I started growing plants from the age of 5, created my first garden aged 10 and of now have won national awards for the design and build of 17th and 18th Century estates. I have also built and designed show gardens for both display and at national competition. And whether I am creating gardens privately, advising, teaching or talking about a particular horticultural subject, horticulture and gardening has been my entire life and I am at my happiest when I and the great outdoors are together. I started Donegan Landscaping Dublin in 2001, aged 24.
If there were awards for what it was and what it has become, this now garden has to be up there with the very best of them. And that again, as is pretty much always the case – in the great ones department – comes down to one major factor – really, really great people to work with and for.
Before I go any further, the for now end result needs a phase 2.1 if you will. And that will happen, in time.
Note bené: I’m always hesitant to pop in images of the before or during works; and tend just to stick to the after. On this occasion however, I don’t really have that much of a choice. You’ll understand as you read on. While I’m at it, please excuse my slightly terrible video skills.
The Sodshow is Ireland’s only full time garden radio show and podcast. (Jason) Borne way back in 2011, it has twice been awarded Ireland’s Best Podcast; and for those who may not be aware I am one of the hosts, alongside the very talented Brian Greene.
For the first time in almost 250 shows and heading towards its 5th birthday it was suggested that I be interviewed; but not by Brian.
All images and gardens by Peter Donegan/ Donegan Landscaping, Dublin
The better nee best features of any garden I have ever seen work, are those where the client, with the designer or creator almost decides to compel that design feature to commission.
A little Machiavellian by way of word choice maybe – but it is the revelation, the revealing over time and finally the receiving of that something very unique, created one-off and just for you and your garden – that makes what may possibly seem like a gamble that I note, irrespective of garden size and budget – so very, very, very worthwhile.
That said, there is a difference between a house and a home – and – with gardens, better gardens – the main feature or what some may feel should be the main focus, should also work in tandem with its surrounds. Get that chemistry spot on and you might just have something very special.
The following are five examples of features in gardens that I have created. They are also decisions that made that garden a little different from the rest and for their owners, for the better.
1. Garden Walls with a Difference
If you can get this one right, you are on to an absolute winner. What I will say is it does require one to be a little bit daring, maybe, at the point of imagining what it will look like. Most tend to choose, as one might in interiors to have one featured colour wall and the rest white, for the sole logic of light purposes. As you can see in this garden, myself in the top corner planting away, the white was actually used on the lower walls the entire way around therefore allowing licence to be a little more sporadic on the upper level.
The backdrop plant of choice to soften is Fargesia, a dwarfed bamboo brought in slightly more mature and that shall only grow to around eight foot tall in its lifetime.
2. Garden Art
It doesn’t have to be a piece of sculpt type olde art that you choose for your space outside, but do rest assured we have been using art in our gardens for absolute centuries. This piece was used in two of my gardens – one won two awards, one didn’t. Both great gardens. That aside, the decision to use art in our gardens has it seems been on the decline for some time.
That said, pick the right piece for the right space and surround it with choice perfect planting and you might just have that something so very special. In my opinion, we don’t use art outside enough.
3. A Feature Garden Structure
I’ve made and designed some great structure for some so much the better for it gardens, but this has to be one of my all time favourite garden structures I have ever used. I will admit there is no feeling greater than sitting underneath the stars whilst feeling like you are in a room of your own sipping a gin and tonic with some close friends.
If you can master that feeling ie. including the surrounds, so that the structure just stands out for the very right reasons during the day time, you have managed to achieve something extremely wonderful.
4. The Water Feature
There is nothing worse than a grandé anything in the wrong space and it is at this juncture that some variation of the quality not quantity cliché comes to mind. The key in all garden features is to get it just right and that’s were a good eye comes in for a great overall picture of just what it is you want. A bit like the gazebo, if it can have an additional use ie. during the day and at night-time, you have just got double bargain value for your pound.
5. A Hard Garden Surface
Decks, cobble and all that is functional does have its place in the great outdoors – but if, once again, one can master so very good-looking with functionality then who am I to argue. I have created many walkable hard-surfaced finishes in my time – one of the simplest ever used in a garden of mine was this timber surface above. Divine perfection. Extreme simplicity.
