End of spring’s delights

Mentally surveying some of the delights of spring which are almost over, I recall with gratitude the striking little alpine (rockery) plant which is sold under the name of Arenaria Montana.

I have covered this in the past but seeing as how it is now in its sixth week of flowering (in all the cold and wet of late) a repeat mention would be advantageous to those interested in ground-cover plants. Best of all, it cost just €2.50 first day at a Co-Op outlet and it ‘roots as it goes’, meaning dozens of plants for those who care to use rooted off-cuts. Let me enumerate its attributes once more so that you too may delight in how it charms as it spreads. You could find yourself sourcing a plant for next year.

This quietly attractive plant forms a prostrate mat of tiny green leaves covered with masses of single white flowers on short stems from early spring to mid June or later. It requires a damp situation and will grow and spread willingly over the face of a damp rock or along a peaty bed. It is an unobtrusive plant, easy to eradicate if it becomes invasive, and although it can make a fine large clump it does so gently without harming any nearby plants which it may overrun. Arenaria Montana comes from the Balearics and other Mediterranean islands growing in shady areas out of direct sunlight. Thus we often fail to remember that the treasures of our own gardens are the weeds of other lands! Here at home, however, it will delight in our sunny-now-cloudy-later kind of weather. Propagation is easy; simply remove pieces which have rooted into the soil and use as new plants

* Arenaria Montana requires a semi-shaded position.

* It does not take kindly to being grown in a pot.

* An acid, peaty soil gives best results

* The plant is evergreen

WEBB’S AN IRISH FLORA, EIGHT EDITION BY JOHN PARNELL AND TOM CURTIS WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY ELAINE CULLEN

This handbook will provide the student or keen amateur with a clear and reliable means of identifying those plants which grow wild in Ireland. It is a comprehensive re-working of the classic and standard Flora of Ireland and has been brought fully up to date through incorporating the latest in botanical research and reflects contemporary approaches to plant classification based on recent advances in genetics.

This substantial tome is about the higher plants that grow wild and which are commonly naturalised or otherwise encountered in Ireland. It is designed to facilitate their identification and provide background information on their morphology, distribution and rarity and to educate all those interested in recognising the species of the flora of Ireland.

Previous editions of the book have been used by workers outside of the specific field of study of plant identification, such as environmental consultants, the public, students, professional and amateur botanists, etc. There is a genuine demand for a Flora whose subject matter refers explicitly to Ireland whilst placing that flora in a wider context. Furthermore, a concise flora of a discreet geographical area is of interest internationally to many professional and amateur botanists and gardeners. The book is used in student training (it is a basic botanical text book in some Irish universities in Ireland) and for professionals and others wishing to improve their skills and botanical expertise.

John Parnell is Professor of Systematic botany at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Dr Tom Curtis is a Ecological Consultant and a Research Associate in Botany at TCD and Lecturer in Botany and Plant science, NUI Galway. An Irish Flora is published by Cork University Press.


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