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Margaret's Blog









Kids just want to have fun in the garden. They want to get their hands dirty - they have the instinct to know this will make them feel good, and it does! When we are in direct contact with the earth, soil or mud, a natural chemical is released in our bodies - this is commonly known as 'the happy chemical'. It makes us feel good it is a natural anti-depressant.

Children from an early age want to be outside climbing trees, exploring in rock pools, kicking up leaves and jumping into water puddles. They love it, but usually parents or guardians interfere and stop their children from all these activities. Yet at the same time they don't mind their kids looking at the television for long periods because it's a great way to keep them quiet! Essentially, what this means is they don't function, don't ask questions and don't get any exercise, but it's great to keep them quiet, as is the Nintendo and Playstation etc.


How many of us have a garden that encourages kids to be creative, use their imagination and have fun exploring? How many parents have given their children the chance to experience growing and eating their homegrown food? Do many children know anything other than over processed food? Are we content to allow this to continue?


May I ask you to do one thing? Go out and buy a head of lettuce from a supermarket. Now at the same time go to your nearest allotment and ask some-one for a head of home grown lettuce. Take both home and see which lasts longer, the home grown lettuce will be fresh for one day, the supermarket one can last for 2 weeks - is this natural? It has been laced with sprays to keep it fresh. Are you happy digesting all these chemicals? Well, we must be because we all buy from these supermarkets. We must ask ourselves, is it great for our health, and for our children's health?

As a parent have you spent time with your children looking for frogspawn, planting a snowdrop bulb, digging for worms, making a tree house, building a nesting box or picking blackberries? I think as we are  post celtic tiger era, its time to do all these things with our children. If space is an issue, use pots and containers, use wall space, every area should be utilised to grow some thing! Start today - you will have great fun and your kids will thank you for the great memories. Come on, this weekend get out and about and get those hands dirty…it will make you happy!

Leucothoe Scarletta



The Leucothoe Scarletta makes an excellent ornamental groundcover shrub.  It has long, slim and glossy leaves which are a burgundy-red colour, as the plant matures, the leaves turn green and they take on a stunning bronze tints during the autumn months.  The leaves of the Leucothoe Scarletta are shiny, and have metallic effect created by the sunlight shining onto them. It has dense dark green foliage that is rich red when young and also in winter . From mid to late spring small white bell like flowers are held under the foliage.


As a woodland plant, the leucothoe scarletta makes a brilliant shrub to be planted alongside rhododendrons as it thrives in low light levels and acidic soils.

Scarletta makes truely striking groundcover under shrubs where it will add interest and colour especially in winter





Acorus 'ogon'


This dwarf cultivar of grassy-leaved sweet flag (to 10 inches tall and 6 inches wide) has linear fans of semi-evergreen, glossy, pale green and cream-striped leaves that have an overall golden effect. This is a perennial with showy foliage that looks really well all year round but especially in winter,it loves our winters with plenty of rainfall, it does not like dry conditions so its definitely a great plant for that 'wet spot' where you can't grow anything else.



Japanese Azalea


Japanese azalea 


Who can't resist an azalea in flower, with its vibrant flowers in Spring that flower for quite a long time,this plant will flower quite happy in shade, but it does like lime-free soil, because of its short root system even if your soil is limey by adding ericaceous compost you will be o.k. with this, azaleas like a moist soil though not too wet. Not much happens them in the way of pests or disease, so all in all an easy plant to grow. Lots of people find azaleas die easily, I think this is because they get dry in Spring especially in the easterly wind,so to avoid this you need to mulch your plants in winter, you can use a mulch of your choice be it compost, grit or slate mulch, the main thing is you need to keep moisture in the ground. Azaleas like any other spring flowering shrub must avoid early morning sun, so not east facing.

Austin Port Sunlight Rose



I have discovered over time that these roses take nearly 3 years to get well established. They vary greatly in habit, which means the pruning instructions also vary, but in general the information I'm giving you now is very accurate for Cork gardens. Soil conditions will differ, but these guidelines will help you to produce well shaped bushes that will hold these very heavy flowers. The main thing is to establish a good shape and this is really what takes time.


You should continuously prune throughout the summer, only cutting back stems by about 4 inches, but you are repeating this cutting back throughout the first few years. Personally, I don't approve of just one cutting back in winter or spring - cut back continuously from spring, never cutting back more than 4 inches. Keep shaping the bush to a good sturdy shape with nice thick strong stems - the latter is imperative to the overall success of your bush. 


Why do some roses develop week spindly stems?


Well, this is partly down to the pruning I have spoken about, but also feeding. Too much nitrogen will cause weak growth. I find Roses need a lot of feeding - a little and often is the best, not one feed in spring and nothing else. Again, this depends on your soil. Some soil will be richer than others, so it is a good idea is a good idea to do a soil test – then you will know exactly what your requirements are!


