Shooting stars of spring

The changing of the calendar on the wall heralds the start of a new gardening season once more.

Shooting stars of spring

There’s energy beneath our feet, says Peter Dowdall as he looks forward to flowers rearing their heads.

The changing of the calendar on the wall heralds the start of a new gardening season once more.

Thoughts turn immediately towards new shoots and new growth as we leave the winter solstice behind and look forward to the Vernal Equinox.

One of the first signs that the energy beneath our feet is waking up once more is the tips of the spring-flowering bulbs as they break the soil surface to announce their presence in the garden.

Some that simply couldn’t wait may be already in bloom such as early flowering snowdrops and daffodils but many more are to come.

Skimmias, which have become synonymous with Christmas such as the cultivar rubella, which holds its beautiful panicles of red-toned buds through the winter and Temptation, a self-fertile form which has been festooned with shiny red berries for the last few months take on an entirely new appearance over the next few weeks and months as their flowers open up into beautiful, strongly scented white flowers which bear little or no resemblance to their Christmas look.

The promise that comes with a new gardening season is contagious, you have to be an optimist in the garden, particularly in Ireland, you have no choice.

You must forget previous failures and displays which may not have been as good due to inclement summer weather and look forward once more to the potential of the garden.

Seed catalogues must be perused and items marked with a pen or placed in the virtual wish list. Many seeds can be started indoors this month and next provided they are kept warm enough.

A kitchen window-sill can suffice if you don’t have the luxury of a glasshouse or polytunnel, you will be surprised how many seedlings will be produced from a few small pots or one seed tray.

If you’re hoping to grow some herbs and edibles this year then now is the time to look at West Cork’s, Brown Envelope seed catalogue. You’ll find their selection and their story at

All their seeds are certified organic and open-pollinated, vital elements to consider if you are growing plants to eat.

As a gardener, what really makes Brown Envelope stand above the rest, for me is the fact that they collect seed themselves form plants which they have been growing in their farm in West Cork.

Many of their varieties are many generations old by now and the importance of this is that they have developed and adapted to not just tolerate but thrive in the harsh West Cork conditions.

In short, if you use tomato seeds from a plant which was grown in the Mediterranean then, the seeds will expect Mediterranean conditions, however, seeds from plants which have been grown in Ireland will expect our local environment.

The Irish Seed Savers Association’s aim is “to protect, conserve and utilise Irish plant genetic resources including rare heritage seeds, grains, vegetables and fruit along with promoting agricultural biodiversity for food security”.

They also have a wide range of seeds and small plants along with relevant gardening products available to buy through their website,

A garden is a place where you have to think of the future, be that the short term and looking to the next few seasons or the longer term, thinking of years hence.

Planting a tree now is something that we should all do. We won’t ever get to enjoy that tree in maturity but future generations will be able to.

Our kids and grandchildren will get to enjoy what we do now in the same way that we enjoy and benefit from those that were planted by the generations before us.

If you are looking to plant a tree in your own garden then, as I say, do take care to think of the future, for whilst you may not be around in one or two hundred years time, you will be enjoying it for, hopefully, several more decades.

You don’t want it to be causing problems for you or for those left after you. So, look carefully at the eventual height and spread of any tree species you are looking to plant.

Look at your allotted space in relation to buildings, walls, roadways and also plumbing features such as septic tanks as many root systems will make a beeline for such sources of water which can lead to untold trouble in years to come.

Regardless of your choice of species, any tree you plant this year will immediately begin to take carbon out of our atmosphere and provide us with fresh oxygen in return.

The tree will also, immediately begin to sustain myriad species of wildlife from the smallest of insect to the largest of bird, depending on the tree.

I cannot think of a better thing to do this January than to plant a tree to celebrate the beginning of the third decade of the new millennium.

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