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Large shrubs are easy to care for

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

There is a whole group of plants which form the backbone of any garden, which need little care once planted, but are of great use to the new gardener.

These plants form the ‘shrubbery’ - that place in many large gardens where plants are put and forgotten about, but which give a good display and add interest to the garden. However, for a beginner, the question of what goes into these large beds, these places which you fill ‘down at the bottom of the garden’, can be quite a daunting one!

So I thought I would arm readers with a list of large shrubs which will grow in just about any condition, are easy to care for but are still attractive and worth having. These plants are generally not for small gardens as they will grow to about 1.5m x 1.2m.

An old favourite in many gardens is the Weigelia. It is deciduous with trumpet shaped flowers in summer. W. variegate has lovely brightly variegated cream and green leaves with pale pink flowers, ‘Eva Rathke’ has dark green leaves with deep crimson buds opening to dark pink flowers, and ‘Looymansii aurea’ has golden leaves with pale pink flowers. Weigelia middendorffiana is a little unusual and more difficult to find, but has beautiful yellow flowers with deep red throat markings reminiscent of a rhododendron. These all flower best in a sunny site.

There are many Berberis varieties, but Berberis ‘Rose Glow’ is ideal for any large border. It has deep purple foliage but the new shoots are bright pink flecked with white giving it its glowing name. B. Aurea has golden foliage, and B. ‘Helmond Pillar’ has red-purple foliage and a columnar habit.

Another ideal purple foliaged plant is Physocarpus ‘Diabolo’ which really will grow in any condition adding height and width to a large border. It does have flowers, the buds of which are pink opening to cream, but it is its foliage and tall arching branches which make it a winner! P. ‘Dart’s Gold’ has golden foliage, and is equally attractive in its own sunny way.

Philadelphus, or mock orange, is a plant which should be in everyone’s garden. It has white flowers which are highly scented. P.’Lemoinei’ is an excellent variety, a strong grower and tolerant of wind and cold. It has single, white flowers. ‘Boule d’Argent’ has double flowers and is also very reliable. There is a lovely miniature, albeit spreading, Philadelphus suitable for a smaller garden, growing to about 60cm, called ‘Manteau d’Hermine’. It is very easy to grow also. ‘Belle Etoile’ is probably the easiest to find and will reward you with masses of fragrant white flowers.

A great evergreen shrub is Drimys lanceolata. In early spring it has clusters of creamy coloured, insignificant flowers – which are a haven for bees and pollinators at that time of year. I never realise mine is flowering until I walk past and hear the buzzing! The leaves are deep green, glossy and leathery, but the shoots are a bright to deep red, making it quite striking. This is an ideal plant for flower arrangers as its stems are so unusual.

As usual, I have run out of space, but next week I will continue this list of useful, hardy, low maintenance staples!

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NPWS announces nature scholarships to mark ‘Muckross 60’

Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall O’ Donnchú, this week announced the inaugural ‘Muckross 60’ nature scholarships to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of […]

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Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall O’ Donnchú, this week announced the inaugural ‘Muckross 60’ nature scholarships to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of Muckross House and Gardens to the public. The scholarships will be funded and managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Niall O Donnchú said, “Killarney and Muckross have a very special place in Ireland’s heritage legacy, and  such beautiful gems need constant care, nurturing and indeed protecting by future generations. In supporting these third level scholarships, the NPWS is building the knowledge base of the future to assist those generations in continuing to realise the full beauty and nature value of the very unique Muckross House and Gardens and Killarney National Park.”

Mr O Donnchú added: “Killarney has a long history of scholarship, research and frontier work on nature and that continues to this day in the management of Killarney National Park and Muckross House and Gardens. The endowment of these annual scholarships is a very clear attestation that this crucial work continues to be undertaken across our national park system and especially here in Killarney and Muckross. This work has been pioneering in respect of wildlife and nature research and indeed the reintroduction of endangered species and the discovery, even this year, of more.”

