Back to nursery
Support your local garden centre and reap the rewards by filling your own garden with rare finds, says Marie Staunton
There was a time when I would pass on a garden centre in favour of a pair of designer shoes, but no longer -- my priorities have changed and the lure of finding a rare plant has me broke.
A local, honest-to-goodness garden centre teeming with unusual and well-loved plants -- and knowledgeable staff -- is to be applauded and supported, especially in this day and age.
A label on a plant will give you the basic information, but local knowledge is king and there really is no substitute for an experienced plants person in a nursery. Not only are they well up on all manner of plants in their care, but they will also steer you towards the plants that will do really well in your part of the country.
So, whether you are on holiday in Wexford or Kerry, or indeed anywhere in Ireland, seek out local, well-stocked nurseries and bring something back with you that is just that little bit different.
If I'm on the hunt for a plant that I've seen at Chelsea or Bloom, I ask my local garden centre if they can get it in for me, rather than spend hours on a computer trying to track it down. I know I'm a complete luddite, but time spent outside suits me better.
If you are after an unusual magnolia, then head to a fantastic nursery in Wexford called Coolaught. Talk to Caroline or Harry if you call in and I bet you won't be able to resist buying a couple of other gems. While you're there, take a stroll around their garden, which is open to the public at the moment.
On the southside of Dublin on Johnstown Road, Dun Laoghaire, is Murphy & Wood nursery, tucked in at the back of the Hills Centre. It is one of the best in Ireland, in my opinion. It has a proper nursery feel to it, specialising in plants that aren't always easily available in Ireland.
The Calceolaria integrifolia is a fabulous yellow-flowered perennial that we got there a few years ago and it really looks fantastic at this time of year. They also have a lovely little Grevillea 'Poorinda Rondeau' at the moment that I'm finding hard to resist -- it might just have to come home with me soon. All the staff there are very helpful and really good plants people.
A nursery that has gone through a dramatic change recently is Windyridge nurseries in Rochestown Avenue, Dublin. There since 1962, it has been given a new lease of life by Paul and his brother, Justin.
They have a very fine range of plants and one that I have in the garden that is a bit different is the Hydrangea quercifolia. They have it in again now, so have a look out for it.
I worked in Gardenworks during college and it was hard work but also a fantastic learning curve. What I learned there still stands to me now, so if you have any budding gardeners in your midst then a summer job in a garden centre will be invaluable to them.
The lovely Co Kerry boasts a number of very fine garden centres. When I'm visiting my brother there, I find it very hard not to buy a plant or three at Shanahan's in Farranfore, which is a proper nursery boasting a fantastic selection of plants that aren't always easy to find.
If you are around that neck of the woods in the next few weeks, look out for a lovely Gladiolus papilio which will remind you a bit of Dierama, or Angel's fishing rod.
They also have a gorgeous Acer Freeman, which will light up the garden come autumn.
I only have room in this article to mention the tip of the iceberg in relation to nurseries, but they need your support. Without them, life would be a lot less colourful.
Tully in Ballyboughal, North Co Dublin, only sold to the trade up until a few years ago, but now they welcome all gardening enthusiasts and have just won a very impressive Best In Show at the HTA National Plant Show in Coventry for a gorgeous new hebe they developed called Hebe 'Rhubarb and Custard'.
You will have to wait until 2013 to get your hands on it, so put it on the never- ending list of must-have plants.