Waterford, south-east Ireland, Saturday 27th February 2021
I saw this optimistic sundial in a garden in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, while visiting with other members of the Irish Garden Plant Society. The garden was Knockmore, that of John and Ruth Isabel Ross, and though Ruth Isabel will be known to an older generation from her many books, several on cooking topics and a range of interest to the gardener, Irish Wild Flowers, Irish Trees and A Year in an Irish Garden, she might be better introduced nowadays as the mother of Shane Ross, independent TD for Dublin South and Minister for Transport in the last government.
This sundial I speak of bore the inscription, “Ní chomhraím ach na huairanta geala” – I only count the bright hours – a statement one might consider superfluous, even trite, on a sundial but it caught my attention that day and has stayed in my memory these past twenty years. The cynic might comment that I am fortunate to have such a carefree (empty?) mind that trivia of this nature can find space there. I feel the memory persisted because the phrase rankled with me.
Unabashed positivity, generally, does not rest well with the Irish and certainly not with me and there was a smugness about the sundial which irritated me. It was in a sense stating the obvious for, of course, a sundial can only show the time when the sun is shining – counting the bright hours – and stating the obvious suggests an assumption of either ignorance or stupidity on the part of the reader. On the other hand, this sundial might have been declaring it had cracked the meaning of life; that the secret of life was to look on the bright side, to ignore the negative and dark times, to only count the bright hours! How simplistic and how wonderful if life could be so easy.
Life is that easy, that simple, for the flowers in our gardens and a few sunny days this week brought a spectacular response, especially from the crocus. It also seemed to bring a change of life to the gardeners and old bodies were, at long last, moved from the armchair, the laptop, the television, the jigsaws, the books, to the fresh air and to gardening once again. Sunday, Monday and Friday were great days, bright and clear and with a promise that the garden may begin to dry out shortly. A number of beds were tidied up and freshened up, garden compost was spread, a small number of special snowdrops were moved to better growing positions and a large number of the double common snowdrop were lifted, split and planted along the edge of a path, something to look forward to next year. It was a beginning and as an old Irish saying goes, “Bíonn gach tosú lag ach bíonn sé áthasach, dóchasach freisin” – Every beginning is weak but it is happy and hopeful also.
So, to this week’s photo-reports:
I have divided the crocus into two groups – Crocus tommasinianus and the rest of them! – and I’ve done this for they are like chalk and cheese, the former slim, elegant and prolific in its self-seeding and increase in numbers while the latter are generally larger, less elegant, though nonetheless certainly worth their place in the garden for the brightness they add at this time of the year. Making two groups of the crocus also allows me to show more photographs and, as I enjoyed taking them I may as well enjoy sharing them:
Camellia ‘Donation’ is going over but the flowers look well on the ground. Elsewhere, Camellia ‘Debbie'(pink) and ‘Elizabeth Hawkins’ (red) has begun to flower:
Hellebores are in full flower and are making a good contribution to the garden:
A favourite winter aconite, Eranthis ‘Guinea Gold’, is in flower. It is a richer, deeper yellow and an excellent grower:
And, finally for this week, an update on snowdrops which continue to flower well in the garden. The main season is past but the later cultivars are looking well and there is a great number in flower at the moment. There are some others yet to open.
I’m sharing this blog with a group of fellow bloggers who contribute to a “Six on Saturday” theme which is hosted by “The Propagator” on his blog site. To read more contributions to the Six on Saturday theme go to The Propagator’s entry for today, scroll down to the comments and you will find other bloggers have posted links to their Saturday entries there. Lots to read!