Alys Fowler: Northern Ireland should really dig hardy perennials little more
TV horticulturalist Alys Fowler has said Northern Ireland's gardeners should take inspiration from 18th century cottage gardens – and try growing perennial crops.
The former Gardeners' World presenter said that cottage gardens used to be full of crops like artichokes and perennial spinach, but supermarkets have forced us to rely more and more on annuals.
But perennial crops are much more reliable for anyone gardening in a climate like Northern Ireland's, she said.
She added that sowing small quantities of lots of different things in your garden is also a good idea.
"It's so wet in Northern Ireland – it's a real challenge when you don't know how consistent a season is going to be," Alys said.
The broadcaster said she's been caught out before when she sowed loads of tomatoes and the weather wasn't suitable.
"But if you have a few of these and a few of those, something will come out fine. Perennial food crops are much more reliable than annuals – things like Jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes, perennial spinach, chives, fruit trees and berries."
Alys arrives in Northern Ireland today to appear at a new expanded Garden Show Ireland, which has moved to a new venue at Antrim Castle Gardens.
She is looking forward to a stay with friends in north Down and recently took to Twitter to ask for recommendations for cycle routes between Bangor and Belfast.
"It's the first time I've been to the show and I'm looking forward to exploring the grounds and giving talks about grow your own and salad growing," the presenter said.
"I'm very excited. I've never been to Antrim Castle Gardens before – it's a huge restoration project and it sounds fabulous. I'll be giving talks and Q&A sessions."
"Gardening is unbelievably good for every part of you – it's great physically, good for your soul and great for your brain," she added.
Garden Show Ireland this weekend will also include appearances by Ireland's world-renowned plantswoman Helen Dillon and Bunny Guinness, winner of six Chelsea gold medals and regular panelist on BBC's Gardeners' Question Time.
The 2014 Garden Show Ireland runs from today until Sunday at Antrim Castle Gardens (10am-6pm) with parking nearby. Adults are £10 (concession £8) and the event is free for children under 16. There is a reduced rate for online booking. For more information visit www.garden showireland. com