A Frosty Reception!

Waterford, south-east Ireland, Saturday 17th April 2021

We have had the most persistent period of frost so far this year. Each night for over the last week has brought frost, quite heavy some nights, a contrast to the bright and sunny days which we have enjoyed. It is also notable that it has been dry for quite a while and it has been necessary to water potted plants regularly as the bright days and constant breeze has dried them out very quickly. Fortunately, the frost has done very little damage. At this time of the year we always fear that the frost will spoil the flowers on the the magnolia trees but they have all escaped except for Magnolia stellata ‘Centennial’ where the tips of the petals were just a little burned. It was of no consequence as they were reaching the end of their days anyway. Two hydrangeas were also affected, both H. aspera cultivars but new foliage is shooting already so it is just a slight set-back and won’t have any lasting of damaging results.

The secret to having a well-kept garden is to have an excellent Head Gardener!

Despite the cold nights I went ahead and sowed a selection of seed in the vegetable patch: two lettuces: ‘Valmaine’ and ‘Webb’s Wonderful’, a line each of leeks, Purple sprouting broccoli and spinach. Last year, with all the confinement because of the Covid pandemic, we appreciated having our own fresh vegetable available both because they were fresh and because they spared us going to the shops for supplies. Rhubarb is producing well, asparagus has just begun cropping, last year’s spinach is re-sprouting, garlic is growing very well along with small bed of clumping onions – “Welsh Onions” as we call them – which we use as spring onions/scallions. I managed to put some manners on a wayward blackberry patch during the week and am happy to see sugar-snap peas coming along well.

Taking an evening stroll.

It was a pity to have to remove a twenty year old maple during the week but it has been going into decline for the past few years and it was time to take it out. In its place I put up a frame of hornbeam and willow to support a clematis – C. ‘Niobe’. An old shrub of Indigofea gerardiana also fell victim to the secateurs, saw and pickaxe. It was gone well past its best and overcrowding neighbouring shrubs so was taken out. The grass is not growing particularly quickly because of the cooler weather though the front lawns are as I applied fertilizer recently and will need to be cut more regularly from now on.

Indigofera gerardiana – is no longer growing in the garden!

Tulips have been the highlight plant of the year and most especially, Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’. Mary went to Dublin with her mother for a day out in the autumn of 1988 and, so as to bring back something as a present to me, arrived home with a paper bag with five tulips bulbs – bought in Mackey’s Garden Shop in Mary Street. Those five bulbs have multiplied over the years with a rampant abandon, almost to an extent that we might consider them invasive as it has spread quite considerably over the years.

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ has been called “The Wedding Cake Tree” because of its tiered habit. At this time of year, the white of the variegation is not quite so prominent and it is an overall softer light green which I find more pleasant. The flowers are not quite open which contributes to the softer colouring. It will all change and become more dramatic in the coming weeks but I will continue to enjoy its more muted moments while I can.

Bob Gordon was a great gardener, a true gentleman and the kindest person one could possibly meet. Unfortunately, Bob died a few months back and it has been remarkable to hear comments from so many people saying that they have such and such a plant from Bob. His trilliums were simply outstanding, wonderfully luscious, vigorous clumps which self-seeded generously and they have spread all around Ireland and also into many gardens in the U.K. Billy Moore, in Dublin, was the recipient of seedling trilliums from Bob and when he grew them on found he had this outstanding clone which he later named after Bob – Trillium chloropetalum ‘Bob Gordon’. It is an exceptionally good plant and a suitable one for us to remember Bob – though, to be honest, I have a long list of plants in the garden which came from Bob.

I really enjoy Wood Anemones at this time of the year and though there are many fancy varieties I love the simply flowers best and those of a light blue colour best of all. The blue variants arise naturally in woodland and even in the garden. I have a patch of the native wood anemone, a little pinch brought home with our youngest son from a country walk about twenty years ago. It has thrived in the meantime and has spread through several metres of a border and there is one section which darker foliage and blue flowers. Anemone nemorosa ‘Lucy’s Wood’ was found in woodland near Bunclody, Co. Wexford by Evelyn Mary Booth who is remembered for her Flora of Co. Wexford. The third here is ‘Buckland Blue’ which we bought while visiting The Garden House in Devon and, I imagine, it is named for the locality – Buckland Monachorum. It has an especially big flower and is very attractive.

