debbie… thursday garden guest #2


12th February 2010
I got the news today that Debbie has passed away. Shocked, stunned, saddened… apart from all of the many beautiful charachteristics – she was also a fellow gardener :) Funny thing, we spoke last week and were planning on doing garden tours together as a bit of a new business…. She was gonna call back after she did some research….. All that aside, Debbie would smile knowing I’m still trying to figure out if it’s a coffee or a pint she has in that photograph ;) Missed already.

As a by the way she stayed up well into the wee hours of the [next] morning trying to get this garden guest post together….

debbie… thursday garden guest #2

debbie & friends

If you’d like to know more about Thursday Garden Guest time – click here.

For the moment writer number #2 is Debbie Metrustry alias debbiemet. A lover of all things outdoors and botanical. I first met Debbie at Electric Picnic. A common love of horticulture is more professionally shared here. An absolute lady, a pleasure to meet and a great person to be around. For now, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Debbie.

The Garden – What I Like

There are so many things I like about The Garden that it’s hard to know where to begin. From the personal lessons I have learnt through gardening, through the visceral joy of being connected with the earth, the curiosity and wonder at observing plants grow, the pure aesthetic pleasure of being in gardens of great beauty and intriguing design — through all these and the wonderful opportunities that I’ve been given – from the profound to the frivolous – there is not one aspect of my being that remains untouched.

My first ‘go’ at this blog came out as a chronological list masked as my biography: not so interesting, really. So I ditched it, and decided instead just to give you the things I like, in no particular order.

  • I love the brown earth. I love having my hands in the soil. I mean I really love it. When I look at the rich, chocolate-coloured earth, dormant, but harbouring and nourishing all manner of living things, I feel a deep sense of rootedness, a connection. The smell of it after rain. Or a bright, crisp day with the sun shining and birds singing: well then there’s nothing to beat digging it. And mulching. Spreading well-rotted manure on a just-weeded or newly-planted bed is incredibly satisfying. It’s like Guinness for plants: black gold.

Ploughed Field
A whole field of the earth, just waiting for action

On a more modest scale: garden potential from Heligan

Toadstools at Mount Cuba Center, Delaware, taking advantage

  • Plants: I get excited about all sorts of plants and really have no discrimination. There’s nothing more exciting than going to a garden or nursery and discovering lots of fabulous plants I’d never heard of. Some nurseries are better than others, and this one, Plant Delights in North Carolina, is at the forefront of plant introductions. I spent hours and hours there, and had to be torn away from all the amazing new plants.

Banana and Tetrapanax

OK, so it looks a bit nettley (same family)…
…but it’s actually a really cool foliage plant

called Boehmeria platanifolia, collected by Plant Delights

They take their signage seriously

Beautifully laid out, and just look at all those lovely labels (bottom left)   :)

  • I have a weak spot for herbaceous perennials which I love to grow myself, and I adore gardens that are full of them, especially when mixed with grasses in what is called the American prairie style. I’m a big fan of naturalistic planting, using natives where possible.

Prairie planting at Hunting Brook Gardens, Wicklow

The meadow at Mount Cuba Center, Delaware

A meadow on the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

Looking out to the meadow at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania

  • Trees make me go weak at the knees and I am passionate about looking after them

Landscaping: Small Contemporary Garden Makeover

small garden landscaping ireland There are two main factors that make any garden really something to be really proud of. And though it does play a role, if you are thinking that it's the budget then I'm afraid you are somewhat mistaken. The main culprits are in fact one really cool client [I hate that word...] and an end result that is an interpretation photsynthetically speaking, so to speak, of what the client actually wants. 20140303-133605.jpg Of note here: old decking and paving out, levels raised below ground level; surface drainage introduced; new patio and pebble in, brand spanking new composts, new timber, walls built; smooth finished plastered walls and planters - note no concrete block lines after painting, some coats of paint and a quite select choice of hand selected plants. Apologies for my often pretty brutal video skills below. Thank God I chose to study horticulture. Dilemma's [? not really] along this garden journey [in my head] may define themselves as such: a clients wish of a contemporary garden and 'that' feel good feeling to be created [NB: not a problem] in an outdoor shape that hardly qualifies as a Pythagorean theorem never mind the four right angles that come as standard with almost every garden known to [wo]man kind, but not here. 20140303-133646.jpg NB: image below - plant in the left hand corner to show distance. The thing that I love about this garden, is that the journey even before I started making it excited me. And though I've said it before, I love that I can and could see the end result garden at all times in my mind. A little like knowing what wedding dress you really want and then after having that exact dress made for you, it fits, just like the glass slipper of fairytale... If you get me. Do you get me ? A garden design style rarely used [properly] in this country, maybe what I really loved was the challenge to make it look like it had been been part of the home for some time, yet extremely well maintained. More impressive than that however is when the client [I hate that word...] smiles. small garden, landscaping ireland Q's [?] leave a comment below or drop me a line. Peter Donegan: donegan landscaping

In Ground Trampoline, Dublin

trampoline, sunken, donegan landscaping This isn't the first time I've sunken a trampoline. And though this version may not be not as technically difficult as the previous sunken trampoline version, it still involves construction. Of note in this case, this Berg variation has a 1 person/ 110kg limit. berg champion trampoline-001 I did watch, albeit slightly 1980's looking, Berg Toys video of how to install, repeatedly. Repeatedly and still cannot figure out how - with weight beight forced down upon 8 steel supports, should the soil be even slightly damp [ noté bene: Ireland] how the frame could but not force itself downwards upon the edges of the ground beneath. It simply does dont make logic sense. And that before one considers soil movement within the actual pit. That aside and as previously noted there is only one way to do this and that is the right way. And anything else, from experience and figuring it out on my etch-a-sketch is quite simply being half arsed about it, if you'll pardon my Irish. Of note also: This was also part of an overall landscaping project in Dublin just in case you may be wondering how the lawn greened up so quickly.

1. Lay Out The Base

in ground trampoline, dublin  (1) This is the bit you do not want to get wrong. The Berg Champion Trampoline frame joins together in parts, so ensure that it is connected properly. A circle being of perfect 360 degree diameter, there should be no movement over the circumference/ diameter. Of note also some say, again, you do not need to use a concrete or block base. And that the suggestion is that one just dig the hole and pop in the frame. As discussed with the previous larger sunken trampoline, be that on your own head.

2. Ensure Your Base Measurements are Correct

in ground trampoline, dublin  (3) Again the measure twice rule comes into play and here I did choose to cover in the base with a sand/ gravel and cement mix. In short think soil erosion as versus a hardened base that gets no traffic.

3. Connect The Frame to The Base

in ground trampoline, dublin  (2) As you can gather a rolled lawn went in as part of the overall project. Back to the trampoline, I chose to connect the steel base to the concrete blocks with steel fixings, once the blocks had set.

4. Attach The Trampoline Springs and Matt

in ground trampoline, dublin  (4) Almost there, the springs are connected opposites first so as the tension is eased onto the frame. After that all that is left to do is to cover with the padded outer..... and go have a good bounce on it. Q’s or thoughts [?] leave a comment below or drop me a line. Peter Donegan: donegan landscaping

