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Garden Design

Last week I vented some of my frustrations out on the keyboard of my computerised typewriter. In short I think my piece can be easily summised as follows:

I’d rather get a hug from my one year old daughter than watch some big old political laundry pile churn around in the washing machine on every radio and television show, all pretty much asking which state departments whites come out whitest in the hot whites wash.

To this I know two things: I can pick up snippets of todays news on twitter in around two minutes and then I’m back in the real world. Two: the evolution of my daughters mumbles mean much more to me that of any politician.

And back to gardening…..

Hello…. My name is Peter Donegan and I am a gardener. A garden designer. A horticulturist. A landscaper….. I am the Johannes factotum of the gardening world.

And for those of you who figure out what that means, do note:

The earliest recorded versions of the phrase do not contain the second part. Indeed they are broadly positive in tone.

Thank God for wikipedia and moving swiftly on.

As always there is relevance in both of the aforementioned quotes. Because whether I am considered a gardener or a garden designer the question I am asked, most probably the most, apart from the usual about my dashing good looks…. yes Mister Potato head, I hear the panto crowd shout back, is:

I was thinking about getting something done with the garden…. how much would you charge for…. when is the best time to….?

There are a few ways of making your garden pretty-er. But to put logic to my previous writings, no matter how great a garden design may appear on paper, in order for it to be actually made a reality, it has to be realistically possible to build it. In every possible way.

Two examples: I have known of gardens were the trees, paid for and delivered, could not actually fit into the back garden. I have also met homeowners who, after paying for a garden to be designed have asked for it to be priced and realised it could never be afforded. But as The Family Fortunes buzzer resonates between my ears, I know of those gardens that I have made and been involved in that have started and finished on time, fitted the clients budget and the image they had in their head and look absolutely stunning.

In saying this I would like to note: I love a challenge. More than that, when I get to work with a client as versus for, from a behind the scenes perspective, we both end up smiling as versus the Da Vinci type benefactor and me possibly hoping she or he likes it.

As regards the best time to get the garden done. It is the time that suits you best. The calender for my planting, is quite simply done in autumn and winter. Why only as for me it means I don’t have to water the plants. Don’t  get me wrong I’ve no problem tending to my own garden it’s just for me, I feel that the plant is under less stress when temperatures are lower and it’s on the verge of going asleep for a few months. Think of it like going to Torremolinos [?] or some such holiday resort, in November as versus June.

If you are of the belief that time is money and you believe you can save yourself a few bob by doing a bit yourself. Do yourself, me and your family a favour – play to your strengths and do only what you are very good at.

I personally don’t mind if your brothers, cousins, sister in laws, dog minder is great at doing decking and is willing to do it at the weekend, but you may well be better off in the greater scheme of things saving yourself the money it might cost and not install it in the first place.

If you are looking to make something of your garden and you wish to have a go even in part by yourself. Here’s were you start.

Step 1 : Measure up the garden.

Step 2: garner some idea of the theme you want in your garden. Ensure that everything you fit into the theme after that fits it. To analagise, would you put antique furniture in a room with linoleum ? It may work, but it probably won’t.

Step 3: consider the practical wish list:

  • shed – what size and type? Brick or timber
  • washing/ clothes line – Rotary/ retractable
  • barbecue – built in or movable. Gas or coal.
  • Kids play area – Swings, slides and pits. Sand or bark mulch. Movable or resident
  • Lighting – Security or decorative. Sunken or above ground level.
  • Outdoor electricity points – where
  • water source – water butts or outdoor tap
  • Table and chairs area – Just for two or the entire Partridge family
  • Raised timber structure or Patio
  • Green waste area

I am The El Guapo

After that you are now hopefully at a point were ergonomics and some creativity is required. This is were you can choose to call somebody very talented like myself. Simple as it may sound, but as I referred to in last weeks article, it is perfectly allowed to pay for a rough ‘outline overview sketch’ and some paint by numbers type instructions of how to put the garden together. That is unless you will need to use it to apply for planning permission. Assuming that is not the case, the only suggestion I will make is that you let the gardener know how much time and what gardening tasks you are willing to spend/ do in the garden. And please be honest and realistic.

