Beannactaí an tSéasúir!

Cherry blossom tree with buds, in Winter
Nollaig Shona daoibh agus Athbhlian faoi mhaise daoibh!

Well its been a mild Winter here so far in Dublin Bay North.  But a busy one! Especially the last two weeks, where active parenting, getting the house ready for Christmas, volunteering (at my daughter's primary school and Fighting Words) and getting the odd day of work in when the parenting schedule permits...whew! I've barely had a chance to sit down the last two months, never mind write.

But now...its Christmas Eve and all the house is quiet.  I absolutely love this time of year.  I've written before that there is no place better than Ireland at Christmas and that is true.  The lights, the festive atmosphere and everyone in great form for the entire month of December.  It is something to behold.  For me, everything turns on the Solstice and gets a bit quieter.  The light is absolutely spectacular right now and although we are in the depths of winter, there are always signs of Imbolg agus Spring.

Tulips have sprouted in both the front and back gardens
Tulips are sprouting at the right time as they always do and I can also see the bluebell shoots growing well.  This is in tune with what should be happening this time of year.  But there are shoots that are out of sync.  The Autumn was so warm that I had allium bulbs shooting (usually late Spring) six months early.  One of them now has a bud.  The roses were blooming up until December.  Odd weather, indeed.

Alliums in front garden
Allium bud in front garden.  (In December!) 
I've over-wintered kale and leeks (as usual) and even have one surprise cabbage which the slugs kindly left me.

Over-wintering leeks

One lonely cabbage
One of the things I love about the Winter Garden is how bleak and barren it looks on the surface, but you know so much is going on in the earth.  Its a season of cutting back, pruning and tidying up and I'm very hopeful to spend a great part of the week between Christmas and the New Year doing just that, weather permitting.  I've also got a few afternoons' work at Yahoo! next week so I'll have to get up and out with the sunrise, late enough at this time of year.  Truly, there is something very special about working in the garden just after the sun's risen.  Its so quiet and peaceful, especially if the weather is cold and bright.  

I've got a fair few jobs lined up for me next week including cutting back the clematis and pulling up weeds from the flower and veg beds.  Once the garden has been properly pruned and tidied, I'm planning on spreading a layer of organic chicken poo (you can order online via the wonderful Johnstown Garden Centre) and adding some more compost to the veg beds.  I shall very much enjoy deciding which seeds to plant this year.  I've also come to the conclusion that no matter how much I enjoy planting seeds directly out, I'm going to have to start sunflowers & cabbage indoors if I want any to survive the legions of slugs outside.  I am still committed to not using any pesticides.  

If you're looking for plants to offer up some colour during the winter months, heuchera and cyclamen are great choices that need very little care. 

Coral heuchera w/ornamental grass

Chocolate herchera w/ornamental grass

Bright pink, large cyclamen with white miniature pansies at front
Lastly, I don't know if its a fluke due to the warm Autumn but the miniature pansies have been an absolute réalta since planting them last summer.  They've self-seeded EVERYWHERE and I do not mind one bit.  I even see some coming up between the cobbles of the front path.  The only time they didn't do well was when they got a bit dry last summer when we were on hols.  Otherwise, they need very little attention.  They might appear to die-back after going to seed but will come back with a bang in a week or two.

All the miniature pansies which have self-seeded underneath the window box

Miniature pansies with chocolate ornamental grass in front garden
The winter sun touches the far end of the back garden even through the darkest days.  Because of this, the rosemary, sage and marjoram are thriving.  Long may it last.  Many of the other herbs haven't fared as well.  The chives developed allium rust and I had to pull them all out.  Luckily, the rust doesn't seem to have transferred (yet) to either the leeks or ornamental alliums.  The thyme didn't last though the last summer - it dried out completely although it was in a place that retains water quite easily.  But maybe less so than I thought.  The parsley upped and died as well, but I think that's part of its growth cycle.  I let it go to seed so hopefully I'll see some signs of growth in late Spring.  The mint, which is on the other side of the back garden, has developed an incredibly durable and vast root system which I need to keep on top of else it will overtake all around it.  Its growing well, even in winter there's a bit.  I'm hoping 2017 is the year it really flourishes and that area of the garden smells like mint & roses in June.

Sage with marjoram at left

Well, that's about it for today.  I hope everyone is enjoying the season and has a lovely break.  The next time we look, Spring will be upon us and a busy time in the garden again.  


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