Little Christmas Day

The circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak, and sing with us when we are strong.

Known in Ireland as Nollaig na bBan, today marks the official end of Christmas. We are ahead of ourselves here. All decorations, except for a forgotten furry snowman, have been removed, repackaged and returned to the third-floor attic.

In a surprise move, I’ve offered to cook dinner this evening. It’s a tradition that women do not cook on January 6th. To my surprise, Marion mentioned that it wouldn’t really be necessary this year, because I’m the chef most days! I feel blessed.

Skimmia Temptation.

It’s time to move outdoors. The garden is calling.


From Mindfulness Ireland… “In Ireland, women have been gathering together on 6th January ‘Nollaig na mBan’, Gaelic for ‘Women’s Christmas’ for so long no one is sure when this heart-warming tradition began.On this night, the menfolk prepared the meal and did the housework so that the women could relax and have fun after all their busyness of the festive season. These celebrations usually took place in one of the women’s homes or in local pubs. This often was the only time in the year that women could drink and revel to their heart’s content free from housework and childcare. Initially, they shared worries and challenges but soon came the great laughing chats and ‘sing-songs’ until the wee hours of the morning. Nollaig na mBan nearly died out in the 1950s but remained very much alive in pockets of Cork and the South West of Ireland, when women have dinner or party together to celebrate their own ‘Little Christmas.’ These days the domestic duties may be shared but this all-female gathering is still treasured as friends and family catch up for a last ‘hurrah’ after the holiday season. More and more women are attending or organizing Nollaig na mBan events, bringing optimism and hope for the year ahead.”


Biking: Very blustery wind. Headwind going up Strikes except for the middle section. Seriously windy after the wooded section coming down Ballingown. Blown home from Kilmolash. Very enjoyable 52km. Scattered clouds, 9°C, Feels like 6°C, Humidity 89%, Wind 7m/s from WSW.

My West Waterford garden…Spot the wind turbines?

The circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak, and sing with us when we are strong.

Succulent Wild Woman by SARK, (a.k.a. Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) 

Jingle Bells

I’ve surfaced just in time to wish all my friends and gardening acquaintances a very Happy Christmas.

I’ve had a Rip Van Winkle moment, and here I am after a long break! I’ve surfaced just in time to wish all my friends and gardening acquaintances a very Happy Christmas.

I hope that this Christmas is a good one for you all despite everything. Very likely, there’s a mixture of joy and sadness for so many families, but most of all I’m writing this with a hopeful heart.

Winter is a wonderful time of the year. I’m probably in a minority, but I do like it. I’m reminded to slow down, take things easy, wrap up and stay cosy with loved ones.

My friends will be very aware of my love/hate relationship with social media. I’m thankful that the elastic snapped a few months ago. I’m grateful for the joy of seeing like-minded gardeners but my continued use of FB and IG does not sit well with me. Thus, for the moment at any rate, my gardening updates will be here, and here alone.

As we face into another new year, I wish you happiness and good health.

25th December 2021,

Padraig.

Six-on-Saturday – It Begins Again

I’ve achieved so much already this year! Delighted to have nailed another bucket item. Yes, I’ve used “over at off” in a meaningful sentence. I’d been overthinking it for far too long; then it just happened.

This first Six-on-Saturday of 2021 has been thrown together, together with a concoction of trifle, Baileys Irish Cream and sprouts. Along with these basic ingredients, there’s been side-orders of rest, cycling, Kindling and Roberts-radioing. There’s been no gardening activity, apart from opening and closing the glasshouse and cold frame. All in all, it’s been typical of the festive days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. There’s a duplicate of this notion over at OffTheEdgeGardening. Thank you Gill.

I know about Twiglets

Importantly, I’ve been years trying to come up with a sentence using over at off. I’d been overthinking it for far too long; then it just happened. According to Reader’s Digest, life’s like that.

For more accounts of New Year garden activity from near and far timpeall an domhan, tap this link to visit The Propagator’s blog or check out @cavershamjj on Twitter. You’ll find plenty writers linking their Six on Saturday garden selection in the comments section. Here’s my first selection of 2021…

Primrose

Featured a few Saturdays ago last year, the primrose is a joy. At a time when there’s very little colour, I’m thrilled to have it. I’ve placed it on the windowsill within plain sight while I eat my boiled egg.

