April 2013.

East Antrim must be the wettest place in Ireland. Apparently in 2012 our rainfall was 25% above average and this year feels just the same. You can guess what the garden is like especially on our clay.

Then we had the snow; about one foot in total. It was so heavy it weighed down the roof of the lean-to display area and a new roof had to be installed.

It is good at least that some plants like these weather conditions. I have never seen Ranunculus aconitifolius ‘Flore Pleno’ or the various May flowers looking as good and Lysichiton americanum is really impressing visitors. Folk would like to buy the latter but we try to live up to our environmental responsibilities by not selling plants which become invasive and this is a prime example.

Our Meconopsis area is extended and the number of varieties has increased. Last May they took a battering in the severe winds and we have been adding beech plants to the nearby hedge to thicken it up.

As I write this it is good to report  that the potting up etc is virtually finished. Joy will update the list on the web page over the next few  weeks.

As always we introduce many new (or at least new to us)plants to the garden each year. This year there are abour 150 and some I am really looking forward to. The Hosta ‘Rasberry Sundae’, which was sitting in a reserved area in one of the tunnels, had to be retrieved from customers on several occasions. It is now planted in the garden !!

We add photos to our facebook site on a weekly basis and give information on events and workshops. Do check us out.

In addition if you wish to receive our monthly e-newsletter do email us at .

March 2013.

Our Hellebore and Snowdrop days were well attended and the weather superb. It must be the year of the snowdrop and as I write this on the 13 March many varieties are still in full flower. The variety ‘Mark’s Tall’ has been a favourite of the visiting public. I have no idea where I purchased this. Does anyone know of its origin?

The apricot hellebores have flowered really well this year but the selection of plants we have do tend to be a little top heavy and shelter is therefore needed.

It is approaching planting time again and during the past year we have sourced quite a few new plants to try in the garden. A number of Meconopsis varieties are among these.

Potting in the nursery is in full swing but because of the cold growth is slow. We have as usual new additions and our favourite wall plant Ribes speciosum is included.

January 2013.

Our autumn colour this year was superb and this followed our 2 week holiday in the Rocky Mountains in the fall. It did seem like autumn would not come to an end. The Rockies were superb and during the next few days I will put a collection of our photographs on the Facebook site.

Its great that spring is just around the corner. The weather here for the past few weeks has been very mild and as a result many snowdrop varieties and hellebores are in flower. According to the Met Office these guys are in for a shock in the very near future.

The garden has been thoroughly prepared for the ‘new season’ with all herbaceous plants cut back etc. In addition all the lawns have been mown and just in time too as the snowdrop and crocus are are springing up quickly.

Our Workshops and Events programme has been posted on this site and for the first time we are having a Snowdrop Open Afternoon on Saturday 16 February. During the past 5 years we have established a nice collection of rare varieties and planted 100’s of Galanthus nivalis through woodlands etc.; these should be at their best.


September 2012

Summer is nearly over. What summer!!!!

Please note that we are closed until 1 March 2013 unless by appointment or if we happen to be here we will be pleased to assist.

Our propagation results have been excellent. It is amazing that as far as propagation is concerned learning continues to make an impact. This year we propagated our Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ 2 weeks earlier than normal and the results have never been better; 90% success rate. On the subject of this plant, we have noticed on numerous occasions that many garden centres and wholesale nurseries are selling the ordinary Cornus alba as this variety. They are very different I can assure you.

Two of a range of gardens that we visited this summer are well worth a visit. These are The Bay Garden in Wexford the Caher Bridge in the Burren. I have some beautiful photographs of both but have a look at their web pages.

Many visitors to our garden complain about lack of road signs. Please be assured that we are attempting to have this rectified via Roads Service. It is rather like moving a mountain!!

August 2012

The rain continues. We only had an inch today!!! It with the higher temperatures ensure that the grass grows with vigour. This also applies to many leaf diseases such as rose black spot, mildews and leaf moulds. There is so much rain and accordingly there is no point in applying fungicides.

We have continued to plant in the borders throughout the summer. This is an ideal time under present weather conditions because the weaknesses in design are easily seen and new plants from a colour and form perspective can be well chosen and located to best advantage.

Our Astilbes are superb although the taller types are flopping due to poor light conditions. Our top performers are Visions in Red, Weisse Gloria, Diamonds and Pearls, Brokat and Heart and Soul.

July 2012

Our workshops continue and in a few weeks it is propagation; very practical in nature and an opportunity to obtain some goodies.

At long last the garden has produced worthwhile growth although the roses here are weeks behind. I never remember them being as late.

And the rain!!! What can I say? Not many plants like these conditions but a few do; Astilbes and Filipendulas are entirely at home in the wet.

March 2012

Our Hellebore Day has come and gone and we hope everyone enjoyed the occasion.

Our newly propagated plants from last summer have come through the winter really well. The mild weather has certainly helped but the detailed attention to irrigation has helped even more. Many over wintered plants do not like wet ‘feet’.

So guess what we are doing now?  We are literally going potty!!!

We have quite a few new plant cultivars this year some of which were outstanding in our garden in 2012.

Hopefully our workshop programme is attractive this year. There is a number of new additions. Please see under workshops and events.

January 2012

We are really appreciating the mild winter to date; rather different to the past two winters. The plants in the tunnels think it is summer!!

Drainage work continues and the drains installed this winter have made an enormous difference. I am a firm believer in undertaking this task correctly.

Hellebores are flowering very early but the mice are taking the flowers. No idea why.

November 2011

Preparation of the garden for 2012 is well underway. New trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants have been added to the collection and a number of poor performers have been removed. This reflects our general ethos which is to only grow good performing plants.

