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My first forays into the art of gardening were disastrous.

In fact I was having a cup of tea with my mother recently and as we sat in the living room looking out onto the garden she suddenly pointed to the hill at the end of the lawn and shouted. ” That fecking Russian vine” (the term ‘fecking’ was the nearest my mother ever came to cursing and she only used it when very vexed)  “where on earth did it come from” She continued “its taking over the hill, just look at it…its RAMPANT”!

My disasters didn’t stop there.

As, with the creamy lacy flowers of the Russian vine that I fell in love with in a garden centre in my mid teens and brought home to plant on the hill in my parents back garden, I made a few more similar mistakes….(Interestingly I also fell in love with bicycles around the ‘Russian vine’ time).

For who would not be fooled by the loveliness of these flowering but cleverly invasive plants.

Oh the wondrous smell and the blue flowers of mint!

I planted it successfully in my first serious garden in Co Sligo, along with potatoes, cauliflowers, carrots, pea’s, bean’s, courgettes, salad crops, onions, leeks, garlic and even asparagus.

In fact so successfully, that, loving the rich manured soil, it grew joyously and exuberantly over everything.

I learned to recognise its worm like roots, which to give it credit pulled up easily. But it seemed the more I pulled, the faster it grew and when it began to appear in the goats shed and in the middle of my husbands immaculately raked driveway (he was Dutch) I gave up my battle with mint.

And started battling with my husband instead.

And no!  Its invasiveness wasn’t the reason we sold this house and moved to the north of Sligo.

Honestly it wasn’t!

Even in this third garden I STILL hadn’t learned my lesson.

I planted a clematis against a Hazel tree.

The idea being, It would climb and reach its pretty tendrils across to another Hazel tree and form a cacophony of flowers over the path to our water well.

Unfortunately even the romantic appearance of this path with its pink flowered bower couldn’t hold my failing marriage together.

I left,

Leaving my husband with the job of hacking down this very invasive creeper.

A job he was good at I might add, as one of our major fallings out happened when I came home from work early one day and caught him pulling up(by means of a rope and a car)A beautiful climbing rose that I had planted at the door of our cottage.

I agree that the rose (Albertine), which initially had climbed as I had intended (around the door and up the wall a bit), was now spreading itself rapidly across the blue bangor slates and making a beeline for the velux windows under which my daughters slept rosy cheeked each night.

But I loved it for its peach colored flowers with the scent of summer.

Reaching the gate at the end of the boreen, I took one finally look back at my home .

I could just make out large patches of pinks and purples against the mountain, the colour blurred and hazy through my tears.

I headed rapidly down hill and shamefacedly away from gardens after my divorce, but never gave up my love for them,

And in trying to forget these mistakes I should not forget my odd success.

I won first prize for my vegatables in country shows many times.


Not to mention prizes for my pedigree milking goats which happily escaped from being enveloped by that minty mayhem.


Alas no more large gardens for me.

I live in an apartment now.

On the third floor. With sun from 12 midday onwards .

Important facts because …..


God loves a tryer !

And though you may remove the garden from the gardener, you can never stop the gardener from finding the smallest piece of earth and planting their dreams in it.

So even when living in a small space, high up. I still manage to keep a garden of sort’s.

This year (as in recent years) I plan to have my Balcony filled to overflowing with plants , mostly beans, tomatoes and courgettes.

I love when it threatens to collapse with the weight of my planting enthusiasm.

St Patricks day is by tradition the day to start sowing crops in Ireland.

Probably because with luck, all danger of frost has passed at this time.

I wake the yellow bike early.

The purple diva is not interested in our country escapades. She prefers to laze by the fire. I have tried to tell her its not a real fire but she refuses to believe me. She can be quite stubborn.


We head out through the manicured apartment gardens. No sign of rampant growth here. All beautifully contained lawns and weed free flower beds.

But I get the feeling that these plants are sad and cowed down and wouldn’t dare to have a leaf out of place.

Sometimes I get a mad urge to do some night time under cover planting.

Of a wild and vigorous nature…

Some vibrant colourful carnivally over the top species.

But I nip my urges in the bud (pardon the pun).

Out on the main road we pedal up the hill in the direction of the garden centre.

The yellow bicycle is not full awake and struggles a bit so I hop off and push her for a while.

We stop to smell the wonderful patch of daffodils at the side of the road.

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An old lady with a small nondescript dog stops to admire the yellow bicycle, who has somehow made her way further in among the  flowers.

The dog stretches on his lead and tries to pee on the wheel but misses.

The old lady tugs him back towards her and reminisces about when she was young and how she always cycled to school and even cycled up to recently. ‘ But I’ve lost my confidence’ she confides ‘a car nearly up ended me as I turned into the local shops’.

She heads off down the road ‘ It was pink’ she calls over her shoulder nearly tripping on the dogs lead.

The yellow bike is fully awake now and we pedal on up the hill.

We take a shortcut through some derelict land.

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squeezing past briar patches and clumps of gorse.

The gorse is very yellow and smells of coconut.

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The sun comes out adding more yellowness to yellow.

‘Your kind of day’ I tell the yellow bicycle as we reach a smaller road. She zooms along happily. I barely have to push on the pedals.

I hear my first sky lark of the summer.

The wind is behind us now, blowing my hair across my face. I can feel the sun warm on my head. My kind of day too.

We freewheel down a hill and I lift my feet off the pedals as we fly through a puddle. We make it up the other side no trouble.

I back pedal the brakes and though there are no cars coming, I stick out my hand to indicate a right turn.

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My mother once told me that my father was the architect who oversaw any renovations to kilquaide church. But that may have been a romantic notion of hers. She also mentioned that some of her relatives are buried here. Whichever it was, we pull in anyway for look.

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Its a beautiful little church. almost Grecian in appearance. The small holy water font is empty.

I lean the yellow bike against it and wander round the tomb stones but I don’t recognise any of the names.

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The garden centre is across the road from the church. Two huge wrought Iron elephants guard the entrance. A white price tag flutters from one tusk. I don’t bother checking it, just wonder who would put it in their garden.

I can smell the Hyacinth’s from the gate and push the yellow bicycle over for a better look . Bright in pinks and blue’s, the smell is as over powering as the colour but I love them.

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Then I spot some real beauties.

Yellow ‘cowslips’.

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I remember as a child, the fields across the road would be covered in these, the cows wading up to their hocks in the yellowness.

And we were allowed pick armfuls with no thought to the environment.

But sadly, a change in farming methods and the over use of nitrogen (not to mention our careless picking) and they disappeared from the fields.

I pick up a pot for my balcony and leave the yellow bike in the sun.

I add packets of broad beans, runner beans, rocket and courgette seeds to my basket.

Heading back down towards the sea, the yellow bicycle trembles with the weight of our purchases. my small cowslip cowers in the front basket, dipping her head out of the wind.

Later drinking tea on my balcony, I notice something moving out of the corner of my eye. Its a tiny red ladybird and its crawling up the stalk of my cowslip.

I smile as I remember my first year ‘ balcony gardening ‘.

Afraid that the bee’s wouldn’t come up three flights high and fertilize my runner bean flowers, I started doing the job myself with a paint brush, gently brushing from flower to flower.

That evening as I sat relaxing with a glass of wine. a single bee appeared up over the balcony wall and landed buzzingly on a flower followed the next day by many more.

I think there is a moral to this story.

But for now, when I’ve finished my tea, Its time to start sowing again.daffodil time 007