Mike Condon, who can’t foresee a Lions win over the All Blacks, with his kiwi plant Picture: Mike Cowhey
A FOUNDING member of Bruff RFC and former hooker Mike Condon may have grown a massive kiwi plant but he hopes the Lions give them a trimming on Saturday morning.
Famous for once having one of the few peach trees in Ireland to produce fruit he has now turned his attention to the Chinese gooseberry. And not unlike the All Blacks – nicknamed the Kiwis after their native bird - it is taking over.
The 75-year-old keen gardener with green fingers is hoping his hard work will bear fruit.
“A kiwi plant of this size would be very, very rare in Ireland. It’s huge, it’s colossal, the blossoms are fabulous – it’s probably about 25 foot high and maybe 30 or 40 feet all round. It’s out the back, covering the shed,” said Mike, who planted it in his Pallasgreen garden 10 years ago. However, he wasn’t as lucky with other ones.
“I had four more but seven or eight years ago I was getting a guy to do a bit of gardening and weeding for me and didn’t he pull up the plants and throw them in the skip! He didn’t know the difference,” said Mike.
The ultimate plan is to tuck into some fruit.
“The fact is I think it’s the male that produces the flower, you have to have two. But now I have planted a second one so hopefully and fingers crossed in a couple of years that should produce. If it comes up then we’ll be able to cross pollinate and we should have fruit on them,” he said.
Mike says there is no reason kiwi plants should be so rare in Ireland.
“They shouldn’t be, they’re a gooseberry, they’re known as the Chinese gooseberry. They’re grown 90% in New Zealand who have the same climate that we have. The winter out there, as the Lions will tell you, is torrential rain and cold,” he said.
The former hooker and Bruff RFC founder member is keenly following the Lions tour of New Zealand.
“Oh yes, God yes, it never leaves the blood. I don’t really know if they can beat them, they’re hoping to but I don’t think the coach (Warren Gatland) will surprise anybody.
“I think the Kiwis are up for it big time. I was watching the New Zealand U20 team hammer England and they were something else,” said Mike, who was right in predicting Peter O’Mahony would captain the Lions in the test series.
“There’s nobody else I would put first before O’Mahony, he has the mentality. He has the same set-up and mentality as Anthony Foley, God rest him.”
As well as kiwis, Mike’s orange and lemon trees are thriving.
“The orange trees would be rare here too. I’ve had them for the last number of years. They grow to maybe four or five feet in huge big pots. I have them on a little trolley so I can I push them into the house in the evening. You can pick them any time you want to when they are ready. They start off as small little ones, then they bloom and go green, and then they go really orangey,” said Mike, who has been enjoying freshly squeezed juice in the morning for the past few weeks.
While he puts slices of his lemons into bottles of cold water on these hot summer days. “I have five trees in total – two are in old bathtubs and the rest are in the ground. If you put one in a large pot in your conservatory you’ll get the most wonderful perfume that you could ever have,” said Mike, who is married to Joan.
One secret of his growing success is an old green compost bin which he fills. He puts it beside a plant or bush and the run-off goes into the roots and feeds it.