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Peter Donegan: award winning Irish gardener. Horticulturalist. Blogger. Writer. Talker. Human. Makes gardens.

Either or. Will always be happy and happy gardening 😀

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john brookes… the career of [book]

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I like this book. A little more expensive than my last book review at €44.70 – but well worth it.

I had about three of Johns book in my library up until recently… but very unfortunately they [and a large amount of others] grew legs and decided to go walkies 🙁

To put in context how good John is –  he was awarded an MBE for services to horticulture 😯 That’s damn good.

As a result, one ‘may’ think that Johns book would have the pants bored straight off you… but if you look [not even] quite closely you will see that the square root of so many gardens of today are equal to that of John Brookes designs. On the go since before The Beatles made it famous – and he is still in fashion.

The best of the case studies of Johns work are included from Zespol Palace Park [poland], Sprinhill Grove [australia] to Samarés Manor [chanel islands] the list goes on….. and he’s done them all. What is likeable also about this book is that it is coffee table style and beautiful enough for a non-biblical-botanist to browse through…

For myself I like the insight into the mans past and his career. Admirable. Astonishing. Love it.

i love my very green life…

what can i do.. ?

what can i do.. ?

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: before one reads this article, please understand – this is intended as satire/ humour or any other jargon that may make you smile!!

‘Tranquil settings, the finest of surrounds within the peaceful and serene grounds complete with parklands and golf course.’ This all sounds absolutely superb but what the small print on the booklet didn’t tell me was that this would be, for me, a true bus-mans holiday.

It was a few weeks ago when invited away for a weekend to a wedding in the Irish countryside I and my partner tip-toed out of the entertainment to relax and walk the grounds for a little time and a quiet breath of fresh air in the outdoor suite know known to some as ‘The Michael Martin Lounge’.Although the overview of the mountain range was a picture post card to say the least, as we walked I found the intricate detailing of to be a little less than I would have got away with as a horticulturist and this be a contract of mine. To analagise for the non-wedding fanatics; When asked to play golf, where on a very regular basis I decline every offer. I refuse on the basis that, possibly and extremely probably, standing at the tee-box waiting for my three companions to commence their four hours approximate non-perspirational sport – I find myself daydreaming, pondering, wondering and then examining (what some find as pure enjoyment) the ground beneath my feet, to the extent that my working mind overthrows the relaxation cells of my brain.

every where i look it's green!

every where i look it's green!

When my good lady-on-arm asked what was wrong. (as if by chance the wedding had made me teary eyed and I, in the moment, fancied as a stroll up the aisle myself ?!!) To her dismay I pointed out that there seemed to be no evidence of any use of a semi selective translocated herbicide via a calibrated sprayer on the main lawns and that the rambling roses really could use a little systemic fungicide and insecticide. I don’t think she really wanted to hear the dilution rates in hindsight!

The thought crossed my mind that although I do sincerely love the trade that I am in, in order for me to attain the same overwhelming factor that my [eg] non-horticulturalised friends derive from their ‘getaways’ I would need to retire myself from the trade to ascertain the same procurement. Understand when I say that I truly do and have embraced my career but sometimes, just sometimes its nice to switch off. The question is how and where? Answers on a postcard…!

i’ve got a feeling…

before reading one should refer to this post.

peter donegan garden designer in 2002Throughout college, before and until I set up Peter Donegan Landscaping Ltd I endeavoured to take the better position horticulturally, for my career. This meant little money, long hours, work very hard and learn faster. My age possibly didn’t help. But by 24 I was already a teacher, a landscape manager, senior ground person, contracts manager, consultant, designer and sat on the board for the institute of horticulture – it would always be worth it – long term. It has been.

I remeber one night, an anniversary, two years with my girlfriend [very important !] arriving late home; pre mobile phone days; at 11.30pm. I tried to explain to the good lady still ‘dolled upto the nines’ – in my defence I had parked a Ford 7610 tractor & bulk tanker [milk truck] filled with water ready to go again at 5am, outside her Mothers house… It also had dodgy brakes!

peter donegan 18th century design landscape awardI had worked in garden centres & landscaping companies since I was 16. I had worked two stints abroad. If I wanted, as I have written many times, to work with the ground – I needed to start at that level and work my way up. In hindsight there is no easy route. But, people still walk out of college today and say – I will be a garden designer. If a contractor knows your job better than you do [eg] as a garden designer & vice versa, you can’t be the best at your job [?]. My positions had thought me all of the skills I needed, those an education in horticulture cannot teach you. As important, it had also thought me the business, the people and the industry.

peter donegan landscaping dublin award irelandTwo months before my 25th birthday I set up Peter Donegan Landscaping Ltd. I personally still owed money [college had to be paid for!]. I organised six to nine months credit with 4 main suppliers [including my accountant!] and borrowed the tools for my first jobs from a good friend. Not pretty, some might say, but there was only one way ‘the business’ could go…

The business caused me to split up with ‘the good lady’, twice. No sorrow or blame in that, I just didn’t see her, at all, really… At the time, something had to give. A quote from a much famed article in The Irish Entrepreneur magazine summizes my thinking…

If it failed, how could I ask for a managerial role with another company, when I was unable to do it for myself?

