Handstands in heaven

Today is the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death. To mark the occasion, we had a little party at the house where she spent most of her adult life. It went well (no knock-down drag-out rows, no court cases) and this morning there’ll be a Mass at St Columcille’s church in thanksgiving.

There’s a tinderbox of reasons why it took so long to get over her loss to our family, but thanksgiving will be given this morning for the fact that at long last we have. Most everyone believes their mother was the bestest in the whole world and when she died at 56 years of age, it was a catastrophe. For me, because she was an oak tree to my scutch grass, for her wider family and friends because she was so young, so vibrant, so lovely.

In preparing for the get together, I went through some old photographs that narrated her life in this house, the rented house she and my dad lived in before this was built, and found to my surprise a potted history of her favourite plants and successes.

There are few photos of the rented house in North Street they lived in till 1966, but two from 61 and 62 made me smile. The first depicted a small garden that was treated as a yard, with a shed, some building debris and very little lawn as a backdrop to my dad posing with a fine-looking greyhound. A year later the second picture shows the garden with grass, no rubble, a neat shed and a toddler. The greyhound mustn’t have delivered on the early promise. (Neither did the toddler mind you, but hey! 🙂 )

Back to the garden here and a lot of her planting has survived. The Boston Ivy along the north wall was what she settled on after a series of experiments with clematis. The laburnum she planted to echo the one in her own mother’s house got taken out when the gate got widened, so I’ve to find a spot for a new one. The climbing roses she planted beside the dining room window got taken out when the renovations were done in 2005, but were replaced with two new ones.

Her pride and joy, the Philadelphus or mock orange is thriving and still producing delicate fragrance every May. Her hydrangeas are my pride and joy and still provide the first blast of colour you see upon entering the garden, and muted colour in the dried blooms that keep the summer flag flying indoors throughout the winter.

Her aubretia pops up somewhere every summer, as does a small deep purple flower with almost black leaves, it returns with such vigour it’s almost ground cover for any spot that’s left alone for five minutes.

Indoors, I don’t have any of her spider plants or busy lizzies, but I’ve kept an asparagus fern on the go that’s moved with me wherever I went (and replaced liked Trigger’s sweeping brush, with tuftier, younger versions whenever the strings got too long, wan and matted).

I’m a whizz with parsley – yes, that’s the stuff that could probably grow on Mars with no help from a gardener – and have a regular selection of mints, coriander, thyme and rosemary that, like hers, gets used in the kitchen.

There’s a kerria now in the spot she used for sunbathing, and its burst of yellow pom-poms are just about to happen this year.

The guests at her party seemed pleased with the garden’s most recent incarnation (I’d to keep them out of the front garden, which is an unmitigated pig’s ear) and we had a happy afternoon reminiscing about her.

Years ago when she was fed up coaxing me to do something or other she wryly mentioned that she’d go out and do a handstand with joy when it got done. At one point during the party of her family and friends, I got a picture in my mind of her doing cartwheels and handstands in heaven.


Would like this text box to change weekly; so will keep this limited to text without pix or gravatars (assuming for now that gravatars are roughly the same as thumbnails in old printers’ language) so it’ll be a list with a hint in a sentence about what’s been added this week.

Dibbling In Your Garden

Town & Country Gardening

dibble board 4-hole-dibbleboard Build A Dibble Board
If your one of those that want and insist that every plant be perfectly spaced, ‘yea’ I’m talking mostly to all the square foot garden fanatics. Nothing against square foot gardens or even those that believe you ‘must’ have raised beds to grow a few vegetables. This little gadget may be just what you have been looking for.

Build A Dibble Board Check out ‘gardeninggrrl’ blog for a lot of pictures and building instructions.

Keep in mind you may need two or even three of every dibble board. Most garden seeds need to be planted 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch or 1 inch deep. Seed planted 1 inch deep that ‘should have been planted 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep may never break through the soil to see the light of day. In this event you have wasted your time, water and seed.

Grinning, My dibble board…

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Nude Food at Dungarvan

Herbs to hand at Nude Food cafe, deli and bakery in Dungarvan

Herbs to hand at Nude Food cafe, deli and bakery in Dungarvan

Food heaven is where you have a choice of wonderful cafés, chippers, cookery schools, and fab family hotels that’ll give the kids the familiar chicken nuggets and cereals you’ve to shovel into them when they’re worn out from three or four action-packed days at the seaside.

You’ll find all of that in a weekend break in Dungarvan, a seaside town on the south coast of Ireland that kicks off its tourist season with a celebration of food in all its guises every year in April with the West Waterford Festival of Food.

There are food trails for cake lovers, seaweed fans, flash barbecue beasties (like seafood or veg-based instead of just prime meat skewers); there are craft beer and burger joints; chippers for the bag in your hand (s’worth two in the bush, I’m told) and as home to Flahavans porridge oats, even the cereals round here are ‘slow-food, eco-friendly, locally-sourced’ ingredients for your delectation. For instance, I stayed at the family-run Lawlor’s Hotel that’s a couple minutes’ walk from the harbor with its ethnic-themed restaurants (Indian, Chinese), public park, tennis club, a marina for pleasure boats and SuperValu grocery store for daytime self-caterers,  and its kitchen caters for everything from grand banquets to bar food. Dungarvan has bric à brac stores for bargain hunters of vintage homewares, an Irish institution in its Shaws (almost nationwide) department store, and novelty shops with cute, lightweight and cheap mementoes for the people back home who expect more than a postcard. It’s also got an arts centre, a lovely cookery school and charity tea dances from now till the autumn every Saturday afternoon. But an experience you shouldn’t miss is anything from snacks to dinner at Nude Food.

