Choosing and growing grasses
Grasses have been much taken up by garden designers in the last decades, and gardeners are using them more and more, too. Grasses give a wonderful sense of mobility and beautiful, gentle sound in the garden, and they are wonderful with perennials in a border, as part of a prairie planting, or even in containers. The quality of their flower- and seed-heads is enhanced when they’re back-lit by the sun, and persisting seed-heads look entrancing when frosted. They give value and interest for months, with long-lasting spikelets (flowers) and equally valuable foliage.
There are cool-season grasses, which flower by midsummer, and warm-season grasses, which flower in late summer or autumn. Some are fluid and loose, and some are structural, architectural plants; some are evergreen, and even those that aren’t make attractive ‘skeletons’ in the winter, especially lovely when frosted. They are not all green, either – there are beautifully coloured and variegated grasses. Most like to be in full sun, but there are some that thrive in shade, and there are others that will cope with coastal exposure. In short, there’s a grass for every garden, small, large, courtyard, patio or balcony.
- Maria Collard
Choosing and growing climbers
Climbing plants are an excellent way to increase the planting in a small garden, as they take up so little ground-space. They are also great for softening the look of a house or shed, for covering unattractive walls and buildings, or for covering a pergola, arch or arbour. Climbers can seem a bit daunting to newer gardeners, but if you make the right choice for you and your garden, they are pure joy.
There are several types of climber – self-clinging climbers like ivy, climbing hydrangea or Virginia creeper; climbers with tendrils or twining leaves or stems, like sweet pea, clematis or honeysuckle; and scramblers like climbing or rambling roses. The first group climb without any assistance from you, but some sort of support is needed for the others. This could be strong trellis, horizontal wires firmly attached to a wall, or a tree or shrub; you then tie in your climber to this support.
- Alan Taylor
Choosing and growing water plants in a wildlife pond
Even the smallest garden can accommodate a small pond, and if you have a large garden, the possibilities are endless. You can do nothing better to encourage wildlife than providing it with water, and you will be amazed at how quickly wild creatures – birds, small mammals, amphibians like frogs and newts, countless insects, molluscs and water-creatures – will visit or colonise your pond if you provide them with water, and the larger the pond the better. Mid-spring to early summer is the perfect time for planting up a pond, but now we’re all in lockdown, you’ll probably have time to make the pond too.
- Alan Taylor
Gardening with children - Deborah Ballard
With the children off school and confined to home, why not encourage them to grow flowers, or better still, vegetables? It’s a great way of inspiring a love of nature, understanding how plants grow and where your food comes from (and for older kids, food security) – and children will usually eat something they’ve grown themselves. It’s also highly educational. You can get anything you need, as many garden centres will prepare an order for you to collect, or despatch an order.
No space? Sacrifice part of a flower-bed, dig up a corner of the lawn, or buy a small raised bed and some compost, which will mean fewer weeds for them to cope with. For those with only a sunny balcony, invest in a few pots, some slow-release fertiliser granules and some potting compost. Only give a small space to little ones, and expand later if they are really keen. The bed does need to be in full sun.
- Alan Taylor
Choosing and growing wildflowers in your garden
Growing native or long-naturalised wild flowers in your garden is a wonderful way to support pollinators and the other creatures who are part of the ecosystem, and add to Ireland’s biodiversity. Some wildflowers are edible, some can be used to make wine, some can be used to scent presses, and all are perfectly adapted to our climate.
You may have native plants in your soil that you don’t know about. Lawns are a sterile desert as far as wildlife is concerned, and by simply stopping mowing, you will do wonders for birds, bees, butterflies and other insects, hedgehogs, and other small mammals. And you may be amazed at what comes up – maybe even native orchids. Cut down the long grass and mow when the flowers go over, as late as early November if you can bear to leave it that long.
- Alan Taylor
Starting with fruit - Deborah Ballard
Starting to grow fruit sounds daunting, but fruit-growing is less demanding than growing vegetables or annual flowers, and most soft fruit is really easy. If you have the space for a couple of trees, fruit trees have two seasons of real beauty – in blossom and when the fruit is ripening – and make lovely specimen trees – you can plant spring bulbs underneath.
Because fruit-trees are grown on rootstocks that control the size of the tree, there are ones for even the smallest garden, or even for a patio. Strawberries can be grown in the smallest bed or in pots. And nothing tastes as good as fruit from your own garden!
- Alan Taylor