Once the last daffodil has died down, don't let your bulb display stop. Dozens of bulbs flower spectacularly right through summer, keeping you in dazzling flowers until well into autumn.

Plant as you would spring bulbs, burying them to three times their depth in crumbly, moisture-retentive but free-draining soil. If yours isn't perfect, dig in organic matter first (we have well-rotted farmyard manure in our Mullingar garden centre) and add a handful of slow-release fertiliser like bonemeal.

Plant our top ten summer bulbs from the range in our garden centre for a summer that's spectacular from end to end.

  • Allium: ornamental onions make explosions of colour dotted through the border, with ramrod-straight spherical flowerheads.
    Recommended varieties: 'Globemaster', 'Purple Sensation'
  • Agapanthus: the African lily is one of the truest blues you'll find, and their huge heads are a spectacular sight.
    Recommended varieties: 'Bressingham Blue', 'Back in Black'
  • Dahlias: handsome plants with dozens of flower forms: whether you like spider, pompom or single-flowered, you'll find them in our garden centre. Recommended varieties: 'Bishop of Llandaff', 'David Howard'
  • Lilies: heavily-scented oriental lilies have huge, heavily-perfumed blooms. Other types include hardy Asiatic lilies and pretty martagon types.
    Recommended varieties: Lilium regale, Lilium martagon.
  • Begonias: if it's waterfalls of flowers you want – look no further. Tuberous begonias tumble over container edges in a mass of bloom.
    Recommended varieties: 'Champagne', 'Angelique'.
  • Gladioli: tall and sophisticated, gladioli are in fact easy to grow, with spires of huge, intensely-coloured flowers.
    Recommended varieties: 'Green Star', Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus.
  • Acidanthera murielae: another showstopper in the border. Tall, scented and perfect for cutting, its graceful white flowers have purple hearts.
  • Iris: bearded irises are so aristocratic they have their own language of falls, standards and beards. Don't worry: they're all sumptuous.
    Recommended varieties: 'Jane Phillips', 'Superstition'.
  • Cannas: hot and tropical brilliant orange, vermilion or yellow cannas have paddle-like leaves which can be as colourful as the flowers.
    Recommended varieties: 'Durban', 'Wyoming'.
  • Galtonia candicans: stately pure-white spires of bell-like flowers erupt gracefully in mid-summer, reaching up to 1 metre tall.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about choosing and growing summer bulbs.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


Short of space in the garden? Then this is the technique for you. All you need is a single raised bed to enjoy a wide variety of fruit and veg all year round. Here's how:

Build your raised bed: a raised bed: 1.2m x 1.2m gives you 16 squares – and with one type of veg in each, that's quite a range of home-grown produce to pick. Ready-made raised beds, available from your favourite garden centre, click together in moments for instant results.

Find the right spot: choose your sunniest corner for your square-foot veg garden. Place it on bare soil, or turf: you can even put your raised bed on concrete, though drill drainage holes to let excess water run off.

Fill your bed with compost: a 50:50 mix of multipurpose compost and a soil-based mix like John Innes no. 3 is ideal for growing veg: you'll find both in your favourite garden centre. Fill the bed level with the top and then firm down gently.

Mark out the squares: you can do this with string attached to nails in the sides of your raised bed, or by tying together a grid of canes. Either way, your squares should measure 30cm x 30cm each.

Plant your veg: sow one type of veg into each square, at slightly closer spacings. One square foot holds four 'Cos' type lettuces; a tomato plant; 16 leeks; four dwarf French beans or 16 carrots. Taller plants grow better at the back; smaller ones get more light at the front.

Keep the harvest coming: as soon as you harvest from one of your squares, replace the crop with fresh plug plants bought ready-grown from your favourite garden centre, or raised from seed. You should be picking a dazzling array of veg from your square-foot garden from early summer through till spring.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about a square foot vegetable garden.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


Big pots of leafy, flavoursome and generous annual herbs sat just outside the back door where you can reach out and pick them for your cooking are one of the delights of the kitchen garden. When you grow your own, you can have as big a bunch of parsley as you want: and even better, you can try more unusual herbs like caraway, summer savory, dill and chervil.

