Archive for ‘autumn’

November 7, 2016

Autumn kicks

by Ciaran Burke

You can hear the light crunch, the shuffle of the fallen leaves, rustling into new formations as feet shuffle through the gold and bronze of autumn’s yearly fall. Kicking leaves and watching them fall again and hearing their rustling call, it is a simple joy.

Lonicera gymnochlamydea

Along the branches, shining globes of brilliant red, the fruit of the species, an invitation to the birds, to eat and enjoy; to spread the seed. Until then we can admire their construction, their placement and their presence upon the boughs.

Paths dappled with red and orange, the fallen leaves in late autumn sun are like fallen confetti, the celebration of the changing seasons. 

Crocus speciosus

And still there are blooms, unaware or just defiant of the onset of winter, their place in the seasons defined by their evolution. Reminding us that even as the days get shorter and colder, the garden still grows, and beauty lives; redefined, the colour of bark, the texture of a stem, the shade of a leaf and persistence of a fruit.

Acer griseum

Winter is coming, but the garden lives in, nature slows down but does not stop. And we should not stop enjoying the beauty of nature. Wrap up warm, go for a walk, visit a garden or work in your own,take time to admire the majesty of trees, breathe in the sharp crisp air band the embrace the changing seasons.

The photographs in this post were taken in Mount Usher, National Botanic Gardens Kilmacuragh and Birr Castle.

Here are links to each of the gardens;

November 17, 2012

National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, November 17th 2012

by Ciaran Burke

A beautiful sunny day in the National Botanic Gardens. I was there with students today. Lots of nice autumnal colour, some flowers and fruits too.

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November 3, 2012

Finnish Style Cabbage Bake – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Some of the heads of cabbage in the garden are too big to use all at once. We cut a head of the white winter cabbage today, I was messing around with it when I brought into the kitchen, It was bigger than my head! Somehow from that Hanna was inspired to make a cabbage bake, Kaalilaatikko. The Finns have lots of laatikkos, not just cabbage but turnip, potato and carrot. All of which are a big part of the Finnish Christmas dinner. In addition there are beetroot, sauerkraut and even liver… Laatikoos are all quite similar, the main ingredient is combined with barley or rice, syrup, cream and topped with bread crumbs and baked in the oven. Thankfully I have not had to endure a liver version but I am very fond of the turnip, carrot and potato versions. So when hanna suggested Cabbage laatikko for dinner I was more than happy to help out with some cabbage chopping…

Me and my cabbage…

Our version of Kaalilaatikko is not loyal to the traditional version which includes minced meat and cream, we substituted green lentils seasoned with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar for meat and soya milk for cream. And on the top we used crushed Finn Crisp for bread crumbs, a rye based crisp bread, like a very thin Ryvita. They are available in shops in Ireland.

Crush the crisp bread finely


  • 9 cups of finely chopped white winter cabbage
  • 1 cup of green lentils
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup of brown basmati rice
  • 1 cup of soya milk
  • 4 Finn Crisps (2 Ryvita)
  • Butter
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp of golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp of dark treacle

Ready to serve…


  1. Soak Lentils for a few hours in plenty of water, then sieve and rinse.
  2. Cover lentils with water with some salt, boil hard for ten minutes and then reduce heat to simmer until the water has boiled off and the lentils are soft.
  3. Add vinegar and  one spoon of soy sauce to the lentils.
  4. Par boil the rice for 10 minutes.
  5. In a separate sauce pan sauté the onion until soft then add the cabbage and stir fry for a few minute until it starts to become tender.
  6. Add salt and thyme.
  7. Add the rice and lentils to the cabbage.
  8. Mix the treacle and golden syrup together and then add to the cabbage, stir well.
  9. Transfer to a buttered oven dish with lid.
  10. Pour in the soya milk and stock (we used beef stock).
  11. Sprinkle with crushed Finn Crisps and add a few small knobs of butter.
  12. Cover with lid.
  13. bake in oven at 175 degress Celcius for 60 minutes.
  14. then remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes until the top had turned golden brown.
  15. Serve with lingon berry jam. We also had Hawthorn and Apple jam. You could use cranberry instead.

Cabbage Bake, Kaalilaatikko served with hawthorn and Apple Jam and Lingon Berry jam

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November 3, 2012

Euphorbia nematocypha add fire to the herbaceous planting scheme

by Ciaran Burke

Euphorbia nematocypha – foliage close up

Sulphur yellow flowers, bushy growth, intense autumn colour and bright red stems. Hardy too. This is Euphorbia nematocypha, a superb spurge for Irish gardens.

Each spring the strong upright growth of the red stems is topped with bright yellow flowers and bracts. The flowers last well into summer and give a fantastic display but the highlight is the autumn show. The green leaves turn to burning orange and red over many weeks through October and early November. Today in our garden, under low and moody grey skies it is luminous. As the leaves start to fall, the bright red stems are exposed, an added bonus to be admired into winter.

Euphorbia nematocypha -plant in our front garden showing autumn tints

The plant is perfectly hardy, I had it in my garden when I lived in Dublin and took the plant with me when I moved to Mayo nine and a half years ago. Here it has thrived, happy in all weather in its sandy soil home. Unbothered by any pest, ignored by diseases, never watered, never fed but never neglected, it thrives with only a cutting back in late winter to tidy the way for new growth to emerge in spring.


Euphorbia nematocypha – foliage and stems close-up

I remember the November night I first acquired this plant. I had had a few ciders. Not the usual circumstances for purchasing a plant. It was in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, the occasion was the Alpine Garden Society Dublin Group Annual weekend. Two days of fabulous lectures, plant sales and on the Saturday night, the after dinner auction. Held when we all had finished wine with dinner and enjoying drinks from the bar.

I out bid my rivals for a bedraggled plant recently lifted from a members garden, purchased on a verbal description and an auctioneers praise, I think I paid ten pounds. The donor of the plant said to me afterwards that if he had known I wanted the plant he would have dug some from his garden for me for free. The auction money goes to the society so it was for a good cause.

The Euphorbia nematocypha at that time, I think it was 1998, was a very recent introduction from China. Only in 1994 had seed been collected on the Alpine Garden Society China Expedition (ACE). To raise funds for the expedition, members of this English based society, bought shares which entitled them to a quantity of seed collected on the expedition.  The plant which I bought in the auction was one of the fruits of this trip.

Euphorbia nematocypha


Seed was collected from plants growing on the Zhongdian Plateau, where it grows with Iris bulleyana. In June 1996 the AGS quarterly bulletin was dedicated to the expedition, it was filled with reports and information about the plants collected. Two different collection numbers E.nematocypha ACE 292 and ACE 412 are referenced. I do not know from which number collection my plant is from, the original hand written label accompanying the auctioned plant is lost. In the bulletin the writer, Elizabeth Strangman, recommends this as a plant that has “a lot going for it”. 16 years later I can say that I certainly agree, it is one of my favourite plants in our garden.

Euphorbia nematocypha with Libertia and Beschoneria yucciodes in our front garden a few years ago…The Beschorneria died during the winter 2010 – 2011

October 20, 2012


by Ciaran Burke

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Every month I visit the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin with a group of people on The Garden School home study course. This time there was lots of autumnal tints to admire, some berries and flowers too. I was saddened to see that the great specimen of copper beech had eventually succumbed to old age, instead of its towering majestic presence there were huge slices of wood lying on the ground. Even great trees such as this must pass, and when a big one like this goes, it makes space for others to grow…

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