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Margaret's Blog







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.


Lamb Liver Champ Potatoes 2





  • 1lb lamb's liver
  • 125g smoked sliced bacon (rashers)
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch spring onion, chopped
  • 1lb potatoes for mash
  • gravy





  1. Cook the potatoes for mash and set aside
  2. Gently cooked the sliced onions without colour for 10 minutes until soft
  3. Slice the lamb's liver and coat in flour, pan fry each side in butter for 2 minutes
  4. Grill the smoked rashers, asdd the cooked onions to the gravy. Add the chopped spring onions to the mash
  5. To plate up, first put a scoop of the champ potato on the plate, then layer the smoked rashers and slices of lamb liver on top. Pour the onion gravy over the liver and bacon and garnish with a sprig of flat leaf parsley.


Honey Ham Hock




  • 2 Ham hocks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns



  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 20g butter
  • 1tsp dijon mustard
  • 1tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 30ml white wine
  • 150ml beef stock
  • 1/2 tsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 tbsp flour



  • 100g honey
  • 30g grain mustard




  1. Soak the ham hocks overnight in water to remove any excess salt.
  2. Wash the ham hocks in water and put them into a pot with the onions, carrot, bay leaf, cloves and peppercorns.
  3. Cover with cold water, bring to and simmer for 2.5-3 hours until cooked.
  4. Remove the hocks from the cooking liquid, allow to cool slightly, enough to handle using a knife discard most of the outer layer of fat with a knife.
  5. Mix the honey and grain mustard together and glaze the ham hocks.
  6. Place on a roasting tray and cook for a further 40mins in the oven at 180°C
  7. To make the sauce, first cook the shallots with butter in a pot, add the flour and tomato puree and cook out. Add the mustards, white wine and beef stock, stirring well and cook for a further 15 mins until ready.
  8. Serve with mashed potato, roast carrots and parsnips.





This is just a low fat, healthier version of regular coleslaw with all the taste and flavour of it's full fat relation! 




  • 1/2 small coleslaw cabbage

  • 2 carrots, coarsley grated

  • 6 spring onions, chopped

  • 2tsp rapeseed oil

  • 2tsp white wine vinegar

  • 2tsp wholegrain mustard

  • 2 tsp natural yogurt

  • 2 tbsp low fat creme fraiche

  • 2tbsp orange juice

  • salt & pepper





  1. Finely shred or chop the cabbage and mix together with the grated carrot and chopped spring onions
  2. Mix the remainder of the ingredients together and add to the cabbage mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.





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