Archive for June, 2015

June 22, 2015

Two little big surprises from seed

by Ciaran Burke

Alnus fruticosa – dwarf seedling


Betula albosinensis – 9 year old in centre at back of deck


Buds of dwarf alder


Bark of dwarf Betula albosinensis


dwarf Betula albosinensis in spring

We made a list of all the plants that we are currently growing in our container garden. Some of the plants we brought with us from our old garden. Included in these are a number of plants that we raised from seed. When growing plants from seed, each one is genetically distinct from the others. Although the majority will usually look quite similar when growing trees such as birch or alder, occasionally one can be pleasantly surprised. In 2006 we sowed seed of Betula albosinensis and an unusual alder, Alnus fruticosa. We potted up the germinated seeds and after a few years some plants were planted in the garden. From each of the two species, we got one individual amongst the seedlings which displayed characteristics remarkably different from the rest of their seedling batch; dwarf bushy plants! In the case of the Birch, after nine years our selected plant now measures less than 1 meter and has a bushy habit, all other plants grew much taller and average about 3 meters or more. From the alders only two plants survived, one growing to 2.5 meters, typical of whet on would expect, but the other is hardly reaching 30cm and retains a distinctly bushy growth habit. The dwarf plants from each batch we dug up and now grow as prized plants in our containers. With Plants that we have propagated ourselves, we create a stronger attachment when compared to bought plants. Seed raised plants have the bonus of potential individual interest, diversity and the potential to be something special.

June 3, 2015

Gone potty- containing my gardening

by Ciaran Burke
Table with planter

Table with planter- summer 2014

Last year we moved from our one acre garden in Co. Mayo to rented accommodation in Co. Kildare. We thought that not having a garden to care for would be a very difficult change. When we moved to our new apartment, a converted oat loft above stables on a stud farm, we brought with us plants which we had either dug from the garden in Spring or plants that had been growing in containers.


The views from our new apartment are great, but the view of the apartment is not so exciting. It provides challenges; it is west facing with the evening sun shaded by large old beech trees, a compacted gravel yard, a large concrete water tank, a plastic oil tank and temporary cabins used as office pace by the stud farm.

Alnus fruticosa dwarf seedling (8 years)

Alnus fruticosa dwarf seedling (8 years)

So we placed some pots, added a few more, bought a few flowering plants and inspired by a trip to IKEA we invested in some decking tiles. Now one year on, we love our container garden. It includes seed raised treasures like our dwarf Alnus fruticosa and bushy Betula also-sinensis. Miniature blue hosta, yellow peony roses and double columbines all raised from seed. In a large pot is a gooseberry trained as a standard also from seed.

Alnus fruticosa and alpine pot

Alnus fruticosa and alpine pot

The plants detract from the grey utilitarian surroundings, add colour and life to the bleak hard surfaces and attract bees to add a buzz in summer. Our landlord loves what we have done and our collection of 140 pots is continuously expanding. Being able to potter, pinch dead flower heads, trim an odd branch, squeeze a greenfly or simply smell the scent of a flower brings us endless pleasure the whole year through.

Hosta sieboldianna seedling - dwarf

Hosta sieboldianna seedling – dwarf

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