Here's how to make sure you have pots and pots of flavour from one end of the year to the next:

  • Sow little and often so you've always got a new tray of seedlings ready in the wings to take over once the previous crop finishes. Plant half a row, or a new container once a month from March to September for year-round flavour.
  • Keep parsley in the shade, as if you let it get too hot and dry it'll quickly flower and run to seed. Pretty aniseed-flavoured chervil, looking a little like cowparsley, is another plant that likes cool, shady conditions.
  • Pick leaves frequently as it encourages fresh growth. Basil, parsley, and coriander all flower if left to grow unchecked, which turns the leaves bitter. Keep the sweet, fragrant young foliage coming by nipping out the tips for cooking every few days.
  • Sow coriander where it's to grow as it hates being transplanted. If you haven't got a spot in the garden, just sow the large, round seeds directly into a trough or generous container to grow into a fountain of lush, spicily scented greenery for flavouring Asian cookery and salads.
  • Make a late sowing to bring indoors in around September, and you'll have fresh herbs to pick from the kitchen windowsill all through winter. Parsley and basil are perfect for this: pick them sparingly and they should keep going till spring.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about sowing and growing annual herbs.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins



Cuttings fall into three main groups, but whichever method you use it is essential that cuttings are taken from healthy plants:

  •  hardwood
  •  softwood
  •  semi-ripe


  • Taking hardwood cuttings is one of the easiest ways to produce new plants of Salix (willow),
  • Deutzia and many other woody shrubs, and only needs secateurs.
  • From autumn to early spring, select shoots produced the pre-vious spring and summer. Only select strong growth and remove near its base or point of origin.
  • These shoots – about the thick-ness of a pencil and 23–25cm long – should be cut square below a bud to form a base, at an angle of 35 degrees.


  • Treat the bottom 3cm of each cutting with rooting hormone.
  • Insert the prepared cuttings into a 12–15cm trench made in well dug garden soil with a 5cm layer of sharp sand for drainage.
  • Alternatively plant three or four cuttings in a pot of multi-purpose or cutting compost and place in a cold frame or sheltered part of the garden. The following autumn the rooted cuttings can be carefully planted out in their final growing positions. 


  • These are taken in early to late spring to grow many semi-ten-der plants such as pelargoniums and fuchsias, herbaceous plants and some alpines. Young growth on shrubs such as Rosmarinus (rosemary), Artemisia (worm-wood) and Lavandula (lavender) may also respond well.
  • In spring, remove shoots from the parent plant once they are firm enough to handle and not too soft to lose their rigidity.
  • Using a sharp knife or secateurs, prepare the cutting by making a cut at an angle of 35 degrees at the base of the chosen shoot.
  • Cuttings should be 5–10cm long according to plant variety. If the leaves are alternate on the shoot, make the upper cut four leaf joints above the first cut.
  • If the leaves are opposite, make the cut above the second pair of leaves. In both cases make cuts from the buds in the leaf joint.
  • Gently remove the lower leaves. If the remaining leaves are more than 3cm long, halve them with a knife, to cut down moisture loss during the pre-rooting period.


  • Dip the bottom 3cm of the pre-pared cutting into water. Shake off the surplus then roll the bottom 2.5cm in rooting hormone.
  • Insert cuttings into seed trays or pots containing sharp sand.
  • Place the tray or pot into a propagator – preferably one with a heating control.
  • Close all vents and shade the cover with a newspaper. After 7–10 days, open the vents and remove the shading.
  • Once the cuttings make new shoots at the leaf joints, this is a good indication that rooting has taken place. Remove the tray or pot from the propagator.
  • When new growth on the rooted cuttings reaches more than 3cm long, pot them into individual pots of general potting compost.
  • In four to six weeks they should be large enough to plant in their final growing positions, provided all risk of frost has passed. 


  • Semi-ripe cuttings of many shrubs and climbers can be taken in late spring to midsummer. Success is not guaranteed but it’s worth a try.
  • The method or preparation is the same as for softwood cuttings, but use shoots from the current season’s growth that have begun to firm.
  • The use of a propagator is more important and the availability of controllable heat will enhance the success rate. Rooting is slower than softwood cuttings but once new growth has reached 3cm the cuttings can be potted on into individual pots.
  • Grow young plants on in a frost free light-protected environment such as a greenhouse or garden frame with no additional heat. Plant out in the garden or into larger pots the following spring or autumn. 
January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


You may be short of outdoor space, but that doesn't mean you have to do without home-grown vegetables. There are lots of veg which do brilliantly in containers, whether window boxes, grow bags, pretty terracotta pots or just tin cans nailed to a fence.

Growing in containers has many advantages: perfect soil, easy planting and your crops are kept well out of reach of slugs. These days, there are lots of innovative new ideas around to help you get started: look out for wall-hung vertical planters, automatic watering systems and even special varieties of veg bred for growing in pots, all available from your favourite garden centre in Mullingar.

There's a huge range of veg you can try in containers, from herbs and salad leaves to tomatoes, chard, beetroot and even climbing French beans trained up against a wall. Just follow our five golden rules for a summer of plenty from your patio.