Minister for Education and Kerry T.D. Norma Foley also welcomed new scholarships to mark the 60th anniversary of Muckross House.

“Muckross House is one of the jewels in the crown of Kerry tourism and received almost one million visitors last year. These scholarships will further add to our understanding of this outstanding part of our national heritage,” she said.

Muckross House was built by the Herbert family, who were local landlords. They became very wealthy during the 18th century due to the working of the copper mines on the Muckross Peninsula. They commenced the building of the present Muckross House in 1839. It was completed in 1843 at cost of £30,000, just two years prior to the Great Irish Famine. The Herbert family hosted the visit of Queen Victoria to Muckross House in 1861 but later got into financial difficulties and lost the house in 1897.

It was then bought by Lord Ardilaun, a member of the Guinness family. He in turn sold it in 1911 to William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy Californian gold miner. Bowers Bourn gave it to his daughter Maud as a wedding gift when she married Arthur Rose Vincent, an Irish barrister who later became a Senator.

After Maude died from pneumonia in 1929, Arthur Rose Vincent decided to donate Muckross house to the Irish nation as a memorial to his wife. Muckross House was transferred to the state in 1932 with its 11,000 acre estate and became Ireland’s first National Park in 1933.

The park and gardens were opened to the public but the house remained closed until 1964 when it was reopened as a folk museum on June 14, 1964 following a campaign by people in Killarney.

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Now that’s what we call dedication!

With over 41 years volunteering as a research biologist Áine Ní Shúilleabháin is the longest serving volunteer in Killarney National Park. Áine is dedicated to the recording of valuable scientific […]

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With over 41 years volunteering as a research biologist Áine Ní Shúilleabháin is the longest serving volunteer in Killarney National Park.

Áine is dedicated to the recording of valuable scientific data on waterfowl and water quality in Killarney National Park. Her research has been an invaluable source of material with recordings dating back to 1982. Her contribution, observing ecosystems, and reports on her findings will be recognised for generations to come.

Áine’s ‘wingman’ is boatman and co-counter, John Michael Lyne, who operates from Muckross Boathouse. John’s knowledge of the lakes and interest in wildlife is remarkable. Generations of John Michael’s family have been involved with Muckross and Killarney National Park. The day on the lakes, John Michael, Áine and bird expert and National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Ranger, Sam Bayley, observed, nesting Herons, ringed Mute Swans, Golden Eye pair, an Egret, Cormorants, Irish Red Deer Hinds by the shoreline, and a White Tailed Eagle in the distance.

“It’s a wonderful privilege to be working in Killarney National Park, the Rangers are so open and welcoming,” Áine said.

“I first came to the Park in 1974, working with Dan Kelleher and the late Paudie O’Leary, and then on contract from 1976-1984. My supervisor suggested that I link my work as a fresh water biologist looking at the lake water quality with my great interest in wildlife ecology and management, that’s how I started doing the waterfowl counts.”

The project was spearheaded by prof John Bracken, Zoology Department UCD.

When Áine was appointed Senior Fisheries Environmental Officer in Donegal and Cavan (1982-2008), she still found time to travel to Killarney and carry out her bird counts.

“Being involved in waterfowl counts and waterfowl research in the Killarney National Park, alongside the great staff, so committed and knowledgeable from Dan Kelleher to the current management and staff, Éamonn Meskell, Danny O’Keeffe, and the great team of Conservation Rangers, and Sam Bayley being the bird expert, is such a privilege for me.”

After retiring, Áine returned to Kerry and Glenflesk became her home place. She immersed herself helping Glenflesk GAA Club, with her strong Kerry roots she served as Club PRO and now as Health Club Officer. She was appointed to the role of Kerry County Board Children’s Officer, a role she is very proud to hold.

As she says she is in a unique position volunteering.

“It’s unique having a long series of data going from 1982 to 2023, that’s because of the commitment from past and present staff and for me to continue to work as a volunteer is a wonderful privilege. It’s great to be out in nature, in such a beautiful place, so many different ecosystems and great wildlife.”

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