Successful ornamental gardening means persisting against the odds
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Successful ornamental gardening means persisting against the odds

SUCCESSFUL ornamental gardening depends on many factors, not least the weather, latitude, and prevailing soil conditions.

Let me give you an example.

Long after all our doors are closed and wet clothing hung to dry, the gardeners of the Mediterranean will still be out taking supper on their verandas, drinking wine, and eating grapes still warm from the sun.

It does seem unfair for while our early winter gardens continue to dissolve and disintegrate, theirs are still being blessed with dry breezes and pots of sunflowers and exotic lilies drawing night-time moths.

Contrast all that with gardening in any part of the west of Ireland.


Gardening in all Northern European countries can be frustrating to say the least, but for those working the soil along the west coast of counties Mayo, Galway, and Sligo (in particular) the efforts needed must indeed be formidable and demanding.

The mercurial temperate climate experienced here on the outermost fringe of Western Europe forces growers to live out their lives in low light levels, fluctuating temperatures, and rainfall which ranges from foggy mists to prolonged, drenching downpours.

I have the greatest respect and admiration for all those who continue to persist against the odds with ornamental and productive gardening in all areas of these isles, Scotland very much included.

Even in more favoured areas conditions can often be just as disappointing, but gardeners’ thoughts everywhere are now turning to the cold and wet which will remain with us all until early spring at the earliest.

My plants will hopefully not die of hypothermia but… if they are plump with water when the real cold finally arrives their cells could rupture and cause them to die.

My saving grace against such a happening is a product I have covered in the past: horticultural grit.

This is currently available at all garden outlets.


In open ground I try to get half a bucket of this magical stuff into every planting hole and situation.

The soil I work is acid and light but the water table is high.

However, by adding grit, it drains easily and becomes workable even when conditions have all but flooded.

So, insist like I do on purchasing the best available.

Ordinary road grit just not the same. It doesn’t even come near the feel or alchemy of sharp grit, and it certainly will not give you the same kind of sensual pleasure as it slips between your fingers.

The best grit available will be sharp, and the sharper the better.

Save your plants from the cold and wet of a harsh winter. Source grit this week.