1.Use the largest containers you can
The more room veg roots have, the happier they'll be (you can pack more veg in to larger pots, too!) So always buy the biggest containers you have room for.

2.Water, water, water
Plants in pots are completely reliant on you for water supplies. Water container-grown veg every day – twice a day in hot spells.

3.Feed, feed, feed
After the first six to eight weeks compost runs out of nutrients, so add weekly liquid feeds to your watering routine.

4.Re-sow fast-growing crops every month
Keep picking continuously by sowing new containers of fast-growing salads, herbs, and quick crops like beetroot and turnips once a month.

5.Choose the right varieties
Look for the words 'container veg' or 'patio veg' on seed packets: special varieties like Courgette 'Patio Star' and Aubergine 'Ophelia' will crop brilliantly in pots. 

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about a container vegetable garden.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


Flowers and foliage are often the first thing gardeners think about when choosing plants for the garden, but many plants have another explosion of colour that's every bit as spectacular as blossom or elegant leaves. Berries can smother a tree or shrub in a good year, often in late autumn and early winter when there's not much in the way of other colour around.

Visit our Mullingar garden centre in autumn and you'll find dozens of plants in full berry, and it's quite a sight. Here are our top picks for a spectacular autumn display.

  • Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is a really easy to grow shrub that just keeps on giving. Covered in pale straw-coloured flowers in spring, it follows with brilliant red berries and orange foliage in autumn.
  • Cotoneaster come in all shapes and sizes, from horizontalis, with herringbone branches which can be trained against a wall, to serotinus, an arching shrub to 1.5m tall. All are smothered in berries in autumn.
  • Firethorn (Pyracantha) comes with red, orange or yellow berries: plant all three for a firework display of densely-clustered berries in autumn, and train against a wall for a sculptural garden feature.
  • Holly (Ilex aquifolium) only has berries if you plant a male and a female plant: if you haven't room, there's a self-fertile variety called 'JC Van Tol'.
  • Rowans (Sorbus) are small trees whose berries are much loved by birds. Sorbus cashmiriana has pearly white berries, while 'Joseph Rock' fruits buttery yellow.
  • Beauty berry (Callicarpa bodinieri) has perhaps the most extraordinary autumn berries of them all: in an iridescent, jewel-like violet purple there's nothing else quite like them in the plant world.
  • Elder (Sambucus nigra) follows its frothy dinner-plate flowerheads with striking sprays of black berries: pick them as soon as they're ripe and you can make elderberry wine.
  • Species roses are the ones which produce ornamental hips in autumn to follow a riot of summer flowers. The hips of Rosa moyesii are sealing-wax red and waisted, like flagons of wine, while R. spinosissima has fat, spherical black hips.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about plants with good autumn berries.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


The record for the biggest pumpkin in the world is a holy grail for giant vegetable growers: these days you need a forklift truck just to get your pumpkin to the showground for weighing.

Most of us can't manage pumpkins quite that big, but it's fun to see how big a monster you can manage. A pumpkin growing competition is also a great way to get the kids involved in gardening.

In our Mullingar garden centre you'll find all you need for your crack at conquering the giant pumpkin world: just follow our easy steps to success.

  • Choose the right seed: 'Atlantic Giant' is a recognised monster pumpkin, but other varieties to try include 'Hundredweight' and 'Mammoth'.
  • Sow seed: in April sow one seed to a 10cm pot and keep in a frost-free greenhouse, heated propagator or on a sunny windowsill.
  • Keep the plants warm: cold will set back growth so bring your pumpkin indoors if nights are cold. Pot on into larger containers as it grows.
  • Dig a pumpkin pit: in late May, dig a hole in the garden about 1 metre wide and deep. Fill with a 50:50 mix of compost and well-rotted farmyard manure, and add slow-release fertiliser.
  • Plant out: Plant your young pumpkin plant into the pit once all threat of frost has passed, and cover with a lantern cloche until the plant grows too big.
  • Feed and water: Make sure your pumpkin never goes short of water, and feed weekly with liquid seaweed. When it starts flowering, switch to tomato food to encourage fruits.
  • Pinch out surplus flowers: After three fruits have formed, pinch out others as they appear. Eventually, select the biggest one and remove the rest so the plant puts its energy into just one fruit.
  • Lift the fruit: raising your pumpkin off the ground onto a pallet or straw helps get the air underneath it, ripening the skin and avoiding rotting.
  • Hire that forklift truck! Once your pumpkin has mellowed to a rich orange in around October, it's time to harvest.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about growing giant vegetables in your garden.

January 20, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins