Seriously, But Not That Seriously

box hedge

Before I begin writing this post there are a few notes I should note.

  • horticulturists are allowed to disagree, about gardening.
  • Gardening should not be confused with world politics
  • It will never be considered that controversial
  • Gardening at any level is supposed to make you smile
  • I do not take things seriously, in my personal life. In the gardens I create yes.
  • I have never met Marie and without question, I’m sure she is a very lovely person.
  • As previously noted, this is not about world politics
  • I don’t buy the Irish Indo and haven’t bought a news paper in about 4 years.
  • I’m sure like all good newspapers, that it’s a fine read
  • I am very intelligent. In all departments, including horticulture


To the image above, it comes from Irish Independent Saturday 23rd March. Here Marie Staunton writes:

So, if I can offer a bit of advice before you start planting up your new garden, it would be to visit as many gardens as you can and decide on a look that suits you and your personality.

It was on instagram that I snapped the lines above and popped it out on twitter noting:

Disagrees w/ Marie Staunton’s advice. Far, far easier to just call Peter 😉

There was a bit of discussion to and fro, but this response to me [possibly] summises the logic for the non horticulturist, why I disagreed

that only works of you know plants. If total beginner helps to actually have someone who knows what to do

Back to it; I’ve been creating gardens under my own name, since I was 25 years of age. In large garden terms, I’ve done and been awarded for the design and build of 55 acre and 27 acre 18th and 17th Century gardens. That aside, most gardens [if it is fair to assume  and generalise, for now] and those of most readers of the Indo that will be designed, created or made better looking this year are domestic gardens. And though their sizes can vary, they are usually 8 metres x 10 metres. Or if you don’t have a measuring tape handy, 5 fence panels [2.2 metres] wide and long, approximately.

There is also the fact that I have yet to meet a client to date who will tell me that they took inspiration from any particular park or visitable/ open to the public large garden in Ireland or/ and that it gave them any idea of a look they would want in theirs. And that comes down to the fact that even if you did seek plant inspiration, unless you know your plants, botanically, you maybe are in a mild pickle.

That aside, if I think of the better known gardens [parks ?] in Dublin, [for now and sorry rest of Ireland] one might come up with a list consisting of at least some of these Dublin Parks and Gardens. One should also consider that on the date of my writing this post that not one of my 120 plus trees are in leaf. Some have barely even come into bud. And I’m wondering, novice noted, when one might be able to begin to take something of that advice. That aside [I like saying that don’t I…] you might enjoy this by Anne Wareham and What NOT to do in your garden in April.

Of the parks list linked to above, are there really any parts or planting schemes that I might take and recommend that you replicate or take inspiration from, for yours. If I’m honest, not really. Or at all. Sure, I will grant you that [the not included above] Powerscourt Gardens are absolutely stunning. And they like Kirstenbosch or The Monte Palace Gardens are really, really well worth going to see; that is if like me you enjoy a busmans persons holiday. Of note, your photos will be amazing.

What is the ideal garden ? Who knows ? Every one has his own ideals, and in his own ways by his own methods he will, if he be an enthusiast, endeavour to attain them. Thus every one may make a garden according to his ideal, and if it satisfies his desires and aspirations what matters that it is different from the garden of his neighbour which equally may have fulfilled an ideal ? Let each of us plan and plant as seems best to himself, then shall we gain from our gardens all the pleasure they can provide.

~ H.H. Thomas. An Easy Guide to Gardening. 1927

I hope and that assuming you are doing your garden yourself, Marie’s article encourages you to consider your garden and also to make better plant choices, maybe even to learn a few new names, a little botanical latin even. I also hope that it did encourage you to get out and about and go to visit some of Irelands really very beautiful spots in the great outdoors.

On a slight side note and as it’s there for all to see already in the public domain, here were my closing notes on twitter to one comment:

its all good. Its all garden(ing). I don’t know Marie or her work. Im sure shes a very lovely lady. But I see it different…

..and that’s allowed. That aside, I’m also far longer, more exp, better awarded in hort *and better looking than Marie 🙂

My wry wit aside; and I’m most probably veering off the original point, at this point; but I guess I don’t believe that one can really take a little from any garden planting scheme and replicate it in theirs; Maybe, you might like how it made you feel, if you get me – or even that you might like the colours. But unless you live a few doors away from each other or; meteoroligically, geographically, horticulturally and topographically the conditions are pretty much on par with each other, it may never work out.

donegan gardens

Maybe as a professional, doing what I love for so long, I guess I just don’t understand why one would want to invest ones money into their garden, only for it to appear [even remotely] like someone elses creation.

It can be seen from these essays that man, when in his garden, however mad he may be, stands squarely on his own feet. His triumphs are his own; his mistakes are conveniently buried in the compost heap. In one sense he inhabits a perfect world and even murderers have been known to raise marrows. He may be offered advice by others [indeed this is his greatest cross], he may invite friends into his garden [only when he is sure he can excel them], but he remains the dictator. It is he who dead-heads his roses and decrees when his tomatoes shall be picked. And though his usual position is bent double, he stands at times, like a colossus, his legs astride his potato ridges, or his hands raised in suplication to pick fruit from his apple trees.

~ James Turner. A Book Of Gardens. 1963

All the way round and full circle, do go see as many gardens as you can. And then inspired by their beauty and professionally maintained [by a team/ or just one full time gardener] appearance, employ the services of one of Irelands finest and [being very honest] do tell them how much time you are willing to spend within your space in the great outdoors in order to keep its appearance in tip top condition. Then over a mug of caffeine allow your horticulturist of choice translate your thoughts into botanical latin, specifically to your tastes, lifestyle and space outdoors.

More than that, far more important, however you choose to get there, enjoy it. It’s not meant to be as James Turner notes it. That is unless that route [see what I did there ? root, route ] way makes you smile. 😉

donegan gardens, bloom


3 replies
  1. Triona
    Triona says:

    There’s a chunk of the walled garden in Farmleigh house i’d love replicated in a trailer so I could bring it with me when I move from rented house to rented house.
    Planning a garden without help would be a lot easier if garden centres kept the slug-proof plants in one part of the nursery for people like me to choose from.
    I imagine having a look off various gardens AND talking to someone who knows horticultural would probably be a good plan. Also, someone who knows about planting gardens in trailers…

  2. Lizmcgpr
    Lizmcgpr says:

    Love the post and do agree I’ve never taken any inspiration from any public garden however much I enjoy the experience of visiting them.

    I have on many occasions suffered from “garden envy” as I walked past my local roads and sneaked peeks into my neighbors gardens.

    To sum up – I know what I like I don’t know what I want – I’ll leave that up to the experts… You to tell me.

  3. peter donegan
    peter donegan says:

    @ Triona
    I love the walled garden in Farmleigh. Also love the walled garden by the visitor centre in The Phoenix Park, which no doubt will look absolutely stunning yet again come this June and Bloom bank holiday weekend.
    And yes between hole-ee foliage and holes in tyres of trailers, I can almost emapthise with you 😉

    @ Liz
    cheers Liz. On a slight side note, I find it mildly funny, if you get me, that both James Turner and H.H. Thomas only refer to the ‘he‘ and ‘man‘ solely. That aside, I do empathise [again, and I think I need a new thesaurus] in the ‘I love my parks and my neck does get a creek after walking past any street of front gardens‘ department. I’m glad I went to college now; summised extremely well.


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