Friday, 17 July 2015

In Grandma's Irish Country Garden ...

Emi loves coming to my parents' house here amidst the rolling hills of south Tyrone. For me it's a pleasure to see him enjoy the simple pleasures that shaped my own childhood: the long country walks, the fragrant of vases of sweet pea that find their way into every room, the soft fruit ripening slowly under the July sun and the constant round of visits to friends and family with all the in-jokes and tall stories that invariably get told in the process.

I'm hoping that his Grandma's garden will make an impression that will last a lifetime for him. It's not that it's some fancy pants garden. It really isn't. It's just a country garden that's been my mother's pride and joy for almost half a century. She's spent a big chunk of her life in that garden, taking care of her precious plants, planning for next season, feeding her family from its bounty and enjoying its crazy, slightly chaotic colour.

Today it's full of scent: sweet peas, pinks, mock orange, sweet William, carnations and the most exquisite scented peony roses that I've ever beheld. I've put a photo of this last beauty below, and, believe me it's the most exquisite thing that's ever grown in a flower bed. 

One thing that my mum has understood very clearly from the get-go is the importance of looking after her soil. It's been well nourished over the years with loads of rotted manure and her own home-made compost. If you step onto one of her flower beds you feel the slightly spongy sensation under foot of thick, well-aerated soil that's been hoed and hasn't compressed. 

There are plants from just about everywhere she's visited. Some have been propagated from the odd seed pod that's surreptitiously found its way into her pocket. Others have come to their new home as slips, cuttings that have been carefully carried back in her handbag. And when it comes to buying her a present, well there's nothing that will bring a bigger smile to her face than something she can plant in her garden.

At the moment she's got an amazing display of poppies that came from a trip many years' ago to the Chelsea flower show, where someone sold her a few packets of mixed Himalayan poppies. They've grown and reseeded and kept the colour blooming faithfully every year for the better part of a decade. 

And then there are her little feathered friends. She feeds them conscientiously, and they watch out for her from the hedgerows around the lawn. Sometimes they mistake me for my mum and follow me around the garden too, watching to see whether I've got some treats for them. It's a funny feeling being stalked by sparrows and blue tits.

We've never really got too bogged down with the highfalutin botanical names for the plants.  The Mock Orange above is one of my favourites. It grows as an untidy looking shrub on an East-facing slope in the garden, but its fragrance is sublime. A friend who's a landscape gardener, always pulls an appalled expression when I mention how much I love this shrub. In her view it's an architectural disaster that looks like a badly constructed bird's nest. Harsh words, but for me the issue starts and finishes with its wonderful scent.

And in this garden nothing goes to waste. Delivery crates are up-cycled into flower pots. Wellington boots with holes in that have no chance of keeping your toes dry any longer find a new lease of life as homes for geraniums. 

I always come away with a serious case of delphinium envy. Aren't these blue beauties (above) stunning? They just won't grow like this for me in London. 

At the back of the garden the lawn morphs into a pathway that leads on to the field beyond. There's lots of cow parsley, fox gloves and meadowsweet down there at this time of the year. It's a haven for wildlife. Occasionally they find a hedgehog cuddled into a nice cosy clump of dry elephant grass in the autumn.

And this (below) is Miss Blondie, my mum's dog, who guards the garden from any interfering pussy cats who might be tempted to come in and dig up the plants. She's a sweet old girl who's seen a fair few summers, and ranks well above the Wonder Dog in our little household pecking order. As the junior cadet he respectfully waits his turn, and generally does what he has to in order to stay on her good side.

The climate here is quite damp. Moss grows really well, as does lichen. Just look at the beautiful growth on this dead branch. I think it's got moss grown over with a couple of different types of lichen. It's really much too pretty to prune.

And that's about the size of it: nothing that's going to win us any RHS gold medals, but it's our very own little corner of garden heaven nonetheless.

Happy Friday! And all the best for the weekend,

Bonny x

1 comment:

  1. Wow, your mom's garden is stunning, Bonny! :)
    So glad that you and Emi are having a blast under the July sun.