libertia x butleri

Libertia x butleri
– A name recently applied to mark the contribution of Stephen Butler to the study of this genus.
This name has been applied to acknowledge the contribution Stephen Butler has made to the study of the taxonomy of the various libertia species and cultivars.
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Stephen Butler has maintained a collection of Libertia at the Zoo for many years. As well as collecting a wide range of these plants he has prepared herbarium specimens and pictures and identified naming issues which all proved a significant help to Julian Shaw, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Registrar, who has been conducting a review of the genus Libertia over the past number of years.

When Libertia chilensis and L. ixioides are grown in gardens hybrids regularly occur between them – distinguished by wider leave than ixioides and a much more open inflorescence than chilensis – and it is botanically useful to have a name for these hybrids and Julian Shaw has named such hybrids “Libertia x butleri” in recognition of Stephen’s work.

Stephen is Curator of Horticulture at Dublin Zoo, Chairperson of the Leinster Branch  and a member of the Executive Committee of the IGPS and the person who has organised the IGPS members’ Seed Distribution over many years.

Well done, Stephen!

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

A New Rhododendron

A New Irish Rhododendron named at Mount Congreve Gardens, Waterford.

Tánaiste, Joan Burton, with Michael White, Curator of Mount Congreve Gardens and Tony Kelly, Administrator at Mount Congreve. Michael has presented the Tánaiste with a rhododendron which he had bred, selected and named Rhododendron ‘Tánaiste Joan Burton’ to mark Ms. Burton’s visit to the gardens on Saturday, 29th August, to support a fund-raising event in aid of Oasis House, a women’s refuge in Waterford. There was an attendance of approximately 200, the weather was wonderful for guided tours of the garden, a champagne reception in the Pleasure Garden with a jazz band playing and dinner afterwards in the courtyard of the house.

The rhododendron is a selection from seedlings Michael raised from a cross between ‘Actress’ and ‘Michael’s Choice’ both of which have ‘Lady Alice Fitzwilliam’ in their breeding background so, as might be expected, the new cultivar has an excellent fragrance.

Tánaiste Joan Burton, Michael White and Tony Kelly with newly named Rhododendron ‘Tánaiste Joan Burton’, named to mark her visit to Mount Congreve on Saturday, 29th August 2015. Photograph by Mary Tobin.
Tánaiste Joan Burton, Michael White and Tony Kelly with newly named Rhododendron ‘Tánaiste Joan Burton’, named to mark her visit to Mount Congreve on Saturday, 29th August 2015. Photograph by Mary Tobin.

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

IGPS Members Visit Mount Congreve

There are  times in life when it is not inappropriate to be boastful – well, at least, to express one’s pride in a very clear and positive manner. Such an occasion fell to me on Saturday morning last when I greeted a group of fellow IGPS members to the wonderful gardens of Mount Congreve in Waterford.

I was able to boast – very truthfully you must realise – that they were visiting one of the great gardens of the world; one created by one of the great gardeners of the world, Mr. Ambrose Congreve. The 70+ acres of woodland gardens are an incomparable achievement not to be seen anywhere else in the world. Here, the visitor can see Magnolia campbelli in their hundreds – something not to be seen anywhere else in the world –   along with many hundreds of other magnolias. There are also 2,000+ different rhododendrons, several hundred different camellias and maples as well as innumerable individual specimens of the choicest trees one could imagine.

The gardens are only a few miles from my home and, through the kindness of those at the gardens, I have the enviable good fortune to be allowed visit whenever I wish and, so, can enjoy them in quieter moments and quieter  months when the gardens are not open. Despite visiting the gardens for surely over thirty years I still find plants which I hadn’t noticed previously.

Of course, the very best way to walk the gardens is in the company of Michael White, the Curator at the gardens, and the person who has the deepest knowledge of the gardens and the strongest links with the creator of the gardens, Mr. Ambrose Congreve, as he worked hand in hand  with him over many years. Michael’s knowledge of the gardens and its plants is simply encyclopedic. I often comment to friends that while I might be able to tell them the name of a particular rhododendron, for example, Michael would outline its parentage going back several generations and all the personalities associated with each step of its breeding. So, a walk with him on Saturday was a special treat and many of those in the group expressed their delight at the experience.

