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the three quotes rule – [how] does it work?

it's no laughing matter

it's no laughing matter

If I asked three people to price for the supply of a motor vehicle or to be more specific, three people to price for the supply of a citroen car would I get the same price?

It cannot be until I say I want a ’03 Citroen C5 HDi, Diesel, Red in colour, 78,235 km with full service history, including exact tyre, upholstery, electrical specifications etc will the pricing system be truly fair to the three tenders and most importantly, to you the client. It is ONLY in this situation will a three quotes rule work. The same theory applies to gardens.

As with everything, there is always a lesser quality product/ service available and therefore naturally a cheaper price. The less time one plant must spend in one place whilst being maintained – the less it should cost, the smaller it is and naturally the cheaper it is. But ‘the’ plant is still being supplied?

So many times people ask me ‘to quote for doing the garden’. That is partly why I [peter donegan] charge for a call out, nee consultation with domestic clients of new. Because unless, as analagised earlier, one can tell me over the by email, phone or any other means exactly what is to be costed – only a cost to landscaping of your grounds should exist, NOT an estimate or quote.

I can price but, again to be fair to you the customer, exactly for what should be preferrable. Are the three prices for your garden singing from the same hymn sheet for exactly the same amount,quality and standard of product and finish? To ensure there is equality within pricing it is important to ensure some form of works specification is in place or/ and at least a design concept or drawing. From logic, most good practices will advise their clients to accept the better contractor whilst considering the ‘costs’ submitted.

You do get what you pay for and if you are unsure of what exactly you want don’t be afraid to pay for a professional consultation. As I’ve always said cheaper can often be more tearful than cheerful and be it garden or not, if the time is put into the preparation of your project, it will work out to be no laughing matter.

Enjoy

peter

ps. my article, never had your garden designed before may prove of benefit here.

how long should I wait before I walk on the grass

laying lawn

An old science teacher of mine told me that for every equation there is always an exception. In horticulture, in my opinion, equations and theories can all be discarded. The ‘theory’ for grass seed to germinate for example is that it should take ten to fourteen days to germinate. But that is based on the fact that you have suitable growing medium [soil] ; temperature in this case at approximately twelve to fourteen degrees depending; water; air and sunlight – the five factors required for the growth of any plant. So how long will it take for seed to germinate? with conditions at almost twenty degrees and no rain? a long time.

Back to the roll out lawn! Now you have a germinated green seed carpet the bottom of which should be flat with some white fine root hairs slightly protruding at the base [look closely]. If soil preparations are done to perfection one should have what is in theory castor sugar like soil [a fine tilth to the horticulturist] with a roll of weighted grass on top. Until the rootzone develops [ie. the fine white hairs teeth into the fine soil and form a matting ie. bind together so as the grass cannot be pulled off the ground when you grab it] and also the soft ground beneath hardens enough to take your weight – then don’t walk on it. You will need to test the water, so to speak, to see if it’s alright. If the kids do dancing on it be warned that’s how you get potholes in your new lawn

This sounds a really long answer to a simple query – but what I am trying to do is give an understanding in a nutshell of a situation that has taken some years of education and experience to know by touch and sight.

enjoy the cutting, buy a mulching mower and be kinder to the environment.

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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recent article in the farmers journal

good planting schemes are so important

good planting schemes are so important

The farmers journal article that I published recently caused some mild upset, rumour has it! Who’d a thought it? The guy who somewhat irregularly but regularly enough sits on the inside backpage would get a claim to fame. I know I’ve been on irish television before thanks to athena media who really made a unique minded dubliner look or a least feel a little more accepted into irish [horticultural] society!

The point of the article was that if you are going to move to old style farming country that you build a house and [here’s the important bit] either blend it into the landscape or do not touch the surrounding landscape. In a word take the existing ecosystem into consideration and try not to meddle with the balance of nature. Its seems a more mature but also new genre will move in with the big machine pull out the hedgegrows and build brand new walls and a pentagon esque style house. I personally have no problem with that but when it’s surrounded by farmland – it’s not, always, so pretty. I design gardens and some of them are a little different, but depending on the area and the surrounds depends on the fianl planting sheme of the more integral pieces of what make up a complete design.

My article go live for selfbuild.ie Ireland magazine but I’m not too sure for all from the farmers journal. Anyhow for those of you who want to hear of some farming controversy please pardon my sense of humour and enjoy below.

Slán

peter

I spent most of my not so far distant youth living in the ‘country’ and as most of you know by now where I live is still, pretty much, farmland. There is however great movement in the old town and houses are popping up just about everywhere. Speaking to a farming neighbour of mine recently, we were conversing on the topic of buildings that look so out of place within their rural setting, kids being driven to school in super jeeps, rather than walking – the usual groan over a pint. It was mentioned that he had had a recent complaint about the smell from the farm and was asked to do something about it! Conversation turned to fast cars stuck behind tractors and the frustration ‘they’ must have in their lives! We came up with the solution that ‘they’ should live on a motorway. Although the dream may have been to live in the ‘countryside’ it seems changing Ireland has changed more than I realised. No disrespect intended to any person agus Tá Fáilte Romhat go dtí Baile Bachaile. The biggest change in my eyes has to be land reclamation. The house must be bigger and so must the drains I am sure. But the hedge-grow is being removed and rather than being replaced with native species large walls take their place. Planning may have a role to play in all of this but with or without those county council departments as your say so, nature depends greatly on nature. If you are new moving to the old, please replenish and replace as nature intended or as it was before you got here. Planting season for whips and trees is almost upon us, it isn’t that expensive and if you ask nicely I’ll even tell you what to plant and when to suit your home. Get back to your roots – plant a hedge this October and as always – enjoy!