Relish life's simple pleasures
Don't lose heart if your garden is never perfect – just be the best gardener you can be, writes Marie Staunton
Did you ever feel that your own garden will never look like those gardens featured in the glossy magazines? Well, if it's any consolation to you, mine won't either.
It's a bit like a fashion photograph; they certainly won't be showing the photo where the model blinked or where she wasn't looking her very best. So with that in mind, just aspire to being the best gardener you can be, without the pressure of having everything just perfect.
High maintenance is not what we are about; enjoying the simple pleasures of life is most definitely the way forward and slow gardening is my mantra.
There are, of course, a lot of things you can do to show your garden off to its very best. Take the Hellebore as an example of a plant that just needs a little tidy-up to reveal itself as the real star of late winter and early spring garden.
Clear away the big old leaves that disguise the real beauty of this plant. It won't suffer at all by taking away the leaves, so go ahead and cut them off.
If you have a bit of leaf mould or good compost, scatter it around the base of the plants in your border and you are already improving the overall look of the garden.
I mentioned before about allowing the little seedlings of the Hellebore to establish and then just move them to parts of the garden where you need a bit of extra colour at this time of the year.
The real beauty of these plants is that they can cross pollinate and I quite like the fact that I might get a pale pink beside a purple Hellebore and it all adds to the very eclectic mix in the spring border.
When choosing a site for the very dark-flowered Hellebore, pick a place where the sun can filter through the flowers. Otherwise, they won't be as noticeable as the lighter-coloured ones.
We visited one of my favourite places, Mount Usher gardens in Wicklow, a couple of weeks ago. Even though spring had yet to take hold, it was wonderful.
There is something about water flowing through a garden that brings a sense of calm and, now that spring is finally here, I am really looking forward to visiting again. The gardens have now reopened after the winter break and are well worth taking a trip to see.
We came across a little plant, albeit a parasite, that loves to colonise around the base of willow, poplar and other hospitable trees in damp areas. They like nothing better than a nice home attached to the roots of these trees, it's called Lathraea clandestina.
Keep your eyes peeled for it. From a distance you could mistake it for a little crocus or even a very small orchid, but on closer inspection, it has no leaves, just flowers.
It isn't harmful to the trees or their roots and they look like beautiful little jewels scattered on the ground.
If you have a damp area in the garden with willow or poplar to act as a host, then see if some seed will take.
I have just received a package in the post from seedaholic.com and not only are they fantastic value but each packet of seeds comes with a very detailed guide on just how they should be grown.
We tend to get our veg seed from them but, this year, I ordered a lot of seed for a cut-flower border that I'm planning. Have a look at their site and see what you think yourself.
This is a great time of year to go to a talk or two and the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin in Dublin have fantastic events lined up over the next few weeks.
They aren't just for people who are gardening all their lives – they are for you and me, and for anybody who has a love of plants and wants to learn a bit more.
Just check out their website botanicgardens.ie to see if anything takes your fancy.
On Sunday, March 17, at 2.30pm to mark St Patrick's Day, there is a guided walk through the conservation section of the Irish native plant collections in the National Botanic Gardens.
Meet up with the group in the Education and Visitor centre, which is located just beside the restaurant.