Striking Tulip

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to my new weekly column here at the Irish Mail on Sunday. My page aims to be an interesting collection of inspiring stories, all about planting, garden design and all things creative. Each week I will outline a different plant, explore a fascinating event or place and give tips on products and materials. If you want to ask me a garden design based question do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you and help in any way I can in the reader’s question section.

I hope you enjoy reading this column as much as I enjoy writing it!



Tulipa prominence

Early February is this time of the year that I really start craving warmer weather. I start remembering how lush the border was last year and  can’t wait for the first Tulips to come out in the border. With this in mind I decided to plant a few indoor Tulips for my windowsill. Most of the plants on my sills are succulent in nature so the idea of planting up a few Tulips in a vibrant red would be a great splash of colour at this time of the year.

The idea of forcing bulbs for indoor displays has been around for a long time. In fact the Victorians were passionate about forcing bulbs, particularly Hyacinths. Forcing plants is actually incredibly easy and whether growing in water in specialist  ‘Forcing vases’ or in pots of soil, they can make rewarding displays of blooms any time of the year.

The key to forcing them successfully is giving them a ‘cold treatment’ which in essence imitates a dormant Winter period. To do this I like to plant as many bulbs as I can without them actually touching in a pot. I used three bulbs of the Tulipa ‘Prominence’ for this display and planted them into well draining, loose soil into a lovely turquoise copper pot.

I then watered them and placed them in an unheated garage in a dark spot to simulate a Winter environment for about 10-16 weeks. I have actually heard of people even placing the pots in the fridge for this period but I would be careful to avoid any temperatures close to freezing.

Now make sure your pots remain evenly moist but avoid them becoming too wet and when the roots start to show at the bottom of the pot, and also a bit of the leaves, you can start to move them to a slightly warmer location. I put mine on a cooler windowsill in a bathroom so it doesn’t get a heat shock. After about two weeks the Tulips were out in their full glory and what a gorgeous display!


Leonie Loves

RTE Supergarden

It’s that RTE Super Garden time of the year again and I really look forward to mentoring five new Designers in the show which goes out in association with Bord Bia, Woodie’s and Cuprinol. The show’s production company, Independent Productions are looking for anyone from keen hobbyists, recent design and horticulture graduates, or those starting out in the world of garden design gardening and landscape architecture to take part in the new series. Get in touch and send an email to: supergardenshow@gmail.com


Image by David Cantwell


The Botanical gardens in Glasnevin Dublin are always worth a visit. I love their incredible planting but even in the middle of Winter the Victorian Glasshouses are a heavenly place to be. The current exhibition ‘Images of Starlight’ which runs until the 21st of February,  is a fantastic display of photographs of the night sky, taken by amateur astronomers all over Ireland. Stunning!



Photograph by John O’Mahony


Q      Dear Leonie,

I hope you can help me. I live in a very exposed semi-detatched house on the Mayo coast and I have a small balcony overlooking the sea. The views are amazing but the balcony is barely big enough to fit a small planter of about 30cmx 1.5m. I would love to put out a planter, especially as it’s my bedroom but I have no idea what to plant in it. Can you give me some advice what would do well here? My style is  a mix of vintage  and ecclectic.

A  Hi Jane,

Thanks for your email. You are very lucky to be living on the coast and to have such gorgeous views but you are right, planting can be very tricky. Not only do plants have to deal with the extreme winds of the Atlantic in Mayo but also the high salt content of the wind. Then on top of that, the high levels of rain experienced here makes the soil more acidic meaning that most plants will struggle to thrive.

I often plant up gardens on the coast and it really is a challenge. First of all, grasses do very well in coastal climates but many are not suited to smaller planters. I love Astelia plants-the Silver Shadow variety is lovely and near indestructible. Having said that, I have the feeling you would like something a little more ornamental, especially if the planter will become your view from your bed! One plant that I have found to do amazingly in salty, windy conditions is the Dianthus. These pretty, and vintage in feel, evergreen flowers can take a lot of salt and wind and an added bonus is that they are deliciously scented! I love planting them up in large blocks of one plant and adding in a few extras as a bonus. How about some Osteopermums to the mix for an added colour dot and maybe a few Aubrieta to cascade down the side of the balcony? One thing to make absolutely sure here is to keep the container well watered. The salty wind has the tendency to dry soil out so completely that even the hardiest plants fail so give it plenty of water!

If you would like to ask a garden design or planting based question do get in touch on gardens@mailonsunday.ie


Photo By: Colin Gillen

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