My Other Garden – The Brindled Cow

While out cycling today I came upon a grounded cow. It was either dead or very close to it. Coincidentally, a cycling friend who is very interested in Irish folklore brought my attention to The Riabhach Days. Here’s an account written by a young schoolboy from County Mayo:

The three last days of March are called The Riabhach Days. Those three days are the coldest days in the year. Once there was an old cow and when April came she thought she did not need to stay in at night so she stayed out at night. April borrowed three days from March and those days came very bad and at the end of the three days the cow was dead.

Duchas.ie

There are versions of this story throughout England and Scotland. Indeed there’s a Spanish version too…

A shepherd promised March a lamb if he would temper the winds to suit the shepherd’s flocks. After his request was granted, the shepherd refused to deliver the payment. In revenge, March borrowed three days from April, in which fiercer winds than ever blew to punish the deceiver.

Irish Independent

Today was much colder than previous days and it seems that northerly air is set to dominate our weather as we move in to April. I must close the glasshouse.

Reference in Wikipedia: In the Irish Calendar The Old Cows Days/The Days of the Brindled Cow are the last days of March and the first three days of April; in Irish: Laethanta na Bó Riabhaí.

Lá Fhéile Bríde

In Ireland, the well-known poem Cill Aodáın is traditionally associated with the beginning of spring.

Anois teacht an Earraigh
beidh an lá dúl chun síneadh,
Is tar eis na féile Bríde
ardóigh mé mo sheol.
Go Coillte Mach rachad
ní stopfaidh me choíche
Go seasfaidh mé síos
i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo.

Anthony Raftery, also known as Antoine Ó’Raifteirí, was born in Killedan, County Mayo, in 1779. He became blind as a result of smallpox as a child, and it is recorded that his last sight was of his eight brothers and sisters who had died of the disease.

Image copyright PJ Callanan

He became a wandering poet/musician, often playing in return for a night’s lodging and food.

His poem Cill Aodán tells of his love of County Mayo. Traditionally, it is associated with the beginning of spring.

“With its theme of longer evenings, and planning for the year ahead, it’s guaranteed an outing on today’s date, especially, which we romantics continue to regard as the first day of spring, whatever the weather forecast.”

Frank McNally, Irish Times, 2019.

Here’s a link back to this time last year. There’s more info about Brigid and also my update on sowing Dahlia seeds. I haven’t started yet this year, but I’ll be putting that right this week.

Six-on-Saturday – Nikes and Wellingtons

The lettuces and spinach have been moved to the shadier side of the garden. They will get good sunshine until lunchtime, but for that to happen the sun must shine.

1st May 2021.

We live in a mad world. Did you know that? Back in 1979 the beginnings of madness emerged. Trevor Francis became the first footballer to be valued at one million pounds. This week a pair of Nike sports shoes worn by Kanye West sold for 1.8 million dollars. That’s nine hundred thousand for each one.

But we also live in a world of hope. Ireland has endured four months of severe restrictions, and now is the time to get moving again. I’ve bought my season ticket for Lismore Castle Gardens and I’ll be there on Monday. I’ll also be returning to Mount Usher, Kilmacurragh and other beautiful places very soon. I need to escape from my four garden walls. I need to see more of this mad world.

In a change to normal procedure this week, I’ve decided to include a snippet from each day. All days are of equal length, but snippets can vary.

Sunday

Two items of note here. First, the lettuces and spinach in the foreground have been moved to the shadier side of the garden. They will get good sunshine until lunchtime, but for that to happen the sun must shine. After that, even if the said sun shines (try saying that at 78rpm), it won’t shine here. Obviously, growth will slow down somewhat but that’s OK. The plants are less likely to bolt. My thanks to Michael for the large basket.

Secondly, just beyond the bikestand, I’ve put out a dipping tray. This is one of three such trays that will be filled with water through the summer. They are essential for proper watering of my potted patio plants. I’ve had to put these in place earlier than last year because April has been so dry. A close look shows that there are some pots being dipped. Usually, I leave them in water for a few hours or overnight. The tray remains permanently filled with water, and I’ll replace with fresh water once a week. Probably not on Sunday. An added bonus is that the birds drink from and bathe in these trays.

