Six-on-Saturday – Acers

This week Acers feature prominently. Now in full foliage, they weave their magic with such ease.

I took my eye off the ball, and Twitter is now beyond my reach. As I gardened to my heart’s content for the entire week, Elon beat me to the prize. All is not lost, however. The man has informed me that my account is good. There’ll be no talk of banishment, and I’ll be able to update my 142 followers without restrictions. Down but not out, I’ll reflect on the situation with as much grace as I can muster.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty vision. The good weather distracted me. I’ve been very busy gnóthach, because there’s lots happening in my small garden as May approaches. Strong growth all round has increased my workload. Content with my lot, I’m determined to view the loss of the big prize as no more than a missed opportunity. What’s for me won’t pass me by. There’ll be other Twitters. It may be the right time to remind myself that it’s a bit overvalued.

Here’s another thing… I’ll not let Saturday pass by without paying homage to the ritual Six-on-Saturday. This week Acers feature prominently. Now in full foliage, they weave their magic with such ease. But before reading headlong into my six this week, Thursday was National Poetry Day, so I decided to write something to mark the day.


Blackbird hops in the bucket,
Something tasty for breakfast,
A treat perhaps?
Yesterday's grapes will do nicely.

Seedlings happy to escape
From the glasshouse by day
Scorching in there already,
Returning at sunset.

I'll walk softly now,
Have a long search
For something new today,
Never fails!

The summer's coming,
We'll sit and laugh and chat,
There'll be fun and flowers there,
The miracle of life.

That little thing is six weeks old,
It'll be gone by first frost,
The tree beyond is wrinkled,
It's a keeper.

Acer:

Our two dogs are miniature Yorkies, so this is their view of my favourite Acer. They pass by several dozen times every day, either on their way to somewhere or on the way back, like Gilhaney in The Third Policeman. They don’t know it’s my favourite. On second thoughts, perhaps they do? I’m reasonably sure they don’t know its an Acer.

I’m very pleased that it’s slow-growing. I don’t remember when it was bought, but likely fifteen years ago or more. I did attempt cuttings of this but I’ve been unsuccessful. I’ve even tried air-layering. Nothing has worked for me.

Acer Orange Dream:

Next up is Acer Orange Dream. It’s been on my wish list for quite a while and I spotted it last week at Ballinlough Garden Centre. Now it’s happily in situ on Joe’s Rockery and I’m looking forward to watching it mature. These plants are not cheap. In fact, they’re not even reasonable. They’re bloody expensive. However, given that they are so beautiful, I’m happy to forego buying bike accessories every once in a while.

Here it is from further away with some context…

Osmanthus:

Last week, I mentioned the Holly Olive, Osmanthus heterophyllus Tricolor. It’s been put in beneath the Acer palmatum that has grown so tall that it now needs underplanting. I think this will fill the area quite well, but it’s a slow grower. An amount of patience will be needed.

Spirea:

Spiraea Magic Carpet has come into leaf recently. You’d imagine that a plant with carpet in its name would likely spread to cover ground. This one doesn’t look as if it has any intention of being a spreader. No matter, it’s pleasing to the eye and is earning its keep. It has lived happily in a smaller pot but was recently upgraded to a BP. If I manage to care for it well, it’ll likely stretch to a metre. Only last week I mulched it with coffee grounds. Bellaroom from Lidl.

Here it is again, flanked by a grass of some sort and a Hydrangea.

Tiarella:

Bought last February, this little thing has been in flower ever since! It likes shade so I’ve given it some. Amelia reminded me that it’s native to Atlanta, Georgia and grows particularly well in creek banks. I think I’ll add another to my collection for next year, as well as dividing this one when the time is right. Easier than Acer, that’s for sure.

Can you spot it in among the rest of my potted plants?

Finally…

The bins have been in this area for as long as I can remember, except for Tuesday nights when they get moved out front. The following morning they return to their usual spot. It all happens on autopilot.

During the week I tackled a little job that needed doing. The bins are generally sheltered by the Acer (except on Tuesday evenings). This shelter is important because bins do not like direct sunshine in high summer, particularly brown ones. However, as the Acer is too tall, it’s bare beneath and the bins are being blasted with vitamin D. So, I got my tools and timber to erect a sunscreen.

All is well in BinLand. Not alone that, but the bare area beneath the gangly Acer is now slightly camouflaged.