Some photographs of our group at Mount Congreve last Saturday:

Our group strolling through the Pleasure Garden where dahlias and asters are fabulous at the moment.
Our group strolling through the Pleasure Garden where dahlias and asters are fabulous at the moment.
A pause for a comment from our guide on the day, Michael White.
A pause for a comment from our guide on the day, Michael White. I believe he is standing under Magnolia ‘Star Wars’
Michael striding along to the next point of interest. The members of the group still gaping in awe at the beauty around them. (LOL)
Michael striding along to the next point of interest. The members of the group still gaping in awe at the beauty around them. (LOL)
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Just visible at the left of the photograph is the stump of what was a very large and old fern-leafed beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’ which, unfortunately, had to be felled earlier this year as it was diseased and presented a danger to visitors. However, as Michael White pointed out, this has opened a view to an excellent specimen of Magnolia officinalis which had been hidden for many years.

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Michael White explaining the method of pruning used on very old camellias. It can appear that it is quite ruthless but it is perfectly effective and rejuvenates the garden very effectively.
Looking down on the Pagoda
Looking down on the Pagoda
The view from below with the pagoda in what was once the quarry which supplied stone for wall building, steps and laying pathways around the garden.
The view from below with the pagoda in what was once the quarry which supplied stone for wall building, steps and laying pathways around the garden.
At The Temple, the final resting place of Mr. Ambrose Congreve and his wife, Marjorie. It is also a place with wonderful views onto the River Suir
At The Temple, the final resting place of Mr. Ambrose Congreve and his wife, Marjorie. It is also a place with wonderful views onto the River Suir

The gardens are closing shortly for this season so hurry along to visit. Also, make a point of visiting early next year, as soon as the gardens open so as to see the expanse of Magnolia campbellii while they are in flower. This is a sight which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.

A magnificent view along one planting of Magnolia campbellii in the gardens. This photograph was taken in March of this year.
A magnificent view along one planting of Magnolia campbellii in the gardens. This photograph was taken in March of this year. In a similar fashion to the photograph, above where the loss of a beech tree allowed a view to a significant magnolia, the storms of 2014 knocked down two old cherry trees which stood just where I stood to take this photograph and revealed this vista which had not been seen for years.

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

You should have seen it last week!

The moment of perfection in a garden can be very fleeting, here today and gone tomorrow,  and how we wish our friends came on time and not leave us thinking or saying “You should have seen it last week.”

On the other hand it is marvellous to visit a garden and arrive just at that perfect moment, to see it exactly as the gardener had hoped it would be. It is a moment to be savoured. It ranks with the golfer’s hole-in-one, the 147 clearance in snooker or the nine dart 501.

We experienced such a moment when we recently visited Coolaught Gardens in Clonroche, Co. Wexford, the garden of Harry and Caroline Deacon. I have shared a photograph of this moment on Facebook and it would seem a great many people agree with me as it was shared by hundreds and viewed by thousands.

What do you think?

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The original garden around the house is relatively small, certainly too small to accommodate Harry’s and Caroline’s enormous interest in plants. Some years back they started this new area of approximately two acres and introduced a delightful range of choice plants.

For the early years, as might be expected, it was young and sparse and, as a ploy to fill space and give an impression of a full garden, Verbena bonariensis was introduced and allowed to seed around at will to such an extent that on a previous visit I thought it had been allowed to go too far.  It was a wonderful sight it its own way but simply too much. However, this spring this planting of verbena was heavily and cleverly edited and the effect has been simply marvellous.

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DSC_0141Although the verbenas have stolen the show for this summer there are many interesting vistas and plants in the garden.

The garden in front of the house is quite small  but is a magical carpet of crocus in spring.
The garden in front of the house is quite small but is a magical carpet of crocus in spring.
Part of the old garden within the orchard which was to the side of the house with a wonderful view to this attractive garden seat.
Part of the old garden within the orchard which was to the side of the house with a wonderful view to this attractive garden seat.
Borders are jam packed with well-selected and well-grown plants.
Borders are jam packed with well-selected and well-grown plants.
Part of the new garden, already showing signs of maturing very well.
Part of the new garden, already showing signs of maturing very well.
This garden will improve and improve in the coming years and will be a delight to visit.
This garden will improve and improve in the coming years and will be a delight to visit.

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

The Little Meadow – in pictures.

The hay has been saved and stored for use in the hens’ nestbox over the coming year. The remaining wisps of grass have been tidied up with the lawnmower and this little meadow is now a bare pale patch which might puzzle those who wander along our country road. However, it will green up again very quickly and remain an anonymous patch until spring of next year when its purpose in the garden will be revealed again.

