easier gardening – garden nirvana

beautiful kinsale harbour

beautiful kinsale harbour

This was my first ever article written for The Farmers Journal. Originally entitled ‘easier gardening’ it was published under the title Garden Nirvana October 23rd 2004. The great Dr David Robinson had passed sometime before and I remeber via email noting to my Editor Matt Dempsey that having gone through such an amazing life, knowing Dr. Robinson had left a void in so many a persons rather than having simply passed through. Amazing, wonderful and always remembered.

Have a very happy Monday morning and as always enjoy!

Garden Nirvana

‘What a man needs in gardening is a cast iron back, with a hinge in it’- Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1871

One of the main factors required in Japanese gardens is that relaxation, not perspiration is the end result. Moss lawns are created, dwarf trees are planted and the use of bonsai means that the garden becomes a soulful experience rather than an uncalculated costly or potentially hospitalised one. So why do we Irish spend in excess of Euro 2.33 billion annually on horticultural products and services.

I am not suggesting that ‘no maintenance’ is attainable through using ‘The Four Universal Energies’ as a theorem principle for garden design. No maintenance is only achievable through Mr Macadam’s ingenious invention, or concrete. I am proposing that there is a balance. The rear of your home does not necessarily need to be a car park nor does it wish to be a compacted version of the rain forests.

When we decide to invest in a boundary shrub like the Leyland – not for our fruit farm in Co. Kilkenny – but for our two-bedroom townhouse in the city, surely we only have ourselves to blame. Would it not be better to invest in a garden concept that requires only one day’s labour per six months? It’s a simple theory. The longer a plant takes to become a saleable product – the more it costs – more important, the slower it grows and therefore the lower the maintenance. This is mainly due to the amount of pruning required and the amount of debris removed. The cheaper quotation in landscaping is therefore not always the answer, at least not long term.

On average spending 3% of the value of your house (wisely) should add approximately 8% – 13% to the value of your home. We generally choose for it to be the last of our agenda when ‘doing up’ the house and usually we have little money left to spend.

The garden should be a place for the heart to unwind. A simple complexion of nature is easier than complex warrants on a tight fiscal policy. The use of select stone with a simple choice of a few slow growing semi mature plants will be a higher initial investment on your property but with no grass to cut, some serenity has been inscribed in today’s diary.

I am a plant lover. I do not wish to blight my green friends with coloured stones. The truth is, sometimes it is necessary to substitute what some may consider to be hard work and an expensive (albeit rewarding) hobby for a cup of tea and a nice view from afar.

This article is not my personal epitaph or biblical manuscript that I wish to impose upon others in any way. Should the scenario be that one has a piece of land, a patch, a rented house or just does not totally enjoy (what is my equivalent to ironing and drying dishes ambidextrously) ‘the chore’ whilst breaking their spine; I believe there is a way to come up trumps and not have to breakdown on each occasion the curtains are opened and you realise koala bears have nested in your prehistoric grounds. You wont be avoiding work, just intelligently reducing your work output.

It is my strong suggestion that if you want a survey done on your house, you do call a civil engineer or architect. If you want advice, or a design for your grounds, pay for the services of a qualified horticulturalist and specify the amount of time you actually will (be honest!) spend in your garden or get an annual cost to maintenance based on their proposal.

The main ‘chore’ or cost is the lawn. Cutting it. Use a mulching mower if you must. Ride on and push (with or without gears are available). With not stopping or starting to empty the grass box at the ‘heap’ you have at the bottom of the garden – this will (by my experience and analysis) reduce your cutting time by three if not four. With a good thick edge to your lawn, which allows you to put the wheel of the mower upon it and reduces the amount of edging you need to do you are now nearing that cup of tea a little quicker. Even better, try sowing a lawn with a dwarf seed or if the area is large enough use a dwarfing agent, which is applied using a calibrated sprayer. Should the lawn be able to go? Turn the entire area to plants and bark much or plants and pebble with a black plastic beneath. Do be careful. Cheaper isn’t always the best and some maintenance will be required no matter what you do.

Don’t curse the thoughts of what should be relaxation. Reconsider and redesign. The whole key to enjoying the life outside your four walls is to make it suit your lifestyle.

artificial gardening

real gardens...

real gardens...

This article was published by the farmers journal early august 07 which I [peter donegan] wrote as a result of my mild sense of humour. It turns out I know the guy through a friend and he now has a copy of the article hanging in his bathroom. It turns out his father spotted it and not so much recognised the name but moreso the picture of the garden! Everybody was happy.

