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Harvesting our gardens!

This is a great time of year for collecting blackberries, crab apples and hazel nuts from our hedgerows. Other bounty includes rose hips, elder berries, haws and rowan berries which are manna from heaven for thrushes and blackbirds.

It is worth noting that our gardens are also bulging with crops of their own and well worth harvesting too. I refer to collecting seeds from annuals and perennials such as poppies, marigolds, verbena and cosmos. Also worth collecting are hard wood cutting from many shrubs that include hydrangea, roses, and dogwood. Each cutting will sprout roots slowly over the winter and increase your garden stock for next year.

Other harvest ideas include lifting and dividing perennials with fibrous roots such as Marguerite daisys, primulas, and geraniums.

The garden is rich in bounty and well worth the harvest!

Re-wilding our Open Spaces

They are everywhere! It’s just a matter of looking. I mean wild flowers of course. Along our road verges and neglected spaces lies a tapestry of colour.

Each summer I pay to have our open spaces on the estate mowed weekly. The landscapers do a terrific job and even remove the cuttings so we are left with a plain of emerald green. This year, they are cut less frequently and the results are amazing. We have a wild flower meadow as a consequence of poor nitrogen levels and wild species of flowers and grasses. Species include red and white clover, mustards, poppies, speedwell and sheep sorrel.

Let’s look in detail at the relationship between flora and fauna. Red clover is a great food source for bumblebee species. Sheep sorrel produces a tall spike of seeds which finches gorge on each autumn.  Yorkshire Fog grass hosts many varieties of moths and butterfly eggs.

Such weeds are a treasure for wildlife. Wouldn’t it be great if some patches of open spaces were let run wild?

Poppies and mustard growing wild

Magnificent Giants of Dunshaughlin

The rural appeal of Dunshaughlin is best represented by the magnificent mature trees that grace our village.  By taking a tour of these great trees, history unfolds and the heritage value of our streetscape increases. Beginning at Delaney’s farm at the top of the village, the mature canopy of a Copper beech (Fagus sylvatica purpurea) drapes the entrance of the village in rich purple foliage.

Along the Main Street, recently planted ornamental trees add charm to the village. In contrast, mature horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus) dating over 200 years stand tall in Madden’s field. Horse chestnut trees were introduced to Ireland in the 17th century and were deemed very exclusive trees to plant in any estate. This reveals the legacy of Madden’s field as part of the grounds of a castle.

The avenue of horse chestnuts that lines the entrance of the Church of Ireland creates the apex of the gallery of magnificent giants of Dunshaughlin, but the tour continues beyond the village.  Two large Lebanese cedar (Cedrus libani) gracing the Meath administration office are amazing specimen trees. Finally, many private gardens also host amazing trees that contribute to the overall beauty of the village. I have my favourites, what’s yours?

Greenfly and Some More!

It seems every plant is heaving with greenfly now. Naturally our instincts are to spray away this problem to save our beloved roses. Yet doing so may present short term gains only. The irony is greenfly recover at a quicker rate then predator bugs after spraying. This creates the perfect conditions for pest outbreaks.

So what do I do when my roses are covered in greenfly?  Truthfully, I do very little! Occasionally I spray a jet of water or a mild soapy mixture to deter them or pinch them gently to death. I never use pesticides however (even organic ones).

Greenfly do succumb to biological controls (bugs eating bugs!). The best predators include ladybirds, hoverflies, spiders and wasps.

The most interesting (and gruesome) predator bug is the tiny “Parasitoid Wasp” which lays its egg into an aphid. This aphid becomes a bloated husk hosting the wasp larvae. In time, the larvae will create a tiny hole in the aphid and fly away.

Don’t despair about greenfly, consider it dinner time for predators in the garden.

Forgotten Places

They are everywhere; it’s just a matter of looking. I mean wild flowers of course. There is an explosion of colour waiting to be admired if you look along the road verges and forgotten places!

Each summer we pay to have our open spaces cut weekly. The landscapers do a terrific job and even remove the cuttings so we are left with a plain of emerald green. This year, the cuttings are less regular and the results are amazing. We have a wild flower meadow as a result of the poor nitrogen levels and wild species of flowers and grasses. Typically, species include purple and white clover, wild mustards, poppies, speedwell and sheep’s sorrel.

Let’s look at the relationship between flora and fauna. Bumble bees are the only insect that can retrieve the nectar from the purple clover, making this a very important flower for that species. Sheep sorrel produces a tall spike of seeds which finches gorge on each autumn.  Finally they look so nice!

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