Jasmine

“Jasmine is one of the most seductive scents imaginable, and the stuff from Grasse is the finest in the world. In the little village where I collected that, the farmers won’t even let their nubile daughters walk through the fields when the flowers are ripe for fear they won’t be able to control themselves.”

“I can see why,” Evie murmured. The heavy fragrance was intoxicating, and she felt like someone entirely new.

Deanna Raybourn, Whisper of Jasmine

Pelargonium Vancouver

Long experience has taught me that people who do not like geraniums have something morally unsound about them. Sooner or later you will find them out; you will discover that they drink, or steal books, or speak sharply to cats. Never trust a man or a woman who is not passionately devoted to geraniums.

Beverley Nichols

Aurinia saxatilis Gold Ball

This is what happens when one forgets to trim the plant planda after flowering last spring! It looks bedraggled, and in no way similar to a ball. However, as it’s now coming into flower again, I’m reluctant to cut it back.

Rose

He who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.

Anne Bronte

Breakfast

Sun and soil and leaf and root, animal and stone, bone, human strength, human weakness,  all moved together, worked together, dictating one great pattern of  dependence. Each creature and plant, every person, fitted into its  place.
(Olivia Hawker, One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow)

Sin a bhfuil for this week. I’ll be back next week with more.

Personal Six

I add these simply in order to remember stuff. I’ll enjoy an (?) Eureka moment at some point in the future.

  • There was an hour of cycling on Christmas Day and two on Wran Day.
  • EU deal agreed with the UK. Both sides are claiming a win.
  • The Retro Trifle was a triumph.
  • We are back to Level 5 restrictions again. The disease is out of control. I’ll be looking for black market peat-free compost.
  • We purchased a Roberts Internet Radio, a fine machine indeed.
  • Baileys Irish Cream is dangerous. My planned cycling did not happen on Wednesday.
Athbhliain faoi mhaise.

Pádraig,

2nd January Eanair 2021.

Six-on-Saturday – I’m Dreaming Of…

I wish you a Merry Christmas and all the very best for the year ahead. May your spuds sprout early and your snails drown in beer.

26th December 2020.

I added some Christmas cheer to the garden this week. Bowls of cyclamen, ivy, Jerusalem cherry, primrose and tiny conifers have been beautifully planted up (by someone other than me) to add to the occasion.

It has been an Annus Horibilis, yet I take this opportunity to wish all my loyal subjects across the shrinking empire a happy and safe Christmas. Having got that out of the way slí, my floral additions below come with some thoughts for this very special time of the year bliain.

It’s late Christmas evening final edits time, so I’m moving one beyond six. It’s a Magnificent Seven. I made a promise to live on the edge. I’m sure Jon Propagator will agree that it’s the season for love and understanding. All other garden writers will be popping links (Six, I’d imagine) to what’s going on in worldwide Gardens today so do pop over for a look.

I’m dreaming of… a Coronaviris-free world. I hope it will happen very soon. The year has seen unnecessary death, misery, and stress. So, join me please by doing the right things to help keep ourselves and others safe.

I dream also of a Trumpless administration. Wear your mask, wash your hands. There will be no pardoning of gardeners.

I’m dreaming of… an end to homelessness. The very idea of a person not having a home is so very sad. Home is a place that allows us to find the strength to fight adversity, to love and be loved, to be creative and, in our case, to plant a garden as a hope for the future.

Dreaming doesn’t really help, so I’m pledging to decide how action on my part in 2021 will help. Actioning activates dreaming.

I include in my thoughts those who have a home but are unable to be there because of travel restrictions. Even in a world of Zoom, there’s nothing quite like pulling a cracker.

I’m remembering… my brother who passed away at the young age of twenty-eight. I’m remembering also all those from my extended family who are no longer with us to celebrate this Christmas, and I expand that thought to include your departed loved ones.

I’m patiently waiting for… a new bike. It will not arrive until mid-May because of supply-chain issues. Whatever you’re waiting for in 2021, may it bring you joy and contentment. Rule 29.b.2 is important here. Waiting is exciting, knowing that by doing the groundwork, the end result is almost inevitable.

I’m grateful for… the peace of mind that my gardening has given me. There’s been a lot written this year about the mental health benefits of gardening. In my case, I know that to be very true, not just this year.

