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 Dublin: Low Maintenance Garden

peter donegan landscaping There are only two things that matter when making any great garden - What the client [I hate that word...] wants and equally as important the end result. In short, whilst I would love, that every garden is a Peter Donegan memorial, the reality of how happier I have made someone because of their new space outside kicks in in two parts: the minute I finish and handover the picture perfect postcard garden. And secondly in the months and years after I am gone. In the non-cheesiest way of saying, it is a real honour to get to make people smile because of what I do, but that latter happiness factor requires much smart thinking and it is only then that you really notice, horticulturally what you have [I guess] paid for. That aside, I could not have wished for nicer people to create this garden for and that very simply makes my work and this northside Dublin garden just that extra little bit sweeter. Wanna see what it looked like before hand ? [gallery type="rectangular" ids="21333,21332,21331"] And so phase 1 was the removal of what was not required. Which was pretty much everything, that can be summised as an overgrown mass of green with a deck. No offence. What I wanted it become was a bright airy [note: simplistic, in a sense] spacious relaxing room in the great outdoors - the opposite of what it was before hand; and the reason I guess it was being [un/re] done. In the how it would feel department - I wanted it to feel like it had been there for some time, yet extremely well maintained. I wanted people to walk into the home and without even thinking, just wander out doors into the garden and stay there. And then have people ask 'where did Jim get to' or, 'what took you so long', because without even thinking they stayed too long[er] and unwound and relaxed, but yet they didn't entirely know why. Like the time you went out for 'the one' with Mary [or Jim ?] and found yourself strolling out of Bruxelles at 3am and down Grafton Street, trying to type 'Sorry....' into your phone. Sorty. I'm Sozzy. Really Soggy. I'm really Sammy. You had to be there.... It's all good ;) Back to gardens, and as noted in the opening paragraph the main thing to remember here is that the new garden is not owned by a team of horticulturists and that in mind the chosen planting is really quite smart in its thinking and layout. Again, the after Peter is gone factor comes into play here. In my plant selecting Crocosmia lucifer, Primula vialii, Acer palmatum Sango Kaku and Penstemons are just some of them that play a role, but overall my thinking was minimal growth per annum meets a mixture of scent, colour, evergreen and flowering with a little herbaceous thrown in for good measure. And the layout is such that [again] a planted bed separates the patio [sandstone with a granite cobble surround] from the main lawn; just enough to make getting up off that chair a little more of a challenge and your want to stay longer than you had intended that little greater. Happy Client. Happy Peter. Happy. [gallery type="rectangular" ids="21339,21342,21338,21340,21341"] Update - these pics in from Paul. He owns the new garden. And he says:
Hi Peter ! A few pics with the furniture ! The Show house touch ;)
[gallery type="rectangular" link="file" ids="21360,21361,21362"] Any thoughts or Q's [?] leave a comment below or drop me a line. Peter Donegan: donegan landscaping

Wanted: Helicopter For A Garden

donegan peter This may sound a bit odd.... but I'm looking for a helicopter. For a garden. A show garden that is. As it stands I have no sponsor. Not a concern for the now.  I've been here before. Far more importantly, I've no flying machine and so I can't entirely equation the creative. And so the chicken and the egg story continues. I've been here before. It's all good... In context, I found a very large boat for a show garden in 2008. It now lives in Electric Picnic. You'll have to ask Rick O'Shea that story. pink boat Prior to that, I found a Morris Minor for a show garden. donegan gardens bloom Of note: the better the outside and inside of the copter the better. It doesn't need an engine. That said, beggars and choosers and.... Try me. You may think my wanting a 'copter sounds a little funny. Me and funny, if you wish to call it that, have history. Should you ask why [?]... it's really very simple. You only live once. I don't want to look back and say 'I wish I had done...'. It is always one heck of a journey. There are easier ways of doing things for sure. But where's the fun in that. Also, better to have loved than never loved at all. It's all good. Happy out. Loves you the mostest. X Peter Peter Donegan: donegan landscaping

Peter Donegan Talks With at Clare Garden Festival 2014

Peter Donegan never shuts up about gardening. It’s his business, of course, but that’s not enough for him. If he’s not gardening, he’s blogging about gardening. And if that wasn’t enough he started a podcast with Brian Greene, that turned into a radio show: The Sodshow on Dublin City FM. Now, people who should know better have begun inviting him to speak at gardening events all over the country. ;) caught up with him recently at The Clare Garden Festival in Ennis.
And that's the intro I got from Conn O' Muineachain this week on Blacknight's blog. Of note maybe, myself and Conn met the day before I was due to speak at Clare Garden Festival back in April this year. You can read the full posting over at As a by the way, that's me pictured with Conn below. He's the one on the right. ;) peter donegan, conn omuineachain,

Peter Donegan. Speaker at Dublin Garden Festival

peter donegan, dublin garden festival It was a real honour to be asked to speak at the inaugural Dublin Garden Festival that took place at Christ Church Cathedral. And I was on the bill speaking alongside a host of well respected names from the Irish gardening community. Inside the transformation was florally out of this world wonderful and if you didn't manage to make it there a browse through Lorna's review or a leaf through the festival programme should get you a really great taster of just what was achieved over the three days. The images of me were taken just as I was setting up pre my talk on the Friday at 2pm. My thanks to Cara Daly for sending them on. To Nuala and Deirdre and the fantastic team at Christ Church Cathedral for looking after me; and to you who paid to hear me and others speak about my greatest passion, it was a real honour. Thank you. [gallery type="rectangular" link="file" ids="21262,21263,21264,21265,21261,21252,21243,21260,21240"]

Trees: Phoenix Park, Dublin

phoenix park trees (5) Measuring 707 hectares, Páirc an Fhionnuisce better known as The Phoenix Park is Europes largest walled park and to even attempt to cover it with just a wee handful of  photographs simply would not be possible. And though it has been some time since I noted a park on this landscaping blog, I was there of recent with family having cake and goofing around with a frisbee by my favourite spot at present just by The Visitor Centre where the so very well kept walled garden, the café and the play ground resides. And whilst it seems to be the perfect meet of great outdoors relaxation and ooooh, Peter would you look at that ! ; I just couldn't stop myself from snapping these pics on my phone. Legend has it, I always found it hard to sit still. As a horticulturist, garden lover, great outdoors for a living [?] and a hobby, I do find it mildly troublesome to find a space/ place/ park where I can relax and not think about work, if that makes sense. That said I have very very, fond memories coming here all of my life from a wee child with my siblings, aunties, folks and later beau's and back to family to while some time away in the great outdoors. Botanical latin tree names aside, it was really great to see so many other families doing as we were doing. And though I simply cannot help it, the trees that surrounded me were so very majestic. Of note possibly, the last park/ gardens I did note here were that of Cahir Bridge Garden way back in August 2013. It's not that I have been to no other places, more I guess I did not take the time to note them. Something maybe that I need to rectify. In the meantime, go get a cuppa. Pick a random tree. Sit beneath it. Read poetry to your mother in law a loved one. Giggle often. Dirty the arse of your Sunday best trousers. And enjoy. These were and are just some of my favourites. Further info on The Phoenix Park: [gallery type="rectangular" ids="21281,21282,21280,21279,21278,21277,21276,21275,21274,21273,21272"]  
. 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.

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

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