free advice for the great outdoors – if its not here – tell me

How To: Grow Your Own Trees – Hardwood Cuttings

hardwood cutting

This may sound like the ultimate cliché, but growing your own trees, couldn’t be easier.

The video may explain how to take a hardwood cutting [and also the why] that little bit better than the diagram/ image above.

Keeping it on a simple level – don’t be afraid to have a go – that’s what gardening is all about.

And of course any problems or queries simply leave a comment below or drop me a line via

The points above note:

  • cut made @ 65 degree angle above node
  • stem roughly clean
  • disease free stems
  • cut made straight/ flat below node

And also:

  • stems 12 inches long
  • 3 inches above sand
  • 9 inches below sand

Tree Straps – Winter Tree Care

tree straps tree care, dublin

Beer belly syndrome – or trees bulging out over their tree straps, is a fairly common sighting for me. That said winter is a great time to meddle with any tree, now that it has entered its dormant state [see yesterdays post on the blog…]

I thought these Betula jacquemontii a good example to use as they are still quite young and worked well on the video.

Any problems simply leave a comment or contact me via

tree tie dublin

Tree Moving in Dublin, This Season

Today was a great day for moving trees. The ground was wet, but this makes the digging a lot easier than when bone dry. It also allows for the more fragile of roots to maybe tease out as verus break inside a clump.

More than that the tree is in its dormant state.

Digging carefully around what you believe is the circumferance of the root zone and as best aspossible below, what one need to do is lift as much of the tree [below ground] as possible with as little disturbance as one possibly can. Sometimes easier said than done, I’ve used the Apricot as the example as versus the Oak trees I had to move later on today…..

With the trees lifted out of the ground, here’s what you find

These were the trees before I moved them….

Now all I need to do is replant them. I’ll give them a little fertiliser as they are going in and stake and strap them just to make life a little easier.

Winter Garden – Planning and Plotting

peter donegan

I’ve been looking at my own garden recently. In a sense you might say of a much deeper accord. That is, I’ve been looking at myself and what I have done to my garden space.

Let me break this down before I get into a deep and meaningful conversation with you. I get bored, sometimes, sometimes with the space outside of the four walls I live in. In short, I’ve re-done my own garden around three times in eight years.

Then last year I decided to take a break. A pause. A reprieve of sorts. I went a bit all feng shui. I don’t even know what that means being honest…. I shall rephrase, I let the place go I guess, a bit. Not let it go, just, more bio-diverse, as was discussed last week – my answer to everything that needs an excuse that may be deemed incorrect by the gardeners police society.

That said, I’ve my mind in order as to what I actually want to do. In the words of the great Captain Blackadder

I have a cunning plan….

I don’t really have a cunning plan, I’ve just always wanted to use that line in an article. But I have an idea of what I want to do.

horse chestnut treeI have trees to move. They are trees that I still want to keep in my garden but they may just end up too big in a while to come. Too big in the space they were originally put in that is, bearing in mind that the garden has changed in outlay since I first planted them. And whilst I do like tree surgeons, I really don’t want to be crossing their palms with silver unnecessarily.

But that’s months away before you can move them Peter, Autumn even…. ?

And that’s a very fair point, but the planning starts now. Because when I move them I’ve now got a space where they once stood. What will replace them ? A children’s swing. And maybe a slide. I don’t exactly know but I think I’d like to make that myself, for my daughter. It’s not so much the making of it that is important to me, it’s just I want it to fit into the setting, the backdrop and the surrounds… think Emmerdale Farm with a [by next year] two year old and you are part way there.

I’d also like hanging baskets. But I need to hang the brackets first. Of course I may need to confer with the powers that be as to their exact location, but in my mind they will go all the way across the front of the house, the entire of it so that when it comes to next summer….. no, hold on this Christmas…. the house will be a home, a family home where people, visitors, friends and the inhabitants of feel, well, at home I suppose.

Christmas ? It’s still flippin’ summer for Jaysus sake…..

I also want to re-design the hen house. Pardon the cliché’d pun, but I want it to have wings. Wings as in that of a building so when they strip one part of the lawn entirely I can let it grow back absolutely wild whilst at the same time I can gate of the other wing. I also want to paint it. Bright. Their house is already pink and white, but the run is just old matt black fading to grey and it doesn’t look so pretty anymore.

The list the more I think of it you see, takes time. And with only fifty two weeks in the year and only twelve of them winter, of which about three are excluded for holidays, even just to do what I have written – allowing one Saturday per weekend means I’ve only got nine days. That is assuming, it doesn’t snow or rain. And more importantly, nine days is not enough time.

I could have figured that one out on my etch-a-sketch….

I need to back track. I need to draw up this wish list and then another list of ingredients and get myself garden shopping.

Some may think that the earlier the evenings the less busy a gardener may become. Not on your nelly. It is the smart garden enthusiasts that prepare now for the seasons to come and I am not going through what I and we all did last year. Which in short was quite depressing and not very nice. It may not be warm in December, but at the very least I can make my home feel warm and inviting.