This Landscaping Blog

peter donegan It's somewhere around about a few months ago that I was supposed to do one big whopper of a post highlighting all of the great things I did over the last 12 months. A review of my year that was 2013 so to speak. I didn't. And I'm not going to do one of them. Not this year. No apparent reason. I just couldn't be arsed. Not, not arsed. I just don't feel like it. The damn things take three days or so to write anyway. And maybe that's partly the reason or the main catalyst for this post. Because this rolling online diary, or web log if you will, of Donegan Landscaping has changed over the years. Years ? It's on the go since about mid 2007 and now holds around a gizillion [not a real number] posts. And I've had some queries in questioning what it used to be and what it has become. Mainly those questions came via this article, published in this months Horticulture Connected. horticulture connected, ireland Either or, I never had a plan in that department. I still don't. It was always written in my spare time. A hobby, if you will. Being that I make gardens as a profession. When last year my garden blog went up for one of the Best Blog categories, I simply stopped writing. A good blogger would have posted more, or done something; at the very least. You know, to at least try, if not try to win the damn thing. And yes my decision to pause or cease was intentional. But I had to ask myself [not really.... but you get what I'm saying] why, on Gods earth would I want to win an award for blogging; when it is gardens I make. Moreso it is gardens that I  love making. And I have awards for that. Awards for the design and the building of gardens that is. Too many, some might say. peter donegan landscaping And, unless my mood changes, I'm not too sure I want to build gardens at a cost to myself of a random 5 figure sum for the sake of medals anymore. Like a heart beat of course I'd go back and do it in the morning. But they honestly require a sense of The Machiavellian and The Medici and the benefactors, or sponsors as they are now known. And in reference to the gardens I made only, I never chose the simplex path when it came to that road. Either or I have stood on the podiums, plural. That, a statement that can never change. peter donegan, dublin So what next. ? I honestly don't know. I say I don't, I do. But it has to all come back to matters of the heart. Like watching Jerry Maguire. And you either get that or you don't. And now I'm thinking of that film Big with Tom Hanks. And for me my heart and my sometimes slightly funny head combined, very simply [cliché alert:] want to create spaces that are more beautiful. And though it may sound a little laddish of me to use the expression, I really do get a kick when a garden I made very simply turns me on, so to speak. I enjoy the fact that I wake up in the middle of the night with a creative solution. More, I love that I have those moments. On the other hand, I hate it when I can't sleep because although the end result garden may look good in my head, it doesn't entirely do it for me, if you get me. peter donegan And it should. It should feel right. Like your first beau or falling in love or your first kiss and sometimes there is no logic. But you know it's all good. Like a sideways heel clicking Fred Astair. Or Teenage Kick by The undertones. Or whatever makes you smile the mostest. And that* is how [at the very least me making a or...] your garden should, make you [me] feel. Behind the scenes, is very different. My brain has of course got a square root button. To equationalise the creative if you will. But imagine an equation for wanting to so very passionately kiss someone ?  Knowing that* equation as a by the way changes everything. It almost makes it pointless. Back to it, and to answer the original question. What did happen this landscaping blog ? To borrow a line from The Commitments, I'm fucked if I know Terry. See you at Clare Garden Festival. garden works in progress (10)

Family Back Garden. Malahide, Co Dublin

family back garden, dublin I have always thought of gardens in two ways. The first: When you go to a place in Ireland like Inis Mór. Nothing wrong with it at all, but it's not really a Dublin City Centre with too much to do type spot, if you get me. And though you come away knowing you it is the place where fairy tales are made, in reality we and you both know you saw very little outside of Joe Watty's pub and your accommodation. In short, it is the people that make the island so fantastically beautiful. Two. Like the film The Mask, the one with Jim Carey in it. And what you realise is that good-hearted genuine happy people tend to be genuinely happy. And that, irrespective of where is always a great place to be. 20140415-104507.jpg This garden was before I started a big pile of pants. The soil was pants. It sat in the middle of a building site and had done since November. It had potential but, when [wo]man must remove bad before it can introduce the good, the cash register is already ringing and there it little to be show by way of above surface end result. That said, there is no point in spending well above ground when what is below pretty much sucks. patio laying, dublin In the pre works department, a mini digger was brought in, excess existing (sub) soil removed and better soil was introduced. By way of hard landscaping a solid base to the shed was made, a stunning choice by way of a black limestone patio, steppings fitted to the shed, a rotary washing line also with steppings and the correct infrastructure for a built-in trampoline. Then came the pretty bits of just over 300 sq metres of rolled lawn and some planting. A brand new shed, the trampoline itself and even the washing line (if I'm very honest) seem to add to the feel. And though the planting is a little on the young side and somewhat herbaceous, I just can't wait to see this place in a few months. in ground trampoline, dublin  (1) My only regret in this garden is that I never had a good go on the trampoline. On a slight side note, I'll cover that in a separate post when I get a minute. As noted at the start and it being the people who make a place, here a space has changed from a pile of pants to a young garden and more now, to a space and a place called home. Roll on the summer time. family garden, malahide Q’s or thoughts [?] leave a comment below or drop me a line. Peter Donegan: donegan landscaping

