This is the journal of my endeavours to grow a range of fruit, veg and flowers from seed, grow organically, and my attempts to create a personal paradise with 1/2 acre of maintained gardens and 1/2 acre wild meadows. Northern Ireland's average daily high temperatures are 18 °C (64 °F) in July and 6 °C (43 °F) in January. Soil type: Clay

Saturday 30 May 2015

Pottering in the Garden

When I 'work' in the garden, I don't consider it a chore... I consider it a bit of play time. It's a time to get my hands dirty, do something messy, get creative, and try something new. Pottering about has become one of my favourite past times. 

Earlier in the month, walking around our local Garden Show, I was struck by all the great ideas others have come up with, and it was great to see young people and children getting involved in the show. 

Here are some playful and creative ideas from our local Garden Show...
The winning 'Team Garden Challenge'  was created by young Level 2 Horticultural students. I've seen this design idea used a number of times, and it's always eye catching and effective. I particularly like the old boots planted with alpines. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Above: Local schools get involved in creating 'edible gardens' - this one has a cute little chick made from an egg shell with what looks like watercress growing from it, along with sage, chives, and other herbs. 
Above: Growing lettuces and herbs from recycled plastic milk or water bottles is a great way to start a mini garden in a small space.
Above and below: School children use recycling boxes to plant up mini edible gardens. If you look closely they're really clever and packed with lots of great plants.
Above: Recently, I was pricing clay herb pots and they were quite expensive. The use of plastic bottles to grow strawberries, herbs and lettuces are a great idea, and children would enjoy this as their own little garden patch to look after.

May is the month for garden shows... this weekend I'm visiting 'Bloom in the Park' in Dublin (the 'Chelsea of Ireland'). It's the first time I've managed to make it down to the garden festival, now in its 9th year, and I'm really excited (camera ready!). Hoping for lots of inspiration (and good weather! (raincoat ready)). 
For more information on the Dublin show click here.

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Garden Show Ireland Inspiration

Lots of inspiration and gardening tips at this year's Garden Show Ireland held at Antrim Castle Gardens during May. 

The show featured lots of ideas that could easily be incorporated into smaller gardens, which is something I enjoyed seeing. From growing veg in 'trugs' to creating a little piece of paradise outside your back door and using splashes of colour and a variety of pots (and no grass to mow) - there were lots of tips that could be adapted. Here are some of the designs that caught my eye... 
The winner of the Eppy Schierbeek Cup, sponsored by Friends of Antrim Castle Gardens and supported by the Enkalon Foundation, was the Men's Shed Project. This little garden definitely has a man's touch and uses lots of recycled materials (tins, old stove/wood burner, tools, etc). This is the 1st garden the group has ever designed and they did a great job! Gold star for creativity / theatre!

Above and Below: It's great to see a design concept on paper, and then the finished product. This is one of the professional show gardens on display, called 'My Space' by Ryan McGee. It had a little water feature (the circle with pebbles) and has features that look as if they could be incorporated into an ordinary back garden (with a good joiner/ woodworker and bita cash!)

Above: Another professional show garden, by James Purdy from JP Architects and Landscape Design.  

Above and Below: More great ideas for the small garden - raised beds for growing herbs, flowers and veg (no more sore backs!). I love the bright orange garden furniture and lime green plant pots - a little splash of colour is always welcome in Ireland to brighten up our rainy, overcast days! 

Of course Monty Don was the main feature of the garden show this year. I was impressed that he took time to autograph books, chat with people and he posed for numerous photos.

Monty gave a very inspiring talk to a packed out audience. For those outside the UK, Monty features regularly on TV and in numerous magazines. His talk was on the theme of 'easy gardening' and included the importance of the soil (feeding the soil not the plant), growing things you're good at and suits the growing conditions (not fighting against nature). He talked about how the best tasting potatoes are 'earlies'. He gave lots of other tips and insights, and he received a roaring applause from the local crowd (I've never seen such a happy lot after listening to Monty - who is much more humorous than I'd ever imagined!)  If Monty happens to come across my blog... Monty, please return to Antrim next year!

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Magical Gardening Month of May

With the warmer weather, lots of growth can be seen daily throughout the garden, which is very exciting.

