Garden writing lifts me up.

Six-on-Saturday – Colour My World

It’s easy to overlook a plant in decline. I’ll photograph this once a month, to savour the importance of seeing beauty after the first flush of youth and maturity.

Is it true that dogs are colour-blind? The answer is no. Dogs can see colours, but not in the same way that I can. Their perception of colour is different. Reds and greens are missing almost entirely. “Yellow and blue are dominant colors in dog color vision. Blue, blue-green, and violet look like varying shades of blue. Shades of red and green probably look more like browns and grayscale to a dog.” (PetMD).

This blue-green colour-blindness is also present in approximately 7% of men, but not in women at all. That’s the reason a dog is man’s best friend! Likely, there are experts in the field reading this, so please add to the conversation. If I’m talking through my hat, please say so sensitively!

There is plenty colour in the garden this week, and it will only get better. Read along for a sneak peek of what’s on the spectrum… Miraculously, I’ve succeeded in linking all six items with doggy references. Walkies? Let’s go…

1. Dahlias

I’ll start on the wrong foot. These photographs are from last week, but I’m invoking the Occasional Blip Policy. It’s all about six things in my garden this week, on a Saturday, but the top dog is kind-hearted and doesn’t expel a pupil who lives in the past every now and then!

These flowers are tiny, perhaps just 3cm in diameter, and each plant has just one bloom. The plants are small, yet I’m expecting much of them. Here’s a C&P of my Instagram update:

I was almost ready to give up on the dahlias I grew from seed! They progressed well in the glasshouse until early April but did not like being thrust out to the big bad world. Late frosts meant that I was like a yo-yo bringing them in and out. In early May, I gave up and left them sink or swim, but late frosts came. They shivered and cursed some mighty curses.

Finally, last week the warm sunshine arrived and they have moved very quickly into flowering. I don’t think I’ve ever had dahlias flowering in early June!

I also think this sudden move into very early flowering is in the DNA. The little plants are fearful of more frost, and they do what they are meant to do, bloom and set seed to ensure survival. This might be complete and utter bull*&#t, and if you think it is, please enlighten me gently!

2. Marigold

I’ve noticed that red flowers are very difficult to photograph properly. Actually, I’ll correct that… I have difficulty with red flowers. (Note: dogs cannot photograph red flowers at all at all. It’s just doesn’t work for them.) On the other hand marigolds put on a very good show for me. The first few have bloomed and bring great colour. I don’t have much else of this splendid orange, so I do like to keep them going from year to year. Even when it rains cats and dogs, the marigolds keep going, brightening my days.

Have I a favourite? Well, thanks for asking; yes, I do! The photograph below was taken in 2007. I’d have entered it in the Merry Marigold Of The Year competition, and who knows how things would have gone for me after that?

3. Alliums

Three weeks ago these beauties were at their best. Everything moves so quickly. So many other plants have come into flower that it’s sometimes easy to overlook a plant on the decline. I think I may use this as a personal case study. I’ll do my best to photograph it once a month, to savour the importance of seeing beauty after the first flush of youth and maturity. I’ll call it the old dog for the long road.

4. Dappled Willow

A bird never flew on one wing! These are Salix integra Flamingo, commonly known as Dappled Willow. We paid our first visit to Ballinlough Garden Centre last Sunday, having had it on our list for a long time. I can recommend it highly.

These are fast-growing shrubs that will grow to almost 2 metres, but what’s very unusual is that they need pruning several times each year. It seems a shame to chop off the beautiful foliage, especially as it’s got those lovely pink tips. Once again, if anyone has any advice for me about this, I’d be very grateful. I’ve read about it in several places, and for sure I’ll get to the bottom of it. There’s nothing to beat personal experience, though. This time next year, I’d hope to be the Salix Man. That’s the wonderful thing about growing plants. There’s always more to learn. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but for sure, I’ll be hopeful that this old dog can learn a few new tricks.

5. Another First

It’s the first rose of the year, and my favourite one too! The scent is overwhelming, like last week’s lavender. This first flower is very low, but I’m happy to do my downward-dog yoga pose to take it all in.

6. You Scratch My Back And…

While walking the garden during the week, I noticed that the Lilies are in bud. To the best of my recollection, they are slow to open, perhaps because of the complexity of the flower inside. I looked closely and noticed a few ants searching in circles. Likely there are some aphids nearby. If so, the ants have breakfast. They do not kill the aphids, rather they drink their honeydew waste. In some cases, aphids lose the ability to excrete waste, and the ants come along to assist. They massage the aphids, doggy-style, until the natural process is complete. It’s a win-win relationship, known in nature as symbiotic. Ants will sometimes attack enemies of aphids. They will even relocate aphids to new food sources when necessary. Most amazing of all is that ants will bring aphid eggs underground in winter for protection.