Rain, hail, sleet or with the help of global warming a heat wave, my house will be homely by December and it’s going to look damn sexy when I am  finished. I’m making a list and this time I’m checking it twice. What are you gonna do ?

Your Garden Advice

I get asked a lot of garden related questions. Some, some may agree with, some there may just be a better way of doing it. I don’t mind that in so far as I know I will give my best at that time. I am also aware that some of my advice/ answers are starting to become patterns in that others are experiencing the same or similar problems, so this on the other hand is a little of a time saver for me. With that in mind and also that it may creat discussion I have decided to publish them. It won’t or may be a weekly thing. Just whenever there are enough to make it a post. I’ll even try and date them from now on.

These are just some that I could find to hand that I’ve replied to since Sunday.

Tree Advice:

I was just browsing your website and was admiring your work. I was interested in the trees you have planted in the image 63 of 140 in the image gallery. What type are they, betula utilis jacquemontii?
…… However, what safe distance from a 100mm solid block garden wall do you think is ok for the type of tree that you used.
I would have a distance of up to 900mm to the centre of the trunk from the wall.
I hope you don’t mind this random request for advice as a lot of advice on the internet is very conflicting.

To this I replied:

thanks for the compliment. The trees in question are indeed Betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’. Very well spotted.
My opinion on the distance is a firm no, in short. It can be done and might work out fine. I can also understand the varying answers, but without even seeing the garden or foundations for the wall – its the distance and the eventual height the tree wants to grow…. it seems to me a mild case of keeping a tiger in a back garden – as versus a poodle. I know, a very bad analogy, but you get my point. More than that it is a very tasty choice in tree and one that comes with a price tag to match. If the question be would I invest my money, to put it into a space [distance] of that you have described – then the answer would be no.
Re the internet, you are 110% correct re the conflicting advice.
But then my grandmother did grow a lemon tree from a pip in what I can only describe as the windiest courtyard walled in on all four sides on dublins southside. According to the rule books, that should not happen. 🙂
No problem re the random request.

I got this response:

Thank you very much for your prompt response. Says a lot about how you view your business.
Anyhow. I will take your good advice, although the wall is new and I witnessed the foundations being poured. They are over 300mm wide and deep. Would be planting between granite slabs and I know the roots of these trees can be shallow too.
Pity, as they are a very tasty tree, as you said.

I replied:

speaking as Peter… I’d love to see you not take my advice simply just to see a beaut like that planted.
Some will say its fine. Some wont. But, if I am being asked in writing [*coughs so it sound all very official] then I’d have to say no. And in writing I’d be correct.
I do agree though, shame.
On a seperate note: doing a garden recentlty and a clients son asked why I followed Arsenal. In a similar light, absolutely stunning, beautiful to watch but…. 🙂
Have a great day and sorry for the fact that you aren’t going ahead.

Plant I.D.

Hi Peter apparently a very old flower!! But we don’t know the name! Any idea? Cheers

I replied:

looks like aquilegia, i’m reckoning the Aquilegia buergeriana 🙂 http://bit.ly/muRmMe

Tree Advice:

last december i got a pine tree, i coulnt plant it due to snow and frozen ground, the pine was in the same pot as i bought her in till march gone,  i noticed a couple of the branches turning brown, and i figured its about time i plant the pine, so i did, and well watered it and gave the pine some tree food, and watered her every day, the last few weeks she is turning completely brown except for the inner middle, have u any suggestions as to what i can, can she be saved.

I replied

is there any chance of a few photgraphs. also i wonder if this recent spell of warm weather had brought on some buds. my own weeping ash has only started producing hers in the last week or so. Been a tough 18 months for the poor fellows.

Thanks for your reply, I have attached some photos, you will be able to see that the inside is staying green, which gives me hope, have you any suggestions.

[note: I cannot locate the images but suffice to say it was entirely brown]

I replied:

I dont know if I’ve replied to this – but you are still in my inbox. this is the second time – would you believe to answer almost the exact same question. And sorry for the delay but the sun shine was keeping me quite busy 🙂
So here’s what I said and the exact same story applies to you too…..
In short, the tree may come back and there may as it seems be signs of life within. The key would be to remove all dead wood – or wood that is brown the entire way through. If you are unsure simply cut back until you hit a point of where the wood will not snap as versus bend and also there should be some signs of sap or green within. The tree may look disastrous after as a result but – the tree shouldn’t be trying to put energy into what is dead wood.
The reality is that the trees have simply had a double bad beating of the minus celcius elements over the last 18 months and some have simply suffered badly or just passed on. Would I fertilise ? No.
This is, based on the images the best advice I can give having I suppose not really seen the tree in person. that said, based on what you’ve told me I’m not far off the mark.

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If any more come in and are answered between now and Saturday night. I’ll update the post and simply pop them in here.