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Time For Primrose Power

English Country Garden

“How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know,
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon.”

Lyrics extricated from the song “English Country Garden”, by James Frederick “Jimmie” Rodgers.

Following on from the snows which arrived courtesy of Storm Emma last week, looking out through our kitchen windows we must admit that our gardens, with the exceptions of those few daffodils growing in one corner, are looking just a bit deadbeat and colourless.

However, this would not have been the case if we had planted some of the earliest of spring bloomers those delightful primroses, (Primula polyantha), which with today’s variations, offer such a multiplicity of form, size, and colour. Primroses, which range in colours from white, traditional creamy-yellow, cream, purple and blue, yellow to orange, and red to pink, have easily shrugged off the severe cold of Storm Emma, and will continue to bloom right into the summer, adding magnificent colour well after spring bedding plants have come into maturity.

Take Note: Right now, while stocks last, these colourful plants can be found right here in Thurles, in the O’Driscoll Garden Centre, Mill Road, Thurles, Co. Tipperary (Telephone: (0504) 21636).

Ten assorted, mature primrose plants will cost you a mere €12.50 (inclusive) for all 10 plants, thus offering spectacular value for truly extravagant colour.

This garden centre is renowned countrywide for all manner of garden lovelies, such as trees, shrubs, perennials, alpines, climbing plants, ferns and herbs and is an oasis for those anxious to locate that extremely rare and unusual plant.

The name primrose, of course, comes from the Latin ‘prima rosa’ meaning “first rose”.  These perennials (Perennial … meaning plants that remain leafy from year to year or evergreen), should be planted in a lightly shaded area with well-drained soil, preferably amended with organic matter. Set the plants about 6 to 12 inches apart with roots set 4 to 6 inches deep. Do water thoroughly after planting, trying not pour over the plants themselves. Good idea also to add a layer of mulch around each plant to assist in retaining moisture.

Suitable for planting almost anywhere in garden flower beds and borders, as well as in window boxes and other larger flower containers; once given proper growing conditions, these vigorous plants will multiply each year, adding stunning colours to your garden space.  Remember, primroses do appreciate a light application of organic fertilizer, throughout the growing season.

Like most other garden plants, the primrose will come under attack from slugs, snails and aphids, but these can be easily controlled using non-toxic slug bait in the case of the slugs and snails, together with soapy water in the case of aphids.
Of course, if these delightful flowers are simply left in the ground, when they have finished flowering this spring, they will sit happily throughout the late summer and winter, to once again burst into flower next spring.

Try Crystallize Your Primrose Blossoms
Primrose flowers are edible and while they do not exactly taste delicious on their own; when coated with sugar they can be transformed into rather a tasty decoration, with which to beautify your baking, e.g. cakes and even desserts.

  • Lightly beat the white of one egg with a teaspoon of cold water to make up an egg wash.
  • Make sure the flower blossoms are clean and if you have to wash them, allow them to dry on kitchen paper towelling, before continuing.
  • Dip or use a clean previously unused artists brush or a pastry brush to paint the egg wash unto the entire surface of each flower blossom, both back and front.
  • Pour approximately 1/4 cup of white or brown granulated sugar into a bowl, (Note: Icing sugar is not fit for purpose in this case). With the flower bloom now coated in egg wash, place it in with the sugar; coating as much of the flower’s surface as you can, before placing it face-down on a surface lined with greaseproof paper. Leave your blooms to dry for 1-2 days; until they stiffen up.

Once hardened, these decorations will decorate delightfully, your cakes, buns, and desserts.


Make The Effort – Feed The Birds

With the current snow and cold weather being experienced across Tipperary and further afield, life has become extremely hard for our feathered friends. Do remember that most of last years berries, which had fruited on our trees and shrubs, are now depleted having been already consumed.

Video Music composed by  Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus

This currently exceptional cold weather has brought large numbers of the more uncommon of our bird species, both foreign and native, down into our garden space in search of shelter and feed, thus joining our more frequently observed and resident varieties of Tits, Chaffinches and Robins etc. in further competition for grub.

All local supermarkets and garden centres, like O’Driscolls, [Mill Road, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Tel: (0504) 21636], are selling wild bird food, e.g. seed, peanuts, suet balls etc. for small cost. This food can the dispensed in handy wire or plastic feeders suspended from tree branches or placed on bird tables.  With snow covering hopefully coming to an end, do cut an apple or two in half and spear them on tree branches or simply leave them in an area that will not get covered over. This type of food is particularly acceptable to Blackbirds and Thrushes, who have problems hanging out of wire or plastic feeders.

Other foods acceptable on bird tables or large window sills are:- Cooked and chopped bacon rinds, Oatmeal, Cheese (Latter if you want to attract Robins), Suet, Cooked potato, Cooked chips, Raisins, wet Brown bread, Melon seeds, and Stale cake.

Keep in mind that fat is a major source of energy for birds and melted fat from your frying pan or roasting tin when poured over bread or cake scraps, will be greatly acceptable.

Try to avoid giving them completely dry white bread and never feed them with uncooked rice or desiccated (dried) coconut, which will most likely end up swelling their stomachs.

IMPORTANT: Right now fresh water supplies will be frozen over and inaccessible to our feathered friends, so do leave out an alternative unfrozen water sources, such as a water filled soup bowl or saucer, remembering with low temperatures this also will freeze over and will require to be changed regularly.

Once attracted to your home and garden, these feathered creatures will give adults and children enormous pleasure, while also aiding to remove some of those nasty little gardening pests, one can expect to encounter in the months ahead.


Can Spring Be Far Behind?


(© Author & Poet Tom Ryan.)

Under the far and flickering stars
On this bright and lovely night of Spring
In that children’s place of memories
By the river down the Mall .
Tell me it isn’t beautiful.