Monday

RacingLifeCreations

The roses are coming along well, but won’t flower for another five or six weeks. In the meantime, Meabh got the easel in place to take a few shots of her latest work. At present, she is completing a collection for children’s bedrooms.

Tuesday

It’s as good as a small win on the lotto.   Truthfully, I do not like being asked to hang out the clothes, but I do it for the sake of harmony. I was therefore delighted to see that they were out drying ahead of me today. Trouble was that several showers meant that they were not drying. I awaited the dreaded text to take them in, but it never came. Then, the icing on the cake… I was inspecting the peas and came across a discarded note. I know which pocket it fell from.

It set off some discussion among several wise Facebookers. That actually seems like a contradiction, but I’ll ignore it for the moment.

Have you been using 10:10:20?
asks Caroline.
Keep sowing the 20c coins,
says Tony.
Mind the p's and the pounds will take care of themselves,
says Rachel
Nora mentions Pádraig & the Peastalk.

Speaking of which, and entirely unrelated, I’m reminded of one of the nicknames given to me when I was a teacher. I was doubled over with laughter.

Pupil: (being egged on by others) Sir, we’ve got a nickname for you.
Me: OK, let’s have it.
Pupil: Will you be cross?
Me: I don’t know. Let’s have it.
Pupil: Baldilocks and the three hairs.

Children are just so creative!

Wednesday

Today is the beginning of apple blossom blowing in the wind. We have petals everywhere, somewhat like snow. Over the next few days the little light brown husks will tumble down and mix with the white. April showers will ensure that the soggy mess will be brought into the house on shoes. It only happens on my shoes. I do not understand why other householders are exempt from such carrying. If I were to offer these shoes for sale, they would surely attract much interest by virtue of this miracle alone.

Thursday

These are Aquilegia Petticoat Pink. I grew them last summer and kept them in the nursery until recently. Now is the time to put them where I’ll see them when they flower. I guess that will be towards the end of May. Fortunately, I found a suitable spot, as the daffodils are now finished. Both pots are same size so I simply changed one for another. The pots are planted within the larger planter. Works perfectly!

Friday

The bamboo is in trouble, I fear. The leaves are dying and I some drastic action will be required. One possibility is that the early spring frosts are responsible, but nothing else got damaged so I may be typing through my hat again. Are there any experienced bamboo experts out there? I’m wondering if I cut it back to the base might it recover? I feel I have nothing to lose.

In the meantime I’ll get everything ready here in Abbeyside for an Open Day in late July, but I may need to restrict attendance. Perhaps I’ll offer my 2013 wellingtons for online auction? All bidders in excess of eight euros would be added to my list of enthusiasts. In that sense, it’s not an Open Day. Successful bidders will not mind.

That’s my lot for this week. Everything was prepared in advance, ready for presentation today. Sin a bhfuil uaimse don seachtain seo. I’ll be back again next week with another Six-on-Saturday. Thank you for reading, and to Jon for getting us all together every week. I hope you’ve had a good gardening week and that the week ahead brings more of the same. Slán go fóill.

Pádraig.

Just Three Things – Cheering Up My Sunday

Sunday, 7th February 2021.

Here we go again with my formerly-regular Just Three Things. In case you’re unfamiliar with this, I write regularly about my short early morning wander down the garden, noticing three things of interest and three jobs that need to be tackled. Simple as that, followed by breakfast.

One

The polyanthus-type primroses are less prone to mould because flowers are held on a longer stem. They are also easier to dead-head without damaging foliage. This one is the first of my one hundred and seventy Autumn plug purchases to bloom. Plug plants are tiny, approximately half a centimetre. The package arrived from Jersey, via Northern Ireland. Long story.

Two

I like the moss that has gathered, because the stone certainly has not rolled. I also like the rough beside the smoothness of the pot. And finally I like the blend of colouring. Plants, pot and stone are just perfect together.

Three

In the glasshouse, the top shelves are now filled with seedlings, cuttings and other accessories. The sweet peas are on the next shelf down, and now they need to be supported as they are beginning to trail.

