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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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Lifestyle

Bamboo is hardy and easy to grow

By Debby Looney, our weekly gardening expert Is there such a thing as a plant which ticks every single box? I don’t think so. But a plant which is one of the most versatile I can think of is certainly bamboo. There is a bamboo for every need, and every type of garden, really, their […]

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By Debby Looney, our weekly gardening expert

Is there such a thing as a plant which ticks every single box? I don’t think so. But a plant which is one of the most versatile I can think of is certainly bamboo.

There is a bamboo for every need, and every type of garden, really, their only drawback is that they do not flower. On the other hand, they are hardy, easy to grow, evergreen, stay true to their size, provide sound, colour and movement, and are so unique they do not compete with other plants. The fact that they do not flower is, for me, one of their strengths, as they provide a beautiful backdrop for flowers in the summer and fill the emptiness in the winter without one having to worry about clashing colours!

CHOOSE CAREFULLY

Bamboo root systems are quite shallow, so while they do grow almost anywhere, they do best in fertile, moist, but not waterlogged, soil, which has been dug over. They benefit greatly from an annual mulch, and prefer to be sheltered from extreme wind. That said, I have a bamboo in a pot which dries out regularly, is forgotten about and gets the full force of the wind, but is still alive. Not growing, perhaps, but not dead either!
The important thing with bamboo is to choose carefully and do the research. There are a thousand plus varieties and some will naturalise and crowd out other plants. If you are in doubt, line a very large hole with strong plastic, into which you cut some drainage holes, this should keep your plant in check.

HARDY

The easiest and one of the largest bamboo is Pseudosasa japonica. It is classed as a runner, and needs space. I do a yearly trim around the rhizomes and this keeps it tidy. It has mid green, olive coloured culms, (stems of a bamboo), and dark green foliage growing to over 5m. It is incredibly hardy. A very popular bamboo is Phyllostachys nigra, the black bamboo – so called for its beautiful dark culms. It grows well in a large pot, but if it is planted in the ground it will reach 5m also. Another very hardy one to try is Phyllostachys aurea, the golden bamboo. Its canes are very recognisable, having a swelling below each node.
Medium sized bamboos, about 2m, are ideal for containers, or as screens. Fargesia dracocephala is a very hardy plant, which copes well with a level of neglect. It has dense, dark foliage which makes it ideal as a hedge. Fargesia ‘Jumbo’ is a firm favourite and with its arching habit it is very graceful.

EASIEST TO GROW

Yet another use for bamboo is groundcover and to this end Indocalamus tessellatus is possibly the easiest to grow and reaches a maximun of 1m tall. It will happily cover as much ground as you will give it. It is a bit of a slow starter if the soil is heavy, but once it gets going weeds don’t stand a chance! Another excellent choice is Sasa veitchii which is very dense and fast growing. Its leaves turn pale brown around the edges in winter, giving it a variegated appearance.
Lastly, there are a few unusual types to look out for. Shibatea kumasaca is a groundcover plant, which can be clipped into formal hedges and shapes as it makes small dense clumps. Chimonobambusa quadrangularis is a 3m tall specimen with square stems – it grows in distinct clumps and its leaves are very glossy, and, well, shaggy looking! Hibanobambusa ‘Shiroshima’ is a beautiful variegated plant, with vibrant yellow and green streaked leaves. It is extremely hardy.

So, whether you need a privacy screen, groundcover, specimen plant or pot plant, there is a bamboo out there for you!

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Lifestyle

Five tips for stress management

By Brian Foley from Activate Fitness We all have stress, whether at work, at home, with family or with friends. Sometimes specific things or circumstances can make us feel incredibly stressed out. Stress is a normal part of life, but the most important thing is responding to and managing it. So the next time that […]

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By Brian Foley from Activate Fitness

We all have stress, whether at work, at home, with family or with friends. Sometimes specific things or circumstances can make us feel incredibly stressed out.

Stress is a normal part of life, but the most important thing is responding to and managing it. So the next time that you are feeling stressed, try these five techniques for managing it:

1. Exercise regularly

Swift movement can help improve sleep and combat stress. Research shows that individuals who participated in moderate physical activity had half the perceived stress as those who did not participate. Physical activity may also cancel out some of the adverse effects of stress, including the impact on the immune system. Exercise causes the release of endorphins, so adding physical activity into your routine will also make you happier.

2. Practice parasympathetic activities such as meditation

Multiple studies have found that mindful meditation can reduce psychological stress and anxiety. Take five minutes to yourself in a quiet place to sit and breathe. Focus on the present moment. Don’t worry if your mind starts to wander to other thoughts. Simply acknowledge those thoughts and then let them go. Refocus and bring your attention back to the present moment.

3. Get adequate sleep 

Stress during the day affects the quality of our sleep at night. Even worse, insufficient sleep can affect both brain function and mood. Limit electronic device usage like smartphones and computers in the evening. Don’t consume caffeine late in the day, after 3 or 4pm. Try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed consistently to ensure adequate nightly sleep. Finally, get moving during the day! Research suggests that physical activity can improve sleep and combat stress.

4. Eat a high-quality whole foods-based diet

When we are stressed, our central nervous system releases cortisol. Research has shown that high cortisol levels combined with high sugar consumption may cause fat to be deposited around our internal organs. This is called visceral fat, and it is associated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Choose high-quality whole foods which will provide you with a variety of nutrients and health benefits. Aim to consume a diet full of colourful fruits and veggies daily!

5. Transform negative thoughts

Our thoughts influence our emotions, and our feelings affect our behaviours. Reframing your thoughts around the causes of stress can help you better control your emotions, which helps reduce perceived stress. Redirect negative energy and ideas into positive ones. Evaluate your expectations and learn to accept the situations that are outside of your control.

If you need to connect with a coach to help guide you, schedule a free consultation with us today by visiting our website www.activate.ie.

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