One must appreciate, I loved and love still, what I do. Every single day. Life has always been good. Negatives never last[ed] long – it was always how do I change this; options; choose; do it – and move on. No business is a bed of roses. Of course it’s hard work – it has always been. That will never change. But, when you love what you do and each day excites you, you look forward to it – it is so much easier.

I held off putting any projects up for award until 2006. No particular reason I just wanted my first to be a little special. We had just completed phase 1 of Newport Farm in Donabate, a 55 acre estate 18th century estate.

and the rest as they say is history….

That was the story – for the boring bits – read on:

Qualifications: studied horticulture for four and a half years. certificate in commercial horticulture, Advanced Diploma in Horticulture and the general examination in Horticulture [RHS]. Awarded the title MI Hort by the Institute of Horticulture London.

Other: in my time i have… PRO for The ALCI [Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland] written for many publications; regular contributor for The Farmers Journal and at present Self Build Ireland magazine. Freelance including The Irish Independent, Diarmuid Gavin Design magazine, Horticultural and Landscape Ireland;

Awards:

2006: Design & landscaping: Newport Farm Donabate – ALCI

2006: landscape quality programme – cert of merit – bord bia

2007: Barr 50 – Forais na gaeilge

2007: Design – Bloom – No Rubber Soul

2007: Design & landscaping: Brackestown House – AlCI

2007: Maintenance: Brackenstown House – ALCI

2008: Quality Award – Bord Bia

Gardening…. a different side to life

Its well known [to most] that I used to grow plants under my bed when I was 4 or 5 years old; my first seeds I grew out my back garden with my Pop – radishes; lettuce sets with my Dad; my first bulb [singular] was a hyacinth – one weeks pocket money at the time and she let me off a penny [total bill 11p]! Rhubarb, cooking apples the lot.

The front garden was nothing exciting, now [hindsight]! A skimmia, grisilina hedging and the usual alyssum & lobelia in summertime; not forgetting sunflower seeds of course. Newlands Garden Centre was in the Devitts family back garden then. I’m amazed when I see it now. After all the years of cycling there on my grifter bicycle.

I’m one of 8 children. My Father is a wine merchant all his life – my mother, reared us and worked. Times were tough, at times; but good. I worked hard. We all did. One had to. Friends of mine over the road grew & sold lettuce door to door. It wouldn’t have been possible in my house I suppose.

When eventually the plants were found under my bed, tears were shed, they had to go! That was tough at the time. I found a [Marist] Brother Coleman, who had a glasshouse. I offered my elder in exchange for housing my green friends, assistance in tending the college grounds & some teachings if possible. Deal! He came and collected. I had a mentor. I was 9 years old. He thought me so much & for the love of horticulture that he gave me I will never forget him.

Repairing football pitches, geranium cuttings, interior landscaping, rockeries, tractors et cetera. later then a summer job! 20 pounds a week! I was still working on a sasturday doing my garden round. I think I didn’t have to do the washing up that summer because I was earning a wage/ handing up [some] money. Talk about living the life! I’d sit with my Dad and ask him how business was… how cool! Then I went to that school [sound = screech in the old vinyl].

Gardening was no rock and roll, believe me. Gardening and plants were ‘gay’. It warranted a hiding. The slagging from teachers didn’t help and that usually received a good class chuckle. They bought football stickers. I bought seeds and went to the library. A regular hiding was duly received. Flowers. Pansy. Gay. Donegan. I was so to speak a misfit! When that happens, I suppose the answer is to give it up. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. I loved what I was doing. I fell out with Bro Coleman for a little. Grades were faltering. The stick was getting greater. But time did heal all wounds.

Back home from College for a weekend with my sister lizAnd so at 17 years old with no grass cutting money saved and no landscaping money in my pocket. I went to college…. [this is me & my sis liz – i’m about 19 here] the only Jackeen [Dubliner] in Kilkenny! Jesus Christ! give me a break for Gods sake. Dustin the Turkey only had a slot on Dempseys Den at the time – A turkey with a Dublin voice?!! But I was in a horticultral college, so the ‘gay’ tag had gone at least. Dustin was so much easier. It didn’t get me down. I think it probably made me stronger. I had had worse. A lot worse.

But when one is passionate about anything in life, like a first girlfriend or a hobby… a passion; it excites you and it feels almost electric. I still feel that about what I do. I am still that passionate. Sometimes I feel like I’m on top of the world. Sometimes I feel a little down. It makes me sad. But loving something, pretty much all you have know since you were a child, can do that. Its allowed. The reason you were isolated. The reason people thanked you. The reason they often cried. It is part of life.

It’s taken me sometime to allow myself publish this – but I was inspired by another blogger and his story. I think some people see a business now, not the man [or the big child]. My wife of one and a half years says I should marry a tree. She came in last night and I had the entire table covered with my crop of parsley! It was 11pm. I still had the rhubarb to go…. I have a bed now thats about one foot high and touches the floor. No plants under ‘this’ bed.

Will I ever grow up? Regarding what I love? Who wants to? Whats fun in that? Is that why I started this journey? When the plants need water and rain on my tongue ceases to excite me …. maybe.

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