Just three things to be done:

  1. Support the sweet peas with a few sticks or dead fuchsia twigs.
  2. Fill the bird-feeders because there’s very cold weather on the way.
  3. I need to buy a new head for the hosepipe. This can be got at my local hardware store, but it is also in stock at the garden centre. I know where I’ll get it, and while I’m there I’m sure other things will be needed. Priority: urgent.

As per usual I returned indoors for shelter and sustenance. As is my habit, I write with gratitude for the benefits my garden brings me. As is also my habit, the three small jobs to be done are added to my short mental list. There was a time when these jobs were put on the long finger, but with time on my hands these days, I try to tackle them promptly. Wisely, I make a note not to notice glaringly obvious difficult jobs that are staring me in the face. That could lead to missed deadlines, leading to an unwillingness to repeat the process.

Three things I notice and three tasks to be done. Simple as pie, followed by breakfast.

Weather:

Cold 5°C and light rain at 8.20am. Due to turn much colder this evening. Snow and sub-zero temperatures likely ofer the coming days. Spring, my ar*e!

Pádraig.

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Primrose Lore

Garden centres are gearing up for the mad rush and gardeners are gearing up for visits to garden centre. Its a win-win situation.
Before the mad rush, I visited my local Country Life yesterday and came away with nineteen plants for a tenner. A single Aubretia Kitte Blue, a container of twelve cauliflowers and six beautiful promroses. The variety is unknown. While primroses are generally known to be yellow, it’s not always the case: there are so many varieties and colours available now.
I chose the stunningly vibrant lilac/pink ones standing erect on tall stems. The petals are so precisely formed, and right in the centre is a contrasting yellow. Within an hour, I had planted them into larger pots and they look great among the other spring plants.
Later, during the course of several gun battles on television, I elected to open up my Irish Wild Plants book. Primroses are given a chapter to themselves. Here are some items of information relating to them:

  • Long ago in Ireland, people used to hang a string of primroses over the door at the start of May. It was said that the primroses would protect the house as the fairies were not able to pass.
  • In many places primroses given as a gift should be a very full bunch or else misfortune would ensue, and a single primrose brought into a house was an omen of death.
  • In herbal medicine primroses were considered useful to treat jaundice, insomnia, tuberculosis, toothache and anxiety.
  • Coughs in horses were cured using crushed primrose roots strained in breast milk and put into the horses’ nose frequently!
  • In Irish it’s name is sabhaircín (pronounced sour-keen)
  • Finally, the Druids often carried primroses during their Celtic rituals as a protection from evil. Fragrant primrose oils were used to purify and anoint during these ancient rites.

Let Spring Begin

Let spring begin! These small daffodils are called tete-à-tete. Standing at just 15cm, they are not prone to breaking in strong wind. I will have many more of these over the coming weeks. These ones have been growing well for the past few years. I simply put the container away in a shaded corner after flowering and forget about it.


New Growth

Ah, would ya look at that! New growth again. I have to remind myself to look very closely and when I do, this is what happens. The geranium is getting ready to burst into life once again.

The small pink flowers will be plentiful in early May. The plant is growing on a shaded section of an east-facing rockery, sheltered by the garden wall. Later in summer, it will be in deeper shade when the apple tree and the fuchsia come into leaf. For now, I am happy to notice that winter is coming to an end.

Ready Steady Grow

15th February 2017.
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 business man. 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, 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.

Most packets that require bottom heat for seed germination indicate the recommended best temperature. Most will germinate at about 15 celsius, whereas some will need up to 20 or more. The Vitopod is a variable control unit that is adjustable in one degree intervals. Below, I set the temperature to 25, and it’s currently at 19.9 sitting on the kitchen table. However, to complicate matters the maximum increase is 12 degrees, so when I place the unit in the garden shed, which is quite cold at this time of year, the maximum the pod will reach will be the temperature of the shed plus 12. This will be sufficient to kick-start spring, even when outside temperatures do not allow for growth for quite a while yet.
Happy gardening,
Pádraig.
About the author: Pádraig is the author of GrowWriteRepeat. He has a previous history of seed-growing back in the last century, and now thanks to the internet-of-things he is back in the propagating shed once again. Páraig is not a fan of the Duck.