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.
I love this time of year – it’s still busy with weddings but the frantic nature of summer is slipping away and there is time to ‘smell the roses’ so to speak. I can enjoy my morning coffee ambling around the garden without that niggling guilt to do this or that. It’s time to soak it all in and make mental plans for next year but also to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
As with each season, some flowers do amazingly well and some are a complete disaster; the funny thing is what’s good in one year isn’t necessarily the same in subsequent years. It all depends on weather and what a year this one has been – wind, rain and cold, the joys of living at the foot of Nowen hill.
Dahlias are magnificent now but sweet William, malva, feverfew and calendula outside are reduced to a soggy mess. The poor ammi magus is struggling now but daucus carota and the late summer heleniums, rudbeckias and antirrhinum are all coping well. I love fennel for its scent and I couldn’t arrange with out some umbellifiers. Another mixed bag this year.
It will be a busy winter, reviewing and rearranging planting schemes trying to cover every eventuality, a challenge but an enjoyable one.
Our summer sown sweet William, hesperis, honesty, foxgloves and wall flowers are really after bulking out and will be planted out in their permanent beds mid September in a new moon phase (September 13) giving them plenty of time to establish a healthy root system ready for what winter will throw at us.
September is a great month to divide perennials and direct sow hardy annuals like cornflower, calendula and nigella – they won’t look like much until late spring but will put on a great show bridging the May gap between spring bulbs and summer perennials. Prepare a bed ensuring its weed free and just scatter the seed but if you take a little extra time and sow in rows it will be easer to weed in the spring.
Lots of sowing still going on here, with a full propagator of sweet peas, antirrhinum, ammi, stock and poppies, to give colour and delicious scent next spring. We sow a lovely sweet pea ‘winter elegance’, which if the winter is mild, can be in flower as early as April. Heading in to a full moon phase now, the big tidy-up will happen; the last quarter is a great time for weeding, pruning and clearing and also there are bulbs to be lifted, divided and re-planted with the promise of spring to come. No rest for the wicked.
We have had a glut of chicks this year. At one stage we had four hens on eggs having hatched from the start to the end of April this year; but the strangest thing has happened – they are out of the runs for about six weeks now and three of them are still with their chicks, happy to be mothering them even though they are quite capable of fending for themselves. I’ve never experienced this before – usually when they are about thirteen weeks they are given their marching orders.
Our bats have survived this torrid year and raised young, although we haven’t seen that much of them with the ‘horrible bat weather’.
We are still tripping over blackbirds, wrens and robins and dunnocks and chaffinches have done well too.
We are finishing with markets for this year and a huge thank you to Hannah and Rachael in Organico for stocking our flowers again this year. Our gourmet edibles are almost at an end although we still have plenty of regular edibles. It’s going to be great to finally have time to experiment with new recipes and flavours; we’re especially proud of our allergy free nasturtium and basil pesto, where we substituted fresh nasturtium seed for pine nuts and pecorino cheese for parmesan – it’s delicious.
Lots of weddings still to do, which will keep us busy for September and October and we will be talking a stand at the Southern Brides Wedding Fair at Silver Springs on September 26 and 27.
What fun we had last month doing the flowers for Dervla Burke’s (Crystal Swing) themed wedding on August 15; I can’t say too much, but all the flowers were edible and it will be aired in October on RTE television and later on BBC – the programme is called ‘Stetsons and Stilettos’.