  • Garden n 1 brit an area of land usually next to a house, for growing flowers, fruit, or vegetables. 2 Also: gardens a cultivated area of land open to the public: Kensington Gardens. 3 lead someone up the garden path Informal to mislead or deceive someone
  • Green adj 1 of a colour between yellow and blue; of the colour of grass. 2 covered with grass, plants, or trees: green fields. 3 of or concerned with the conservation and improvement of the environment
  • Joke n 1 something that is said or done to amuse people. 2 someone or something that is ridiculous: the countries inexperienced leaders are regarded as something of a joke

Collins Dictionary [fourth edition paperback 1999]

This has to be the oddest article I have ever written and I have really struggled to find myself in what is usually a free flowing movement of the mind from the heart to my weekly FJ piece. The reason I feel this way is that usually I understand the message I wish to convey and hope that you the reader will enjoy the end result as I did and that somewhere through this journey of life you will find that my piece by reading or realising has made you or someone else smile. Sometime ago I wrote a piece about a customer who threatened legal action against a contractor because he had asked for a ‘no maintenance garden’. Naturally and of course this was not given to by the contractor. It was sometime later in another article that I wrote ‘no maintenance is only achievable through Mr Macadam’s ingenious invention, or concrete’. I was wrong. I could not believe my eyes when this photograph was emailed to me. It could not be a ‘green’ space and it definitely could not be a ‘garden’. I did not know what to call it by any definition. As a last resort I found one that I believed suited and Collins Dictionaries have thrown in an extra added cliché for an extra added smile. Enjoy!

the vanashing trailer act

where is that trailer...?

where is that trailer...?

To some of you this article will prove worthless. I [peter donegan]hope it proves of benefit. I wrote this for the farmers journal in 2006 but as is life in the editorial world sometimes it just doesnt enter the publication. I thought it was a great article and an email from my editor some time after confirmed that too. I should put it to some benefit I suppose.

Enjoy

peter

Two months ago I purchased a ride on lawnmower, but it has never been used on any contract. I tried to buy a trailer to go with it but I couldn’t be sold one. Eventually I did buy one and it was such a nice feeling to hand over such a large amount of money for such a simple and well-built invention. The tailgate allowed us to drive up onto the back straight away but what happened to my latest acquisition? It evaporated, into thin air. I parked it at the back of the house and when I got up the next day, you guessed it in one – it was not there anymore! Magic? Mystery? I don’t think so.

When through my research for this article I put ‘trailers – stolen’ into a web search to my surprise the ‘theft of a 40-foot white box trailer and tractor unit, which was stolen from outside Irish Ferries at Dublin Port at the weekend’ was one of the headlines. Through my own sources two firms had informed me that they could not supply me with trailers of any size or form as their place of business had been cleared out of almost forty trailers within two weeks between them. It’s possible that this rapid transpiration of steel framed attachments was becoming somewhat of an epidemic. It seems the only way to prevent the theft is to make yours the most difficult to steal. Sources in the UK tell us that Trailers are being stolen to order. Logically, the obvious primary steps include installing a hitch lock, a wheel clamp and a driveway security post, but my opinion it that this is only a deterrent and that we need to go one stage further.

In the UK for any size of trailer (or anything of value to you) a system know as Thiefbeaters which involves applying a unique comprehensive identification including electronic transponders and microdots to hidden and visible locations on the trailer has been put in place. Each trailer is meticulously identified in up to 50 locations by various techniques and each location of the unique TB number is recorded. A record of the entire ID is kept along with six digital photographs. Furthermore, a registration document is produced complete with two colour photographs of each trailer they have identified.

With a 24-hour database service, this allows any police force to make necessary enquiries. A prospective purchaser of a trailer with a Thiefbeaters marking can also enquire to ensure the trailer is not reported stolen prior to any purchase. The estimated cost of which is approximately Three hundred euro.

John Friel of BDF Trailers estimates that “at least four trailers a day are taken in this country” of these John also points out that “most of the ones stolen in the south go north and vice versa”. John who with his wife Kathleen manages a business in North County Dublin also added that at present there is no company that install this tracking system in Ireland” that he is aware of.

