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Six-on-Saturday – All That Blarney

Sometimes I think to myself that I’d be better off to ditch this SOS mullarkey to focus my attention on opening paragraphs for novels.

28th August 2021.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I do like an early morning coffee outside, sometimes at about 4am. On Thursday the moon was almost full as I sipped my Bellaroom, peaceful as you like. Not a puff of wind, yet there was a noticeable coolness around my ankles.

Sometimes I think to myself that I’d be better off to ditch this SOS mullarkey to focus my attention on opening paragraphs for novels. Just give me the broad general gist of your novel and I’ll start you off with a half decent forty-nine-word scene-setting passage.

It’s been a stunningly beautiful warm week here in Abbeyside, the sort of stunning that we rarely have. These times are uplifting without being too hot. So, apart from sitting outside, dining outside and paragraphing before the early birds, I took myself off over the border into the Rebel County to visit Blarney Castle & Gardens. My chief-of-staff dear Marion guided me to the best parking spot with just one mishap, caused by road-workers.

Edited with PipCamera

We did not venture within twenty-two feet of the castle because we’d done that back in the day. Yes, we kissed the stone but in my case I must not have given it my best attempt. The words just would not flow naturally.

Follow along for some views of this lovely estate garden. In doing so, I’m saving readers a fortune because the entry fee is exorbitant, even for senior citizens. It’s my nature to broadcast such alerts.

The river is very interesting. Why is that, you ask? There was a time when a second smaller tributary joined, but when a mill was being built nearby, the smaller river was channelled underneath. Both intersect at right angles and continue on their separate ways.

I liked the various sections of the garden but the Seven Sisters area is the most beautiful, in my opinion. There are beautiful sculptures with links to Irish heritage blended in beautifully. I also love mixture of perennials and grasses.


The Irish word for fox is sionnach.

Seven Sisters

The legend states that around the year 1200AD, the local clan chieftain needed to do battle against his rivals. He had seven daughters and two sons, just about right for an obedient Catholic Irishman. Ar aon nós, his sons died fighting for the boss man. On his victorious return journey to the castle, the army passed the druidic nine-stone stone circle. Invoking his Catholic permission to purge pagan influences, he instructed his super-strong soldiers to knock over two stones. I stood in mourning for a minute. It’s a sad story.

Rather than dwell on the sadness, I moved off to admire the borders. This is one of my favourites.

And this…

I do recommend a visit to Blarney Castle & Gardens, but spend some time saving up your money, and bring a picnic because both cafes charge an arm and a leg. Indeed there are several beautiful places throughout the gardens to enjoy a relaxing picnic.

Find more Six-on-Saturday’s:

That’s it for this week, a cháirde. Get yourselves over to The Propagator to find many many more weekly gardening stories, and until next week, I hope that all will be well in your world. Slán go fóill.

This Time Last Year

Excerpt from August 2020:

“I’m going to cut to the chase, without further ado. Pronto, as it were. There will be no dilly-dallying or beating about the bush. I shall abandon the preliminaries and get stuck in immediately, foregoing the unnecessary preambles, because I’m eager to cut corners in order to get to the nub of the matter. Simply put, it’s the last weekend of August. It’s time for me to start making baby plants from cuttings.”

It seems that the gift bestowed upon me by a half-hearted kissing of the Blarney Stone has worked wonders!

Here’s the full article: Cut and Change

The Week That Was

Not garden-related, this is merely to keep a record of events for future reminiscing.

  • Phone calls to broadband providers are best made on rainy days. I wasted just short of two hours of my life. Can’t get them back.
  • Shortly, I’ll be abandoning this blog and moving to a new blog-home.
  • I’ve given the bike a decent rest this week. The saddle looked a bit worn.
  • Joe Duffy is back on radio after a short holiday. I’d rather he took an extended break.
  • Crystal Palace have played three matches this season but have not yet scored a goal.
  • I’m looking forward to my ninth year of retirement. More and more, I look forward to back-to-school days.


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Six on Saturday – Remembering

We had a wonderful summer together, the bachelor and I. At a socially acceptable distance, of course! Apparently, some like the unusual scent.

21st November 2020.

It has been a miserably wet week, fit only for indoor foostering, and part of it was mis-spent reading through some of my Six-on-Saturday articles. I found very little time for other matters such as taking photographs of the garden, potting up the remaining geraniums or planting the three heathers that have been sitting in place for the past ten days.