Pictured, veggies grown from seed sown last year are growing rightly - kale, chard, spinach, parsley and Winter lettuce 'Arctic King. These have all over wintered and thrive in Spring/early Summer. I imagine many of these plants will begin to bolt soon so I've been harvesting and trying to use as much as I can.

In the clay pot, I have Wallflowers 'Choice Mixed' grown from seed in Aug/Sept last year. I've been a bit disappointed with the number of flowers (not much of a show) but maybe there's more to come. This is the first time I've grown Wallflowers so I don't know much about these plants. On the plus side, they provide some early colour. 
Chard and Kale are staples in my garden. They contain lots of vitamins and minerals and are easy to grow. I've now sown chard and kale seed for the coming year and will plant into the garden at the end of May. These tasty greens compliment soup, casseroles, sauce based dishes, as well as stir fries.

Rhubarb with some bendy looking stalks. Rhubarb crumble is on the menu today.

Hostas are emerging and looking really pretty. Non-edible to humans? They're a tasty treat for snails and slugs. I try to keep an eye these plants before they become shabby, half eaten plants.

Recently I purchased some value pack bulbs and I manged to get the Acidanthera Peacock Orchids for 10 pence / 15 cents per pack marked down on clearance. I'm wondering if they have an invasive nature and if they tend to multiply like crazy as do some bulbs like crocosmia? I definitely don't want something that multiplies and is difficult to remove. 
Has anyone ever grown Peacock Orchids, and any tips?

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Friday 8 May 2015

Garden Show Ireland: fun-tastic displays

This weekend is Garden Show Ireland at Antrim Castle Gardens and it's a fantastic show this year! I'm attending over three days (volunteering) and had a fab time today enjoying the atmosphere (no plant purchases yet). I enjoyed some fab food, superb jazz music, and, of course, looking at the garden designs.

Left: A garden designed by ReConnect, a charity that supports adults with acquired brain injury, has brought some magic to 'the office' under the design theme of 'Colourful Garden'. More on the design concept can be read below. I love their creativity and the fact that they up cycled so many items and only spent about £80. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Above: Also on the theme of 'Colourful Garden' the North Coast Integrated College design makes outdoor life and gardening look much more appealing to young people with its bright colours and creative use of materials. More on their design concept can be read below.

Above: If you're a gardener, you're likely to be a fan of wellies! Nowadays there are great looking wellies for all occasions (easily ordered online) and don't they look great recycled with some wildflowers (part of the Grow Wild display)!

This is only a little snapshot of some of the eye catching, fun focused displays at Garden Show Ireland taking place at Antrim Castle Gardens this weekend. More on the show later. I'm loving the buzz and excitement of the activities - and Saturday Monty Don is visiting!
Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Sunday 3 May 2015

Update on Community Gardening Project

Every once in awhile I do an update on the community gardening project I'm involved in, at Antrim Castle Gardens. Through a very dedicated team of volunteers we look after various areas of the garden. Currently we're working on projects coming into the Summer, as well as keeping the areas tidy and looking good for the prestigious Garden Show Ireland which is taking place over three days 8-10 May. (Click on the photos below to enlarge.)
Above: We've been sowing seed from March and are growing plants for new projects we're developing in the gardens - a cut flower bed and a cottage-style garden. We also grow veg and herbs. We're getting a polytunnel this month, which will help us manage the pricking out and growing-on process.
Above: This is our fruit growing area, where we have apple and pear trees, gooseberry bushes, rhubarb, strawberries,etc. Some of our members are keen scarecrow makers and, of course, visitors and children to the gardens love seeing scarecrows!
Above: A Cut Flower Bed (under development) - the tripods have been planted with sweetpea; paths have been made out of wood/willow and 'volunteer labour' and will be filled with stone. A range of flowers from dahlia to cosmos will be planted in this new area.
Above: This view shows some of the areas that we maintain as volunteers in the Gardens. Many of the plants are donated by the Council as the garden is located on Council owned grounds and is open daily to the public. It is a beautiful location to volunteer and we enjoy the interaction with the public (who always have very positive comments).
Above: A view of other areas we look after. The main flower beds don't look particularly interesting at this time of year (something we are looking into). However, the beds are mainly for Summer interest, and many of the plants are still to emerge from their Winter slumber. Come Summer, there will be some wonderful plants on display such as eye-catching Verbena and Astilbe Purple Majesty, which will attract wildlife such as bees and butterflies to the gardens. 

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.