Shirley Cullen’s September Garden

RHSI and Cop26

As announced in the News Bulletin of September 3rd, the RHSI has been invited to partner with the British Embassy in Ireland next week to raise awareness of the ever increasing importance of biodiversity and the problems of climate change. This move has been prompted by the fact that the UK is hosting the climate change conference, COP26 in November 2021.

Next week, Chelsea Flower Show will showcase a COP26 garden, demonstrating how gardeners everywhere can responsibly help protect vital biodiversity and the planet.

In partnership with the British Embassy we will stream 5 short videos on social media each day next week. These will feature highly respected Irish gardeners profiling different ways in which we can all play our part however small to help our global ecosystem.

Monday September 20th- Introductions  by the British Ambassador to Ireland,  Paul Johnston and by our RHSI Patron, Diarmuid Gavin.

Subsequent videos during the week will feature:
Seamus O’Brien, Head  Gardener, National Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh.
Wildflowers meadows in public and private spaces.

Mary Keenan, Editor of the Irish Garden magazine and owner of Gash Gardens and Nursery, Co Laois.
Value and importance of trees in gardens and residential areas.

Colm O’Driscoll, Head Gardener, Airfield Estate,  Dundrum.
Vital importance of soil health.

Fionnuala Fallon, Flower Farmer and Irish Times Gardening Correspondent.
Growing your own pollinator-friendly flowers.

View the videos on our website, Facebook and Twitter.

Ballyrobert Gardens in Climate Change Mode by Peggy Masterson

It is nearly 30 years since Maurice and his wife Joy commenced the development of Ballyrobert Gardens as a naturalistic garden and during that time the garden has developed as one of the best of its kind. It was chosen by Nationwide BBC TV as an exemplar naturalistic garden for a live Breakfast Time Programme feature in connection with the launch of Rita Reynold’s book, Dare to be Wild.

The garden is a lesson of best practice of what gardeners need to do to mitigate climate change.
I asked Maurice to let me know what were the key features that have enabled this to happen in the context of climate change.

“We fortunately, like many other gardeners, were very early believers in what was happening to our climate because the changes in our garden and the natural environment reflected unusual events and occurrences. It was self-evident that all was not well in the natural environment and we were very concerned.
Your question Peggy was really good and very applicable at such a key time for our climate and I hope the following summary is helpful:-

1. Everything in this garden is green i.e. lots of vegetation and a wide range of plants both native and introduced.
2. We have sought to create natural habitats with the absolute minimum of inorganic materials. All our pruning’s etc are allowed to naturally breakdown. e.g. the drains and ditches are filled with dead branches. Dead wood in all its forms is very valuable to us.
3. We have practiced no dig/cultivation in the garden from the beginning and we allow as much natural plant litter as possible to remain in borders. We tell our visitors we have the national collection of lichens!
4. The garden in 30 years has never been fertilised and this also applies to our 10 acres of Dexter grazed land/wilding area.
5. We only grow plants that survive and grow without insecticides and fungicides. Our focus is on high performance plants which grow without lots of assistance.
6. Native type hedges are key in this place and truly native thorn is the number one plant in the garden. With the exception of a small picket fence, there is not a wooden fence about the place but we do have open natural stone walls.
7. Borders are not drained, despite having very heavy soil, but rather we have chosen plants that like the conditions.
8. We never water the garden, including lawns.
9. The vast bulk of our plants are permanent and hardy.
10. Our pencil tree stumps summarise what we are about in a learning and practice sense. Hope you like them.

We are firm believers in the need to adopt natural solutions to climate change problems. As the Secretary General of the United Nations recently said, “It’s About Making Peace with Nature.”

Horticultural glass

The two bottles were used for the storage of bunches of grapes.  The jar on the left is French and is known as a ‘Thomery Jar’ and the one of the right is a British bottle of slightly later date.

In Thomery (a commune in the Ile-de-France region) the jars were used commercially for the long storage of the locally produced grapes. The British jars were not used commercially but were used in the productive gardens of the owners of large estates.

The process was the same in both cases. A bunch of grapes was cut with a large section of the vine left attached to the bunch – this formed a T shape. Special shelving units were constructed with the shelves set at an angle and with holes drilled in each shelf. The ‘jars’ were placed in the holes and filled with water and then one end of the T was inserted into the jar. By this means bunches of grapes could be kept fresh for long periods.

There were two problems with this method: the first was that special shelving units with angled shelves had to be produced – the second problem caused greater difficulty. The water in the jars had to be topped up and it was very difficult to do this without drips falling onto the bunches leading to mould and rot and the loss of the bunch.

As always the Victorians set out to improve this and the result is the third bottle shown in the photograph.  The is known as a ‘Copped Hall’ bottle and was produced by William Wood and Sons of Wood Green.  This new design solved both of the aforementioned problems. As the bottle had a flat base ordinary shelves could be used – nor more angled shelves and no more hole drilling – and as water could be added via the hole in the ‘top’ of the jar the problem of drips landing on the grapes was eliminated.
Victorian horticultural ingenuity at its best.

Seamus O’Brien, fellow of The Explorers Club

Congratulations to Seamus O’Brien, Head Gardener of the National Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh who has been made a fellow of The Explorers Club.

Founded in New York City in 1904, The Explorers Club promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences.  Fellowship is reserved for those who have distinguished themselves by directly contributing to scientific knowledge in the field of geographical exploration or allied sciences. Such accomplishments usually are evidenced by scientific publications documenting fieldwork or explorations.

As a fellow, Seamus enters the top tier of The Explorers Club, alongside other Fellows and Honorary Fellows including Col. Buzz Aldrin, Sir Edmund Hillary, Edward O. Wilson,  President Theodore Roosevelt, Sylvia A. Earle, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. and many more.