Not having current photographs has posed a problem, but I have solved it! Admittedly, I’m skiing off piste, in the sure knowledge that there is no naughty step! Here’s the angle this week: I’ve opted for a review, and selected a photograph from the first Saturday of each month beginning in May. (I joined Six on Saturday in June, so my first one this week has broken the skis.) Here we go Ar aghaidh linn back in time…

May – Sorbus Acuparia

I hope to care for these lovely trees for quite a while, and leave it to someone else to sit in their shade some fine day long in the future. He or she might even write about it.

Sorbus acuparia

Update: This, and another tree, have settled in very well despite being planted at the wrong end of the year. The sparrows and other small birds are thrilled.

June – Plants That Struggle

The new day does not always bring comfort. Keep a close eye on your struggling plants. Value them as you would the scented rose. Keep a close watch on friends or acquaintances and be there for them with a listening ear. Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.

The taxus has since died

Update: The conifer has since died. It happens. The entire contents of the pot have been removed from the premises lest there be an unknown disease lingering about doing damage. That’s life. Sin mar atá.

July – Celebrations

Feverfew is also known to some as Bachelor’s Buttons. This one seeded itself in a small crack between patio slabs, as I had written about in early June. I love it even before it flowers because of the attractive lime-green foliage. After you’ve read this blog thingy and other posts over at The Propagator’s HQ, after perhaps some gardening, coffee or other brew, you could return to this picture to count the buttons.

Update: We had a wonderful summer together, the bachelor and I. At a socially acceptable distance, of course! Apparently, some like the unusual scent smell. Le bonheur des uns fait le malheurs des autres.

August – Urgente Opus Prioritas

The first Six on Saturday of the month was largely composed in hospital after a heavy bang to the head. Apparently, no kitchen tiles were damaged and, although I was tempted to show my consultant a final draft of this as some proof that upstairs was still functioning, I waited for official discharge on purely medical grounds. I’m back gardening today, and spending some time reading other lovely garden Sixes.

Hiding the ugly plastic oil tank will be my number one priority. I know exactly the way I intend to do it and when it’s finished, the ugly plastic oiltank will be hidden from view. That’s the whole point. It’s on the way to being a top priority.

Ugly oil tank will soon be gone

Update: Much has happened since August. Our heating system was removed during the week, and my friend Tom will be here early next week to remove the remaining oil. I have plans for a pergoda in this corner. The 47-year-old cast-iron oil boiler will be smelted down. Rotha mór an tsaoil.

September – National Garden Exhibition Centre

I visited Kilquaide in County Wicklow, and was gobsmacked that I hadn’t known about it, despite hiking the county from end to end in my twenties.

This little nook brings to my mind the beauty of looking beyond the present. There is light beyond the darkness. This time will pass.

Update: Despite plans to return, it hasn’t happened. Neither have similar plans for Mount Usher, nor my inaugural visit to Blarney Castle Gardens. Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach.

October – Naked Ladies & How’s Your Father

I think someone may be able to identify this. I do not know what it is, but I do know that seeds of future beauty are stored within.

It has been confirmed

Update: confirmation arrived swiftly. It is a teasel. Many thanks Canadian Chris, Tasmanian Prue and French Fred. It’s a small small world. Mae’r byd yn fach!

There you have it. I enjoyed reading back through some of my twenty-five SOS weeks, and I particularly enjoyed reading so many comments from other gardeners. Happy that there’s a record of so many events, I shall return to the garden in its current state next week. Next week’s current state. Slán go fóill and have a great week. Thanks for reading.


My Other Six This Week (gardeners please ignore)

  • Installation of air-to-water heating is complete
  • Christmas beginnings… Bought a downgraded tree
  • Too wet for cycling
  • Covid Level 5 restrictions not effective yet
  • Will Seamus Woulfe resign?
  • I am entered for local running league. Just need to figure out how to run


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Six on Saturday – Lismore Castle Gardens

It has passed through several noble hands. Walter (of the Raleigh), Richard (of chemistry laws fame) and Fred the Dancer’s brother-in-law all had the deeds and seeds.

17th October 2020.