Bergenia ‘Rosi Klose’ has given a wonderful display over the past fortnight, one of those bergenias whose flowers certainly outshine the value of the foliage in the garden.

Finally, a few random views around the garden:

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”. To read more contributions 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!

28 thoughts on “A Frosty Reception!

  1. Tulipa lilac wonder flowered in our garden for the very first time last year, and proved to be so beautiful we bought more. We tend not to go for tulips, since we love bulbs that multiply and spread rather than run out of steam. So it’s wonderful to see how well lilac wonder does in your garden! Remains to be seen if we’re ever so lucky (or skilled 😁)

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  2. As you know, Paddy, I love seeing views of your garden. So much in this post I love but especially the Cornus which I’ve taken note of. It’s shape in the garden is so lovely – a real focal point. And the trilliums are stunning too.

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  3. I see what you mean about the tulip Paddy, what present to have lasted so long and each year going from strength to strength. I’ve enjoyed viewing all the pictures and that acer in fresh leaf is a stunner.

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  4. I have a special place in my heart for Cornus contraversa ‘Variegata’, there was/is a magnificent one at Bristol Zoo Gardens where I did some of my horti training. Lovely to catch a glimpse of the Head Gardener. All beautiful as always.

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  5. Funnily enough I was wondering if I should plant Tulipa lilac wonder in the garden, like Mary had, I have about 5 bulbs which am trying out in a pot and am pleased, first one flowered today. Looks like a wedding has passed through your grassy front path strewn with magnolia confetti, quite lovely.

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    1. People often complain about ‘Lilac Wonder’ but I generally think it is done in a mock self-deprecating way when really the speaker is only delighted that the “weed” is doing so well in the garden.

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  6. The cornus is truly a lovely sight. I concur with your preference for the pale green freshness over the markedly variegated effect and the layering of the branches and foliage coupled with the dark red of the branches is quite elegant. My bergenia is blooming as well. I admit to liking the large, round, glossy leaves, though I somehow feel that they work better in smaller colonies.

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    1. Bergenias do well here and when we bought extra ground to add to the garden we used them extensively – by dividing what we had – to fill in big patches of ground. Great plants.


  7. Simply beautiful Paddy I’m in Kildare and lost my magnolia blooms to the hard frost also my Cornus controversa blooms and surprisingly it also took all the blooms on on a very old climbing hydrangea. The joys of gardening .

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    1. That’s always the worry with the magnolias, Mary, that the blossom will be caught by the frost. They all escaped here except one and that had only a touch of damage. Two hydrangeas lost all their new foliage and I notice Primula japonica and some hostas had been frosted yesterday. We’ve had a run of frosty nights for the past ten days or so; light rain last night and I look forward to milder days.


  8. Such an interesting Six and lots of lovely photos as well. The Cornus is on my list of must haves for my large garden when my winning premium bond is chosen. It’s a tree that never has an off day. I used to work in a garden that had a beautiful specimen of it, one of the first things that you saw on entering. Yours is beautifully framed.

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  9. Your vast patches of Lilac Wonder have forced me to conclude that not only do you have the weather most conducive to the kind of gardening I like to do, you are also blessed with a lack of rodents. I have planted 100 bulbs of Lilac Wonder, only to have a mere 5 bloom–and not where they were planted!–and I despair of ever having a large patch. I also wonder what conditions induce them to seed about. Perhaps it is your climate, or your soil, or perhaps they were a strain that was just better at seeding? Many people assert that crocuses seed about, but I have never seen mine do so. But then, they are all planted in the lawn, which makes for stiffer competition.

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    1. I think that ‘Lilac Wonder’ travels via stolons rather than by seed. Crocus tommasinianus sets seed generously here and the numbers multiply but always as a close extension around the planted bulbs rather than dispersed – as we might expect from seed-grown plants so I’m not sure that the seed goes on to produce bulbs away from the original planting.

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