What’s a blog for if I can’t look back? Here’s a few bits from April of last year… Click/tap to go there.

April 2021

What’s this Six-on-Saturday thing all about? We are a group of gardeners who write. We write about six items in our gardens, and we do it on Saturdays. You can find out more about it here.

That’s it for this week, a cháirde. Until next week, I hope that all will be well in your world. Slán go fóill.

Pádraig.

The Garden

A poem for National Poetry Day. A garden and everything within.

Today is National Poetry Day.

Blackbird hops into the bucket,
Something tasty for breakfast,
A treat perhaps?
Yesterday's grapes will do nicely.

Seedlings happy to escape
From the glasshouse by day
Scorching in there already,
Returning at sunset.

I'll walk softly now,
Have a long search
For something new today,
Never fails!

The summer's coming,
We'll sit and laugh and chat,
There'll be fun and flowers there,
The miracle of life.

That little thing is six weeks old,
It'll be gone by first frost,
The tree beyond is wrinkled,
It's a keeper.

Padraig

Worthwhile Wednesday Words

20th January 2021.

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.

We braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.

But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain.

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the West.

We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Pádraig.

Mad Hatter And The Lunar Eclipse

It was a cold week but not as cold as was predicted. In the garden, I finally got around to putting a fleece layer in place, and I finished pruning the roses and fuchsias. The Blood Red Moon failed to work its magic but the geraniums rooted perfectly! Here’s what caught my eye last week…

Monday, 21st of January:

It’s Blue Monday and there’s a Blood Red Moon, otherwise known as a Wolf Moon. There’s a thing called Gardening by the Moon. According to this, certain plants do better when planted during the waxing moon, and others while the moon is waning. Apparently, also there is some scientific evidence to support this.
Whether or not there are benefits to gardening at lunar eclipse times is unclear. Early this morning there was a total lunar eclipse, and I rose from my bed to view it, but all I could see was cloud. I wanted to wait to see if the cloud would clear, and spent a while finding out about moon gardening. I did get a hazy glimpse of the eclipse as the moon came out of the earth’s shadow after 6am. The next total lunar eclipse will be 2029.
I know the Blood Red image is not mine. As far as I remember I screenshotted it from a live-stream online, but as far as I’m concerned it’s my moon. Credit for the image goes to an unknown source.

Tuesday, January 22nd:

The miniature daffodils are in full bloom, and they brighten up a cold January day. This variety is called narcissus topolino.

Fair daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attained his noon.
Stay, stay,
Until the hasting day
Has run
But to the evensong;
And, having prayed together, we
Will go with you along.
We have short time to stay as you,
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you or anything.
We die
As your hours do, and dry away
Like to the summer’s rain;
Or as the pearls of morning’s dew,
Ne’er to be found again.
~ Robert Herrick

Life is short, and death comes to all. Death came suddenly last Sunday night to a wonderful local man, Michael Wright. Known far and wide as the Mad Hatter, he was a wonderfully gifted entertainer. In recent times too, he had developed very thought-provoking insights into the people and community via his very humorous Facebook stories. He was always interested in people and he spoke only positively about everyone. I had a grand chat with him just before Christmas but little did I know it would be my last. As with many influencers, he taught me much.

Wednesday, 23rd January:

This is my latest addition to the array of bird-feeding bobs in the garden. It attaches to the window via suction but does not seem to be too secure. I imagine that it will withstand smaller birds but when the eagles and buzzards alight it will go tumbling down. Interestingly, I watched a recording of a good garden advice programme only last night, mentioning that it might be a better idea to grow more plants with berries that birds like. Less birdseed was being encouraged. With this in mind, I shall commence a Survey Monkey poll asking the little birdies which berries they like best. I think it only fair to keep them well fed until the results are back. After all, it IS much colder this week.

Thursday, 24th January:

Once again I am outside the comfort zone of my suburban garden and viewing the bigger picture of West Waterford. The river is the Blackwater. The history of this river is very interesting. It is black for two reasons. Firstly, it flows through the peat bogs of Slieve Lougher, and secondly on account of the Duhallow coal district through which it flows. As Gaeilge, it was never called the Blackwater, rather An Abhainn Mór (bastardised to Avonmore) meaning the Great River. At one time it was known as Broadwater, which would seem to be a more acceptable translation from the Irish. I cycled in very mucky road conditions today and proceeded to take a selfie at a special viewing point of the Blackwater looking down on Villierstown. It looks down also on many of the English gentry estates still occupied to this day. Finally, the rainbow completes the picture. We found no gold but in fact, the real gold is in being able to see and appreciate these spectacular areas. Later, we had biscuits with our coffee in Ardmore. That counts for a lot!