The tall grass and assorted wildflowers have been cut and tossed over several days to allow them to dry.
The tall grass and assorted wildflowers have been cut and tossed over several days to allow them to dry.
All is gathered up ready to be stored
All is gathered up ready to be stored
And, after a tidying up, we have a bare and peculiar looking patch.
And, after a tidying up, we have a bare and peculiar looking patch.

The grass will be cut in the usual manner for the remainder of the autumn and early winter until early February reveals its hidden treasures.

In early February the first of the crocus appear. The first plantings of crocus were of packets where the price had been reduced in the shops as their season passed.
In early February the first of the crocus appear. The first plantings of crocus were of packets where the price had been reduced in the shops as their season passed. It is a cheap way to get bulbs in good numbers and they all have done well in the grass and have increased well over the years. Initially, they were planted one bulb at a time and quite scatterred so they looked somewhat sparse in the first few years.
Snowdrops quickly join the crocus. These are all of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis.
Snowdrops quickly join the crocus. These are all of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis.
Crocus and snowdrops make good companions with blue and white looking especially good together.
Crocus and snowdrops make good companions with blue and white looking especially good together.
As the weeks pass the snowdrops quickly outnumber the crocus
As the weeks pass the snowdrops quickly outnumber the crocus
And my dream of a white meadow begins to take shape.
And my dream of a white meadow begins to take shape. The odd daffodil are of a very old variety which do well in grass
Two years ago I was given access to a long deserted garden and allowed to take lots of snowdrops. After bringing these home I separated them into individual bulbs as I wished to ensure I wasn't introducing weed plants such as ground elder which was present in the old garden. We - for my wife spent many hours with me on the job - planted several thousand snowdrop bulbs in our meadow and dreamed of years to come.
Two years ago I was given access to a long deserted garden and allowed to take lots of snowdrops. After bringing these home I separated them into individual bulbs as I wished to ensure I wasn’t introducing weed plants such as ground elder which was present in the old garden. We – for my wife spent many hours with me on the job – planted several thousand snowdrop bulbs in our meadow and dreamed of years to come.
The following spring we were rewarded with a reasonable start though there were many bulbs which were obviously still to small or had been overcrowded in the clumps in the old garden so the display was not as good as hoped for. Future years will bring improvement.
The following spring we were rewarded with a reasonable start though there were many bulbs which were obviously still to small or had been overcrowded in the clumps in the old garden so the display was not as good as hoped for. Future years will bring improvement.
Bulb lawn (12)
An encouraging beginning and promise of better years to come.
When crocus and snowdrops have gone the show is carried on by the snakeshead frittilary, Frittilaria meleagris, which enjoys the conditions in the grass and, from an initial very small planting, is now self-seeding and the numbers are increasing well
When crocus and snowdrops have gone the show is carried on by the snakeshead frittilary, Frittilaria meleagris, which enjoys the conditions in the grass and, from an initial very small planting, is now self-seeding and the numbers are increasing well
The frittilaries with white flowers give an interesting contrast and stand out well against the grass.
The frittilaries with white flowers give an interesting contrast and stand out well against the grass.
After the bulb season the grass begins to grow and wildflowers appear - a healthy population of daisies and buttercups as you can imagine. I haven't introduced new wildflowers but would like to introduce Yellow Rattle which would serve to weaken the growth of the grass as it is parasitic on grass roots.
After the bulb season the grass begins to grow and wildflowers appear – a healthy population of daisies and buttercups as you can imagine. I haven’t introduced new wildflowers but would like to introduce Yellow Rattle which would serve to weaken the growth of the grass as it is parasitic on grass roots. The native Forget-me-not gives a delightful blue haze after the buttercups fade.
By mid summer all traces of the spring bulbs have passed and few flowers are showing. It is now the time of the grasses to show and blow in the wind. I have one small clump, four flowers this year, of a native orchid which I hope will continue to thrive in coming years.
By mid summer all traces of the spring bulbs have passed and few flowers are showing. It is now the time of the grasses to show and blow in the wind. I have one small clump, four flowers this year, of a native orchid which I hope will continue to thrive in coming years.
The bulb lawn, as we are inclined to call it in the earlier part of the year, has by now become our little meadow though, to be honest, we are not inclined to be so pretentious and refer to it as
The bulb lawn, as we call it in the earlier part of the year, has by now become our little meadow though, to be honest, we are not inclined to be so pretentious and refer to it as “the high grass”.

