Yesterday, Eugene Higgins of The Irish Mail On Sunday did a great Piece on The Garden Group with the tagline How a Bloom maverick is taking bloggers on tours of our ‘secret’ gardens and titled it A www.walk on the wild side
The main picture is of Dena [@curlydena], Mom Vena [@VenaW] and Dad Andrew Walker. [And to think I spent so long brushing my hair that day 😀 ] The other two images are courtesy Jennifer Farley Photography [@laughing_lion]. I’ve asked Eugene for the main text of the piece and will post it below as soon as I get it. For now…..
Wednesday 3rd March was a nice day. I’d had a really great chat with Susan Daly over the phone last week and awoke to a clatter of texts and messages all singing Carly Simon on the answering machine 😉 Great to have humorous friends…
I must say it is a great article. Extremely well written by Susan and it was an absolute honour to speak with her. One of life’s really nice people.
‘People ask why I don’t charge for my expertise — where’s the fun in that?
Wednesday March 03 2010
“I’m not stupid with the euro in my pocket, but some of the things I most enjoy I do for free. “Recently I took a group of people around the war memorial gardens in Islandbridge. “My wife made country apple pie and we had coffee in flasks, and we have another trip coming up to Ireland’s Eye. “But what people kept bouncing back to me afterwards was: Why didn’t you charge for it?
“I don’t get that. I competed at the Irish Conker Championships last year just for fun. “It’s like I won’t put a shop on my blog (doneganlandscaping.com), because that’s not why I do it.
“I’d say 50pc of the phone calls I get are for free gardening advice, and I’ve been on the garden side of things on the Niall Mellon trips. “I’m going to sound like a martyr, but for me, it’s just not the point of life to always have to tie in everything you do to paying the bills.”
He is also a director of the Irish Internet Association, graduate member of the PRII and MII, a judge of the Irish Blog Awards and the IIA Net Visionary Awards and a member of the communications committee of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the IIA Social Media Working Group. In a previous life I was a secondary school teacher.
Outside of work I am passionate about sports. Never a great spectator I play football, jog, mountain walk, swim and cycle leading to a growing interest in Triathlons.
What I like about Gardens:
As a child growing up in Drimnagh, Dublin gardening was only of passing interest. My grandfather encouraged us to grow plants and had spent many years growing all sorts of vegetables and fruit over the years (especially during the ‘Emergency’). I even remember winning a prize of slug repellent for a cactus in the local horticultural show which is now sadly defunct. Digging the garden was also rewarded by discovering old glass Bovril containers that the original builders had used to sustain themselves. As an typical kid with too much energy, most of mine and my brothers, gardening experience was spent sneaking into neighbours gardens to reap the rewards of their gardening efforts by swiping apples and loganberrys. The impact of five boys in one house meant that cruel blows were inflicted on hedges and lines of lilies. Hedges were destroyed by us constantly jumping over them, crawling through them or punishing them with relentless football.
Nevertheless I grew up and the gardening bug was obviously waiting for the right opportunity. For me gardening became a way of reducing the harshness of city life, relaxing and creating a space to escape.
Over the course of years sheds were added and boundary hedges were replaced with walls all leaving a grey, functional and cold feel. As we added large windows to allow more light into the sitting room gardening became even more important as a way of linking the house with the outside environment.
Gardening for me has a pacifying physical work element that I enjoy. Sitting at a desk and typing all day long softens up the body and clutters the mind and I found myself relishing the weekend challenge of hard lifting and getting my hands dirty. I have never taken to delicate gardening and much of what I have done resembles more of a construction project than gardening.
So what did I actually do. Firstly I put in a 30ft plus patio made up of old railway sleepers. This runs directly along the back of the house and splits a small grass and peddle garden. It is also bordered by sheds one of which links directly with the sleeper patio and is now nicely lined with a replanted wild rose bush (which my grandfather planted) and ivy which hides the concrete blocks. On the other side is a small peddle garden with a water feature made from three vertically placed five and half foot limestone pieces that came from my wifes family farm in Mayo. Two more of these are free standing in the grass section of the garden. I planted a lot of bamboo on a raised gardens that surrounds the peddle garden and has now grown to fully cover the second shed and now forms a curtain of moving leavings that also insulates us from the next door neighbour. This is interspersed with some other bushes including a 5ft rosemary bush and gives an all year round green feel. The patio contains a 7ft wide circular table with 6 chairs, a couch and a selection of large potted plants. At the back of the garden is small sunken garden where I put in a small fish pond with running fountain. Again ivy has started to slowly cover the walls and some miscellaneous trees and bushes give nice shelter. As the patio is raised the drab vista of neighbours back walls still dominated so I planted some silver birch and eucalyptus trees that rapidly grew to the point that this year I needs to scalp right back to allow some more light into the garden. The remaining hedges that I only remember as being about 3-4 ft high as a child, have now grown to a 10ft wall that runs along side the house. Other walls were topped with wooden shuttering forming a canvas for more plants. My grandfather planted and sculpted an arched shaped hedge which I wanted to keep. Transplanting it was tricky but it is slowing come back to live in a distant corner of the garden. On a final raised garden I have planted an 8ft contorted witch hazel tree which gives and interesting twisted feel to the garden.
Thankfully the patio and garden benefit from the sun which disappears from the final corner of the patio around 9 in the evening during the summer. The garden has always been small but irregularly shaped which makes it appear larger than it is. It has also become an oasis for my wife and I that we actively use. Overall its not a very subtle garden as most of the plants are tough and all year round but dropping leaves from the trees and flowers on the rose bush remind me of the passing of the year. There are still enough nooks and crannies to wander around and there is always some manful gardening to be done. We have made plenty of mistakes and really do not understand too much about plants but by in large most have survived, most are strong enough to survive by themselves and with the exception of the small grass spot it does not need much attention.
Looking around at the estate which is around 80 years old I see very little gardening. Most have completely filled in their gardens with concrete and trees are by and large are pretty small or have been recently been cut down as the rush to have a no maintenance garden has kicked in.
I think this is a real pity. The garden now gives us a place to relax when sunny, a mini gym to work off the stresses of life when cloudy and a fascinating backdrop to watch when stormy.
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