On closer inspection there were a small number of aphids feeding on the most tender parts of the plant, and I sprayed them away with water later that evening. The ants will climb the 1.5 metre stems tomorrow, but will need to descend carefully again, because the food source in not there.

“Six on Saturday” is a blogging theme started by Ultra Jon in England. Within this interesting structure, I value enormously the power to express myself through my garden. Sin a bhfuil uaimse don seachtain seo. I’ll be back again next week with another Six-on-Saturday. Thank you for reading. Have a good week. Slán go fóill.

The Week That Was

Not garden-related, this is merely to keep a record of events for future reminiscing.

  • Have you ever been to a double-egg-yolk fundraiser? Another bucket list box ticked.
  • My brother Mícheál brought mam to her childhood home in Tipperary.
  • My brother Mo bhráthair Ray and I visited Lismore Castle Gardens.
  • I always lock the back door when I go shopping. Just as well I was quick, because Marion was in her Seomra!
  • Boris is meeting Joe in Cornwall for some happy photographs. Behind the scenes one of them is giving the other an absolute rollicking! Watch for the climbdown. Naturally, it will be choreographed as a victory. Let’s just wait and see.
  • Another great bike week: 92, 14, 20 and 50km. Just as well the garden is all set up for summer!
The Far Side, © Gary Larson

I wrote an article last year about the alternative lyrics of My Favourite Things. Very funny!

First verse:

Botox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favourite things


About the author: Pádraig is the author of Grow Write Repeat. He photographs and writes about his garden in Ireland in Éirinn. He loves marigolds and Dappled Willow. He also likes The Far Side Gallery, Anne’s Porridge Bread and singing along to Julie, but not while eating.

0 thoughts on “Six-on-Saturday – Colour My World”

    1. Cheers Andrew! Everything is catching up quickly, as will yours. It’s going to be a scorcher here this weekend. Hope you get it too.
      Mind that dog!

    1. Thanks Barbara. Yes, now’s the time. I’m desperately searching for more nasturtium seeds and spring onion. All sold out in shops and garden centres. The world’s gone mad.

  1. I’m amazed that your dahlias are in flower already! They were certainly quick off the mark, and I thought your explanation of why made sense. Well done on keeping your theme going – you kept on like a dog with a new bone.

    1. Indeed I’m amazed too, a chara! It’s just the smaller ones grown from seed. The tubers in the ground will be along in about 4-6 weeks.
      Dog theme? Shake a leg! Saw that mentioned this morning elsewhere.

  2. It seems very early for Dahlias. They appear in late summer for us.
    I enjoyed reading your post and the dogs’ eye view. Also read last year’s post….sad and uplifting at the same time.

    1. Indeed, I am shocked! Mid-july onwards here.
      Thank you for taking the time to read back to 2020. Very sad indeed, yet there’s dignity in all lives, even when snuffed out.

  3. My alliums are in a similar decline, however no marigolds have yet appeared to replace them. I’ve added the very pretty Salix integra Flamingo to my Wish List (for when I win the lottery and can buy a larger garden with a small house).

    1. Indeed, I just love them to bits.
      Salix has gone into a large terracotta pot. I’m undecided about the second one. I’ll have to do a future update!

  4. One of my dogs is easily spooked by shadows and vultures. The color vision may explain that. I love your marigolds – have not seen any like that here. What kind are they? I love that willow, put it somewhere it can grow to its full pruning.

  5. Like the others, I’m amazed at your early dahlias! Your post is such a fun frolic. About dappled willows, I grow three lovelies mixed with many other plants along a rock wall that lines the gravel driveway. They grow very slowly for me so they must be dwarf varieties — and in seven years at this home I’ve never pruned them!

  6. I admire your dogged determination to stick to a doggy theme Paddy, you carried it off! I wonder how cats’ vision compares to dogs, as I’m more of a cat person myself (cat theme next week?). But I was most amazed to read about ants massaging aphids to help them go to the loo, strange things do happen in nature! I’ve got ants crawling all over aphid nurseries, so I’ll have to look out for that. Marigolds/Calendula are among my firm favourites, uplifting on a dull day.

    1. I’ve grown Calendula regularly. This year I’ve mostly sown a double, Orange King… Seems the flowers last longer so less dead-heading.
      Off now for 100km on the bike. It’s going to be hot!

  7. Good to see you back posting again, or have I not noticed you the last couple of weeks? Anyway, I doggedly read through your items and was impressed by some of your tenuous connections. Surprisingly early dahlias. I didn’t bother with them this year but noticed one coming up, rather slug damaged from last year. I hope it will flower.

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