That place where street lights magically
Trace their pale and orange shimmering shapes
On the ever flowing river
Serenading each life’s journey.
Tell me it isn’t beautiful,

In secret silence swans
From out the mysterious mist of night,
Play with the lighted patterns on the water.
Buds on bare boughs breast the air.
On grassy banks crisp frost appears.
Oh tell me it isn’t beautiful.

And in those hours when magic fails,
And worldliness can faith assail,
I then envision swans of Spring.
Solemn and splendid hearkening
To the language of each living thing.
Oh, tell me it isn’t beautiful.

Tom Ryan, “Iona,” Rahealty, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.


What Has Five Hearts, No Eyes, Ears Or Teeth

They have five hearts, no eyes, no ears and no teeth, but one large one of the species can produce four to five kilos (9 to 11 lbs) of valuable fertiliser in just one year. They are hailed as the “intestines of the earth”, and according to my late dear grandmother, Eliza-Jane, the organic matter they produce becomes, “the mother of a healthy nosebag”.

They will wander unto Tarmacadam surfaces in search of leaves and breathing through their skin, you can find up to 1,000,000 of them living invisibly in any one-acre field. Back in 1881 Charles Darwin, the English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution; in a statement wrote: “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”   They are “more powerful than the African elephant and more important to the economy than the cow.”

I speak of course of the lowly earth worm, to which the poet William Shakespeare in his play ‘Hamlet’ (Act 4, Scene 3) shows he was well aware of their capable transformative power, “A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.”

There are some twenty-seven species of earthworm to be found recorded as existing here in Irish soil. They burrow beneath the ground, consuming through their digestive system, micro-organisms, decomposing organic matter such as roots and leaves, sand grains and soil. As a result, vital minerals and nutrients are added to the soil, making it healthier and richer.

In previous generations; long before our more acquired knowledge of agricultural science, the ancients knew well when to plant crops. They understood that when the ground is cold, earth worms bury themselves deeper to avail of warmer soil, thus granting the farmer / gardener information on the temperate of the soil, prior to sowing.


Alas, back about 1963 we saw the first arrival of the New Zealand flatworm, (Arthurdendyus Triangulates) first recorded in Northern Ireland. It took scientists until around 1983, to discovered a possible link between low earthworm populations and the presence of flatworms. Since then, it has been established that flatworms; which inadvertently arrived here through nursery imports of potted plants from abroad, is an aggressive predator of our native earthworm. In recent years same have been widely recorded in the Republic of Ireland, especially in Co. Mayo, and now established, they are beginning to migrate slowly onto adjacent land.

Studies show that when the flatworm locates an earthworm near the earth’s surface, it secretes a digestive juice which in turn will dissolve the earthworm into a kind of gooey soup, which the former then digests. Once the flatworm becomes established, the native Irish earthworm population will be annihilated.

Earthworms are most definitely a gardeners friend and are vital to healthy rich soil, so for this reason always use a garden fork, rather than a spade, when digging to reduce cutting them up when turning over earth.

Finally, tread softly, because you may be treading on your best friend, and when next time ‘the wife’ refers to you as “a miserable little worm”, do feel complimented 😏.


Daffodil, The Flower Symbolizing Friendship

“And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.”
[Extract from the poem “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth.]

The season of Autumn 2017, here in our Northern Hemisphere, truly began just 9 days ago, on Friday, 22nd September at 9.54pm, and will come to an end on Thursday, 21st December 2017, as the dark winter days once again emerge.

But fear not; remember the words of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley “O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”; so, let’s forget about winter and prepare for spring.

Later, towards the end of this month, will be the time to plant spring flowering bulbs, like the Crocus, Snowdrops, Bluebells and Tulips; but right now, is the best time to plant those Daffodils with their wonderful characteristic six petal-like sepals, surmounted by their trumpet-shaped corona; the flower that symbolizes ‘Friendship’.

Among the earliest blooms to appear in our Irish spring; Daffodils have been around for a long, long time, getting mentioned as far back as two hundred years B.C.. Indeed, it was a group of Englishmen in the early 17th century who plucked the Daffodil out of the windflower category; positioned it firmly, because of its charm, for inclusion into our domestic flower garden and rockery.  Originating in Spain and Portugal, the Daffodil bulb, thankfully, was brought to the British Isles by the Romans, who foolishly believed that the sap from Daffodils had certain healing powers; alas the sap contains crystals that in some cases can irritate the skin.

When sowing Daffodils note that unlike some other bulbs (e.g. Tulips, Garlic), they do not require to be refrigerated. Each should have at least 2 to 3 inches of soil cover (deeper in sandy soil) and be planted a minimum of 4–5 inches apart over the next week, before really hard ground frost materialises.

After a Daffodil has finishes blooming, it still requires its foliage to gather and store energy for the following year’s bloom, so do watch the video shown above and remember if you want beautiful blooms next year, do not cut them back until the green of their foliage has fully disappeared, (usually late May or June). You can remove the spent flower head, but do remove the leaves.

You will observe from year to year how densely packed your Daffodils have become, so it is recommended that in June about every 5 years, that you grant the bulbs a little more growing space. Once finished blooming and when their leaves have turned brown, do dig them up and divide them by carefully plying them apart from one another, keeping their remaining leaves attached. They can then be replanted, as stated earlier with 2 to 3 inches of soil cover, 4–5 inches apart, or washed and dried by hanging in, if needs must,  ladies panty hose, or an onion sack (if you can locate same from your local greengrocer), in a cool, airy location, until they are ready to be replanted. Remember, Mulch can be tremendously beneficial when growing Daffodils, so do not dump all your tea leaves, coffee grinds, tree leaves, grass clippings, sawdust etc in your brown bin for removal by your recycling company.