Bridget

Posts Tagged ‘native’

In praise of Willow.

In herbal remedies, willow on February 11, 2012 at 7:58 pm

There are 4 native Irish Willows, Goat Willow, Grey Willow, The Eared Willow and the less common Bay Leaved Willow. The Willow pictured above is Twisted Willow a non native that nonetheless grows very well here in Ireland. This one was grown from a cutting about 6 years ago and is 15 feet tall. All the Willows have a liking for damp ground and do well in our wet climate.

The flowers of the Willow which are produced from February-March are called catkins or pussy willows. The pussy willow name comes from the newly opened catkins resemblance to the paws of a fluffy kitten. Seeds can be obtained from the catkins in early Summer, however, cuttings take very easily so that is the usual method of propogation.

These cuttings, which were in a bucket of water have made strong roots in about 2 months. Ten new Willows for free!

The water in which Willows have been soaked in said to aid other plants in rooting. A friend of mine has a Dragon Willow which is really lovely. The bark is dark brown in colour and the branches are flattened, as opposed to round, as they get a bit older. I have taken cuttings from this a few times but none have rooted. Maybe this one only grows from seeds?

In recent years Willow has been much used in the making of fedges and living sculptures. It’s traditional uses would have been in making baskets of various sizes and types and for creels. Creels are a traditional basket for bringing home the turf. One would be placed on each side of a Donkey to carry home the important Winter fuel.

Ten years ago I did a basket making course with Joe Hogan, a brilliant craftsman who makes his living from basketmaking. Joe lives in Galway and a wonderful week was spent there by Loch na Fooey making baskets. The basket above is an Irish potato basket. The potatoes, when cooked would be emptied into the basket, the water escaped and the basket was placed on the table. I made 4 baskets under Joe’s tuition but sadly never made one since. I found that my hands were not strong enough for the work.

Willow is known to have healing properties. It is an old remedy for rheumatism, arthritis, muscular aches and all conditions caused by damp. It is interesting that the Willows grow in dampness but also cure conditions caused by damp. Nature being the cause and the cure!

The bark of Willow contains Salicin, which is made into Salicylic Acid, the origin of Aspirin.

Being of a watery nature Willow is governed by the Moon. In her book, The Sacred Tree, Glennie Kindred  says “The Willow speaks to us of the female side of ourselves, whether we are men or women. Being sacred to the Moon, it will help us keep in touch with our life’s rhythms, our dreams, and deep unconscious thoughts and feelings”.

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Ireland’s Native Trees.

In Ireland, nature on November 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Ash tree in back field.

 There are differing opinions about the number of native Irish trees. A general consensus seems to be 18. Ash is one of the commonest trees. It grows on all soils and self seeds readily. The national game of hurling is played with hurleys made from Ash. It is also a great tree for burning and can be burned from green.

Scots Pine at Lough Rynn.

 The mighty Scots Pine can grow to a height of 40 metres and live up to 300 years.  The wood is known as “red deal”…it is used fencing, in house building and in telephone poles. It is high in resin which makes it longer lasting.

Young Oak tree at Seed Savers in Co Clare.

 There are 2 native Oaks…sessile and pedunculate. The difference is in the acorns. The acorns from Sessile Oaks have no stalks while the pedunculate have quite long stalks. Ireland’s oldest Oak is at Tuamgraney in Co. Clare…it is 1,000 years old. The Oak pictured above is grown from an acorn from that tree. It is known as Brian Boru’s Oak. Brian Boru was the last High King of Ireland…he was killed at the battle of Clontarf in 1014 reputedly at 88 years old. Oak produces very strong timber…most of Ireland’s Oak forests were felled to be used in the making of ships for Britain’s Royal Navy.

Birch, Scots Pine and Ash to the north-side of our house.

 Now is a good time for planting trees, especially in the mild weather we have been having. It is a good idea to plant native trees as they are accostumed to the climate…more wildlife friendly…birds and insects are fussy and will only inhabit plants they recognise.  Check what grows in your area already. If something is not going to do well in your soil there’s no point planting it.

The complete list in addition to those mentioned:

Birch, will grow in boggy, wet soil. Rowan, also called Mountain Ash. Alder, has nitrogen fixing nodules on it’s roots. Willow, hundreds of species, grows easily from cuttings. Holly, only the female bears the red berries that symbolise Christmas for so many. Hazel, produces edible nuts that are much loved by humans and squirrels. Aspen, a fast growing member of the Poplar family. Bird Cherry, found mainly in the north-west. Crab Apple, produces small sour apples which make an easy to set jelly. Strawberry Tree, found mainly in co . Kerry. It produces fruits which look like Strawberries hence the name. Whitebeam, has a preference for limy soils. Wych Elm, mostly wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease. Wild Cherry, grows best in alkaline soil. Yew, most often associated with graveyards produces berries which are poisonous to livestock.