And, so, the cycle of the year in this little patch of our garden is complete. It is something different from the rest of the garden and a bit of fun and we always think that the display will be better next spring. Anticipation is nearly as good as the enjoyment.

Paddy Tobin

Post Scriptum: One not expected benefit of this area of high grass is the number of frogs which use it as their home. When cutting the grass last week I displaced over twenty frogs and moved them to one of the nearby beds. The high grass also becomes criss-crossed by little pathways during the summer and I imagine our local foxes or badgers come in search of a meal. 

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

Lead by the Camera!

What must have been an awkward assignment for a writer has been carried out in a commendable fashion by Terri Dunn Chace. We normally see photographs used to illustrate a text whereas in “Seeing Seeds” the text was written to accompany the photographs.

"Seeing Seeds" - photographs by Robert Llewellyn; written by Teri Dunn Chace
“Seeing Seeds” – photographs by Robert Llewellyn; written by Teri Dunn Chace

Robert Llewellyn’s photographs have illustrated a long list of books and two recent volumes of similar vein to this were his “Seeing Trees” and “Seeing Flowers” where Terri Dunn Chace also added the text.

Because of this arrangement where the photographs come first and the text is secondary one has to question if the book has anything to say or is it simply a picture book with extensive captioning.  I believe that is about what it amount to.

A clematis seedhead
A clematis seedhead

The photographic method used is one not commonly seen. A few years back Carsten Krieger explained a method he uses which gives very similar results. The plants are placed on a sheet of white perspex which is lit from behind, with additional fill-in lighting on the plant from the front, so that when photographed the plant appears to be floating on the page. It gives an effect very like a botanical painting.

Physalis alkekengi - Chinese Lantern
Physalis alkekengi – Chinese Lantern
Ricinus communis - Castor Bean
Ricinus communis – Castor Bean

Many of the photographs used in the book are available to view on Robert Llewellyn’s website and I feel they look far better on the computer screen than on the printed page. In print, they lacked the luminescence which is apparent on the screen and were somewhat flat. That said, they are an interesting collection of images and give an insight into the detail of seeds which we might not otherwise notice.

Nigella damascena - Love-in-a-Mist
Nigella damascena – Love-in-a-Mist

The text is a functional and comprehensive treatment for the images used but, perhaps, no more than that. The author is not telling her own story and the writing seems to lack the intensity of interest one would expect were it so.

After a substantial introductory section dealing with the purpose of seeds, their diversity and function the rest of the book describes the various plants illustrated in the groups in which they are organised: Garden Flowers, Weeds and Wildflowers, Herbs, Spices, Fibers (sic.) and Medicine, Fruits and Vegetables and, finally, Shrubs and Trees.

[Seeing Seeds, Robert Llewellyn with Teri Dunn Chace, Timber Press, Oregon, 2015, HB, 254pp, £20, ISBN: 978-1-60469-492-5]

Cucumis metuliferus - Horned Melon
Cucumis metuliferus – Horned Melon
Callicarpa americana - Beautyberry
Callicarpa americana – Beautyberry
Koelreuteria paniculata - Goldenrain Tree
Koelreuteria paniculata – Goldenrain Tree

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

The Bay Garden – Always a Delight

Domesticity of scale adds to the winning charm of The Bay Garden in Ferns, Co. Wexford, the garden of Iain and Frances McDonald.  Although a reasonably large garden by today’s norms it is experienced in a series of relatively small stages so that the visitor takes in the garden at a gradual and comfortable pace and never feels overwhelmed by largesse or grandeur. Despite the extensive work which was involved in developing this garden and the fabulous selection of interesting plants used to furnish it there is an encouraging feeling that the visitor might achieve a similar effect on the home patch. The Bay is an impressive garden yet remains one which is encouraging rather than daunting.

The yellow front door which a neighbour told Iain and Frances they were never to change. The addition of the wisteria matches it perfectly
The yellow front door which a neighbour told Iain and Frances they were never to change. The addition of the wisteria matches it perfectly

On a visit with a group of friends last week I was followed as I headed off on my usual route around the garden only for one of my companions to comment, “Oh, we are doing the garden the wrong way round today.” The normal route around the garden is to enter to the back of the house and move through the various rooms to end up in the woodland garden. However, the woodland garden is the section which always attracts me and it is where I always go first. In the month of June it has the most perfect picture postcard scene imaginable in any garden where hosts of primulas in a range of colours are set in front of a garden house. It is as perfect a composition as I can imagine and I simply adore it. There is much of interest at any time of the year but the highlight is certainly the show of primulas.