There’s been some Autumnal giddiness this week along with serious work in the garden and homework in my head. I am in the process of moving my website from WordPress to Hosting Ireland, but I asked the team leader to allow me time to get my Six-on-Saturday up and out. No problem, she said. Amid all this ticking of boxes and following my nose, I had some John Cleese moments in the aftermath of my visit to Lismore Castle Gardens last Sunday. More of that later níos déanaí. My six (plus one) this week comes from the lovely garden in Lismore, twenty kilometres away.

1. Aon

The original castle was started in 1170 and I’m pretty sure they grew a few beans and bushes, along with thorns and truffles from time to time, but the first real attempt to add a garden befitting the castle caisleán commenced in the 1605. My meander through the present gardens, upper and lower, was the highlight of my year. That’s really saying something! I lost myself moving from one section to another through narrow maze-like alleys, eyes ahead in anticipation, moving from one century to the next.

2. Dó

I came upon this erect grass everywhere and I really do want it. Can anyone help me out?

3. Trí

This is the Avenue of Trees na gCrann. one of several throughout, most likely added by some new owner. Speaking of owners, it has passed through several noble hands. Walter (of the Raleigh), Richard (of chemistry laws fame) and Fred the Dancer’s brother-in-law all had the deeds and seeds. Since the 1600’s this has been just one the very many large estates owned by the Duke of Devonshire. The current Duke is Peregrine Cavendish, but I was unable to meet him because of my other Sunday commitments.

4. Ceathar

As I neared the castle walls I sat to enjoy a Hamlet moment, I was joined momentarily by a hedgehog. It crept slowly out of view as I admired the bigger picture.

5. Cúig

Very impressed I was by the many secluded nooks. This one would be ideal for a picnic or romantic moments. I had neither of these but I did sit to take stock of life.

6. Sé

Voila! Here’s the back entrance, the coffee-and-apple-pie café and the newly-established art exhibition gallery. The café was very tempting but the gallery was closed. I saw someone looking down on me from a window, so I assumed an interested gaze at a tree down to my right and pointed the camera away. Later, my thoughts turned to Rapunzel.

One for the road…

The back lawn is spirit-level level, but as I photographed part of the castle from the approaching bank, I needed to shift my weight to my right foot cos. Accordingly, the building is leaning. The builders of banks and castles could not have known at the time that this would cause first-world issues. An image of the Rapunzel in Pisa lingered with me.

That’s my short account of my first visit to these majestic gardens. I enjoyed it so much that I will save up for a season ticket. The gardens will open again in March next year, all being well with the world, so I will have some time to save slowly.

Further Study & Giddinesss

I did mention giddiness at the outset. In fact, it persisted until Wednesday, by which time I had produced a few fun items… photo edits, a tongue-in-cheek article and seven tweets. I’m told I’d do Twitter a great service by not bothering.

Just shocking! Read about it HERE.

Wouldn’t you just love to visit many other majestic gardens or castles from around the World? England, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are well represented on the Six-on-Saturday thingymebob created by The Propagator.

SOS World Tour

Read all about it and follow this week’s gardeners’ gardens. You may join in free gratis, saor in aisce. Ireland has several keen enthusiasts, and my County Waterford is headed up by An Irish Gardener and myself. That’s it for this week. Stay safe, enjoy your garden and garden reading, keep your distance and wash your hands. I’ll be back next week so until then, slán go fóill.


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Mount Usher Gardens

I’ve witnessed revolution, war, a fair share of how’s-your-father, and latterly, a booming economy… and the latest is the virus that arrived this year.

Thursday, 1st October 2020

Mount Usher in Ashford, County Wicklow, is one of Ireland’s greatest gardens, and is a world-class example of a so-called Robinsonian garden, with its relaxed informality and natural layout. Monty Don has described it as one of his favourite gardens anywhere.

River Vartry

I left Dungarvan early last Monday on a two-hour drive to the Garden County. That’s the nickname given to County Wicklow, and for very good reason.

Any summary I might write would not do justice to this majestic 22-acre paradise. In the knowledge that descriptive writing is not my strength, I attempt to summarise my hours there using a bit of licence…

Thank you for having me here in the gardens today. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’ve been here since the 1860’s as Mount Usher Garden was created by four generations of the Walpole family, spanning a period of 115 years. Throughout all this time I did get a sense that history was being made.

Why so?

