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Andrew Wilson

peter donegan, andrew wilson

I have very few if any heroes in horticulture. Maybe that there didn’t exist many when I first grew seeds way back in 1981. Maybe growing up we very simply weren’t a family that did a whole lot of sitting still, Mom 😉 And that act would by default have included being seated in front of the tele visual.

When I got to an age when I could afford to buy books, that were not second hand and pre 1960’s brimmed with illustrations, as versus images, one of the first that I treated myself to was a book by Andrew Wilson. I was not aware of Andrew at the time and though there is no specific reason why I purchased the book, I can tell you that in 2004, it cost me €36.75.

In 2007 Andrew judged my Silver medal garden and in Bloom 2008 he was there again. Some Peter growing up, baby changes and almost four years later, today, fresh from The Chelsea Flower show where he was a judge for The RHS in one catgeory and in another where his garden design won Silver-Gilt and now judging at Bloom 2013, we got to meet again.

Garden merits and acclaims aside Andrew is an absolute gentleman and this Friday on The Sodshow we sit down to talk in part 1 of a 2 part show.

And if you’re maybe wondering why my head hair is a bit Olly Murs overly quiffed messed up, I had literally just crawled out of a hedge 30 minutes previous 😉 Back to gardens; I’ll return to landscaping here on the blog tomorrow, or the next day. I’ll see how dirty or clean my hands are.

The next big Q is when or if I’ll make a return to show gardening and/ or Bloom 2014. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m gonna go for a cuppa. I’ve got a garden to finish with a tomorrow deadline and a jeep to remove much foliage from.

medal winner bloom

Paisean Faisean: The Irish Hedge

Hedge n 1 a fence or boundary formed by closely growing bushes or shrubs

In equal measures, in my past, I did so passionately adore everything that is an Irish garden hedge and also entirely abhor the thoughts of even looking at one.

Maybe it was something yellow pack Quinnsworth type bland 1980’s Ireland. Something pre that log roll pandemic that swept the country. A time when grow your own was that patch to the right of the washing line and composting was a mere heap.

Outside of that and of one’s front garden existed a Cherry tree and summertime landscaping was a tray of blue and white allysum and lobelia, just to better show off that single monoecious Skimmia.

For the elder statesmen of the garden fraternity, there did however exist the garden shears. Sharpened by hand, never replaced and complete with that Cliff Richard type tang top, a Saturday in the garden just like the Sabbath following, had its rightful place.

Que, the low maintenance syndrome era through the noughties of bad planting and decking for which we are in too many cases yet to see the after effects of en mass planted Phyllostcahys aurea [as versus Fargesia]. There was a reason why that quote was cheaper you know. But errors, era’s, seasons and trends aside, what of the garden hedge.

Historically and like most things Irish and gardening it was an influence of the Olde English garden that brought it via influence to Ireland in its more formal state. Through the boom of the 1960’s and the evolution of the Horticultural Societies, it was not a comes as standard when you bought that new home. One had a choice and one chose to plant.

Just like the use of the circle, the hedge however dates back absolute centuries thousands of years and were first used as agricultural seperations and divides, nothing new there you might add. But with the rise in popularity of anything however comes the splinter groups ~ pardon my witty pun ~ and so agricultural reticent hedges may now be referred to as hedgerows, by the definition alone, hedges they still are; and garden hedges may now be referred to as formal and informal.

Love them or hate them there is something I miss about the Irish garden hedge. They still exist, semi surprisingly to a point considering how they suffered under rise in populartity of the concrete block wall alongside the microwave. Maybe to blame in part is the increase in the number of two [or more] cars per family, both parents working and the major edits in shopping and shops opening times – Reasons why maybe the Saturday garden chores became etched, delayed or ommited from the weekend roster. All encompassing, the design of the Irish front garden changed. Its use, need and reason to exist edited.

For me, hedges were more than just photosynthetic arrangements. They were talking points. Talking places. Reasons and venues to gossip and talk. In short they were the friendliest possible version of a wall. Yet they weren’t.

I remember as a nipper kicking a ball against a neighbours hedge, to the point that it almost bled to death, or at least after the telling off I got [note: fully deserved] it sure felt like I had made that happen, at the time. In reality, it was a few leaves. But it wasn’t that, this hedge was gold and green perfectly striped Privot [Ligustrum ovalifolium aurea variegata] for about 12 metres and it was pristine. The first cut, sweeping, collecting and disposing took a full half day on a Saturday pausing only for Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks on BBC Grandstand and a cup of tea. I might have been 6 or 7 years old at the time. I’m now 35.

Biodiversity, fashionista’s and this years latest Chlelsea flower show award winners aside. I like it old school. And like the lights than adorned the ceilings of The Galtymore dance hall in Cricklewood I miss the olden days. Eloquent, wonderful and all the while everything that is chivalrous and romantic, yet still gardening.

For me, gardening since I was five years old, the years in college and the at times tough slog to get to a place, one thing I know for sure is that my life in horticulture is most fondly remembered and primarily for the people I have met and the stories that were told ~ as versus the plants, who were in hindsight, simply the reason we had met there.

hedge planting

Create Your Family Garden

If I hear the word….

…in these recessionary times….

…one more effing time, I may just spontaneously combust. I’ve had it. I’ve had it the media, with RTE, RTE Prime Time, RTE Frontline, The Week in Politics, RTE news and you can throw your man Vincent Browne right in the middle as he joins the conga party bus just as sure as one more government gaff hits the headlines. This all before I don’t pick up a newspaper.

donegan landscapingI watched the youtube clip of Shane Hegarty on BBC news – yes folks, BBC news – as he spoke about the Great Things About Ireland campaign. He yapped about red lemonade and how a wake may turn into a party, our sports and our language…. I began to smile as my mind wondered, child like, as if I was in accounting class on a warm summers day, starring at a single cow in a field…..

I don’t watch the news. I don’t watch much television. I definitely don’t watch anything that may devalue my happy head. On the one hand I spend too much time outside. But I’m happy there. I love camping in the rain. I love climbing trees, still. I love good news. I admire people who smile. I call it the great outdoors for good reason and as I type this weeks piece I’m taking my caffeine in a mug that says Happy Christmas on it. That’s the kind of happy level I like to be and am at.

I’ve realised just how much time I spend outside though. A lot of that is in other peoples gardens I admit. Towards the point, I’ve got a baby girl now and she’s one and a little bit years young. When I was camping in Lough Ennell we sat on the grass together were I played the ukelele for her while Mom was off doing stuff us adults may consider important. I know I like to keep my mind occupied, which can sometimes lead to moments of ponder. The technical term is daydreaming I believe, but Ella held tight to the sleeve of my t-shirt and sang her own or at the very least the unreleased version of whatever choon I was diddling away with. And for a moment I paused…. I wondered why this didn’t or hadn’t happened at home more often, or at all. I’m hesitant to admit some of the other pre-mentioned options.

What the flip is the gardener talking about this week Mary….?

I’ve taken at a look at my great outdoors you see. I’ve been growing vegetables. I have my fruit trees. I have had pieces in my garden like my red satellite bird bath – a satellite, painted red and turned into a bird bath – but these were or are mine. Not hers or ours. And as I delve further into my thoughts, I realise I am  now potentially reticent of the old, to me, at the time, gardeners I knew back in the 1980’s. I need to change that, in a way.

I need to plant more pretty flowers. Make the garden a place of intrigue and mystery. With hidden places. Not the stereotypical ‘childrens’ garden ie. a slide in a specific space. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s not. But I’d like to have that and so much more. And it’s so easy to do. To design, nee map out the garden in my head.

She will start to walk soon and ask questions and wonder why and explore and…..well that’s what the Haynes Manual on all things Children says and in my mind as I start to doodle I can see that I just need to be impractical. Forget about the manual. Pretend I’m four… easy before you giggle there.

I need to not say I can’t. I need wild flowers growing. Not out of a packet. Just wilderness growing, wild, so I can run through it, even though I might lose things in there. But then I may also find them, which will make me smile. I know she won’t always need to hold on to me to be able to stand you see and then I’ll need a little more than that patch of grass we sat on.

For me, as I see it, the en vogue gig for the general populas may well be growing your own vegetables and it really does have a great role to play in the lives and future of this nations nippers. Very happy I am to see it somewhat take the place of the microwave. But I remember the girls I knew growing up making perfume in a jam jar, with rose petals. I remember making daisy chains. Climbing trees, taking geranium cuttings, picking some flowers for a school teacher…. such simple things, all playing such a huge part in the ever increasing big picture of my time and life not indoors.

As I delve back into my adult head, my horticulturist hat back on I realise that last seasons snow meant that I couldn’t do certain things so that they might be in flower come this year. More than that it meant I lost a season. That means I must now wait until this coming October to plant my trees.  It also means the new hedge that doesn’t exist has a valid excuse. But more, even more than that, this time next year Ella will be two going three. A big difference. And if I don’t do the things I should to my garden now, this season…. well, as her Godfather explained to me, she’ll never be that age again.

I was chatting about this with a gardener friend of mine. I was explaining that my chicken coop is painted pink and white. I will of course openly admit I had a lot of that colour left over from a previous garden endeavour. I explained my thinking, my hands almost directing  traffic as they flapped about in the air etching the garden into nothing-ness. In jesting, we came to the conclusion that if I had had a baby boy I may simply have needed a set of goal posts.

But the horticultural minds considering poetry as versus trigonometry, both agreed that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the imagination is something that should be applauded and enccouraged, maybe even nurtured. We thought of the seasons, the seasons of nature one needs to pre-empt in order to be able to attract it to your garden so it is there when that time arrives.

Now that I have told myself my story and what I would like that road ahead to have in stock for me…. I think it’s about time I designed a garden for the future and for my family.

I remember some time ago being asked by a Client, who was also a Dad to visit his daughter. She had just bought her first home and had, as he described it an extreme case of the independance streak.

She inherits it off her Mother. Who inherited it from hers…..

He told me.

After a consultation with her and partner a list was drawn up. A wish list, that would make a garden. On the other page, a great big garden doodle. With numbers, arrows and outlines. But, after each item on the list was the ingredients to make that particular piece or space.

The benches, for example, were new railway sleepers, six inch nails, paint and some cement. The planting was seperated into trees, bulbs and then the lower growing plants, bed by bed. The sketch and the itinary were given to the Father. He then framed it and paid me for my time. It was her house warming present and it was hung in the kitchen, by the patio doors.

For each birthday, anniversary or celebration some items, ingredients or were it maybe got a little technical, my time was purchased by the various relations.

Better than the salt and pepper shaker she always wanted. Anyways the garden will be a nice home for that swing I’m gonna make her….

For the weekend that has just passed, Happy Fathers day. And before anyone asks why I didn’t mention Dads day last week….? I of course had to be reminded 🙂 There are reassons why I never buy myself socks.

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small gardens [more] ideas

I rumaged through the archives to find some images that may help you a little better along the way in getting some ideas for your garden.

Like one… dislike another… you might just find that little bit that may make your smile a little brighter 🙂

***for more information on small gardens – click here