Stolen trailers are almost impossible to recover with the main problem being that they are notoriously difficult to secure and may often have to be left unattended for long periods. It is recommend by some English insurance companies that trailers be fitted with a stolen vehicle recovery system such as ‘tracker’Tracking systems work via an electronic homing device which, when activated, emits a silent signal to dedicated equipment fitted in police cars and helicopters of every force in the UK. There are two different versions available: TRACKER Retrieve where the owner discovers the theft and TRACKER Monitor which will alert TRACKER HQ directly of any unauthorised movement, allowing them to quickly contact the owner and begin tracing. In January 2002 one UK insurance company reported their first theft of a trailer fitted with Tracker. The trailer valued at £30,000 and only 4 weeks old was recovered completely undamaged. Recorded CCTV pictures showed that the thieves entered the locked compound at 9.00pm and left with the trailer 45 minutes later. A Police aeroplane the following morning, 40 minutes after the theft had been reported, detected the Tracker signal. This trailer has since been stolen and recovered again by Tracker, 200 miles from home.So where does this leave me. I had a trailer. I now have no trailer. If I buy another trailer I could end up right back where I started. There used to be a time when a trailer could be left in a driveway or on a premise until the next time you needed it. It now appears this is something that can no more happen.

irish entrepreneur magazine

silver medal winning 'no rubber-soul'

silver medal winning 'no rubber-soul'

I just received a copy of the irish entrepreneur magazine [july/ august issue] with a delightful picture of our garden on page 58 from bloom in the park. The pictures for this were taken by Maura Hickey who on the wednesday before the June Bank Holiday event took an absolute smashing picture for the Irish Examiner newspaper. Funnily enough one of the first ever publications I featured in was entitled ‘getting dirty’ in The irish entrepreneur way back in March 2004. It can be really difficult at times to get PR especially for bulding a garden so to Maree Morrissey of the Irish Magazine a great big thanks!

To those of you who will see the picture I know it’s not what a garden designer should look like [?] but it is a good picture and one I know Ms. Hickey is quite proud of. This was also VIP night for Bord Bia the organisers of the event so hence the black tie theme – just in case you start to believe we build every garden dressed like that!

enjoy

peter

recent article in the farmers journal

good planting schemes are so important

good planting schemes are so important

The farmers journal article that I published recently caused some mild upset, rumour has it! Who’d a thought it? The guy who somewhat irregularly but regularly enough sits on the inside backpage would get a claim to fame. I know I’ve been on irish television before thanks to athena media who really made a unique minded dubliner look or a least feel a little more accepted into irish [horticultural] society!

The point of the article was that if you are going to move to old style farming country that you build a house and [here’s the important bit] either blend it into the landscape or do not touch the surrounding landscape. In a word take the existing ecosystem into consideration and try not to meddle with the balance of nature. Its seems a more mature but also new genre will move in with the big machine pull out the hedgegrows and build brand new walls and a pentagon esque style house. I personally have no problem with that but when it’s surrounded by farmland – it’s not, always, so pretty. I design gardens and some of them are a little different, but depending on the area and the surrounds depends on the fianl planting sheme of the more integral pieces of what make up a complete design.

My article go live for selfbuild.ie Ireland magazine but I’m not too sure for all from the farmers journal. Anyhow for those of you who want to hear of some farming controversy please pardon my sense of humour and enjoy below.

Slán

peter

I spent most of my not so far distant youth living in the ‘country’ and as most of you know by now where I live is still, pretty much, farmland. There is however great movement in the old town and houses are popping up just about everywhere. Speaking to a farming neighbour of mine recently, we were conversing on the topic of buildings that look so out of place within their rural setting, kids being driven to school in super jeeps, rather than walking – the usual groan over a pint. It was mentioned that he had had a recent complaint about the smell from the farm and was asked to do something about it! Conversation turned to fast cars stuck behind tractors and the frustration ‘they’ must have in their lives! We came up with the solution that ‘they’ should live on a motorway. Although the dream may have been to live in the ‘countryside’ it seems changing Ireland has changed more than I realised. No disrespect intended to any person agus Tá Fáilte Romhat go dtí Baile Bachaile. The biggest change in my eyes has to be land reclamation. The house must be bigger and so must the drains I am sure. But the hedge-grow is being removed and rather than being replaced with native species large walls take their place. Planning may have a role to play in all of this but with or without those county council departments as your say so, nature depends greatly on nature. If you are new moving to the old, please replenish and replace as nature intended or as it was before you got here. Planting season for whips and trees is almost upon us, it isn’t that expensive and if you ask nicely I’ll even tell you what to plant and when to suit your home. Get back to your roots – plant a hedge this October and as always – enjoy!