Lockdown means we stop and appreciate what’s around us, says Peter Dowdall
Whilst out on one of my “lockdown walks” recently (within 2km obviously) I was compelled to stop and admire something growing beneath.
This time it wasn’t a flower that stopped me in my tracks, rather it was the horticultural result of the flower, a seedhead. A perfectly formed dandelion seedhead to be precise.
I couldn’t help but notice how perfect it was, we all pass hundreds of them each day at this time of the year but do we stop to appreciate their beauty. Such perfectly formed globes, containing a collection of individual seeds which will each, soon be caught by the air, a passing animal or a wishful child and begin their journey to grow into a new plant.
One of the real benefits of our current restrictions is that we are forced to stop. To stop, admire and appreciate that which we have. How many times in our lifetime do we get the opportunity to actually stop and take time out to enjoy our life and to really take notice of what’s happening all around us.
If stopping to admire the dead flowers of what many term a weed seems a bit too much for you then let me direct you towards alliums for they too open up into perfectly spherical blooms, botanical works of art.
Each bloom is made up of an umbel containing hundreds of individual flowerlets, each perfectly formed and positioned within the globe-shaped umbel.
Any day now, as the tulips begin to come to an end, the Alliums will begin to take centre stage in gardens.
The genus itself is large, with many of the species grown as food crops such as onion, garlic and chives, which itself produces beautiful, showy, deep purple flowers.
Chive flowers are edible but prepare yourself for they are very strong in taste.
Leaving their culinary uses aside, many Alliums are grown in gardens for their ornamental virtues and what a display they bring.
Their very definite flower shape means that they bring great structural effect to a garden and their vibrant shades bring the colour. Some are taller and some are smaller and thus, different levels of interest can be created with correct plant choice.
If the tall, stately and bold purple forms are what you are after then three of the best include Ambassador Gladiator and Globemaster Ambassador and Gladiator are very similar, each reaching about one metre in height and both producing lush, regal, purple flowers with Ambassador’s being slightly larger at about 20cm in diameter.
The flowers of Globemaster are similar in diameter and height but the colour is quite different. Flowers are a paler, more lilac-purple than the other two. The best of the white alliums are Mount Everest and Mont Blanc which both reach similar sizes to the purple cultivars above and are great to soften the riot of all the rich purples.
Because of their very definite structure and shape in the garden, how you use them can vary.
Floating behind buxus balls works to compliment the very contrived shapes of the Buxus and planted in amongst less defined shrubs and perennials they bring more height to a planting.
Whichever way you choose to use them I would suggest underplanting and not to have them on their own as the foliage, which dies off as the flowers begin to appear can be quite untidy looking and whilst the tall flower stems on their own can look dramatic in a vase or floral arrangement, they can look a bit lanky and bereft in the garden if planted all alone.
Brown Envelope Seeds in West Cork are doing more than their fair share already in terms of food security and sustaining edible Irish species and adapting foreign species.
Now they are going a step further. This is what owner of brown Envelope, Madeline Mc Keever, said recently: “I am open to sharing some of my farm with people who want to grow their own food.
"I would like to be part of some community effort but it would need to honour my commitment as a certified organic farm, and not produce flowering vegetables that would cross with my seed crops. I am open to sharing some of my farm with people who want to grow their own food.
"I would like to be part of some community effort but it would need to honour my commitment as a certified organic farm, and not produce flowering vegetables that would cross with my seed crops.
"I would be interested to know of successful community farm projects in Ireland, and elsewhere.”
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