Temple Street, Inis Mor Half Marathon 2014

peter donegan, kevin rowe, inis mor, temple street Saturday just gone myself and a host of others crossed the half marathon finish line on the wonderful island of Inis Mór all for the good folks of Temple Street Childrens Hospital. I'll leave the reasons why Temple Street is so close to my heart to one side for now. I will note however that I could not have chose better company to complete the 13.5 miles with than that of Nick McGivney [pictured below] and Kevin Rowe [above]. nick mcgivney, peter donegan, inis mor To those who gave me your hard earned sheckles and your words of support, many many thanks. Of note and as always the people of the most beautiful island I have ever been to, you were fantastic. The Mahoosive thank you list: Links of note: Whilst on the Inis Mor, I recorded this interview with The Sodshow. There's also this of our 9 minute plane journey across. In just 7 seconds.

Instant Garden: Malahide, Co. Dublin

instant lawn, dublin This lawn was laid as part of a garden project that really is so much more than just lawn. I'll maybe cover that in a seperate post in a while, after the finishing touches have been added. You'll absolutely love it ;) And whilst Donegan Landscaping should be showing (and also is... if you get me) only the finest sides of my work, there is something in my mind that just loves that extreme metamorphosis from almost waste ground appearance overgrown with weeds to homely, in one 7 second video.... it almost looks good enough to eat.
. But give me a mature beech and I’m as happy as Larry. There is nothing so majestic as the mature or champion beech, and it reminds me, whenever I’m in doubt, of why I went into horticulture in the first place. Trees teach me that we are caretakers of this earth, that we plan and plant for future generations, and that the passing of time is a Good Thing. They also remind me to curb my impatient side, which is rather too well developed at times.

  • Since becoming a gardener of course I’ve always loved Spring; here it starts early, and you feel and smell the excitement in the air from February if you care to look, or if you just go out and sniff. In the US it seemed as if Winter would last for ever, but then one day Spring arrived, and it took me completely by surprise. The flowering trees – which were everywhere and I hadn’t previously noticed – had exploded into fabulous, floriferous, glorious life so abruptly and dramatically that I very nearly crashed the car. Seriously.

The Spring exuberance of Magnolias and Japanese cherries in Longwood Gardens

  • I didn’t quite get the full impact of autumn, because 2005 wasn’t a particularly spectacular one, and this year I was just a week or so too early. However, there was still some good drama going on, and I liked it very much indeed. :)

The nursery at Longwood Gardens

  • Woodland plants provide a wonderful and never-ending array of variation. These are plants who display their wares shyly, biding their time waiting for that window between dappled spring sunshine and the shade of full leaf-burst. They have a way of creeping up on you: for example, trilliums! Do you know how gob-smackingly beautiful they are? — albeit in a subtle way. The wonderful Mount Cuba Center in Delaware has a fabulous collection of them, and I was lucky enough to be there in Spring to see them in all their tentative glory.

Trillium stamineum (Twisted trillium) and Trillium discolor

  • The detail and intricacy of flowers, best viewed up-close and personal. What’s not to love about these?

Iris in Mount Stewart Garden

I forget…  but it’s in the Eden Project

Passiflora incarnata at the JC Raulston Arboretum, North Carolina

Blood smudge-splash of Rhododendron at Mount Stewart

  • I confess I have a soft spot for garden gadgets. It’s not surprising really, I am an aspiring geek, after all. Stainless steel spades are beautiful, good secateurs are a gal’s best friend, my oscillating hoe makes hoeing spectacularly easy and keeps my back pain-free; my Bosch shredder gives me free mulch in the woodland area of my garden while recycling any woody prunings. And my state-of-the-art builder’s gel kneepads are a godsend, and I wouldn’t be without them.

Exciting stuff, I know.

  • Last, but absolutely not least, I have found inspiration and true joy in every garden I’ve worked in, and most I’ve visited. They all have moments of great beauty and creativity to share. There are dozens of gardens that I love, each with its own special atmosphere that lifts the heart and soothes the soul. Here is a very small random selection from the thousands of photos I’ve taken in the last eight years.

The National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin – my alma mater. I spent three years studying here and so it is a place of very special significance. Every week amidst the busy-ness we cherished stealing some time out just to do the walk around. The Palm House was actually closed for the whole three years I was there, so I was thrilled when it finally opened.