In summary: the images used are ones I thought might strike a chord with you and personally, I’ll be very surprised if you like all of the images you see here. That said, they are a little unique, a little personal and individually loved by their owners.
As weather suitable for gardening in any format goes, last year has to be the worst on record and I think it’s fair to say that, although not by choice, a lot of gardeners had a little extra spare time on their hands.
Not content with sitting on my laurels [be dum. See what I did there…?] I started to think a little outside of the box. To be fair I had started to think outside the box sometime ago.
Delving a little into the past so as to give some context as to where I’m heading with this, I did write for The Irish Farmers Journal for a number of years. I wrote for a number of others freelance as well but without rewriting a curriculum vitae that you may wish to borrow so you can beat me with it, The IFJ was my probably my longest stay as a regular garden correspondent.
The Gardener is off on one again Mary….
Some time after I left there, I started writing my garden blog. Four years old this august, it’s made up of around two hundred of my own video’s, approximately 4,500 images and over 300 segments of audio all posted within almost 900 articles. All done in my own spare time, all written by yours truly and all on the subject matter of the great outdoors and gardening.
I’ve always had a theory that if every person in this little country of ours planted one tree today. Wouldn’t Ireland be so beautiful tomorrow.
Yeah, yeah. I’m getting there…
When last years snow kicked in all complete with a Sky News media team trying to interview a single hail stone on the edge of some motorway in Scotland, I queried where could or would a garden story ever fit in.
Well it wasn’t really the weather for gardening Pete….
Being green during weather so inclement may not be perceived as being so cool. But we who have a space to garden shouldn’t and can’t simply pull the curtains. In the great big garden calender it doesn’t work that way.
Over a year ago Bernie Goldbach, a lecturer in social media at Tipperary Institute suggested I try podcasting. What started as talking into the tail end of my telephone over a year ago handing out various tit-bits of garden advice for five minutes has since been branded and logo’d and has morphed slowly over that time while demand, interest and listener numbers growing.
On March 11th 2011 Dublins only garden radio show, The SodShow was borne. Hosted by Peter Donegan [that’s me] and Brian Greene, it airs live on Dublin City Fm every Friday at 3pm. The radio show is also now the podcast, which more often, surprising maybe, out shines similar shows produced by the BBC and others.
The Donegan fella is blathering away telling us how great he is again. Betcha he’s playing that Carly Simon song whilst he looks at a picture of himself….
But there’s a bigger picture here. One where we all benefit. Remember the tree dream I spoke about earlier [paragraph five] ? Remember my spiel about the snow [paragraph 1] ?
Well here’s my thinking, what if there was one more garden blog, or lots. More garden audio and video’s online. Irish ones. One from Galway even. More garden groups [see The Tribesman June 2nd 2011] What if all of a sudden everyone started talking, to the world and the wide web about their great outdoors. Wouldn’t it be brilliant for Irish gardening ?
The Jackeen may actually be making some sense….
You see there are two winners in this. Everyone. And I don’t just mean the businesses.
It’s about the gardener in Galway who has a mild dilemma with his potatoes for example. It’s about that great park you brought your family to, the time you went camping by Lough Ennell or very simple the day your daughter smiled when you grew your first pumpkin. It’s about others going there because of what you said. It may even be the man in Germany who comes to Ireland [or Galway] and stays in that campsite because of what you said.
Sometimes I think we Irish are the greatest yappaholics in the world. And we may well be. But there’s just not enough official gardening yapping going on, on the record that is. That I know there are six regular garden radio slots, not shows, in this country.
There’s a time when things must happen in gardening. There’s a time when trees sleep. There are those who know that sub zero temperatures are actually good for gardening. There’s a time as individuals we weep on a plants passing. There are things that I could have done even during the snow to make my home prettier, using plants, if even just to save some.
It may be Flirt FM or Galway Bay fm. It may just be you talking into your phone, writing a blog post or writing for the local newspaper. It may only just create a conversation that is deemed downright controversial. And when was the last time that happened in the gardening world of this green isle ?
Either or one things for sure, those who like, love and or even dislike the great outdoors, gardeners need to talk, more.
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