February saw the start of my new evening lecture series in Trinity College - A Garden of Four Seasons. Prompted by chats with students from my day class I thought what better way to prepare the hobby gardener with the tools to fill their garden with interest all year round. Each lecture concentrates on a different season detailing what looks best when with some tips on maintaining the plants once they have become established in your garden. Starting with spring, I could say this was my favourite season but then each lecture reminds me how much I love different aspects of each season, so I suppose the series is full of my favourite things about gardening, season by season!
The talks kicked off last Thursday, February 1st with the first in the series extolling the virtues of all the wonderful spring bulbs. First, we had the humble snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) brightening up the winter garden but full of giddy promise that spring is just around the corner. I love the term Galanthophile meaning one who has a particular penchant for this delicate little bloom and who could resist them when you really hunker down and take in their delicate form, nodding away with abandon on the blusteriest of days. They lend themselves well to most urban gardens providing a whiter than white pop of colour when most of the garden remains asleep.
Other spring flowering bulbs I mentioned include the short-lived but equally charming crocus (Crocus vernus) which comes in such wonderful hues of white, mustard yellow and rich, papal purples peppered with bright yellow stamen. Not to be confused with the autumn crocus (Crocus sativus) from which saffron is derived. We also looked at the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) which always reminds me of a cheeky court jester with its collar of lobed-leaves. Other firm favourites included the wind flower (Anemone blanda), cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium and C. coum) and of course who could talk about spring bulbs without including the vast array of daffodils and tulips. I have always been a great fan of the etymology of plant names and still chuckle to myself when I think of Narcissus, the namesake of the daffodil and how he came to his untimely demise when he caught his own reflection in a pool, instantly falling in love with who he saw, eventually losing the will to live as he was unable to stop staring at this perceived beauty, hence the origins of narcissism.
Having chatted to the audience about bluebells and the differences between our native species (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and the introduced Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) which by the way can be identified by the way in which the inflorescence is held on the stem (native bluebells are pendulous and held on one side, whereas Spanish bluebells are arranged in whorls around the stem and can be white or pink). I noted, regardless of how attractive bluebells can be they are thuggish and quite invasive, a trait which is common to both species but is it better to have a native invasive rather than an alien? I let the audience decide themselves!
Before time ran away, I listed some herbaceous perennials which every gardener should try to add to their collection including my all-time favourite – hellebores. From the speckled faces of the Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) to the sublime lime flowers of the holly-leaved hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius), these long-lasting blooms add much needed interest for weeks on end when most herbaceous borders are still deep in slumber. I also included some of my favourite spring flowering trees from cherry blossoms to the delicate Magnolia stellata which is perfect for a small suburban garden.
This Thursday, February 8th, I will move onto what looks well during the summer and will include some useful tips on gardening in small spaces. Tickets are still available so can be purchased in cash on the door for only €10 per lecture. If you would like to attend any of the remaining lectures, please do get in touch on
086 393 8467 or email@example.com.
Happy February Everyone and of course Happy Gardening!