Over the years I’ve become a gardening geek, perhaps because it’s just another expression of the creative part of me. But not only that – gardening is such a soothing activity and a perfect stress reliever because it helps me forget about everything else for a while.
Although we’re back to colder weather at the moment, in time for St Patrick’s day the warm weather arrived for the first time after the winter, with 15-16 degrees most of the week. It was exactly what I needed after a long time with cold and windy weather and a winter full of misery. During St Patrick’s week, I spent most of the Monday and Tuesday in the garden, and I kicked off the gardening season.
When we first moved into this house, the only plants we had in the garden were a couple of trees – a holly, a particular maple, and what last spring turned out to be an ornamental cherry tree. I want my garden to be alive, to have colours, a variety of plants, flowers, insects, spiders and more.
So as soon as we had access to the house, I started digging and I planted two lavenders and two geraniums. That was the start of my first Irish gardening project, and I loved those plants. Well, I still do!
I’ve been working on a flowerbed along the garden wall since the first year here. To begin with I wanted shrub roses there because they usually grow fast, give a splash of colour and bloom a long time, but I didn’t find the type of roses I was looking for. Last year I bought some different other shrubs to fill up the area, to see how they would behave and also because some of them bloom in winter or early spring which is good for the bees because they don’t have much other food at that time of the year. Last year was quite much an experiment with different plants so that I could decide what plants would fit best in our garden.
Setting up a garden in another country is very exciting, especially if you move from a northern country to one with a milder climate. There’s a lot to learn about the native plants, what plants should be avoided because they are invasive, and what plants you can now consider for your garden because you’re not in a nordic country anymore.
Also, West Cork is described as having a “micro climate” because it’s located furthest south in Ireland and has a lovely temperate climate. Subtropical plants thrive here, and that is quite cool. We have even temperatures with usually no extremes. The summer is mild and often rainy, and the winter is short and mild (except when there are events such as the beast from the east). It’s both good and bad because I would like much warmer summers, but I guess that’s what Italy is for? And it’s the rain that makes Ireland green. No rain, no green as in the emerald isle.
So the spring in the garden this year will be inspiring and fun. In the garden bed along the wall I plan mainly shrubs that will grow large, but will also give my roses another try, in an area that looks good enough, it’s like a gate, and is excellent for something special on display. Most other small plants have been moved to a new garden bed near the house entrance, where I now have small shrubs, lavenders, a lovely sage, and my favourite ground covering plant, Saxifraga “Peter Pan”. But it’s by no means ready… I’ll probably move plants again later this year!
In a smaller garden bed further away where I used to have roses (that didn’t seem happy there), I’ve planted an Azalea that I thought was dead but suddenly had buds, and I have another interesting project next to it – a peony!
I love peonies so much. I had several of them in my garden in Sweden and when we moved here, I started looking for peonies but didn’t find any. After a while I realised that peonies probably wouldn’t suit very well in this garden, since we live on a peninsula and also on a hill, and the winds can be quite rough. Alliums don’t do great here because they often get knocked over by the winds.
But a while ago i was browsing gardening shops online, and found The Irish Gardener. He sells peony roots, which is the closest to peonies I’ve found in gardening shops in this country. When you get a root you can plant them also during the early spring, so how could I resist? I won’t know that peonies are unhappy here if I don’t try, right?
I’m really looking forward to seeing the progress of my plants this year, and especially with the azalea and the peony.
Another exciting feature in the garden this year is a new greenhouse. My husband built a wooden deck last year, in an area we didn’t use much at the time but that is probably the warmest area in summer afternoons. During the winter/early spring, he’s built an extension of the deck, with a small greenhouse and some planting boxes. This year will be a bit experimental but I have chili seeds in progress in the kitchen, and will try tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, and I have some different vegetable seeds that can’t be sown just yet – we can’t have pots all over the place inside the house, and to sow them outside is too risky so far, with temperatures fluctuating between -2 (at night) to 12 degrees.
But it will be a fun project and I’m so looking forward to having my own vegetables (hopefully!). Last year we had chives, rocket salad and some herbs only.
Now, if you’re used to influencer blogs with perfectly curated photos, you should look away, because these are the real life, work in progress, messy type of photos.
This is the area behind the house when we moved in:
Same area (but from the other direction), last July:
These are some super cool plants, echiums, that a friend gave us. She says we will never get rid of them and they will spread all over the place. We will see!! But I like them because they are so cool. They should bloom this year too!
The deck became my favourite area of the garden last summer, and will be even more so this year.
What about you? How far has spring come where you are, or is it autumn/winter where you are? Do you have any fun gardening plans for this year?