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.

sunday business post – new apartment size regulations

put the grass where?

put the grass where?

Sunday Business Post, Sun 9th Sept 2007, The Inquisitor Richard Curran. New apartment size regulations have come too late for many.

‘Dublin City Council has finally decided to do the right thing when it comes to regulations about the minimum size of apartments in the capital. Last week councillors voted to introduce new guidelines that will mean apartment developments will not get planning permission unless they have 25 per cent more floor space.’ Richard Curran goes on to note that ‘We already have thousands of family unfriendly apartments in Dublin’ and further tells us that ‘it is extraordinary to think that with the simple stroke of a pen and a vote they could have changed the quality of life and options available to people several years ago.’

I like Richard. I like his honesty and that he has an opinion. I like how he predicts that the governments ‘misguided’ guidlines ‘will ultimately in time be seen for the massive mess that they are.’ Somebody finally said it, in writing.

The funny thing is, that nobody has concerns over is ‘the immediate idea is to make apartment living more attractive for young families’ and also ‘that about 90% of new homes in the city will be apartmets’; where do all the people, nee the young families go when their not in their apartments ? Where is the increased green space per apartment? Where’s the grass going to go? or will the families be arrested for loitering whilst wondering where the nearest piece of grass is? Answers on a postcard to Dublin City Council.

Happy Monday

peter

website now fully accessible

can you see now?

can you see now?

Our new website is now fully accessible. To be honest, before meeting the gentlemen from Segala, I didn’t really know what accessibility was all about and why I should build a new website. It wasn’t until Adrian turned off the screen and told me to read my own web that I understood the point he was making. I felt I like I had been unfair to some of my fellow Irish [and International] populus.

Citizens Information notes on their site under the title Access To Information For All that ‘According to the National Disability Authority (NDA) online information may be inaccessible to older people and those who are blind, have low vision, are colour blind or have poor English language skills or literacy difficulties, dyslexia, a learning disability or a hearing impairment. It is important to ensure that alternatives to, and means of accessing electronic information are provided to facilitate these groups.’

This criteria has been met.

Funnily enough, this all started some time ago when we were awarded the honour of joining Barr 50, the top 50 companies to operate through use of the irish language [Credit to Forais na Gaeilge here]. I guess I wanted to take this ‘accessibility’ to a new level and now we’re all blogged up!

Bilingual, accessible and interactive!

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!

never had your garden ‘designed’ before

Here’s a piece I wrote some time ago. Recently we have had a wave enquiries where people feel that not paying for a design is saving money. That’s perfectly fine but as long as you take the correct free advice and from the correct people.

We have designed anything from 17th century five acre gardens to the most modern and futuristic of advanced and out of place designs – and built them. We have also on the other hand designed and built gardens that dont cost the earth but do look really good.

The second piece of advice is to take the correct advice. So should one pay for a consultation charge? The answer is of course if you feel you should and naturally if you will get something valuable and worthwhile for your cudos. If you do decide to get a garden designed and/ or built for either sixty five euro or sixty five thousand euro remember the numbers at the bottom of the page of the invoice is what it actually costs and you gotta pay that amount [I’ll get back to that later]. In the meantime – enjoy the article.

peter

You want to get the garden designed. You have already tried and after spending the entire lottery, it still looks humorous. The sun is shining. The neighbours have just started their barbeque. You own a jungle. Where do you start?

On the cheap: Measure up the garden. You don’t need a measuring tape or trunnel wheel. One large pace equals one metre approximately and one of your feet is one foot (you’ll have a rough idea). Drop down to the local garden centre and with sketch in hand ask all the questions you can. Its better to go on a Monday when it’s quiet. Always give an idea of the theme you want in the garden, don’t tell them I want this and one of them etc.(if you say water feature and it may not ever have looked good in your back yard – the friendly people who were going to give you advice are now on commission and your stuck with a gift for your sister.) Remember you don’t have to purchase on that day. Call the offices of a professional landscapers/ designers association. They’ll put you in touch with somebody in your area. Generally you can get advice (free) over the phone. They don’t have to call out.

  • Pay a little: Call a landscape contractor of reputation. They may charge for call outs/ consultation charges, but this is a very wise investment (even if the Father-in-law and Jimmy’s brother/ cousin/ sister are all expert green fingers). Decide on the basics with your family first. Do you need?
  • A shed – what size and type? Brick or timber?
  • A washing/ clothes line – Rotary/ retractable/ or one for the local football team?
  • A barbeque – built in or moveable? Gas or coal? Consider the neighbours and the clothes line!
  • Kiddies play area – Swings, slides and pits? sand or bark mulch? Moveable or resident? In my opinion it is better to put these ‘built in’ in one area – this can be adapted/ changed to suit your investment/ garden at a later date. ie. when the little ones mature.
  • Lights – how many? Security and/ or decorative? Sunken or above ground level? Remember low budget/ plastic looks better below ground and you’ll still see the light.
  • Outdoor electricity points/ plugs – where? Always get a double and get the two done together.
  • Outdoor tap/ water source – where? Both of the above mean the contractors don’t need to traffic over your new flooring and you don’t have to be there shedding tears at the state of the place halfway through the job.
  • Table and chairs area – Just for two or the entire Partridge family? Decide on whether it goes to full sun or shade. Please, pick/ measure the dining set you want first and allow 1.5 metres off the back of each chair. This means you only get the size of patio required and the stonemason doesn’t retire on your entire garden budget. (It also stops Nanna falling into the new rose bush when she pushes her chair away to get up from the table.)
  • Raised timber structure/ Patio – take the advice of your consultant and ensure it fits into your overall theme.
  • Green waste area – they can be ‘off in scent’ but they are in todays genre a must.

Ask for a rough ‘outline overview sketch’ of what the garden will look like – on headed paper – this will save you the cost of a full design service. Assuming it’s not a requirement of planning, this should, with a little vision and trust on your part, suffice. Again give a general themed idea of what you would like.

Pay a little/ lot more:Call a registered landscape designer. They usually charge for call outs/ consultations. They will charge for their design and also a percentage fee to oversee their design. This will be a very detailed design with a planting plan you may not understand ever and may come complete with a visual impression of what you can expect to see. Your garden designer will ensure you don’t need to do any of the above. Ensure your requirements are met so as not to result with your designers very own memorial playground. Let them know how much time and what gardening tasks you are willing to spend/ do in the garden (be honest and realistic!). Find out what contractor will carry out the necessary works and as important if they will do the after care/ maintenance. Get an estimate of cost on the landscaping of this wonderful design before you pay for the actual drawings. This ensures you don’t end up with a very expensive piece of paper that will never become a creation.

Remember:

  • Know your budget limit but be realistic.
  • Agree all prices before your contract starts.
  • Stonework requires dry weather and plants/ lawns need water.
  • Don’t pay for contractors tools to sit in their shed on ‘down time’ and don’t end up paying a contractor to water you plants
  • You don’t have to do it all at once.
  • Gardens can be phased in over a period of time. It may take a little longer but you will get that dream.
  • Don’t be afraid to do something different
  • Quality products cost more and cheap can be often tearful rather than cheerful.

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