Ireland’s wildflowers led the field in this year’s New Year Plant Hunt which seeks to find flowers in bloom on 1st January each year.
It’s the seventh year the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland has held the hunt – and as in many previous years, the first record of a flower in bloom was sent in by an Irish botanist, this time Jessica Hamilton, who spotted a yellow-flowered groundsel in Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry.
The New Year Plant Hunt aims to build up a clear picture of which plants are flowering where across Britain and Ireland, to find out how wild and naturalised plants are responding to changes in long-term weather patterns.
Among notable sightings this year were the first example of inland Danish scurvy-grass to be found in Taghmon, Co. Wexford; and an amazing 51 plants in flower on Bull Island, Dublin, including some flowers normally seen later in the year like common mallow and buttercups.
Wildflower populations are particularly varied in Ireland, with its mild climates, rich soil and varied habitats. You can do your bit to boost Ireland’s wildflowers by putting aside part of your garden for a wildflower meadow. Start with a seed mix majoring on Irish wildflowers like butterwort, speedwell, golden samphire and blue-eyed grass – you’ll find different blends available to suit your garden here at the garden centre in Mullingar.
First strip out any existing grass, as wildflowers need poor soil and no competition from vigorous grasses. If you’re converting a lawn, try sowing yellow rattle first, a natural parasite which weakens grass. Rake up the surface, then dampen the soil and scatter seed sparingly across the top. Keep your meadow watered and weeded, especially in the first two years, and remember to let the flowers set seed so your little patch of Irish meadow is even more flower-filled next year.