I have said this many times before, remember:

  • Know your budget limit but be realistic.
  • don’t end up with a very expensive piece of paper that will never become a creation
  • 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.

And finally – a garden is more than just some pieces of furniture or a new feature. It needs plants. Plants to suit, your soil, your space – your garden. It joins the dots, it makes intrigue in winter and spring. It is flowers on your table and a road side pollinating café for fruit trees. It can be the defining factor as to whether you will have the sound of birds chirp in your garden. It is what makes sitting in the shade reading poetry looking at the sun, cast shadows on your lawn. It is what makes the difference between a house and a home. It will be what defines you and your garden and makes it something beautiful and creative.

Honestly, I can tell you that the gardens I remember making and further to hold dear in my heart, were not those that had the power to buy a medal nor any amount of awards – money, size, and style aside – but those within the journey of which I and the person who would live with the garden after, smiled.

Garden Maintenance

I have been maintaining gardens since before I was a teenager and after 10 years in business garden maintenance is still one of the services that I pride myself on. In 2007 I won the overall ALCI award for garden maintenance – in this case it was a private garden.

I provide both commercial and domestic garden maintenance outside of and including Dublin.

I find that it is the preparation prior to any gardening works taking place that ensures the relationship between you and I works best and also guarantees the best results from your budget and the time I spend with your space outdoors.

Garden Maintenance can be done by way of the following:

  • a one off garden visit
  • regular scheduled garden visits

Within a one off visit you may simply require a good honest tidy over of your space  to give it a lift for the upcoming season or you may simply require a more manicured approach to an existing outdoors to get it back to its finest appearance once again. Others simply require a helping hand to get the garden back on its rightful course where it has been let go for some time.

Services for regularly scheduled and one off visits also include:

  • additional planting to suit the season or for additional colour
  • mulching of beds and play areas
  • fertilising programme for trees, shrubs or lawns
  • grass cutting of open areas or small spaces
  • hedge cutting and shrub pruning
  • tree services
  • weed control in lawns or through existing planting and borders

Whilst some wish to complete the garden maintenance tasks themselves one can also get that little added direction and consultation. In this regard, garden maintenance schedules, checks and calenders can be put in place to suit your specific space in the great outdoors if required.

If you would like to talk with me about garden or grounds maintenance you can as always contact me via the following options.

  • by email info@doneganlandscaping.com
  • via this website: click the contact page
  • call mobile – o876594688

My qualifications:

  • Certificate in Commercial Horticulture (1996)
  • General Examination in Horticulture – Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
  • Advanced Diploma in Commercial Horticulture (1998)

The Right Time To Get The Garden Done

It must be coming into your quiet time for the oul’ gardening now…..

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Just one of the many clichés I’m on the verge of hearing more regularly now that the temperatures start to drop slightly and the evenings start to get a little shorter. The answer is more the opposite in fact.

There is a point where there are certain things that cannot be done no matter what stage of the season one is talking from, but in general the wise owls, tend to, get the ‘garden done’ in what some would consider the off season.

The reality is that with the coming of October onwards and the drop in temperatures of the seasons comes the en mass planting of trees and shrubs. Don’t get me wrong summer is fine for gardening… but when one needs to plant en mass or is planning on a budget and has the patience to place into the ground what may appear as a twig – and wait – then planting when the specimen is dormant and the sky above is willing to act as your automatic watering system ie. you do not need to water every single plant to keep it alive during the pretty decent warm summer we have just had – then logic, in gardening terms is simply just that and has been applied extremely well.

Have you ever seen someone watering plants in November…?

The other advantage is that the new plant is not competing with weeds as it tries to settle into its new home, wherever that maybe. Because essentially, weeds are plants – they simply don’t know that we don’t want them to grow there – and –  like the plants we do want to grow, both are in their over-wintering state.

