With winter over, spring has arrived at Clondeglass. There's colour to be seen in the borders, especially from the hundreds of tulips that were planted the previous autumn. In the main border, Dermot uses red varieties in repetition, which gives the sense of the border being longer than it really is. The dramatic colour works extremely well with the freshness of the green foliage coming up from plants that will flower later. The backbone of this tulip display is the red tulip 'Ile de France', along with the dark maroon 'Queen of Night'.
Further along, in the rose garden, Dermot uses lighter colours and he chose the double early tulip 'Angelique', which produces striking pink flowers. Alongside this is the white lily-flowered tulip 'White Triumphator'. Closeby are plantings of the rich blue flowered Camassia leichtlinii.
Tulips are best planted late in the season. Weather permitting, November and into December is an excellent time. Well-drained soil and planting them deeply helps to sustain them for more than one year. Dermot recommends planting them in groups to get best impact, rather than planting them singly or in rows. Also, it's important to do a little homework in advance if you're planning on buying and planting a lot of tulips as there are dozens of different varieties available and it is possible to select them to give a succession of colour, starting early, and continuing late in the season.
Camassia is a plant that's not fussy about soil, providing it has reasonably good drainage. It will grow in sun or shade and is long-lived. After four or five years, it may need to be lifted and divided. The colour is very effective, especially when grown against a rich, dark green background. Dermot uses it successfully to contrast with tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs.
Dermot is keen to use local crafts people and he approached the company CJ Sheeran, who own a large sawmill in Mountrath. They are well known for manufacturing timber gates of the best quality along with many other timber products which are suitable for gardens. Dermot met with Damien Bowe who showed him around the workshop and discussed the various options available for a timber gate for Clondeglass. www.timberfencinggates.ie
Dermot likes to use organic feeds where possible. In this programme, he has prepared a liquid feed made from nettles and comfrey grown in the garden. This has been allowed to rot down and is then diluted. He adds it as a tonic using a watering can, to give a boost to the apple trees.
The tonic is made by using a barrel or a large container which can be sealed. You fill this with fresh water and into it put plenty of nettle and comfrey leaves. These are allowed to slowly rot down over several weeks. Warning: It does create a horrific smell! Place it well away from the house. Once the process is completed, the resulting mixture can be added to water and used as a natural tonic for plants. It's exceptionally useful with plants that are establishing.
Before Dermot became ill, he took part in a challenge set for him by Derek Mooney and the Mooney Show. This involved him singing for the first time with the National Concert Orchestra conducted by David Brophy.
In order to take part in this challenge, Dermot took lessons with Kathryn Smith of the Leinster School of Music, based in Griffith College, Dublin. Since then, Dermot's treatment took its toll and he had to withdraw from lessons for several months. However, on his return to the college to once again study with Kathryn, he found that the training had stood to him and that he would be able to regain his singing voice.
In spring, the polytunnel came into its own, providing the perfect location and conditions for starting off crops that need shelter. These included the wide range of tomatoes, including many varieties that Dermot was trying for the first time with Tanguy's help.
Some of Dermot's favourite tomato varieties include:
A popular small-fruited variety, grown for its fantastic flavour, which will make your mouth water. Very reliable and prolific with long trusses of bite-sized fruits. It may also be grown outdoors in warm sheltered positions.
In the 50's and 60's this was one of the most widely grown open pollinated varieties, for uniformity of fruit, colour and above all else flavour - there is little to compare. Well named as it has made a lot of money in years gone by for both semi professional and commercial growers alike. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor cultivation.
An excellent all purpose variety that produces a heavy crop of fine flavoured tomatoes indoors or out. It's been around for more than 60 years? Some say there is no finer flavour. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor cultivation.
Ideal variety for beginners. Tomato Alicante is a superior variety possessing all the things we look for in a tomato. Tomato Alicante produces a heavy crop of greenback free fruit early in the season and the flavour is excellent.
The polytunnel also allowed Dermot to grow unusual tender vegetables like the Chinese Five Colour Pepper (Capsicum annuum), which was grown for its colour and ornamental value as well as for its culinary value. He also tried aubergine and, with Tanguy's recommendation, he went for the Italian variety 'Cima Viola', which produces a long, slim, shiny fruit that is deep purple/black in colour. The flesh is very compact and has only a few seeds. Grown in favourable conditions, it's very prolific and keeps you going with quite an amount of fruit.
Bloom is Ireland's biggest gardening event www.bloominthepark.com, taking place in the Phoenix Park, Dublin during the June Bank Holiday weekend (Thursday 2nd - Monday 6th June, 2011), and is sponsored by Bord Bia. Dermot visited the show in 2010 and met up with Thomas Quearney from Mr Middleton Garden Shop www.mrmiddleton.com, who had a really spectacular display vegetables, all grown from Thompson & Morgan seeds to the highest standards.
Dermot also met with Orla Woods of Kilmurry Nursery who, with her husband Paul, won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show and, last year, won a silver gilt medal at bloom. Their nursery is renowned for its marvellous stock of perennials www.kilmurrynursery.com
Plants that Dermot discussed with Orla included:
Dermot also visited the Victorian walled garden beside the Pheonix Park Visitor Centre, newly restored by the OPW, which is open to the public every day from 10am - 5pm www.phoenixpark.ie
After waiting for many years, Dermot at last found an old-fashioned, Georgian-style fireplace with lots of character, which would add a focal point to the small cottage. He got the advice and assistance of fireplace expert Sean O'Meara who took the fireplace and cut it to size to fit the proportions of the small room. www.marblefireplaces.ie
Liquid feeding helps to stimulate extra flowers and as flowers fade, deadheading will also help to continue the display.
Watch out for weeds and deal with them before they become established as it will save you a lot of work and energy later in the season.
Newly established plants may need watering as, even with rainy spells, it can be dry at the base of a wall.
Keep a constant eye out for slug and snail attack and use organic products to prevent devastation of newly emerging shoots, especially with plants like hostas.
These will be coming into flower and will appreciate (once they are established) a regular liquid feed. For flowering plants, a liquid tomato feed can be very beneficial.
Greenhouse plants can be potted on. Make sure to use the best quality potting compost available and always provide maximum drainage for plants.