May in Ireland is a wonderful time to explore our native woodlands. We are fortunate to have so many stunning places to choose from, wherever we may be in the country. Our native woodlands are brimming with life and are home to many rare species of animals and shade loving plants. We have many fantastic varieties of ferns which green up our forests at this time of the year in an almost jungle like opulence.
At this time of the year many forests are transformed with incredible carpets of blue flowers thanks to the native Bluebell which spreads over wide areas of the forest floor. I love this subtle flower with its deep purple nodding bell shaped flowers that naturalize easily in a woodland setting. Today’s chosen flower, the Scilla siberica, or Siberian squill, has many things in common with the Bluebell. The stems are equally slender though slightly smaller and the delicate more cerulean blue flowers echo the feel of the bluebell somewhat. Like the bluebell, the Scilla also like a spot in semi-shade and a humus rich, well drained and moist soil and naturalizes wonderfully in woodland settings.
The Scilla is a hardy bulbous perennial and is very valuable as a woodland flower. It grows only to about 10-20cm in height making it a great plant to underplant under even smaller trees. Despite it’s Latin name, the Scilla siberica is not actually native to Siberia but rather to South Western Russia, the Caucasus and Turkey.
The colour of these delicate beauties is really what is most striking. Particularly in large areas in the woodland a supernormal cerulean blue river of Scillas takes your breath away. It is a colour that makes you think of the sky on a clear day, fresh and delicate yet bold. Hints of white and purple are also in the flower making it fascinating to try and pinpoint the exact shade of blue.
A great way of starting off your own woodland bed is to scatter some Scilla bulbs over the ground in soft drifts, when you plant them where they have fallen the collection will look very natural. Planting them at a depth of 8-10cm is best and give them a little room so no less than 10cm apart width wise.
It should be noted that the Scilla siberica can be considered invasive and can spread over large areas of woodland so it’s worth considering very carefully where you plant it or it may end up in your neighbours garden too!
With the Scilla liking a nice semi-shaded spot there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to companions. I love giving the small delicate plant a little contrast in texture and height. Here are some ideas for companions.
Our native bluebell the Hyacinthoides non-scripta is a beautiful flower with a richer purple colour than the Scilla. It has a more curving stem and the flowers cascade down from the top in an elegant arch. It likes the same rich and moist soil as the scilla so will work wonderfully interspersed under the shade of a tree. It also blooms at the same time so the display will be truly impressive.
Where last week I talked about the instantly recognizable Digitalis purpurea, this week I’m looking at the more unusual parviflora variety. This stunning exotic looking flower is a showstopper and can take semi shade as well as full sun. I love them planted at the edge of a field where it meets the forest where they can lead the eye into the woodland and create a natural border. These flowers have a fascinating rusty orange hue and bloom from May to June.
Anemone blanda-blue flowered
The delicate little Wood Anemone, or Anemone blanda really picks up so beautifully on the colour of the scilla and the bluebell. It does however have a very different flower shape and this gives lovely areas of texture contrast to the taller drooping shapes of the latter. These lovely little specimens grow wild all over our woodlands but are mostly white. They love the shady forest but also do well in a sunny spot making them a very rewarding addition to the garden. They also start showing their heads in March so are a perfect choice to lead in the woodland garden.
Celebrating an Anniversary-Magee turns 150
There is something incredibly fascinating in watching tweed being woven. The over and back of the machine, the movement of a foot pressing down on the pedal, it’s almost hypnotic. These days tweed is of course mostly made by machines but this process is no less impressive. The beautiful County of Donegal has a rich history in tweed making the bogs and hills of the county are rich source of sheeps wool for tweed as well as plants such as Fuschia, Gorse, Blackberries and moss, which can be used as a dye.
150 years ago John Magee opened a drapery shop in Donegal town and ten years later Robert Temple joined the company, he went on to buy the business in 1900. This was the beginning of the fascinating story that is Magee of Donegal, a brand steeped in Irish history and so representative of the West of Ireland. I recently visited Magee in Donegal and had the pleasure of being introduced to the fascinating story of the company. Charlotte Temple who runs the business is the fourth generation of the Temple family to be involved and it is fascinating to see how the brand has adapted to modern style and approach without losing it’s authenticity. This year the company celebrates 150 year anniversary and has launched a beautiful Magee 150th collection which sums up the feel of the West of Ireland beautifully. The elegant soft cashmere camel colour of the collection is evocative of the hills of Donegal and is beautiful teamed with the soft Heather purples, cerulean sea blue and lime moss- green in the 150th anniversary collection.
For more visit Magee1866.com or visit the new store on South Anne Street in Dublin.
Bluebell heaven at Drumboe woods, County Donegal
I love walking in woodlands at this time of the year. There is so much to discover and the landscape seems to be exploding in lime greens and rich mossy hues. Large tapestries of Bluebells are so wonderful to look at and we are blessed to have many walks, parklands and woodlands where we can admire them. One such walk is Drumboe woods in Donegal. This wonderfully dense and unspoiled woodland is maintained by Coillte and is located just on the outskirts of Stanorlar and Ballybofey. The name of the forest takes its name from Drumboe castle, a 17th Century ruin of a castellated Georgian home and which you can still see parts of now even though most of it was demolished by the state in 1945. The area is planted by Coillte with Silver Fir, European Larch and Lime and there are three short trails to choose from for walking. At this time of the year it’s also a great place for a lazy picnic amongst the bluebells.
For more go to: www.coillteoutdoors.ie