I’m hoping for… continued gardening through these bleak months. There’s not much doing at the moment but plans are afoot. After the Christmas pudding and presents I assisted with the cleanup prior to a cold afternoon cycle and spent a while looking through my seed packets while watching The Incredible Showman. The propagator will appear from the attic on New Year’s Eve.

I watched the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter during the week. There’s some theory or other that this would be the best time to plant something or other sa gáirdín, but I’m not a believer. This coming together of the two superballs is the closest since 1623 and will not happen again until 2080. In the meantime, it’s a Nollaig Shona from me here in South-East Ireland. I wish you all the very best for the year ahead. May your spuds sprout early and your snails drown in beer.

Pádraig.

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Four Day Week

There are only four days this week. You may be shocked to read that in plain text. I have decided, to realign my blog with current international calendars. Thus, I am moving towards starting each week on Monday. Therefore, so and because…. this article is shorter, recalling only Thursday to Sunday.

Thursday, January 3rd:

My front garden is called by many names: the forgotten garden, the neglected, the shaded or the dull. I have a solid bias against it simply because I do not live there. Quite simply, it’s a place I pass by when coming and going. Today is the turn of the front garden to be in the limelight and the plant is Cortaderia, commonly known as Pampas Grass. I do not know the variety. I do know that it looks good in winter. The photo is not of the entire plant, merely the seed-heads. Each one is sturdy and can survive strong winds. Surely there must be thousands of seeds being readied for scattering. I have never seen even one seed produce a next-generation plant. Must investigate further. I am struck by the thought that plants produce enough seed to continue the species. If there’s not enough its goodbye plant. Equally, producing too much seed is very wasteful. Seeds compete for nutrients while attached to the parent, so a weakened quality is the result of oversupply. Weakened quality is a recipe for extinction. Also, if there’s an oversupply it is more likely that seeds will have to compete against one another where they germinate. This is what strengthens a species… the survival of the strongest. But in a situation where many seeds are strong and healthy, it does not make sense that they grow very closely together. I think the Cortaderia produces so many seeds simply because germination is not straightforward. Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.
Continuing #shortdayschallenge as I log my winter garden here in Dungarvan, Ireland. Time to focus on the little things, such as thousands of tiny seeds on a very large plant.

Friday, January 4th:

I enjoyed looking back to something I wrote in February 2017. I am reminded that I am about six weeks ahead of schedule this year. The seed sowing will be started next week.
“The last time I turned on the old propagator was way back in nineteen ninety something. Donald J Trump, now the Oval Office occupant, was an important businessman. Now, as I return to a former active love of growing from seed, this madcap president is surrounded by staff looking to turn him off.
I’m under starter’s orders. The time for looking at the garden from within is over. Winter has been very kind to us here in Dungarvan. There have been only a few frost nights and rainfall has been well below average. I’ve spent many weeks flicking through catalogues and gardening in my head. And now is the time to get things moving again. I had cleaned my worn-out propagator in early January only to find that it’s not a propagator any longer as it refuses to heat up. Nothing for it but to bite the bullet and seek a replacement.
I put out the word and waited for some feedback. I had been googling, but everything I looked at seemed fantastic. The internet has a way of making everything look like the bees’ knees. Within a short while, thanks to David in Friendly Gardeners I followed up on a recommendation to purchase a Vitopod from Greenhouse Sensations. Incredibly, it was delivered to me within 36 hours, and assembled/installed immediately.
The seed packets are ready, all 57 of them. Yes, I’m aware I’ve got a small garden and I will not be able to plant most of what germinates. I will proceed undeterred, however. Likely I will just give any surplus plants to friends locally. Most of my seeds are annuals and vegetables.
Being a slightly organised person, (Ahem, note added January 2019 for Michele) I’ve figured out a planting order. I know I’m a few weeks behind schedule, and the new propagator will be loaded to the brim for the next six weeks.
I began with a real favourite, pompom dahlia. I had dozens of these many years ago and now it’s time to grow them again. I’ll be creating a small section for these lovely colourful plants along with several others that will flower in late summer until the first frost. So let the journey begin.”

Saturday, January 5th: 

Molly on duty. Actually, despite having had breakfast, she searches for birdseed scattered earlier. Start the day slowly. Be like Molly.
Sunday, January 6th.