Friday, 25th January:

There is very little by way of plant colour this month. It’s not that things are not happening. Things are indeed happening, and new life is on the way. The longer evenings and longer daylight hours are beginning to have an effect. The tipping point is approaching.
This week I am noticing things other than plants. Today, it’s a miniature ornamental thatched cottage that was given to me by my brother Ber. I nestled it among some plants and it looks as if it’s been there forever.

As I photographed it from front, side, back and above, a poem I learned in school came to mind. It’s called “Ar Chúl an Tí” (Back of the House) by Sean Ó Riordán. It was voted among the top 100 Irish poems back in 1999. Here, I quote the first and last verses, and then the translation to English by Tony Dermody. Always a difficult task to translate poetry while keeping the form and beauty of language.
Tá Tír na nÓg ar chúl an tí,
Tír álainn trína chéile,
Lucht cheithre chos ag súil na slí,
Gan bróga orthu ná léine,
Gan Béarla acu ná Gaeilge.

Ba mhaith liom bheith ar chúl a’ tí
Sa doircheacht go déanach
Go bhfeicinn ann ar cuairt gealaí
An t-ollaimhín sin Aesop
Is é in phúca léannta.

At the back of the house is a land of youth,
A jumbled beautiful space among
The farmyard beasts unclothed, unshod,
Nor knowing the Irish or English tongue,
Walking the way.
Yet each one grows an ample cloak,
Where chaos is the heart of rule,
And in that land the language spoke
Was taught of old in Aesop’s school,
Long passed away.
Some hens are here, a chicken clutch,
A simple duck, though fixed of mind,
A big black dog with wicked looks
Barking loud like a good watch-hound,
A cat sun-baking;
There, a heap of bric-a-brac,
The cast-off treasure stuff of life,
A candlestick, buckles, an old straw hat,
A bugle quiet, and a kettle white
Like a goose waking.
Here the tinkers come uncouth,
Blessing generously all they see,
Feeling at home in the land of youth,
Seeking cast-off things for free,
All over Ireland.
I would go back in the dead of night,
The treasure gilded in the moonbeams’ reach,
Perhaps to see in the eerie light
The child-wise Aesop’s phantom teach
His ghostly learning.

Saturday, 26th January:

There’s beauty in the skeleton of last summer’s Agapanthus flower. The delicate blue flowers adorned the rockery and later they remained hidden under the spreading fuchsia bush. As the autumn moved along and most of the garden was manicured, I decided to leave the remains of these 20 (or thereabouts) flowers standing erect. The seeds are long gone, having been cast off in the hope of continuing this Agapanthus species. All that is left is the dead stalk and umbrella.
I pulled them easily and proceeded to put them into the refuse bin (as I do not have a compost bin/heap), but I saved this one at the very last moment. I then placed it in my winter area of interest just outside the patio doors.
Strong gale force north-western winds are forecast tonight, but I feel that this dead relic will survive any buffeting that comes its way.
Most Agapanthus plants are quite big, but this is a miniature variety. It reaches a height of just 30-40cm. I must try to find out the variety name. Otherwise, ’tis a bit like having a dog and just calling it dog.

Sunday, 27th January:

Plants are amazing! They reproduce in several different ways. One of these is by cuttings. Simply cut a piece of a plant, put it in soil, say the magic words and wait for a few weeks. That’s what happened with this geranium. I potted it back in the middle of November and now it’s ready for the big garden. It has a strong root system already, so I am putting it into a bigger pot. I will defer planting it outside for another while because any frost would undo all my efforts. These plants will stay in the glasshouse for another few months and I will keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t get attacked.
Frighteningly, the day may be approaching when humans can be cloned. I wonder why it’s a good idea for plants and I am abhorred that it may happen for us humans? There are too many answers to that.
Anyone had success with these or other cuttings? Isn’t it a great way to clone the plants we like? “A small bird sat on an ivy bunch
And the song he sang was the jug of punch.” (Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem)

Páraig (also known as Pat) is the author of Petals by Paraig garden articles. He loves an occasional clear sky for lunar eclipses, the poetry of Sean O Riordán and special viewing points along the river Blackwater . He also likes the music of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, but not separately.