, owner of Ravensberg Nursery in Clara Co Offaly was awarded the RHSI Medal of Honour which was given in recognition of distinguished service to horticulture in Ireland.

New Opportunity

Cork City is undergoing a period of employment and population growth. In line with the provisions of the National Planning Framework, the City will continue to be one of the fastest growing areas of the country with its population set to increase by over 50% in the period to 2040. This expansion will be associated with significant investment in the new and upgraded infrastructure and the Council requires additional professional/technical staff with appropriate skills and experience to deliver same.

The City Council now invites applications, from suitably qualified persons, who wish
to be considered for inclusion on a panel from which vacancies for Landscape Architect may be filled. The initial placement will be in the Councils Infrastructure Delivery Directorate but the successful candidate may be assigned to work in/for other Directorates over time.

The Infrastructure Development Directorate is responsible for the planning and delivery of capital projects in the areas of roads and transportation, urban regeneration, urban expansion, parks and amenity services, flood protection, and public realm renewal. The Directorate works closely with a number of funding agencies including the National Transport Authority, the Department of Transport, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the Office of Public Works. Key objectives for the Directorate at present include the delivery of the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) (and in particular the cycling, walking and public transport improvements envisaged therein) the delivery of flood protection and public realm improvements and urban regeneration (including Docklands redevelopment).

This represents an exciting opportunity for a talented and enthusiastic Landscape Architect with proven experience to join the Council and work with a number of multidisciplinary design teams in the planning, design and delivery of new infrastructure in Cork City.

Executive Landscape Architect (5 Year Fixed Term Contract) – Cork City Council

Airfield Estate Gardens

Ardan Garden

Ballintubbert Gardens and House

Ballycommane Garden

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballyrobert Gardens

Bantry House and Garden

Belvedere House Gardens & Park

Benvarden Garden

Birr Castle Garden

Blarney Castle and Gardens

Burtown House and Gardens

Colclough Walled Garden

Collon House

Coolaught Walled Garden

Coolwater Garden

Dawros Gallery & Garden

Dower House

Festina Lente

Fota House – Victorian Working Garden

Gash Gardens

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 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

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