Today is Nollaig na mBan, otherwise known as Women’s’ Christmas. It is not connected in any way with the photos here. It’s easy to see that there is no connection. The stones removed from the back at Ballinclamper have been placed here and there on the gravel. They have been moved several times because in my view there’s nothing worse than the wrong stone in the wrong place. At the moment, I remain quite pleased with the one on the left. In some mysterious way, it may seem that the heather actually grew around it, except for the fact that readers know the stone is only a week old.
The photo top right excites me for a different reason. There are 10 circular holes in the lighter stone, likely homes to some sea creature families. Now that I realise that may have been the case, I figure I will half bury this stone in a shady spot. I will position it so that the holes will not flood with rainwater, and perhaps some garden insects will move in.
Finally, the photo on the bottom right is a stone version of a rag doll. It actually is. I’m sorry if you cannot see it.
So, to finish foff for this “week”…

  • Do you celebrate Nollaig na mBan, the traditional wonen’s Christmas?
  • Where you are, what is the first day of the week?
  • Finally, just connect in the comments section about anything that you like here.
Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig garden articles. He admits to being slightly organised, yet it’s a severe waste if DNA because his usual habit is to walk into someone’s house with X things and walk out with X minus 1. There’s a link on his blog to a good article about personal forgetfulness, but naturally… Yeah, you guessed!

Furthermore And Also: Short Days Challenge

Last autumn I had wondered what on earth I’d write about during the winter. It is easier when the garden is ablaze with life and colour. It is easier when there’s lots happening. I had thought that winter would be very tricky. I could not have been more wrong. Furthermore and also, the past two months have given me a dreamy insight into my garden and my appreciation of it.
Christmas has come and gone. I have always liked Christmas, and this year was different. It occurred to me only last week that, for those of us in the mid-northern latitudes, it has been created to occur just at the perfect time of the year. It is mid-winter, yet it is exactly four days after the equinox. Things are on the up. Farmers are looking ahead to spring and animal birth. Gardeners, like myself, are looking ahead to warmer weather, longer days and new plant life. Indeed, there will be rough weather ahead during the months of January and February (and perhaps March/April too, if last year is anything to go by). It was a tough time for gardeners, farmers and many others. Ireland nearly ran out of bread. Yet, just a very short ten weeks later Ireland baked in the long drought. The toaster was set to crispy. I cannot remember warm weather like the summer of 2018. It was astonishing. The spirit of the nation was lifted. It remained lifted despite a prolonged abortion referendum here in Ireland, or perhaps because of it. It remained lifted until such time as Ireland beat the All-Blacks in mid-November, and on a personal level, it remained lifted as I began my daily Short Days Garden Challenge. I wrote about it twice recently (here and here), so this final 2018 article completes the trilogy.

Thursday, December 20th: The geranium cuttings from mid-November are doing well. They look healthy, and likely the underground rooting system is underway. I will keep a close eye on these over the coming 6-8 weeks to ensure they thrive. Even in the glasshouse, there is the possibility of frost damage. I noticed yesterday that the thermometer (which gives maximum and minimum readings) recorded 1.1 degrees recently. The glasshouse is entirely free of draughts, yet I will remain vigilant. Páraig the Vigilant! If there are very cold nights ahead I may bring these delicate babies indoors.
Lovely weather here in Ireland today. I got some last-minute Christmas gifts sorted and enjoyed my usual full Irish breakfast. Not in that order, of course. Hope all my friends here are looking forward to a wonderful Christmas time. It can be a lonely time for some, so try to look in on an elderly neighbour, or simply spread a contagious smile. Little things can mean a lot.

Lookin’ good there

Friday, December 21st: it’s mid-winter, Solstice day. Warm sunshine before the rain arrived. It’s very mild too. I spent a short while doing a few small jobs, such as topping up all the daffodil pots with a shallow layer of gravel to keep weeds away and a very tiny pinch of bone meal to feed them. Also generous scattering of fertiliser around the roses. Come summer solstice in June I’ll be glad that I fed them. Having spent my few minutes in the winter garden, it was then time to go wife-shopping. How very necessary, and yet exciting. My wife rewards me so much more than my garden, so fair’s fair.
Have you anything/anyone more important than your garden?