Well, because the family was well-in with Glasnevin at the time and started a four-generation commitment to developing what’s known as a Robinsonian garden right through until 1980. Plant-hunting expeditions were undertaken worldwide and many plants thrived in this garden that would not survive elsewhere.

What’s the Robinsonian thing about?

He was an Irish Gardener who advocated moving away from formal planting design. He preferred informal natural planting. He became very famous and this type of gardening is called after him.

I understand the garden was sold in 1980?

Yes it was bought by Madeleine Jay, and in 2007 it was leased out to Avoca Handweavers.

Really, you must have seen a lot in your time here?

There was very severe poverty right after the Famine, and indeed right through to the late sixties. (1960’s). I’ve witnessed revolution, war, a fair share of how’s-your-father, and latterly, a booming economy… and the latest is the virus that arrived this year.

Why is this garden so well-regarded?

I’ll let the head-Gardener, Sean Heffernan, update you about this.

The Garden is home to 32 of the Champion Trees of Ireland as well as approximately 4,500 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants, many of which are rarely seen growing anywhere else in Ireland.

Is it true that it is Monty Don’s favourite garden?

Monty Don? Who’s Monty Don?


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Six on Saturday – National Garden Exhibition Centre

I’ve heard it said that men don’t do retirement very comfortably, and there have been times I’ve felt a bit lost, but by and large, I’m very happy not to be clock-watching.

5th September 2020.

For thirty-five years I returned to work during the first week of September. It marked the beginning of the new school year and put a halt to my summer gallop. My wife and I slowly stopped going places, we began the slowing-down process in preparation for winter stay-at-home coziness. This semi-hibernation lasted each year until the end of February, and although I no longer work for a living, our summer still finishes at the end of August. The first of September is like New Year’s Day.

Our only staycation this year was in County Wicklow the week before last, and I include memories here to look back on in thirty years time, using the nursing-home-supplied iPad. I’ll be 92. Come along with me on a magical journey to the National Gardens Exhibition Centre in Kilquaide, County Wicklow on the east coast near Dublin. As with the recent storm-force-Francis winds, I’m bending the SOS guidelines very severely as these images are sixteen days old.

1. Move along, move along…

Step from one garden into another, similar to moving from one season into the next. Life moves along and changes, sometimes seamlessly and at other times abruptly. There’s a step up this time. In other cases, life throws in a step down or even a steep drop.

Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance. - Yoko Ono

2. Let there be darkness…

We visited in mid-afternoon, following forty-eight hours of rain and wind. The weather was just beginning to brighten, yet there was a darkness very uncharacteristic of August. I am reminded that life brings such dark moments when we least expect them. Embrace life in all its strange times.

3. Think beyond…

On a more positive note, this little nook brings to my mind the beauty of looking beyond the present. There is light beyond the darkness. This time will pass.

4. Creating from nothing…

Whoever created this scene obviously started with the stone steps and planted around them. I’d like to think that the creator is able to see the beauty that has resulted. A vision to create beauty from within.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

Audrey Hepburn

5. Shade and Light…

I was struck by this scene. Life brings us moments of bright sunshine and darker times. The trick may be to realise that everything is constantly changing. Rotha mór an t-saoil. The wheels of life keep turning.

6. New arrival. ..

This is the Wicklow Budda. I’m told I should rub his belly every few days. Marion has waited a long time to find the right one for this spot. I did mention that a Fitbit would look good on his wrist but she knew I was only being half-serious.

7. On a personal note…

Throwback to this time seven years ago. My retirement clock. I’ve been #busybusy ever since. Busy also finding time to do the things I love. Cycling, gardening, writing and lots more. I’ve heard it said that men don’t do retirement very comfortably, and there have been times I’ve felt a bit lost, but by and large, I’m very happy not to be clock-watching. Here’s to the next seven. I’ll be 69.

That’s my lot for this week, a cháirde. I’ll be back with more an Satharn seo chugainn. In the meantime, please visit Mr. Propagator’s garden blog where you can find many more Six on Saturday offerings from around the world, together with details of how to participate if that’s your thing. I’ll be spending some time today, tomorrow (or perhaps even yesterday?) reading articles by so many others, and I’ll not be clock-watching ar chor ar bith. I hope you have a great week, be it in the garden, the potting shed or elsewhere. Slán go fóill.


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