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Anois teacht an earraigh, beidh an lá dul chun síneadh, ‘s tar eis na Féile Bhríde, ardeoidh me mo sheoil.

This saying is very apt for this month, the coming of Spring, the lengthening of days after St. Brigids day, we will sing aloud. So it is with us in the garden, so get those extra layers on and get out and enjoy yourself, listen to the birds and watch as plants and bulbs alike burst miraculously from the soil.

The snow and frost we had in the west over Christmas has unfortunately done a lot of damage to plants in the garden, in particular, to what we regard as seaside plants; the Escallonia family, Hebes, Olerias, Griselinia, Senecio, etc and evergreen plants with soft foliage such as Ceanothus and Pittosporums. These all have a black/brown appearance at the moment. Most of them should recover so leave them for now. You can help by feeding them in March/April (when they start actively growing again) with any brand of trees and shrub fertiliser or with 7:6:17, (a potato fertiliser) at a rate of 2 ozs per plant. There may be some dieback along the stems and this can be pruned away later in the spring.

As this month holds very little colour for us anything that does flower in the border or peeks through the cold chilly soil to greet us seems to stand out majestically. Some of my favourite plants appear at this time of year; Viburnum Bodnantense is a deciduous shrub that grows up to 10 ft. It has shell pink fragrant blooms from December to March, borne on the bare stems. Hamamelis, commonly known as Witch Hazel has spidery type flowers that are fragrant and resistant to severe frost. They come in a range of colours from red, orange to yellow. It’s a large shrub growing up to 10–12ft and prefers an acid soil. Varieties with yellow flowers have the best scent and a good variety is Hamamelis Mollis Pallioa. One of the most popular plants at this time of year is the Camellia with its brilliant paeonia type flowers against glossy green foliage. They prefer acid soil but make a good tub plant, so most people can enjoy their beauty, glossy foliage and blooms from February/March until May, depending on varieties, growing to a height of 6–8ft. They have a reputation for being difficult but if you can avoid cold winds and the morning sun (it damages the buds) you should have no problem. Lastly, in the shrub line is an old reliable, the winter flowering heather. Erica Arthur Johnson is a good variety growing to 2 ft with very long pink flower sprays that are ideal for cutting and defy the coldest weather.

The first of the bulbs to appear are snowdrops and early crocus varieties and a bulb that is becoming more increasingly popular, the cyclamen coum. They are easy to naturalise in rich soil beneath trees where it doesn’t mind the shade and creates a carpet of colour through the winter.

That’s it for now, happy gardening,
Bosco McDermott, Jnr., Glynn’s Garden Centre, Lydican, Oranmore. (091) 799135