Oxford Botanic Garden by Richard Webb

Oxford Botanic Gardens celebrates its 400th anniversary this year, as the oldest botanic garden in Britain. With the likelihood increasing of hotter and drier summers, new displays have been created to show what garden plants may be suitable for these conditions in future. Selections include plants from the Mediterranean, South Africa and North America. Examples shown here include Stipa gigantea, eryngium, dianthus and echinacea. The planting was loose and dynamic and it hummed with insects. By contrast the nearby classic herbaceous border seemed static and lifeless.
There is a lot to learn from close observation of our natural habitats.
We can look at vegetation structure and how and why species grow in drifts or singly and the timing of flowering.
I have learnt so much just by looking at the ecology of our nearby Red Lodge Heath, a remnant of the Breckland sandy heath. Drifts of yarrow and wild carrot mingle with clumps of scabious and echium among a matrix of low grasses.

Angela Jupe- A fond reflection by Paul Smyth

I first met Angela 9 years ago after I asked my course leader if I could work in an estate garden for my work placement. He suggested a few places that didn’t answer the phone – Angela did. I knew nothing about her apart from a mutual connection through my late great-uncle so there was little reason our paths would ever cross. How glad I am that she answered the phone and took a leap of faith with a young gardener just at the start of a journey into the world of horticulture.

I spent and initial 3 months working in the garden, just at the peak of Snowdrop season and the remainder of that summer was spent there too. Angela was a great teacher and had a brilliant way of questioning all around her, always inquisitive and reading up on one plant or another. She had hundreds of old gardening books and would stay up reading for hours.  She didn’t suffer fools either and we many a colourful row in the garden as instructions were misinterpreted or worse still, ignored completely! Despite all that I loved every trip there and enjoyed seeing the garden develop even in the few short years since I first saw it.

My own love of snowdrops was sparked by working with her collection and spotting a rather impressive clump of South Hayes under a large shrub in what she called the North Border. That opened my eyes to the magical and often daft world of snowdrops, but it also started a love affair that, thanks to Angela, would spiral out of control and culminate with me moving to the UK and working for a summer propagating snowdrops exclusively.

She was a collector and hoarder of the highest order, her sheds and barns were full of all sorts of knicknacks and salvage, meaningless items to many but she could tell you where each piece came from and often her intention for it. Plants were collected too and newspaper articles would often trigger a new obsession and hunt for the latest desirable plant. Indeed, one of my last conversations with her was about a deep red Nerine she had seen but not managed to get her hands on yet.

Gardening and plants were just one of her many talents, her initial work life as an Architect and working for the IDA brought her on trips all over the world. She was a founding member of the GLDA and was always keen to support the RHSI and other organisations. Others will know a lot more of her early years, but I have heard stories of an antique shop she ran in Dublin city that had the most magnificent Wisteria mural painted on the façade. She truly was a multi-talented woman and a driving force behind whatever she got involved in.

The 90’s, I believe, saw her move to Tipperary to take on Fancroft gardens which she spent some years developing before taking the plunge in the early 2000’s (when most people would think of slowing down) with Bellefield. She transformed a neglected garden and farmyard into a magical space, packed with all of the plants she was so passionate about. I recall her telling me the first day she arrived in the garden you had to crawl on your knees through the brambles and willow to get to the first clearing in the mess that would be transformed into a non-traditional walled garden, with her distinctive flair

Her early plant fairs were legendary too, attracting huge crowds before they became a commonplace fixture in the Irish horticultural calendar which they are today.

Her passion as a gardener was where our paths crossed best and on many a trip to Bellefield we would walk around the garden until our feet were numb and noses dripping, often at snowdrop time. But, like all plant enthusiast’s, snowdrops just heralded the start of the gardening year with the magnificent collections of old French roses, often sourced from trips to France, together with Nerines, Iris and Peonies extending the garden and the interest long into the season.

Indeed, it was on one of these plant sourcing trips to Devon for the Iris ensata that line her rill, that I had one of my most memorable road trips with her as we reversed up a dual-carriage way in search of wildflowers and she gave some unannounced lessons on tailgating in a way only Angela would dare!

Car trips were always memorable when Angela was involved, whether it was staying up all night and day to traverse the UK for Myddelton snowdrop sale or simply a trip into the depths of murky Tipperary on a damp February morning to trawl old gardens for snowdrops and other long forgotten garden goodies, lots of which now grow in Bellefield.

For as long as I’ve known her Angela had Poppy by her side, and other predecessors before her. She was devastated when Poppy died last year, but Boris brought her a new lease of life and was full of mischief on my few visits since his arrival.

On a personal level Angela was a great mentor and guide, always offering advice in the background and looking out for my decisions and giving her opinion, which she always expressed freely! I’ll miss her 2am emails updating me about her latest antics and also miss our road trips to see plants and gardens with or without permission.

She was a great friend, teacher, mentor and most importantly gardener whose loss will be felt by all those who knew her.

May she rest in peace

Paul Smyth, May 2021.

Airfield Estate Gardens

Ballintubbert Gardens and House

Ballycommane Garden

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballyrobert Gardens

Bantry House and Garden

Benvarden Garden

Birr Castle Garden

Blarney Castle and Gardens

Burtown House and Gardens

Colclough Walled Garden

Collon House

Coolaught Walled Garden

Coolwater Garden

Dower House

Festina Lente

Fota House – Victorian Working Garden

Gash Gardens

Glebe 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 Gardens

Old Deanery Garden

Patthana Garden

Rothe House Museum and Garden

Rowallane Garden

Salthill Garden

Seaforde Gardens

Seanabea Cottage

Strokestown Park Gardens

Terra Nova Gardens

Tullynally Castle Gardens

Tyrrelstown House Garden

Woodville Walled Garden

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