 If you’re going to plant a tree…do plant a native tree.

 

 

 

Permaculture @ Prospect Cottage.

In Gardening, permaculture, sustainable living on October 10, 2011 at 8:10 am

There is still lots of colour in the long border despite lots of rain and wind. Plants are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for. This bed was planted 2 years ago. Most of the plants were grown from slips and cuttings. Phlox, Sedum and Japenese Anemones give great late season interest. Many of these will be divided yet again next Spring to facilitate further garden expansion. I’m not a big fan of garden centres, plants from hothouses abroad often do not acclimatise well to our soil and climate. Much better to buy Irish grown plants when possible. As my gardening life proceeds I find myself increasingly using Permaculture techniques.

Permaculture aims to create in a self-sustaining and earth-friendly way a system that provides for our human needs while working co-operatively with Nature. No chemicals are used and plants such as the Sedum, which is a great attractant for Butterflies, are planted extensively. Harmony between Humans and Nature is paramount. Native plants are important being hosts to many types of wildlife. Oak and Willow are good examples as they are both host to about 300 species of wildlife while also having importance for Humans. The Forest Garden by Robert Hart is a great Permaculture book as is Masanubo Fukuoka’s book One Straw Revolution. Fukuoka, one of my heroes, was writing and indeed practising Permaculture in the 1930s long before it’s fashionable resurgence in the 1970s in Australia.

Fruits, trees and flowers are planted together, no monoculture. The area above was planted in Spring of this year around an established Twisted Willow. The sod was turned, plants planted then the whole lot was mulched with newspaper and straw. Raspberries, Rosa Rugosa, Blackcurrants, Mallow, Chives and Phygelius are all thriving together. Mulch will be applied again next Spring when the ground warms up. The mulch rots down over time to provide nutrition for the plants  whilst keeping down weeds. In the polytunnels crops are also mixed together. Herbs, flowers and vegetables make for an interesting and colourful mix. Pests are not a problem as the mix of plants and various scents confuse them. The only problem we have found is with slugs but a good Permaculture solution to that would be to have ducks, ducks love eating slugs. The problem for us is that there are loads of Foxes in this area. We are considering making a Fox proof (fingers crossed) run over the Winter and getting Chickens and Ducks next Spring. We would as a bonus have eggs, a good source of protien produced on our own smallholding. Permaculture principles at work.

Pets too have a place in the Permaculture system. They provide company for the humans and prevent Rats and Mice from building up. We have 2 terriers who are avid chasers of all intruders. Permaculture Doggies rule!

Photos from the Morning Walk.

In Animals, arigna, sustainable living on June 4, 2011 at 11:47 am

The Irish weather is so crazy this year. Yesterday I took the dogs for their mornin walk wearing a skirt, tee shirt and a light shirt. Today I wore jeans, tee shirt, shirt and a sleeveless jacket. It’s about 10 degrees colder today. The sky was grey compared to the brilliant blue of yesterday.

Lots of Ragged Robin in flower on the lane right now. It is my favourite wild flower. It likes the damp soil and unspoilt wild areas we are so lucky to still have here. It self-seeds readily.

On the way back home I picked a bunch of Herb Robert. This little plant with it’s pretty pink flowers is the predecessor of the perennial Geraniums we now grow in our gardens. Made into an infusion and added to a footbath it is a great detoxifier. I will do this when the day’s work is finished. A simple indulgence free from nature.

The native Orchid is flowering too. This is the first one I’ve spotted this year. Beautiful.Bella and Enid absorbed in breakfasting among the Buttercups.

A remind of yesterday’s blue skies and energising sunshine. Hopefully it will return.

May flowers @ Prospect Cottage.

In Gardening on May 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Incarvillea, in flower at the moment, looks like something that should be a heated glasshouse. It is however completely hardy, it’s low growing habit protecting it from the recent winds.

 Yellow Flag Iris is just coming into flower right now. A native plant it grows well in water and wet soils. Lots of it growing wild on our laneway.

Geranium Johnson’s Blue flanked on either side by Alchemilla commonly known as Lady’s Mantle, an accidental combination brought about by self-seeders, I love it. In the polytunnel self-seeded Snapdragons provide a striking colour point.

Nasturtiums, one of my faves. Good for insect biodiversity, a good companion plant , leaves and flowers are edible. Sounds like the perfect plant!Thought the recent gales would have destroyed this one as it’s in a fairly exposed spot. It however, looks better than ever, Campion.