Monday 11 December 2017

June gets the buzz

Comedienne June Rodgers knows how to attract an audience -- and in her garden, that means nurturing the right plants to help care for our native insects and bird life

June in her garden
June in her garden

Dermot O'Neill

With many of our native insects, such as the bumblebee, in danger of extinction, gardeners are now playing a larger role in helping them survivie by choosing plants and flowers that will attract and sustain them.

One such gardener who loves attracting birds and insects to her garden is well-known comedienne June Rodgers. I met her recently and she explained about her passion for attracting wildlife to her garden. June started by explaining where her interest began: "I live in an old, granite cottage in Firhouse, which dates back to 1903. When my dad Alex and I bought the house together 20 years ago, we were delighted that it came with a large garden.

"Dad was always a very keen gardener, and in our previous house in Tallaght village, he grew everything from gooseberries to marrows. Needless to say, visitors to our house never left empty-handed.

"Sadly my dad passed away shortly after we bought the house, but I was very fortunate to have great friends, who came up with trowels, shovels and spades to help me with the garden, and, of course, there was the occasional bottle of wine to help us with this task.

"Then I met and married my husband Peter 13 years ago. Now while he enjoys the lovely garden, he'd be more of a cut- the-grass man and is great for cutting back the foliage in the autumn.

"This is a great help to me, as I get very busy around then, preparing for my Christmas Show, which opens at the Red Cow Moran Hotel from November 26."

She adds: "A few years ago, we decided to put in a pond and water-feature in the garden. We started off with goldfish in the pond, but sadly Mr Heron was a regular lunch visitor. Then a friend of ours introduced us to the world of frogs, but the one thing we didn't realise about them was that they multiply. And boy, did they multiply.

"In April this year, we had to take more than 200 of them out of our pond, as they were taking it over.

"We carefully transported them by car to a bigger pond in the mountains, but when we returned home, we were astonished to hear a chorus of 'ribbit, ribbit' outside. There were at least another 50 of them by the side of the pond, and we suspect that they caught the bus back down the mountain again.

"My favourite of all are the birds, as we have a lot of house sparrows that live in the hedge, and an adorable little robin, who sits outside every morning waiting for his breakfast -- dried mealworm.

"My mother-in-law Marjorie introduced me to a seed called niger seed, and within four days, we had eight goldfinches in the garden. Quite a lot of starlings descend during the day, the odd pigeon, and, of course, the blackbirds.

"A couple of years ago, we put some nesting boxes in the garden, and the blue tits took advantage of two of them. I think the male had two women on the go, as he was going from one to the other. I suspect it'll all end in feathers flying.

"Over the years, I have become much more familiar with plants and how they can attract wildlife. Buddleia, the verbena and even nettles attract butterflies, and lavender, hebe, fuchsia, sunflower and the blue globe thistle attract bees. If you're not a fan of wasps, beware because they adore cotoneaster.

"I love my garden, it's my favourite place to sit and learn my lines. It's my little oasis before the madness and fun of the Christmas Show begins."

Irish Independent

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