rothe house and gardens, kilkenny



I had given the Rothe House and gardens a mention before and I had noted it was on my to do list. And I did go. Sunday 25th October 2009.

I wanted to go on the Sunday morning/ afternoon, but unusual for me to assume different, on Sunday it only opens between 3-5pm. I also really [no offence] only wished to visit the gardens.

Their website describes it as an ‘early 17th century Irish urban garden’. But it was the front of one of their brochures that caught my eye….

Rothe Garden Kikenny. Your chance to ‘own’ a piece of a medieval garden



I was very intrigued… I’ve visited, researched and been awarded for the design and build of a 17th Century Garden… so this was going to be some treat… ?

The South East Ireland gardens guide tells me that it is only €2 to see the gardens and €5 to see the house and gardens. I went to pay in. I was told €5 multiplied by two. I paid. Money [the amount of that is]  aside, if I had known in advace the ‘price structure’ I would have only paid in to see the gardens.

The question then is to the gardens themselves. Are they 17th century….? Are they medieval…? Honestly, not in my opinion. Or shall I rephrase yes there are fruit trees planted and yes there are vegetables growing. Was I impressed to the standard of…? Not really, being honest.

I am not trying to be disrespectful here. I’m not trying to knock the Rothe House trust who I must admit have done amazing work on the house and the displays within the building. It really does deserve applause and admiration. The work on the [re]construction of building internally and externally is superb.

But with regard to the gardens, if I was simply told that there are some gardens attached and it is €2 in to see them…. would I pay it and would I have any complaints…? Not one.

There are positives. I admire the fact that the brail signs are there; that one can have a tree planted in their or a loved ones name. That visitors were simply sitting and enjoying each others company is also a truly wonderful sight; it is very serene and there really are some nice pieces within… That said, the overall design leaves a lot to be considered. [Although] possibly a factor of funding, the gardens are also young and for them to mature and come into their own will take time. On a side note I should also add that the gardens are particularly well maintained.

The point of this weblog is not to be bold in my writing. But whether the entry is €2 or €200 the question is how honest in my appraisal should I be and more importantly would I recommend for you to visit the gardens…. ? Not really.

UPDATE: 15th Dec ’09 The Rothe House responds

there are more photographs here

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trees versus buildings…

i really liked doing this job. Of course and naturally I’d prefer that the entire planet was landscaped [peter donegan memorial garden style], but with relevance here to the consideration of trees in relation to buildings [and modern day realities], it looks really good.

The building is Prosper Fingals [just around the corner from Fingal County Councils off Swords Main Street]. The reason I like it [possibly unusually one might say] is the use of the trees to soften the building. Rather than the usual option of just simply doing nothing at all.

The four Gleditsia triacanthos ‘sunburst’ [honey locust] were brought in quite mature and look really well planted without staking. In relation to the building, it really just softens.

The planting behind it is lavandula hidcote [lavander] and parthenocissus tricuspidata [virginia creeper]. Again, a very simple yet effective landscape plan.

the country fair?

the rub of the green

the rub of the green...

A polite debacle arose recently were a landscape architect, a contractor and a sub contractor agreed to work together for the common benefit of a client. Not much new there and a normal sounding relationship prior to the start of any garden build. What resulted was a mild tarnish and financial loss on the name of the landscape contractor because the firm employed to be the intermediary – the landscape designer, employed not only to design but also to ensure that both client and main contractor were protected financially – did not.

a fair policy?The main contractor, of good standing and rapport, naturally oversaw all of the work, took on the responsibility of the extra costs and the potential risk of added costs should any tasks have gone even mildly askew in the clients or architects eyes. From a garden point of view one would be very impressed with the end result. In this case the end result was not all it seemed.
The couturier and the tertiary contractor became acquainted and the overall costs which allowed for clients extras and mishaps were paid directly to the subcontractor from the main contractors original costings. As advised to the client. Of course it’s not like I haven’t been here myself – but then, in business one learns very fast!

press me at any timeOn a larger scale this happens so regular within the construction industry where the middle man is deemed financially responsible and the contractor more often can do little but bite nails. ‘Sometimes’ it seems some of the finest garden builders in this country result in a negative financial situation through no fault of their own and are very much helpless when crossing the finish line as contract law becomes can you afford to wait and/ or can you afford to take ‘us’ on.

I really empathise and sympathise with my learned colleague and as explained to me the client can only take advice from his closest aide, the design guru. In this situation the client would have known no better than as advised to him and to pay monies down as he did. Should it have been ethically possible to approach this man and whisper in his ear then things may have been different, but it is not my position. However, the finest and most talented horticulturists and garden that was built aside I can only hope that this article allows the next garden contract run a little smoother [behind the scenes] as a result and that the honest contractors may take precedence in this changing world we live in.

a beautiful garden

yet still a beautiful garden...

recession talking getting depressing

peter donegan landscaping boomBrendan O’Connor wrote in the Irish Independent [29th June 2008]

There have been a few mutterings about a recession, which is a nice word for depression. The reactions by the media to this have been interesting. The media seems to be thrilled about it. ….You get the impression they think it’s a good thing.

People are asking me all the time hows business..? is it getting quiet..? NO! For the brilliant time things are fine. The only thing this apparent gloom reminds me of is when [eg.] you break your arm. The first time you’re asked ‘ah how did that happen?’ Full story given… but by the time the 40th ‘do-gooder’, fairy cakes in hand asks… heads are gonna roll!

First: this article from a previous post [click here] is well worth a read before you go further. Second: No business has ever been a stroll in any park.

I’m one of eight children. My father is a wine merchant. Fancy? I’m no expert but me thinks not so much in the 1980’s. A little easier now?

Interest rates at over 18%? Emigration at 45k per annum? 85% mortgages? Unemployment at 375k? Not anymore. Two things: they don’t make land in Ireland anymore – and – you can’t continuously build 60-70k houses per annum. logic?

I hear tell of contractors not getting paid. That always happened. I hear tell of people paying 50k for a house build when the other 2 prices are around 100k – [I can’t wait to see that one ‘when’ it’s finished! – this also always happened.

House prices are cheaper? Good. But what’s better now? As a good friend [a civil engineer] said last week ‘any bank manager with a screwdriver could call himself an electrician and the week after he was building houses… those guys are gone, thank God!’ This was also relevant for landscaping and garden design.

The other side is that a lot of businesses ‘gave a price’ and got the work and semi retired after. If one took the p*** through the ‘boom’ – it may just have come back to haunt you.

Apart from that what’s new… nothing really.