At the end of the woodland garden in June
At the end of the woodland garden in June
Such a perfect planting with a wonderful selection of primulas
Such a perfect planting with a wonderful selection of primulas

In contrast, the grass garden does not set my heart on fire but this is a general attitude of mine that I simply do not like these grass plantings. Having said that, there are views within this garden that I adore – the combination of rhus in its autumn colours among grasses is simply divine while a view over the planting which leads the eye to the surrounding countryside is a design feature which Iain and Frances have developed to perfection.

The Grass Garden with views to the surrounding countryside
The Grass Garden with views to the surrounding countryside
Wonderfully dramatic planting in the Grass Garden
Wonderfully dramatic planting in the Grass Garden

Frances’ “Funereal Borders” with her selection of very dark flowers have been an amusement for many years, great fun to see what she has added this year. I think she has passed the funeral stage somewhat and I’m not sure whether we are celebrating cremation, a drop down to hell or a celebration of the life hereafter for the colours in this section of the garden are brighter, richer, with more happiness and generally more autumnal than previously and all in our group were delighted with them.

Hydrangeas are adding a further level of interest to the garden, another layer to an already rich planting
Hydrangeas are adding a further level of interest to the garden, another layer to an already rich planting

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The Rose Garden is not what it was. Box blight has ravaged the previously beautifully formal and neatly clipped hedges. It is so hard to leave go of a design and planting which was so successful but I’m sure this area will be resurrected in the very near future to shine again.

I’m not sure what Iain and Frances call the area with the formal pool and Loggia; I think of it as an Italianate area and while I adore aspects of its design there are others which I am not too keen on. It gives a wonderful change of atmosphere as one walks around as it is a space with a different feeling to the rest of the garden. It introduces a touch of formality in a country garden which I think could be incongruous but that it is kept separate by hedging so, overall, it is a clever introduction of a different design element. The hard landscape work has been improved greatly in the last few years; the hedges have matured and are maintained to perfection. What irritates me is the planting to either side of the pond. I feel it is an area where a lot less planting would give a far better effect and that the present planting is a distraction from the overall design and layout of this area. Indeed, if Iain extended his present hydrangea flair to this area, removed all other plants except the hedging and used a mass planting of one cultivar of hydrangea, I feel it would be fabulous. A mass of ‘Annabelle’ or ‘Limelight’ or ‘Vanille Fraise’ at either side set off by the hedges would be simple and impressive.

The formal pool and loggia
The formal pool and loggia

The small area to the front of the house is called “The Cottage Garden” and I think the description could be extended to the garden to the side of the house also. This is a delightfully comfortable area with a very relaxed atmosphere. It is so very pleasant to walk here and enjoy the plants. The pink-berried sorbus which Iain raised from seed is one which I like to see on each visit. The Cornus kousa was just showing colour in its fruit last week and a very dark-flowered sedum caught everybody’s eye. The very tall Dahlia ‘Admiral Rawlings’ impressed us all with its fabulously rich colour and imposing size.

The area to the side of the house, informal in layout and rich in plant interest.
The area to the side of the house, informal in layout and rich in plant interest.

Coffee and chat round off any garden visit very well and a selection of plants for sale present the opportunity to take a keepsake home with you and so our visit was complete. There will be other days and other seasons as this garden looks well all year round.

Finally, some plants which caught my eye on our visit – only a very few as there were so many.

An interesting range of hydrangeas has been added to the garden. Here are just a few...
An interesting range of hydrangeas has been added to the garden. Here are just a few…
What a blue!
What a blue!
Hydrangea aspera, a divine colour
Hydrangea aspera, a divine colour
This impressive stand of Lilium lancifolium caught everybody's attention. It grows easily from the bulbils produced along the stem. We have some of its offspring at home and they are doing very well.
This impressive stand of Lilium lancifolium caught everybody’s attention. It grows easily from the bulbils produced along the stem. We have some of its offspring at home and they are doing very well.
This colour of this monarda was such a delight
This colour of this monarda was such a delight
Those autumnal colours!
Those autumnal colours!

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Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook