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Margaret's Blog









The evergreen holly is a native species which you will find in a lot of our native forests and woods. Holly dates back to the druid era and it's name as gaeilge is 'Cuileann'. It's evergreen leaves represent immortality; the spines recall Christ's crown of thorns and the red berries drops of his blood. Holly is always used as a decoration in Irish houses – I know in our house, my mum would bless the holly with holy water before putting it up.
Planting and Care of Holly
Holly likes a very well drained soil and a relatively sunny position. It is very hardy and can put up with pretty cold conditions. Holly likes good nutrition in the soil, so use slow release fertilizer when planting and every 6 months from there on.
Male or Female Holly
Most people get very confused with varieties of holly – it is very hard to tell the sex of a holly from the leaf, you would have to wait until it flowers! Generally, if you have a male and female holly in the same garden, you will get a good crop of berries.
My favourite varieties:
'Silver Queen' is a dense small evergreen tree or shrub with purple young shoots and pink-tinged young leaves. Mature leaves spiny, dark green with a broad cream margin. Flowers small, white, male
'Golden King' is a small bushy evergreen tree or shrub with broad ovate, slightly spiny leaves margined with bright yellow. Flowers small, dull white; berries brownish-red, not abundant
'Handsworth New Silver' is a compact, dense evergreen tree or shrub with purple young shoots. Elliptic leaves, to 9cm in length, have spines in plane of leaf, and are broadly margined with white. Flowers small, white, followed by bright red berries
'Madame Briot' is a bushy small evergreen tree with purple young stems. Leaves broadly ovate, spiny, with a bold golden-yellow margin. Flowers small, white; berries bright red



Windfall Cyclamen, the variety we grow here on our nursery is a much hardier variety and will withstand wetter conditions. Yet saying that, how you plant them will dictate how long they will last for you. 
The most important thing is that they dislike wet conditions so you will need to make your soil very free draining. This will be achieved by adding grit or perlite to your soil or compost, the latter being the lighter option. It's the area in contact with the roots that you need to have the grit as this will keep the roots happy. 
The other stumbling block is people have a tendency to plant cyclamen too deep.
Windfall is a fairly new introduction and in trials around Cork last year and the year before, they performed very well! They clump up better and have much more flowers than the older varieties of Cyclamen.
This variety is not readily available everywhere so make what you buy is Windfall – a lot of the imported Cyclamen are not at all hardy! At Griffins, we grow our Windfall Cyclamen along with 80% of our plants, and we ensure every plant is acclimatised to the Cork climate.
Good enough to eat!
Ornamental Cabbages are the coolest heads in town. For performance in cool weather, colour, texture and fantastic container displays, few plants can compare to the amazing ornamental cabbages and kales. These cabbages kept their colour from September until February last year.
Margaret's Tip: keep dry, use plenty of horticultural grit and Westland slow release fertilizer.
3 for 2 on Ornamental Cabbages at Griffins!
Stunning Winter Displays with Cinerarias
A beautiful seasonal display in winter is a wonderful sight to behold, and the Cineraria gives that perfect silvery, frosty look. Could it be the hardiest plant of all time? It's certainly the hardiest I have ever come across and it will happily thrive in the coldest of conditions! To keep Cinerarias looking their best, try to ensure that they are very dry and use plenty of horticultural grit. So easy to grow and great for people who don't like watering!
Spring Woodland Gardens
Everyone can create a woodland garden. Even if you only have one tree in your entire garden, make the most of it and underplant it with some of the following bulbs: Frittalaria, Snowdrops, Bluebells, Chiondoxa, Narcissus, Scillias.
Maybe in your veg plot it would be nice to incorporate and element of spring woodland! Containers and tubs are also ideal for achieving this woodland effect.



Grape hyacinths are hardy, easy to grow, and have long-lasting blooms - no garden should be without them. They are particularly spectacular when allowed to naturalize, whether under trees, along a pathway, tucked into ground covers, or in a bed. 'Blue Magic' has a true-blue hue and is great for forcing. They are fragrant, with good early color. Muscari can be forced and are very adaptable to various growing conditions, but must have well-drained soil.
Other, cultivated varieties of Muscari armeniacum come in different shades of blue, and one variety comes in white. Different species of Muscari provide additional variety in terms of colour and form: Muscari azureum has a somewhat more open and less "grapey" look, Muscari latifolium is two-toned: light and dark blue, and Muscari plumosum is feathery and mauve in colour.
Combinations to plant with Muscari 
The winning combination for me is Muscari  mixed with tete et tete daffodils ,this is a stunning combination of yellow toned down with the blue of muscari. Both these bulbs will come back without fail year after year to give you joy for weeks and weeks. 
Margaret top tip 
Tete-a-Tete Daffodil
This is a vigorous, dwarf daffodil bearing 1-3 flowers in early spring, on average between late February and April. The golden-yellow flowers are perfect to lighten up dark areas and are beautiful in mass plantings.

It is easy to grow and compact, making it ideal for smaller gardens and areas where the traditional size daffodils can be too much. It has been bred to have multiple flowers per bulb for a fantastic bright display. This cultivar can also be grown indoors for early flowering.This is what I call the 'fool proof' daffodil. Even for the gardener that can't seem to grow anything, this variety is so easy to get going. No matter how awful a gardener you may think you are, there's a 100% success rate with this variety so there is no excuse! It really couldn't be simpler, and with that classic daffodil look, it will really give your garden that perfect spring ambience


Margaret's Tip: Soak your bulbs overnight in a mixture of tomato food , this will give to a much longer flowering period, in Spring when your bulbs have finished flowering give them some slow release feeding and this will keep them in top condition for another year


The tulip is one of the most popular spring-time flowers here in Ireland. A bulbous plant, tulips are perennial and come from the genus Tulipa. Tulips thrive in countries with a long cool spring and love well drained soil. Here are our gardening tips on how to grow tulips in your garden this year.
Species tulips are miniature tulips that naturalise in your garden once you plant them you can leave them in the ground from then on, these tulips grow naturally on stoney mountainous soil so lots and lots of grit mixed into ground is the secret to success.
We suggest you fertilise your flowerbeds before commencing work. If you are digging a new bed for first-time planting, find a sunny area in your garden, dig down to a depth of around 30 cm and make sure you work the ground well.
When it comes to putting bulbs in the ground, we suggest you plant them around 3-5 cm deep, with the root portion pointing into the ground. Each tulip should have roughly 12 cm’ free space around it, allowing for good root growth.
If you live in a cold climate, cover the bulbs with mulch. This will help the tulips develop better, and will keep ground frosts at bay until the warmer weather comes later in the season. It’s very important that you remove the mulch when the weather warms up so the flowers can grow.
When your tulips start flowering, you can cut them for indoor use, or leave them to enjoy the company of the rest of your garden. If you do decide to cut them, make sure you leave the green stems alone as they will continue to feed the bulb ready for another year. When the remaining foliage dies, cut it away and leave the bulb to mature for another year – either in the ground – or in your potting shed.
Plant Your Stunning Spring Displays Now!
To get dense and flowery spring pot displays, you have to try layering bulbs in what the Dutch call a 'bulb lasagne', layering them up one on top of another. The largest and latest flowering bulbs go in deepest, moving to the smallest and earliest in the top layer. The emergent shoots of the lower layer bulbs just bend round anything they hit sitting over their heads and keep on growing. 
Done like this, you need to plant the bulbs slightly further apart than you would in a pot with a single layer so 1 to 11/2 inches apart is the right sort of spacing. The first layer can go as deep as 11-12 inches deep. Then cover them over with a couple of inches of potting compost, before you place the next layer of bulbs.
These combinations involve a two-layer lasagne, but you can push it to three, and branch out from just tulips to crocus, narcissus or hyacinths. I’m experimenting with this triple-decker this year. For my deepest layer I’ve chosen the parrot tulip ‘Ballerina’ with the scent of freesias. It’s the last tulip to flower and invaluable for that. In the middle I’ve got a mid-season bulb, good old Tulipa ‘White Emperor’ and I’m also trying out a new variety to me called 'Orange Brilliant'. This has the same silvery-green handsome leaves but is a deeper, richer colour.




Now that's Real Firepower!


Nandina domestica “Firepower” is a low-growing shrub, reaching 2 feet tall. It works well as a ground cover or as a border plant. “Firepower” has bushy foliage that changes color with the seasons. Its leaves are lime green during warmer months, turning brilliant red or burgundy as the weather becomes cooler. “Firepower” plant requires little maintenance, but proper watering, fertilizing and pruning will ensure it develops plenty of foliage. The foliage remains red throughout winter and in spring returns to a light green. One of my favourite winter shrubs.


Skimmia Obsession – a unique new variety with berry and flower

Unlike traditional Skimmia japonica varieties, Skimmia japonica Obsession is hermaphrodite, therefore this hardy, easy to grow evergreen has two superb 
seasonal features – it berries and flowers at the same time. Ideal for brightening 
patio pots and garden borders though autumn, winter and spring. 
In autumn, Obsession has long-lasting red berries in combination with dense 
russet coloured panicles which open to sweetly scented, white star-shaped 
flowers in spring. 
Obsession is ideal for bringing colour to patio pots. It is hardy, evergreen and 
has a neat, dense dome-shaped habit. Eventual height 1.5m approximately 


Skimmia japonica 'Fructo-albo'


Skimmia japonica 'Fructo-albo' is a low, spreading evergreen with dark green leaves and clusters of light green buds which open to strongly fragrant white flowers in spring, followed by long lasting white berries. Grows slowly to 60cm high by 90cm. A female variety which needs a male pollinator nearby to set berries. Plant in moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil, in full or partial shade.It can be grown in a container. This would be ideal with skimmia rubella which is stunning in itself, and being male will also pollinate your white berry 'fructo albo'. Skimmias are hungry so plants they need a lot of feeding. Simply feed them 4 times a year with slow release fertilizer and they will perform fantastically for you.




'In the Pink this Winter'

What you will need: a pot of your choice, John Innes Multi-purpose compost, Slow release feed.

Plants: pernettya (pink berried), bi-colour rose & purple pansies, pink cyclamen


Fill your pot with John Innes compost and then plant your pernettya to the back, 3 cyclamen in the centre and your pansies around the edges!

This combination will give you colour right through until April/May



'The Berry & Ivy Combination'

What you will need: a pot of your choice, John Innes Multi-purpose compost, Slow release feeding tablets (x4)

Plant: skimmia obsession (red translucent berries), gaultheria (low growing berried plant), 3 primrose yellow pansies, 2 wine colour pansies, 2 ivies


Fill your pot as for 'In the Pink this Winter' container (above)

Plant your skimmia in the back, gaultheria to one side, 3 yellow pansies to the centre, 2 wine pansies either side of the skimmia and two trailing ivies at either side.





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