My Proven Feeding Recipe


Use slow release feed in February – 2 tablespoons per bush, then mulch (with a product of your choice).

When you know the weather has picked up in spring, feed with Sudden Impact & Dried Blood – a fistful every 2 weeks.

By early June, your roses should be flowering well and no more feeding will be necessary until August, when I would repeat the slow release feed application.


Weak Roses or ones in need of extra feeding:

Repeat as above, but include liquid feeds of Maxi-Crop plant tonic once a week. This will get the root system strong and vigorous and will transform your rose bush!

Flowers in La Gacilly 1


Whilst writing this I'm away from Griffins for the first time in 27 years. Usually my time out is spent in west Kerry and always around the last week in august and never July. But I'm here in north west Brittany in a village called La Gacilly, a village noted for its flowers and art - and wow is it spectacular! Flowers absolutely everywhere: on bridges on walls of shops, on houses, and all the pavements have tubs and tubs of flowers. It is truly amazing to see, and in temperatures of 32°C, they are still fresh as a daisy, not a wilted plant in sight!


The reason I'm here is one of my sons is taking part in the world coarse fishing competition, which takes place on the river Villain on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th July. There is a contingent of approximately 60 here from ireland, and I think they have 4 teams in all. Great credit is due to their coaches and managers, as the logistics of bringing over all that fishing gear is quite mind boggling! We are very excited to be a part of this amazing competition in such beautiful surroundings, and we hope it goes well.

But let's go back to those wonderful flowers, shall we? What struck me most about the floral displays in this charming village is the variety of plants that are included - things like Verbena Bonariensis, large grasses, lots of foliage plants like aluminium plants and a whole lot more.


The other thing that I noticed was the amount of baskets that were placed very close together to give maximum impact, it is really quite simple and so effective. The quaint streets are lined with so many magnificent floral displays and I really love the way they use a bit of imagination and art in the village, decorating their doors with climbers, filling objects like painted chairs and boot or shoes with flowers. Little touches like this lend a nice arty tone the place, something some of our villages in Cork could do with. The effect these displays have on tourism is immense, and it brings a great spirit to a village or town. Peroskia (Russian Sage) is used a lot, as is lavender and dill, so as well as sight, the sense of smell is used to great effect as well .I will have lots of pictures up in the next few days so stay in touch!


Back to routine jobs to be done: continue to deadhead as often as you can, the more frequent you do it the better your displays will be. Extra feeding is needed now as all the watering that has been done over the heatwave has flushed all the nutrients out of the compost. Remember the golden rule of feeding: a little and often!

An occasional feed of high nitrogen ('Miracle Grow') is useful now and back to the usual tomato food from then on. Happy gardening!






  • Olive oil
  • Honey
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper
  • Whole grain mustard
  • Orange juice




1. Put 4 large tablespoons of mustard in to the blender

2. Add 8 tablespoons of honey and blend together

3. Add 150ml of white wine vinegar

4. Add 1L of Olive Oil while blending

5. Add juice from two oranges

6. Add a pinch of salt and pepper


et voila, a delicious dressing to complement a nice fresh salad!





So you don't have a garden!  Well do you have a patio, courtyard or balcony? Not having a garden doesn't mean you can't have the fragrances and colour of your childhood garden. Remember the smell of phlox, stocks and lavenders, not to mention those wonderful carnations you associate with your Gran's garden. Now you can re-create your own secret haven and all in containers.




Phlox red riding hood and the two tone variety is called Peppermint.

Artemisia is that wonderful silver foliage plant that keeps its feathery silver effect for most of the year.

Hardy osteospermum that flower from May to Oct 

Echinacea or cone flower that will be faithful throughout the summer.

Astilbe with its soft plumes of rich pink throughout summer.

Iresine the beetroot red foliage plant that all men adore 

The combination in this pot goes from shades of soft pink through to fuchsia pinks and this combined with sparkling silvers and vivid reds gives a lively yet gentle atmosphere.- 




A fresh fruity look is created with









Soft and rustic this collection will take you back to your gran's garden 


Penstemons [looking very like foxgloves]

Astilbes in soft white 



Agryanthemum in rich crimson 

Osteospermum in soft pink with that lovely deep eye. 


These are just some lovely combinations I find very good together. , of course somewhere on the patio I would have to have a pot filled with lavender, and another pot spilling over with  Agapanthus which will reward you with big balls of the bluest flowers ever.

 If you have a blank wall you wish to cover and keep things in the cottage style,I would have to recommend scented roses and summer jasmine,last night while garden very late in the evening I was engulfed in the fragrance of both of these and it was so enchanting, like being on a tropical island,combined with the lushness of the lee valley. The last few weeks has shown everyone that there's no place like Ireland in good weather. Enjoy these wonderful evenings in your own space.




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