The Palm House was actually closed for the whole three years I was there, so
I was thrilled when it finally opened.

Victoria cruziana, an important and beautiful plant in the garden’s history.

The bandstand in the arboretum

Apart from beech, this is my favourite tree in the garden,
entirely because of its wonderful bark.
Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis

A superb Japanese maple near the rockery.
It’s also near the plant in the rockery that was planted in memory of a dear friend
and classmate who died in 2006.

Altamont Gardens, Co. Carlow was where I did my first placement. The lake there is full of life and a very beautiful setting. When I started working there I found it impossible not to stop and stare all the time – I couldn’t believe my luck.

Altamont house from the lake.

Fast forward now to the USA and Longwood Gardens where I interned for a year. Longwood is defined by its water and its spectacular colour.

The daily fountain shows are set to music

About twenty thousand tulips are planted each year

Not far from where I fell – actually I walked – in. I still like it, in spite of that.

Longwood’s hybrid Victorias – originally bred from one at Glasnevin.

Chanticleer is just as impressive as Longwood, but has a more contemporary design. It’s my favourite garden and is full of mystery and fun.

The Teacup garden

A spot of stainless steel

The pool where we had my farewell party. Nice!

I wanted to include more places but you’d be reading this forever if I did, so this will have to do for now. Once I started, I realised that actually there’s very little I don’t like about The Garden.

I’ll leave you with a sample of Longwood’s spectacular firework display. Yes, they were that glad to be rid of me. :)

Thanks for reading!

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By |November 6th, 2008|All Posts, Reading|11 Comments


  1. Sara November 6, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Debbie,

    Great post and I love the photos, especially the Victoria cruziana!

    All the best

  2. Julian November 6, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Thank you, Debbie, for a bright spell on a dull day. It’s hard not to think of doing a runner back to Annes Grove, where some passionate gardeners of independent means could find plenty to keep them busy. I know how I’ll answer the clichéd question if I ever win the lotto.

  3. [...] But at least I’ve not been completely idle:  Peter Donegan very kindly asked me to do a guest blog spot on his landscaping site, and that has just gone live. [...]

  4. Debbie November 6, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for the nice comments, Sara and Julian. :)

    BTW take note of the coloured fountains in the background, underneath the fireworks. It really is an all-round-spectacular show!

  5. Bohoe November 6, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Im truly envious about those 3 years at the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. I hope I can do that meself soon! And the victoria cruciana brought some nice memories, thanks!

  6. Debbie November 6, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    @bohoe and I’m truly envious of your photographic talents. :) If you’re thinking of doing Hort full-time do get in touch for a chat.

    Re the Victoria, my ex-boss in Longwood, the curator Tomasz Anisko, is writing a book on Victorias. He’s looking for other specimens to come and visit. It has an amazing story! Here’s another shot for you – (sadly not in bloom).

  7. Deborah November 7, 2008 at 10:16 am

    What a cheerful post Debbie. How lucky you are to be able to do something you obviously love so much.

  8. [...] garden guest #5 4: Damien… Thursday garden guest #4 3: marie… thursday garden guest #3 2: debbie… thursday garden guest #2 1: bohoe… thursday garden guest #1 This entry was posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at [...]

  9. Garden Landscaping Ideas May 18, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Oh my! Those gardens are magnificent. Looking at these pictures, I just came up with another batch of garden landscaping ideas. I hope I can do justice to my own humble garden.

    I love the landscape garden design of Altamont Gardens. The place has indeed rightfully earned the title of “the jewel of Ireland’s gardening crown.” When I visited Altamont a few years ago, I was enchanted by the plethora of beautiful plants and lush landscapes. Strolling through the garden’s walks, I imagined I was traveling in some magical fairy tale paradise, especially when I reached and saw the magnificent Altamont’s artificial lake. I must salute the landscape architects and the people who built that place.

    I haven’t been to Ireland for some time but I would sure like to visit the Altamont Gardens again.

  10. False dawn of the city February 23, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    [...] Peter Donegan [...]

  11. False dawn of the city — GAME FOR ALL February 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm

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