Its proprietor is a dynamo called Louise Clarke whose wit and warmth is part of every element of her café, deli and bakery just off the town square. I gush. It’s an expected part of my persona now when I come across something delightful. But her coffee and carrot cake were reason enough to leave Dublin. Then there’s the outdoor dining room where she grows her herbs. Then there’s a proper kitchen garden for salad leaves and other greens, her polytunnel for stage one of her other summer ‘fork to fork’ ingredients. Then there’s the treats (coffee and walnut and carrot cakes, in-house ice-cream) she dreams up like magic and a selection of teas she carries to help you do the ‘healthy, mindful, refreshing, and low-calorie’ thing we all do when we’ve travelled two and a half hours just to get to her luscious cakes.

There are farmers markets on Thursday mornings in the square, and a country market on Friday morning in the tennis club, but there’s also a feast for the eyes in the physical shape of the town from its mediaeval castles and fortifications, to its streets and lane ways to the sea, and it’s also on the map because of its gaelteacht connections – next year’s Celtic Media Festival will be held here because of Dungarvan’s position in a Gaelic-speaking community.

Tá orm rud éigin a rá anois as gaeilge mar duirt mé sa ‘tags’ go mbeidh cupla focail agam ar an tábhair a thabhairt díobh mar baoite nó bréige go dtí an baile cois farraige i gCo Phóirt Láirge. An oíche a chuaigh mé ag ithe sa dteach Louise bhí barbecue mór ar cúl an ostán agus deirtear go bhfuil siad beile a dheanamh uair eile bfheidir, mar tá ceoil agus craic ar fáil ann. Teastaigh mé freisin go raibh an ostán Lawlors ach nóiméad ag súil ón buníochtaí eile mar bialannaí ag glacadh sa fleadh.

J’espère que ces mots vous donnerez un goût 🙂 de la ville Dungarvan, la fête Celtique serait ici l’année prochaine pendant la mois d’avril aussi, donc vous pouvez trouver deux chances de la voir pendant le printemps: la fête de la nourriture tombe pendant le weekend deuxième normalement, et le rendez-vous pour les travailleurs du monde film et music Celtique un peu plus tard.

Z is for zephyr lilies and zinnias

Zed. Hallelujah.

Allelu. Pwilllaloo. Agus anois, níl an poc ar buile, mar tá a chuid oibre criochnaithe.*

Zephyr Lilies from davesgarden.com

Zephyr Lilies from davesgarden.com


Zephyr lilies and zinnias from Dave’s Garden for American readers, gardeners and fellow April Challengers. I’ve just sent a note to the good people at davesgarden.com asking if they don’t mind that I link to them for my project. Obviously, I’m hoping they say yes. Even if they say no, I’m still going to link to them. Why? Because they’ve got this gardening thing down to a fine art, but they’ve also got this internet thing, down to a fine art. Have a wee look at the screenshot below: it’s got the name of the family your flower is in, along with a pronunciation (and in this esperanto world, Lord knows, we all need help sounding out words), but JOY OF JOYS, it’s a very friendly forum, it tells you where you can buy what you need, AND if there’s anyone willing to trade that item at the moment.


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That’s it folks. I hope you enjoyed the April Challenge as much as I did.

And so we have time for a little song…..



X is for Xeronema

Xeronema callistemon, originated in the Poor Knights Islands near New Zealand.

Xeronema callistemon, originated in the Poor Knights Islands near New Zealand.

Xeronema callestemon is an exotic specimen that would be a spectacular addition to any gardener’s collection. Both the wonderful photograph and a brief history of this plant can be seen here, which is the contact point for a specialist in botanical photography, based in the UK: horticulturist Ian Watt.

V is for verbascum, verbena and violas

Violas and verbena have been tried here. Verbena’s like a tall, gnarly-stemed, lemon-scented herb with underwhelming purple flowers, and pansies are violas by another name. Get snippy you pedants while my eyes are on the prize of X, Y and Z and I will shout very loudly for five whole months. Actually, I have another sin, on top of impatience, to confess. This one didn’t actually get carried out, but the intention was there.

When the verbena here failed (got gobbled up by the box hedge bushes, red robin bushes, the cherry blossom, wisteria, jasmine, Oh! and the Boston Ivy and the Glasnevin Climbing Potato Plant that was bought in Limerick – can’t quite think of its name now, it was developed in Dublin’s Botanic Gardens so it’s called Glasnevin? – but, yes, we’re still saying the verbena failed not me). Anyway, I happened to notice that the county council had planted swathes of it in flowerbeds just outside the town, probably as part of the Tidy Towns effort. Knowing I could no more grow it from seed than I could have from my own plant, I planned a midnight heist, where I don balaclavas and dark clothing and with a dirty old shovel ‘acquire’ a few replacements. I’ve shelved those plans for now.

Another of the plants tried in that flower bed was Hollyhock. I’d forgotten that till I read the Fred Whitsey piece in the British Daily Telegraph about verbascum. Both he and one of his muses Vita Sackville West found these tall spires of color charming enough to promote their use outside of cottage gardens. It’s been a very long time now (at least five years) since I had to dig out the Hollyhock, so maybe it’s time to consider a verbascum instead.

Has anyone else noticed that I’m still using terminology that suggests I’m going to have time to be gardening at all during this summer?  I’m now committed to studying in Dublin Business School and doing Jobbridge exercises till September at least – so where the time to sort out the garden is going to materialize from God only knows….