By November, the rose hedge (Rosa 'Hyde Hall') that Dermot was seen planting last week was thriving and was still flowering. It wasn't until the first snow came that it stopped and took a rest.
When the first frosts hit Clondeglass, the dahlias started to die back as the foliage was immediately burnt. Dermot cut them back and composted the foliage. He then proceeded to protect the tubers in the ground by mounding up the beds and applying a thick layer of straw. Ideally, this should be secured with netting to prevent the straw blowing around the garden during winter. The straw can be removed when all signs of frost have gone - usually by early May. It's also very important to keep an eye out for slugs, which may have overwintered with the shelter provided. Newly emerging dahlia foliage would be very vulnerable to attack.
As winter set in, Dermot started to secure bird nesting boxes around the garden. This was important to allow the nesting boxes to weather and for local birds to become accustomed to seeing them. Freshly bought boxes put up in spring can smell of your hands, which can deter some birds. By putting them up early, they've had plenty of time to weather and settle in.
Dermot is experimenting, trying out borderline tender plants in Clondeglass - plants which would not generally be grown outside in the midlands. To give added to protection, he uses horticultural fleece, which is widely available in good garden centres around the country. This is perfect for using on plants such as scheffleras, of which he grows quite a few, acquired from Finlay Colley who specialises in rare and tender plants. Finlay is based at Clondalkin Nurseries, Kilmatead, Green Isle Road, Clondalkin (Junction 2 off the N7 at the Kingswood Interchange).
Dermot was seen at the Irish Antiques Dealers fair in the RDS, where he was hunting for bargains. More details of the Irish Antiques Dealers Association can be found at www.iada.ie
Sweet pea are extremely easy to grow from seed. To speed up germination, it's a good idea to 'chit' the seed in advance of sowing. This means putting a very small chip in the outer hard surface of the seed. This allows the seed to absorb water more readily, encouraging it to germinate which could often be slow. Dermot selected varieties that are noted for having exceptionally good fragrance, from Thompson & Morgan seeds. Dermot sowed Lathyrus odoratus 'Fragrantissima' and a beautiful purple/blue variety called L. O. 'Matucana'. These were sourced through www.mrmiddleton.com To prevent the seeds being buried further in their seed trays, Dermot watered them from the base to allow the water to be slowly soaked up. He then drained them, covered the trays and put them in a sheltered, protected place. Within the week, they germinated and he exposed them to a bright spot out of direct sunlight. They were allowed to grow on as individual plants and when they reached 5-6 inches in height, he pinched out the growing tips to encourage side shoots. Sweet pea flower on their lateral shoots and this is one way to encourage the plants to provide extra flowering.
For many years, Dermot has been collecting Nerines. They are a South African bulb, which flower late in the year, starting in October often right through into early the following year. They grow well in pots and Dermot has put his collection in an Irish-made greenhouse, which he insulates with bubble wrap to help keep out excessive cold.
The nerines are watered sparingly in winter. Many of the varieties in the collection are Irish cultivars which were raised by Doris Findlater. Other varieties have been sourced from Nicholas de Rothschild at Exbury Nurseries (www.nerines.com). Dermot's collection also contains a substantial number of Sir Peter Smither's hybrids, which were developed at his garden Vico Morcote, Ticino, Switzerland.
Tender hybrid nerines have been developed from the familiar nerine that comes from South African and is seen in many Irish garden (Nerine bowdenii). Dermot grows them in free-draining compost and allows them to slightly dry between watering. The foliage develops after the plants flower and, with established plants, he occasionally gives a light liquid feed.
Dermot is an enthusiastic grower of magnolias and has been collecting them for a number of years. The plants are settling in well at Clondeglass and his own private collection is now in excess of 40 different varieties.
Dermot stressed the importance of not compacting the soil around magnolias. This means that it's very important not to walk around the plants. He uses circular coir mulch mats around the base of each tree, which gives added protection, and then covers them with homemade garden compost to disguise them and also feed the trees.
Dermot thins some of the established hazel bushes, which are just outside the walled garden. By thinning them using a chainsaw, it helps to generate new growth to encourage fresh hazelnuts for the following year. These are much-loved by the red squirrels that visit Clondeglass. It's very important to use safety equipment, as recommended by the supplier of the power tools. Dermot uses a safety helmet and visor along with professional gloves while using his chainsaw. Tools and safety equipment used in the programme were kindly provided by Husqvarna (www.husqvarna.com/ie)
Inspired by his visits to Monet's garden at Giverny with The Travel Department, Dermot commissioned Dieter Taesler from Mountrath (087 663 9906) to make climbing rose supports which were used as arches up the central pathway in the garden. Dermot intends to smother these with a wide range of different climbing rose varieties, as well as some late flowering clematis to help extend the season.
Dermot visited good friend Thelma Mansfield at her home in Dublin and presented her with a rambling rose called 'Thelma'. This rose was raised in the 1920s and has a lovely apricot peachy coloured flower. It's strong growing so he helped Thelma to select the right spot to allow it to develop. The rose is difficult to get in Ireland and he recommends Peter Beale roses in the UK, who mail order (www.classicroses.co.uk)
Thelma is now a noted artist, with an emphasis on landscapes and coastal scenes. She showed Dermot some of her recent artwork in her studio which is at the end of her courtyard style garden (www.thelmamansfield.ie)
In the courtyard, growing against Thelma's studio, is a fig she planted 15 years ago. This is the variety 'Brown Turkey', which grows extremely well in Irish gardens. Dermot recommended that the roots be restricted to encourage more fruiting. Thelma did this and agrees that it worked extremely well as her fig produces at least 200 fruits per year.
Back at Clondeglass, there was more work going on in the house, including the installation of a chandelier, which Dermot had bought 20 years ago. It had been badly damaged and was in a poor condition. Dermot got Ger Clancy of Clancy Chandeliers in Bray, Co Wicklow to restore and install the chandelier for him (www.clancychandeliers.com)
Dermot also hung a tapestry that he had picked up at a flea market in Paris.
At the end of the programme, Dermot invited some friends to dinner to celebrate the progress made in Clondeglass to date. Sheila Farrelly, Brian O'Donnell and Tanguy de Toulgoët sat down to a hearty meal of beef stew.
Dermot made this using vegetables from the garden along with local beef bought from a butcher in Mountrath.
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and add one finely chopped onion and a clove of finely chopped garlic. Then add around 3 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces to add extra flavour. After this, Dermot added approx .5 kg of tender sirloin steak, chopped into strips. This was browned over a low heat. To this, Dermot added 2 orange and 1 yellow carrot with 1 chopped parsnip. Then a good tablespoon of flower was sprinkled into the saucepan to prevent it going into a thick ball. A large teaspoon of tomato puree was added for extra flavour, and then a glass of water and a glass of red wine along with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and 3 fresh bay leaves from the garden. These were gently crushed to help release flavour. Then Dermot stirred the mix together and put the lid on. The pot was left to simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally, over a low heat.In a separate pot, he put washed potatoes and washed Jerusalem artichokes. These were separated from the stew as, when they cook, they could dissolve and disappear into the stew.