Shortest day, sunshine and grey
Saturday, December 22nd: Here’s another shot of one of my favourite plants, Nandina Firepower, as it changes colour through the cold weather. It certainly brightened my journey this morning as I went for a very short walk before breakfast.
Afterwards, I cycled with Marion and other friends in dense fog to our favourite Summerhouse in Lismore for coffee and mince pies. This lovely bike-friendly cafe is very aptly named! The fog was very heavy but the mince pies were deliciously light and flavoursome. Finally, I returned to view the lovely Nandina amid mid-afternoon watery sunshine once again. I consider this a really good day, and a few Guinness with my friend later were very pleasant too. 
Nandina Fire Power again
Sunday, December 23rd: Today’s winter garden is as much my Sunday biking as anything. After a damp mucky ride I needed to wash the bike and overshoes. As I strolled down the garden to the glasshouse I noticed that the flashing lights on the heel of the shoes were still on. It’s all about being as visible as possible on the roads. Together with front and rear lights and an extra one on my helmet I know that I’m doing my best to be safe.
In this case the gardening connection is loose, but it can clearly be seen that the two grey pots act as a perfect bike stand, while the tiny tip of emerging narcissus can just be seen top right. You may need to go to Specsavers to get a clear view.
Good to combine two of my passions
It’s there, but barely visible, just below the centre in the pot.
Monday, December 24th: 

Tis Christmas Eve and Santa Claus
will bring his gifts tonight.
We’ll hang our stockings by the bed,
And wait until it’s light.
I wonder what he’ll bring for you?
And what he’ll bring for me?
Ah! There! It’s no use wondering,
You’ll have to wait and see!

An old man said to me, won’t see another one
Tuesday, December 25th: Happy Christmas from Dungarvan. It’s that wonderful time of the year. The fuchsia is still in leaf. Normally, it would be bare many weeks ago but we have had only three frost nights and it lingers on beyond its time.

Fuchsia non-denudendum

Returning to an attempt to connect gardening and my cycling, I received the most exceptional gift today. Not the love of the two great women in my life, which is hugely important and unconditional. My daughter gave me a miniature 5cm replica of me on my bike. Paraig ar a rothar! Complete with beard, exact Ridley bike replica, Fulcrum wheels and new DCC gear. Uphill drag about 2% but the Lady Belle (my favourite Guinness watering hole) is not far away! Go raibh maith agat, a stór.

Created by #minifigurescenes
Wednesday, December 26th: this time I am visiting Ballinacourty, Cappagh to view things from a different angle, and I come away with an extended wishlist.

Joan’s garden in Cappagh
Until next year, see ya around!
Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig. He loves winter, summer and cycling in both. Furthermore and also, he likes Christmas, sherry trifle and an uplifted spirit, but not essential last-minute wife-shopping.

Storm Barbara

The storm has arrived. It’s only our second storm of the winter, and it’s called Storm Barbara. I’ve waited for it. Normally, I’ve attempted to get the latest article online by Wednesday each week. This week is different, though. I’m extra busy, but now that the wind and rain are all around, just two days before Christmas, I’ve taken time out from the busyness to sit and write. Time out from wrapping gifts, endless cycling, tidying my room and preparing sherry trifle while trying out the Baileys cream. There are thirty-seven other jobs that need doing, but right now I want to write during the storm.

No gardening today, but it’s nice to be inside looking out.
Happy Christmas from Dungarvan,
Pádraig, 23rd December 2016.

Christmas Rose

The Christmas Rose is blooming. It’s an exciting time of the year! Helleborus ‘Christmas Carol’ is a clump-forming, semi-evergreen perennial with leathery, deeply lobed, dark green leaves and, from winter to early spring, upright stems bearing outward-facing, sometimes green-flushed, white flowers with green eyes and prominent yellow stamens.
Helleborus Christmas Carol (click for details)
The other plant that is usually associated with Christmas in many households is the very tasty Brussels Sprout. Mine will be ready soon. As recommended, I removed the tops just last week in order to divert the little remaining energy of decreasing sunlight to the ripening harvest.
Brassica gemmifera Roodnerf
I grew 10 plants back in May and thinned them out to the strongest three. Later, during mid-summer, I noticed that they were being attacked at night by the critters. Rather than try to win a midnight war, I played smart, by giving one of the plants to them and protecting the other two. I’m happy to say that it worked. I’d call it a win-win situation.

Recently, I wrote about my replica online garden. Therefore, in keeping with my decision to make online notes rather than notes all over the shed, here’s the entry for Brassica gemmifera Roodnerf (aka Brussels Sprouts).
Chop off the heads for quicker ripening
Until next week, happy gardening!
Pádraig, 25th November 2016.