All you can eat in the flower garden

Posted on: 4th August, 2015

Category: Home & Garden

Contributor: Ruby Harte

Ruby Harte (a.k.a Mags Riordan) has been a professional florist for over 12 years and has completed a course in horticulture and worked in garden centres, wholesale nurseries, and private gardens. Ruby runs a family owned nursery, Bumble Bee Farm in Castledonovan, Drimoleague and is deeply concerned about the protection and cultivation of nature and its habitats.

Water tables should be sufficiently replenished after al the rain we have had this July; it seems since the Solstice, it has hardly stopped here, it’s one of the drawbacks of living at the base of a ‘mountain’ (it’s only a hill but a big one). A bit depressing with wind, rain and heavy low cloud, which has played havoc with some of our outdoor plants like calendula and sweet William reducing them to a soggy mess. I’m often tempted to only have certain varieties outside during the summer, but as sure as ‘eggs are eggs’ we will have unseasonable weather systems and it pays to have some under cover as well. I would love to grow more roses but they hate our climate here in Castledonovan and have had a thoroughly miserable July.

Our edibles are our success story for this year, what a month we have had. We have started a weekly run to Killarney supplying some fabulous hotels.

I love seeing chefs’ faces when we show them our edible flower product range and the tasting is great fun with the different flavours and textures. Some things like Sweet William are beautiful on a stem but when you break it down to an individual flower head you really get to see the intricate beauty in stunning detail. I’m loving the different flavours between different varieties of the same species and because all our plants are soil based and feed organically we have better flavour and longer lasting.

The different flavours in our Dahlia collection are unbelievable, some are sharp and crunchy, while some are soft and sweet, but Café Au Lait has to be my favourite in every department —stunning looks and a delicious flavour to boot.

I’d bore you with all the change we are making here on the farm and the new products we are introducing, but suffice it to say we will look a lot different for our next open day.

We have been frantically potting up our biennials and they will have filled out beautifully ready to be planted out late August or early September. As I’m writing this, herb work is foremost in my mind being in a waxing phase and the best time for such work, I’m in love with our new additions and its funny how things change, I used to look at colour, texture and scent but now flavour has become paramount.

We have a very busy month ahead with weddings but one in particular has us very excited — it will be our first ‘edible wedding flowers’ and you’ll be able to see it in the Autumn because its being filmed for RTE and the BBC,  ‘no pressure’. More on that next month.

I’ve taken some before and after shots on the top of the garden, an area that we started working on this time last year. We’re very happy with the progress but a lot more to still be done, love the astilbes, hebes, agapanthus and hydrangeas. Must still put in cosmos for late colour.

We will be displaying both modern and historic edible flowers for Lughnasagh, the outreach talk in Triskel, on August 7, fro, culminating in the harvest festival of Lughnasagh, which will show case a wonderful selection of food including our edibles. It’s wonderful to see people interested in our heritage; Niamh one of the organisers has been thrilled with the response and interest in the talks; while it is free, it is ticketed, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Our native birds seem to be coping with the weather okay; we are tripping over baby blackbirds, chaffinches, wrens and robins, plenty of warblers too, but the swallows and bats are having a horrid time, I’ve seen very few baby swallows and very irregular sightings of our bats, I hope they are okay.

We never got around to putting up fruit cages, so the blackbirds had gorged them selves on our redcurrants again this year; I managed to get a few gooseberries though.

There hasn’t been any need to put water out for the birds but care needs to be taken when putting out scraps like bread crumbs, especially in dry weather, reason being the crumbs dry up and shrink and some inexperienced parents may feed then to their young and with moisture the crumbs swell and can choke baby birds, not a pretty sight.

With the increased interest in our edibles, we are limiting our bouquet production; while it was a difficult decision to make, we will no longer be growing plants for sale and we have a ‘buy two get one free offer’ on while stocks last, basically if you can’t eat it we will no longer be growing it. We will be open at selected times but do ring first, as there are days when we are so busy that it would not be possible to deal with plant sales.

Here’s to a fine August, enjoy your garden and all the wonderful flora and fauna around you.


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