Roses are red, violets are blue…

But hydrangeas can be red or blue! I think that, via various means, I get more questions on hydrangeas than any other plants, closely followed by camellias and clematis. A contributory factor is undoubtedly their popularity but there are also lots of things to understand about hydrangeas. When I built and manned a display at…

Orchids for everyone

When I was working at Nags Hall, for some of the time I was in charge of buying the houseplants. It was something I enjoyed but my judgement was sometimes clouded by my training at Kew Gardens. Unfamiliar plants that no one wanted to buy were like old friends to me after working in the…

Summer days with annuals

At the moment I am glad I went to the trouble of sowing annuals in spring. So many people say they like these bright and colourful flowers but they are too much work; needing to sow and plant out young seedlings and keep them protected from slugs till they bloom – and repeat the whole…

Apples and antirrhinums

When I worked at Nags Hall in the 80s, at this time of year, if the weather was good, I would sit on the sun-warmed peat bales (thank you Bord na Mona) to have my lunch. My sandwiches were augmented by mulberries from the tree that stood at the back of the car park or…

Butterflies in the garden

One of the joys of the summer garden is to see butterflies feeding on flowers – except cabbage whites of course. It is not difficult to plant to encourage these brilliant visitors and there are options other than the ubiquitous buddleias. You do not have to leave your garden to go wild to have them…

Keep containers colourful

Patio containers are a lot more exciting these days than in the 80s! Not only are the pots themselves more varied and attractive, the choice of plants is vast. In addition to new forms of all the old favourites such as petunias and marigolds, there are diascias, nemesias, bacopa and callibrachoas (above) which we had…

Terrific tomatoes

I can’t remember when I first grew tomatoes. It was certainly a long time ago. Along with runner beans and beetroot, tomatoes are the most popular homegrown crop. Tomatoes have come a long way in the past few decades although, ironically, the big boost in tomatoes has come from the past with the popularity of…

Lilies come of age

There was a time, before many of you were born, when lilies were exotic and considered difficult to grow. Like many garden centres, Knights, in my day, would offer loose lily bulbs in boxes and the choice was limited. There was the heavily scented Lilium regale, with white, maroon-flushed flowers and a range of trumpet…

In the kitchen garden

Growing veg at home has its ups and downs. Usually it gets a boost during recessions when people think they can save money by growing their own fruit and veg. Experienced gardeners know that this is not always the case. A lot of things can go wrong and just as you shouldn’t count your chickens…

June means box and fruit

Here in Ireland, restricted movement means travelling no further than 5km though the UK has looser restrictions. Fortunately, despite my isolated location, the nearest business is a strawberry farm, 1km away, and Wexford is known throughout the country for its strawberries. The recent hot weather has been perfect for early fruit in tunnels to ripen…