Generally speaking in this context, put into the summer months, the turning of the soil in order to plant [the plants] brings with it weed seeds flourishing to the surface. Come the rise in temperatures towards the end of spring it is hoped the developing canopies of foliage will assist in reducing this problem – and therefore the competition for nutrients. A mild nipping of the tips helps here.

The question then remains – when is the best time to get the garden done? And the answer is pretty simple – whenever you wish. The question back is what do you want from your garden [?]

If one for example wishes to have a ‘not always just green garden’ ie. one where the plants come and go in and out of flower throughout the seasons; like the forsythia below that flowers on bare stems in early and mid spring – if planted in summer – then there is a wait until the following season for it to come into its own and fullest glory.


Based on last year [2009] which was a complete wash out of a summer which followed straight into an iceberg…. there was a point where freakish summer climatic  conditions meant the gardener [yours truly] had to take time to let the clothes dry out, at some point, eventually.

But this year has been quite good. I’d easily gather bbq sales were up on last year and with that summer feeling has come a rise in requests for garden make-overs, tidy-ups and manicures [with mild additions to]. The other thing noticable is that clients and potential clients started calling in June to plan for the coming ‘off season’.

Tree and hedge planting season is what it may be called for some. But what are people calling Donegan landscaping asking for ?

The requests all have planting of some form involved, but generally speaking the reason to do it, as versus the type of planting, in the off season is the fact that the couple/ family or in the case of one residential complex – the client[s] do not wish to have to water or maintain the plants once planted. A smart move, when making the most out of ones budget, as versus reducing the budget in the main season and not getting the most from the project.

It also means the planting is not trying to flower, establish and settle itself throughout a period where transpiration and growth are also a trying to take place.

It may well be the weather for you to stay inside, but for the tree, the gardener and the plants, investing wisely now may just give you the same rewards for a lot less effort come next spring and summer.

And on top of that…. there’s some hedging and really, really nice trees to be planted 😉

How does your garden grow…?

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The Perfect Clients Garden


**Listen to the audio first before enlarging the images below.

I think the audio says it all.

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I found it really difficult to explain this with one image….

The Grow Your Own Gardening Class

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It was a weekend ago that I decided to do the grow your own gardening course. And whilst the weather turned good I had to wait ’til now to do my synopsis of it.

How did it go…?

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The attendees in this case were 75% [approximate] apartment dwellers/ balcony owners. the other 25% only wished to garden that same amount of space [unless Nick came up with a great idea 😉 ]. Of course, if everyone had allotments/ waned to garden a larger space – parsley *and parsnip would have been covered. In this case a logic decision to skip most of the root crops was taken…. think rotovator and balcony!

I covered all that I intended and felt was needed from sowing seeds – what, which and why to watering. Onto potatoes, onions, sets growing in window boxes and to plants in a small space such as herbs and the pruning, growing and selecting of so that they could be kept there. I could beat on but Louise really does summise it very well.

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From an alternate perspective. Did the €60 cover charge multiplied by 7 people make it worth my while to do so. No. Not on your nelly. The reason why? We did demonstrations and all of the products [one each of everything] used were taken away. I knew to make money, how I should do it and a comment on the garden blog confirms that.  That and the twitter message. No offence Geoff mate 😉

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Try it yourself. Go into a garden centre, pick up some seed potatoes, onion sets, 2/3 window boxes, some pots, compost and seeds and see how much it costs…. growing your own can be cheap… when you know how 😉 If I’m to talk however on garden design with zero overheads…. Ye know yourself. Moving on….

The flip side of that however is something very different. Did I enjoy it ? More than you realise. I really am so pleased that such a nice group of people collated so I could talk about something  I love so much.

I know that doesn’t pay the bills. It doesn’t even cover the time spent baking and collecting the products we did use. And yes if I wish to do it again and again I need to refine. But then I knew that already. It was always to be a trial. A way of noting and timing. Perfecting one could say. Perfecting for those those who do attend.

Now I’m just wondering if there’s another 9 or 10 people who’d be interested…. While I brew on that… I’ll go water my own seeds.

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note: it was Jason’s idea that I did this in the first place. Thanks mate. I also borrowed some of his images for this post.

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