King of the Garden

When the kids were younger we used to play a game where the objective was to find either the King or Queen of the garden. I would come in from outside and ask them what plant they thought was either the King or Queen of the Garden. Not that complicated but it did get them to go outside and explore what was going on out there! Sometimes one of them would come in all excited and tell me they had found a new King. Strangely it gave me a lot of pleasure that they took an interest, it has been sometime since that happened, however my youngest Suki does still get excited about a discovering a new “event.”


I think the Hawthorn is the current King of the Garden, you can’t help but notice the frothy white blossom of the Hawthorn all over West cork at the moment, it always flowers this time of year but I think it has been particularly spectacular this year, in fact it is a very good year for all types of tree blossom, the Cherry, Apple and even the Blackthorn has had a great display so far this year. I have a hedge of Blackthorn outside the Conservatory and I have trimmed it to allow the Hawthorn to rise above the hedge line. My wife thought it looked a bit odd and often said we should cut it back to go in line with the rest of the hedge but now it is tall enough to look really well and I am hoping that later in the year the red berries, which attract the small birds will also give a good display. The berries are used as a treatment for cardiovascular problems and have been found useful in treating angina, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia.


My current Queen of the Garden is our Chilean Lantern Tree (Crinodendron hookerianum). It hid behind a Blackcurrent hedge for a few years but now rises above reaching about 10 foot. It has wonderful urn like red flowers that dangle and last for a couple of months and later on the seed pods also look attractive.


The Tulips have come and gone now but their bold presence captured the prize earlier in the year, I will be lifting some of them soon as the leaves have nearly died back.


I went to visit my mum last year in Wales and met up with my nephew (also called Owen), he is a professional gardener and we spent quite some time talking plants in a way that would bore the majority of people but I found it a real bonding experience to share such a passion. He suggested that I should grow a Verbascum and showed me a picture of one. I thought it looked rather ugly and not the thought of thing that would interest me but when I visited a local walled garden with my mum later on in our visit I came across two potted Verbascums in a sale for £2 and thought “hell why not!” They made the trip back with me and I stuck them in a rocky bed near the front door. Unfortunately one of them didn’t survive after being trampled by one of my dogs but the other one seems to be on its way. The plant is a native to Greece and can grow to 5 foot with a display of yellow flowers that attracts bees. I love the furry grey covering of the stem. Owen was right this is a very exciting plant and I keep checking each day to see how tall it has got.


From the very big to the very small. I am also very excited by some seeds that are germinating in the kitchen at the moment. They are tiny but they are growing! I have been in love with a plant called Cherry Pie (Heliotrope Marine) since I first discovered it in a public park in Minehead, Somerset. One morning I was walking on my way to the local shop and cut through the park. As I walked past one of the beds I was hit by the most amazing scent. I initially thought it was coming from a nearby bakery as it was just like the smell of a freshly baked Cherry Pie. I must have looked very odd as I walked about sniffing all the flowers and eventually I came across the source, a small fairly innocuous dark green plant with short umbels of purple flowers. Whenever I am looking round garden centres I always hope to come across one of these plants and I have had some success with semi ripe cuttings but I have never managed to grow one from seed, even finding the seed has been a problem. This year I took to the internet, oh what a wonderful thing the cyber world is, I ordered some seed from the UK and tried once again but nothing came up. I took to the internet again and found a forum discussing how difficult it was to get heliotrope seeds to germinate and there were a number of suggestions. A lack of heat seemed to be my main problem, I had them under an upturned fish tank but even in the kitchen it didn’t appear to be warm enough. My wife Kate came up with the solution. Many years ago the kids gave me a pet lizard “Ziggy” for some reason, the lizard is long departed but the equipment was still stored somewhere in the house and there was a heat mat to keep the herpetarium to the correct heat. A piece of cardboard and a plug and within a couple of days tiny green shoots have started sprouting. The kids all think I’m a bit weird getting all excited about these tiny shoots and I probably am but just wait till they get a whiff of that Cherry Pie!

The sun is out and I’m inside typing, something is not quite right about that, I need to be somewhere else. See you later.


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