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Garden Advice Column – The Clare Champion

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This article was originally written for Carmen Cronin and The Clare Champion and an edited version of it published there October 3rd 2014. To be honest I had completely forgotten about it. Sorry ! Most likely due to creating and making gardens.

You may however remember the very lovely Carmen who is possibly better known for her amazing work at Clare Garden Festival ( you who travelled a long long way, bad joke ?, to hear me talk there would know) where I was an Expert Garden Speaker this year.

This below [below my business card that is] is the original, slightly longer version. Any Q’s ? feel free to leave a comment below or drop me a line.

donegan landscaping

New plants for happy gardens, by Peter Donegan

Gardening is a passion that for me has always come laden with a series of serious case examples of hindsight being perfect vision. It is what I have labelled Botanical Regrets – a seasonal syndrome that affects even the finest of the horticultural world.

And it has come to that time of the year [again] where I need to make sure that this time, for next year, I’m going to get everything just perfect.  And though I tell you this, somehow or other I know I will again look back on this summer just passed – my own garden in mind – and wish that I had done something just that little bit different.

On a slight side-note; to them that suggest that they don’t forget, or do get everything within their space outdoors to absolute horticultural perfection, every single year; let it be known that you may be regularly seen within your greenhouse with your pants on fire.

To matters of a more serious nature

In all of our defences, what I do know is that even though my horticultural education and experience gives me the skills to know [for example] that the fruit that hangs upon my apple trees decided to dwarf and crack and maybe even result in wasps deciding to nest within some, I cannot prevent extremes of record rainfall [water] from occurring. Nor equally can I prevent the glorious summer and seething temperatures we have also experienced this year.

Years 2010 – 2014

From a Christmas Day of minus 18 celcius, through record floods to record barbecue sales some gardens are still showing the remnants of what has survived the last years. This month make a list of what parts of the garden have been getting on your nerves, or to put it a little more politely, what could be improved – make a plan, ask your local horticulturist for some advice and make it happen. You will thank me next March.


And as we head into October, now, is when you really need to sit down, take stock, decide what needs to be done with you garden not just for the next few weeks but more importantly for the next coming seasons.

New Trees, Planning and Planting

I’m hesitant to write a usual list of gardening chores than are usually done in October and instead I’m going to suggest you to make one new big splash to your garden. With a little careful planning of plant choice it should look fantastic for Christmas and even better come mid Spring next season. And though that may well seem like a little far away, it is the work that needs to be done now.

What we know will happen is that temperatures will begin to fall below 8 celcius, daylight hours are reduced and the foliage from our deciduous beauties will begin to drop. And because we have now logically arrived at a state of reduced transpiration leaning towards dormancy, what this actually gives us is the perfect time to plant new trees and shrubs including the sometimes solely for appearance sake forgotten herbaceous perennials.

It is the best time to plant in your garden ?

There is nigh on zero by hand watering required due to rainfall and lower temperatures, new plants tend not get stressed and establish for the following season much better. Also your new plants have little competition by way of weeds for nutrients and pretty much little to no reason to worry. Far more importantly, it also allows the cheeky gardeners among you to have that sneaky cup of tea in your potting shed whilst you maybe pretend to be sharpening your secateurs.

Plants: Take 4

the Goldtrum varieties are like a thousand smiles on a monday morning and so infectiously beautiful. Their flowers consist of big tall burning yellow flowers with black dotted centres. They work best when planted in groups of 3 or 5, or more if you have the space.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Incrediball’
Forget everything you ever thought Hydrangea to be and go get some Incrediball’s ! As the later part of the name suggests, they are quite simply incredible massive balls of white stunning flowers. If your garden centre stocks them or your horticulturist can lay his hands on them, grab whatever amount you can.

Agapanthus Africanus
the beauty about these fellows is that they like, like the rest noted here not only come back yer after year but also spread. Their tubular clustered blue or white flowers protrude well over the height of its lower grass like foliage and are a great addition to any space.

Tanecetum coccineum ‘Robinsons Red’
commonly known as the painted daisy, the flowers of this Tanacetum look like something you might literally see in a colouring competition. Guaranteed to make you grin from ear to ear. Again, plant in groups if you can, if not – one is better than none.

clare garden festival, peter donegan

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