The main project is a new woodland garden to grow choice plants and also provide an opportunity to allow some of these rare beauties to bulk up and perhaps subsequently sell some of the surplus. A range of Trillium, Erythronium and Meconopsis (including some clumps of the Slieve Donard variety) and others have been planted.

October 2011

Autumn colour has not been good this year and a recent visit to the south of England revealed a similar picture there. Many plants coloured up very early but it was so disappointing not to see the Amalanchiers not giving their all at this time.

The lawn to the front of the cottage is in the course of being drained. Unfortunately this has had to be extensive because the soil is very heavy. The results at this stage look very promising. Note that we are planning a workshop on this subject next year. (See under workshops and events.)


September 2011

There is no end to this rain and gardens in general are not at their best.

It is remarkable to see trees in particular beginning to show autumnal tints . Apparently this is linked to the very warm and dry March and April that we experienced this year.

Whilst many plants do not like this wet weather, some love it and none more so than the Astilbes. All have performed with the three best being Purple Lance, Visions in Red and Veronica Klose.

Our Hole Tree has finally shaped up and I have to admit looks the part; quite a focal point especially at this time of year.

Our propagation programme has been very good this year. Stock taking is underway and in addition to our own stock we always bring in the best of the new varieties coming on the market.

This years’s events programme comes to an end very soon. However we have our plans in place for 2012 and can be viewed under Courses and Events.


July 2011

When I was answering questions live on Gardeners Corner on Saturday 16 July, a number of people phoning in asked questions that led to answers having a ‘time’ related response. Helen Marks who was presenting the programme jokingly enquired if the questioner really had to do the task immediately or at a set time.

I responded by saying yes and this led me to mull over how gardening as a hobby and as a profession is very unusual and so critical in this respect. Timing is so important and it seems to apply to almost everything we do in the garden. Last year I thought I was being smart by cutting the box hedge just once in the formal garden in August rather than an early and a late trim. Of course I was found out and the hedge suffered accordingly during the hard winter. This year I have reverted!!!!

One of the most important time related tasks is propagation. For instance if semi ripe cuttings are not taken during the next few weeks the success rate drops off significantly. Likewise the sowing of grass seed is best in August; if sown too late the grass seedlings are too weak to survive the winter.

Sorry if this note led to you having to do some unplanned work!!!


June 2011

Sorry abut the missing months but we were really busy. At last we have caught up having dealt with dozens of visiting groups, commenced our first workshop programme and then the day job. It has been very rewarding. We will soon be preparing our programme for 2012 and if you have any ideas on subject matter do drop us an email.

The weather can be a pain; not enough rain or should I say none in March and April, then the gales and guess what, now too much rain. However various species of plants react differently. The Astilbes are starting their show and they will be superb here at Ballyrobert Cottage Garden. Our Hostas have never been better and the day lilies are heavily budded. Do visit us during the next few months in particular.

What a year for the Astrantias. Roma, Giant White and Buckland have been spectacular in the garden and the impression they created has had the effect of having few left for sale in our plant centre. Roses though are plentiful and Joy has a current offer of 20% off.

Whilst on the subject of the garden, Allister has skillfully built three new wooden bridges over the stream and I have been developing some interesting focal points in the garden. These include a giant pear and an eel beside the stream !!

Do not forget our Charity Day on Saturday 23 July. Our charity this year is Action Cancer.

1 March 2011

Lots of enthusiastic weather and lots of enthusiastic gardeners combined to make the Hellebore Open Day on Saturday a great success! We didn’t even have time to get any really good photos. We think this was the first Hellebore Open Day in the province – does anyone know any different? There will definitely be another one next year.

The only downside was that the recent cold weather delayed the flowering of a few hellebore clumps around the garden – you will just have to visit again in a couple weeks to see them! Interestingly though this highlights that timing hellebores can be difficult. It also worth remembering some hellebore strains can vary to a surprising extent. For example on Saturday the Ballard strain was in full bloom however the Ashwood types where only just beginning to flower.

The interest in hellebores in the garden is growing fast (no pun intended). I think this is due to the large amount of breeding and selection that has taken place over the last ten years. I also think their inclusion in gardens old and new will bring an exciting dimension to winter gardening in the future.






7 February 2011

Blood of the Boyne, Bloody Butcher and Kill Apple may more often be confused with Ireland’s political past. But, did you know these are old Irish apple varieties?

We have some of these old types in our own orchard at Ballyrobert Cottage Garden. These have their own history and in addition to providing fruit they enrich the garden with their own history. It is the ideal time now to plant some of these in the garden and the location could be in a hedge, mixed border or a good sized pot.






21 January 2011

‘Spring Into Action’

After a really tough winter borders are not looking their best. Now is a good time to make a difference by completing a thorough border renovation.

At this time we have completed 50% of our borders and the difference is enormous. Unruly trees and shrubs have been tamed and herbaceous plants trimmed to ground level. We can now see the emerging bulbs such as snowdrops, aconites, hellebores and daffodils. During this process we have also removed any weeds and I from my experience if weeds are under control early in the year the burden of weeding later is drastically reduced.





4 January 2011

The snow has just gone a short time but already damage to the garden is beginning to show. The main victim at this stage is the Camellia with leaves turning brown very quickly. Happily the variety Donation is in fine condition.

Low growing plants seem fine at this time and this is due to the thick blanket of snow when the frosts were at their worst.

The task of preparing the garden for the new ‘season’ is well underway. I trust we will receive no more snow!!





Paul Joy

Gardening Expert at Myself
I love all things plants and garden landscaping, living in the rural areas around Leicestershire I have plenty of time to get outside and enjoy the beautiful environment in the UK. Email me at with any questions or suggestions.

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