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Marjorie Ellis-Todd’s......... Big Horti Blog...all thing horticultural

27th February 2021

Marjorie Ellis-Todd’s Big Horti Blog (all subjects horticulture)


With Spring on the horizon and hopes of lockdown easing soon, I’m already busy planting my seeds. Last year’s leftovers that is, thanks to the Irish sea border! And with the garden centres closed, not a sniff of peat-free compost is to be had anywhere. What a palaver it has been for us Gardeners.


Any way, your comments and posts have kept coming. Be rest assured I read all of them (even the extremely boring ones).

And how would we have survived lockdown without Garden Rescue?


Lovely Charlie and those fine Rich brother chappies have kept our spirits up. So it was such a lovely surprise to receive this beautifully worded post from Valerie and Tim from somewhere in the Greater Belfast area:


Dear Marjorie,

We have been selected for the next series of Garden Rescue. Obviously we are beside ourselves with excitement. The BBC have already been out to survey the plot, gather further information around budget and our vision for the space. We are concerned about a mature tree at the half-way point of our rather corridor-like garden. We’ve been told by locals it is a ‘Fairy Tree’ around which our house and the entire development was built some 20 years ago. The BBC team told us that it was likely Charlie will be excellent at incorporating this tree into the design, but the Rich brothers will replace it with a sleek contemporary patio. Please advise what we should do?


Well Valerie and Tim,


I don’t even have to think about this. I implore you. You MUST go with Charlie.


The ‘Fairy Tree’ or the #‘fairy thorn’ is traditionally a Hawthorn, inhabited and protected by its Guardians (the little people). It stands on its own. Celtic mythology prescribes that any one who cuts it down will rue the day.


On the other hand, if you have one on your land and do not tamper with it, then good luck and wealth will follow all the days of your life. I would advise a professional tree Ident to begin with. The Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) in itself is a lovely tree for a small garden, with good seasonal interest and immense wildlife benefits. It is a sharply thorned tree or hedge with taupe-ish bark, lobed leaves and grows to around 15 metres. In spring it has lovely white blossom; in winter red berries. It provides shelter and food for countless insects and birds.


But it must be said, entire roads throughout the island of Ireland have been redirected around such a tree.


On a golf course not far from where you live, Valerie and Tim, there is an infamous specimen. So revered is this particular tree that should a golfer accidentally hit a ball towards it, they shout: ‘Fore’! Many have lost golf balls to it. No Green Keeper will go near it, the rough being untouched around its base as long as the course existed. When the balls disappear the Green Keepers say: ‘the fairies take them’.


Locals who fear the chop of such trees have moved to more sophisticated means of preserving them from Developers. I recall an Instagraming of one thorned tree for example, working well. The tree got so many followers the Developer offset his losses by selling the site, fairy-tree-and-all, to a well-known grocery chain. He knew the English do not believe in the wee people and all that nonsense. Still I know for a fact the site remains derelict. The Investigative Journalists have long said supermarkets buy these sites and then they lie idle to prevent competition moving in. But the locals know it’s because some underhand Developer sold them Fairy Tree land.


Most interesting though was the story of Ireland’s most misfortunate Housing Developer. It was rumoured he ignored local advice to build around such a tree. Instead he took a digger to it. He did it himself as not one of his labourers would agree. Not only was it a thorned tree, fairy stones encircled it. Still he went ahead.


On immediately removing the tree, the Developer felt a tad unwell. Consequently, he decided to go home much earlier than was his usual pattern. On returning home he discovered his wife with another man. His wife said she was leaving him, threw him out and sued for half his wealth. So in a rage he burnt his house down and ended up in prison for arson. The bank foreclosed on his development soon after, not one brick being laid on the site where the thorned tree stood. On a day trip to Portrush his teenage son died in a bizarre accident involving a candy floss machine and his daughter disappeared after a prolonged series of trolling on her Facebook page by (it’s believed) the little people. His tad of unwellness developed into the so-called ‘Fairy-dance-disease’ in the months that followed. The disease is so known because it comes from magic, leading medics in a merry-go-round dance to determine a diagnosis. In the end it is said he died a loud and painful death, his only saving grace - the prison kitchen used a gas oven instead of an electric one.


So Valerie and Tim, I reiterate my advice: Go with Charlie. Hope that helps, Marjorie


Now, what do you think about wildflower planting and ‘greening’ of urban areas: parks, greenways, gardens and alleys? And the Department of infrastructure’s scheme to ‘green’ alleyways? Is it public money well spent? Please send in your comments/posts for my next Big Horti Blog. #Belfast Wildflower Alley #Department of Infrastructure #Nicola Mallon #Greening our urban spaces.

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