Show must go on in your own backyard

Show must go on in your own backyard
This time of year is usually garden show season. 

If ever there was a time to support local growers, this is it, says Peter Dowdall

Normally during these few weeks we would all be gearing up for show season in the gardening world.

The first big one, the Fota House Plant & Garden Fair, would be behind us and in Munster we should be preparing for the Mallow Home & Garden Festival now and soon after that, all roads would lead to the Phoenix Park for Bloom.

The standard-bearer in this part of the world, RHS Chelsea Flower Show, is the highlight of the year for so many and not just visitors. Many horticultural businesses bank on Chelsea for sales and to launch new plant and gardening products.

None of these are going to happen this year and as we have to learn to recalibrate ourselves in what we do with our time, the garden and the calendar still move on.

If ever there was a time to support local Irish growers and small nurseries, then this is it.

It is the specialist plant growers and members of the Irish Specialist Nursery Association (ISNA) who will really feel the brunt of cancelled shows, for these are their sales opportunities, they tend not to have regular, if any, footfall in the normal course of events.

They aren’t retailers like garden centres, rather they spend their time, collecting and trialling new plants, propagating and then offering their treasures for sale at plant and garden shows.

Many, if not all, of them will supply you with plants by post, taking orders either over the phone or online.

Ok, so nothing beats being at the plant fairs, the hustle and bustle and the buzz of the show. You get the chance to see and feel the plants, to chat with the growers and admire the range of horticultural jewels but there is one advantage that comes with buying from an online list. When searching online, it allows you time to do your homework.

A quick look at the list on offer from Rare Plants Ireland had me Googling species and cultivars that I had never heard of. Researching in this way allows you to check which plants are going to be most suitable for your garden in terms of height, spread and vigour along with which ones will thrive in your soil conditions, light levels and wind exposure.

Rare Plants Ireland is owned and run by Finlay Colley who produces and supplies rare and unusual trees, shrubs and perennials. Many of these specimens have been sourced during plant hunting expeditions in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the Azores and Sikkim.

Mike Keep of Shady Plants Nursery specialises in growing garden ferns and will also supply by post, though like many companies in today’s extraordinary times, deliveries may be somewhat delayed.

The ISNA Facebook page is a great resource, offering links and information on each member nursery https://www.facebook.com/irishspecialistnurseryassociation/

Soon, we will all get to enjoy the fun of the fair once more when life develops to a post-Covid normal and I for one will be at the top of the queue when it comes to the plant stalls but until then and to ensure their continued existence we must shop from our favourite garden outlets online and over the phone.

Supporting smaller, specialist, local nurseries at all times and in particular now is crucial on many levels both economic, social and horticultural.

As a gardener you get the correct plants for your environment as most of the plants on offer will have been grown outdoors in Ireland and are thus much more likely to tolerate the conditions in your garden.

Your Questions Answered

Q. What's the situation with cutting garden hedges at the moment? I thought it was illegal, because of nesting season, but a lot of my neighbours seem to be doing it?

A. Yes, it is illegal to cut back hedges and hedgerows right now. Under the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 it is “an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch during the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year.”

There are exemptions to this Act, however. Namely for farmers and “for works being duly carried out for reasons of public health or safety by a Minister of the Government or a body established or regulated by or under a statute”

It seems to me to make it a bit of a nonsense that the two groups owning the vast majority of our hedgerows, namely, farmers and local authorities, are exempted from measures brought in to protect such resources along with the wildlife therein.

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