May 3, 2018

Emergence into a misty evening

by Ciaran Burke

The soft mist is relentless, fine droplets rapidly dancing against my face. My initial reaction is to quicken pace, my mission is to retrieve something from my van, the destination a whole 50m away.

Just as pull the zip up to its full collar limit, and I grimace in annoyance at the wet world, gentle yellow frills catch my eye. I teeter on my feet, my motion halted, indecision holds me on the balls of my feet, until my body weight surrenders to the changing mind and the creamy yellow ruffles of the Primula ‘Belarina Cream’. As i bend down to admire it, insects unbothered by the precipitation fly off in annoyance at my presence, a few return.

Then as I straighten up, a peony bud is winking at me, opening up and exposing its hidden treasures, of its promise of beauty wrapped in pink petals. Now, the once annoying mist does not mother me, i walk in the wrong direction, looking for buds, and blooms. The burnished salmon leaves emerge from the spring buds of Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Brilliantissimum’ an enchantment of rich textured venation, its moment of glory before the opened foliage turns to somber and sulky pale yellowish green.

The bronze tips of Polemonium yezoense var. hidakanum ‘Purple Rain’ are bejeweled with droplets, the blooms of Erysimum ‘Apricot Twist, burn brighter in the low light of the dull evening clouds, self settled forget-me-nots, Myosotis sylvestris, have made their home at the base of the walls, their cheeky blue blooms cheerful beside their near ours, the still unopened buds of chives, Allium schoenoprasum.

I am now slowly making my way to the van, Anthemis punctata subsp. cupaniana reaches out to demand my attention, its first white daisy blooms a promise of summer, while lady’s mantle, Alchemilla mollis, uses its soft hairy leaves to collect as many droplets as it possibly can, coating its leaves like a greedy jewel thief.

As I return the blooms of a narcissus hang their heads in solemn grace, I stop one more time, before I return to the dry interior. Happy to have been treated to a misty floral show.

April 20, 2018

Spring has arrived

by Ciaran Burke

After months of wind, rain, frost and snow… finally we get to feel some warmth and be blinded by the sun!

Sitting down after work, sipping some Ethiopian coffee, listening to cattle munch in grass, bees hum and the distant drone of weekend commutes on the distant highways, I am happy that I have all these plants in containers here.

The golden shoots of Physocarpus ‘Diablo D’Or’ are ignited by the afternoon sun. This particular specimen was grown from a cutting and then trained into a standard, and is growing in a 40cm diameter terracotta pot.

I applied Fish, Blood and Bone fertiliser to all the pots a couple of weeks ago, this should keep them going for about another 6 weeks. Then I will reapply.

I pruned some of the shoots back on the standard trained Cornish alba, to make it more bushy, this plant has bee looking great all through winter with it red stems and branches.

I had a good sniff of the Viburnum x burkwoodii flowers: I love fragrance in a garden! While pulling a few weeds, I was treated to the smell of the balsam poplar, the emerging foliage release the most delicious scent.

The blossoms on the Magnolia ‘Leonard Messell’ are superb, they have rushed to bloom over the last week.

Between fragrances, spurting new growths, beautiful blooms and buzzing insects, the ten minutes has turned into an hour. If only every Coffee break could be so good.

Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ has a gorgeous scent.

The new growths of Physocarpus ‘Diabolo D’Or’

Cornish alba is often grown as a shrub and valued for its red winter stems. I have found it to be an excellent standard specimen.

Viburnum x burkwoodii – such wonderful fragrance!

Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ – stunning blooms.

Forget me nots and wallflowers in the gravel at the base of the wall. Apart from our container garden, we have planted a strip of about 20 metres in length at the base of a wall.

May 24, 2017

An hour drifts by…

by Ciaran Burke

It has been a long day, and a long drive home, but the sun was shining and the air was warm. After having something to eat we wandered downstairs to have a look at the plants. Our collection of pots and the narrow strip at the base of a wall that we have planted gets us out for a bit of air, and we enjoy the beauty of the blooms and seeing bumble bees buzzing about.

Over the last few years we have been constantly adding new plants and pots to our collection. Where once we had an acre of garden to tend, now its the 180 pots, or there about, and the plants at the base of the wall that is our garden. We rent an apartment, an old converted oat loft on a stud farm. When we first moved in, there was little in the way of botanical interest, but it did not take long for us to make an impact. Potted specimens from our old garden were laid in position around two small wooden decks that we built. Then we tried out some plants in the gravel at the base of the wall.

The wall runs along a driveway that has to be kept clear for the occasional farm machinery, and our deck areas are north west facing. There are rather unsightly portacabin structures and great big ugly concrete water tank. Despite all this, we have our haven of plants. Unusual trees and shrubs thrive, and standard trained shrubs such as Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo d’Or’ and standard gooseberry add height and detract our eyes from the unsightly structures.

We walk outside and admire individual flowers, noticing the first new blooms of Hemerocallis citrina, a nocturnal flowering daylily, and bend down to sniff its delicious scent. Then some dead-heading is done, a few weeds are plucked, I decide to add some organic fertiliser to some of the trees, and then do some watering. Before we know it, an hour or more has passed. A precious hour spent amongst the plants, the stress from the day has gone, a new energy has replaced the weariness of the working day and a smile has replaced a frown. Such is the power of the garden, or in our case, a collection of pots.

Standard gooseberry

March 13, 2017

Trees from seed 

by Ciaran Burke

In the autumn we had down seeds of a number of tree species.

Now at in the beginning of March, we are starting to see the first signs of growth. One of the first species to appear was Sorbus magalocarpa. we were delighted and excited to see a small seed leaves year from the soil.

And as soon as the first true leaves had grown print out the seedlings into small pots. Now they are growing on in the tunnel. Since then a number of other three species have started to germinate.


It is an exciting time of year when the garden is full of potential and the gardeners full of expectation. As we watch more ceilings appear every week The joy of seeing you seedlings in their small leaves and shoots above the compost surface never diminishes.

November 20, 2016

Sow seeds for great trees in future

by Ciaran Burke


Autumn is a great time of year for collecting seed, and sowing it. Many tree and shrub species can be sown in autumn, in fact they need a winter chilling before they can feminists in Spring. This requirement for cold exposure is called cold stratification.

Leave trays of sown seeds in a sheltered spot outdoors over the winter.

Watch out for signs of germination in Spring and then bring them into the green house.

A covering of horticultural grit will help to reduce the growth of miss in the surface of the compost.

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