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Self Build and Improve Your Home, Summer 2014

garden article, peter donegan, landscaping

I sometimes forget to note some of the things I do that are not ‘garden making’. And but for this lovely wee note and a copy of the latest edition in the post, I guess I may just have missed my involvement in the latest Summer 2014 Edition of the Self Build and Improve Your Home Magazine and an article on Garden Design.

Available to buy in all good book stores priced £3.50/ €3.75, it also features writing from fellow Irish horticulture heads Ian Price and Fiann O’Nuallain.

Of note if you fancy something to go with your cuppa, the previous article I was involved in from the Spring 2014 edition is now available online to read.

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Create Your Family Garden

If I hear the word….

…in these recessionary times….

…one more effing time, I may just spontaneously combust. I’ve had it. I’ve had it the media, with RTE, RTE Prime Time, RTE Frontline, The Week in Politics, RTE news and you can throw your man Vincent Browne right in the middle as he joins the conga party bus just as sure as one more government gaff hits the headlines. This all before I don’t pick up a newspaper.

donegan landscapingI watched the youtube clip of Shane Hegarty on BBC news – yes folks, BBC news – as he spoke about the Great Things About Ireland campaign. He yapped about red lemonade and how a wake may turn into a party, our sports and our language…. I began to smile as my mind wondered, child like, as if I was in accounting class on a warm summers day, starring at a single cow in a field…..

I don’t watch the news. I don’t watch much television. I definitely don’t watch anything that may devalue my happy head. On the one hand I spend too much time outside. But I’m happy there. I love camping in the rain. I love climbing trees, still. I love good news. I admire people who smile. I call it the great outdoors for good reason and as I type this weeks piece I’m taking my caffeine in a mug that says Happy Christmas on it. That’s the kind of happy level I like to be and am at.

I’ve realised just how much time I spend outside though. A lot of that is in other peoples gardens I admit. Towards the point, I’ve got a baby girl now and she’s one and a little bit years young. When I was camping in Lough Ennell we sat on the grass together were I played the ukelele for her while Mom was off doing stuff us adults may consider important. I know I like to keep my mind occupied, which can sometimes lead to moments of ponder. The technical term is daydreaming I believe, but Ella held tight to the sleeve of my t-shirt and sang her own or at the very least the unreleased version of whatever choon I was diddling away with. And for a moment I paused…. I wondered why this didn’t or hadn’t happened at home more often, or at all. I’m hesitant to admit some of the other pre-mentioned options.

What the flip is the gardener talking about this week Mary….?

I’ve taken at a look at my great outdoors you see. I’ve been growing vegetables. I have my fruit trees. I have had pieces in my garden like my red satellite bird bath – a satellite, painted red and turned into a bird bath – but these were or are mine. Not hers or ours. And as I delve further into my thoughts, I realise I am  now potentially reticent of the old, to me, at the time, gardeners I knew back in the 1980’s. I need to change that, in a way.

I need to plant more pretty flowers. Make the garden a place of intrigue and mystery. With hidden places. Not the stereotypical ‘childrens’ garden ie. a slide in a specific space. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s not. But I’d like to have that and so much more. And it’s so easy to do. To design, nee map out the garden in my head.

She will start to walk soon and ask questions and wonder why and explore and…..well that’s what the Haynes Manual on all things Children says and in my mind as I start to doodle I can see that I just need to be impractical. Forget about the manual. Pretend I’m four… easy before you giggle there.

I need to not say I can’t. I need wild flowers growing. Not out of a packet. Just wilderness growing, wild, so I can run through it, even though I might lose things in there. But then I may also find them, which will make me smile. I know she won’t always need to hold on to me to be able to stand you see and then I’ll need a little more than that patch of grass we sat on.

For me, as I see it, the en vogue gig for the general populas may well be growing your own vegetables and it really does have a great role to play in the lives and future of this nations nippers. Very happy I am to see it somewhat take the place of the microwave. But I remember the girls I knew growing up making perfume in a jam jar, with rose petals. I remember making daisy chains. Climbing trees, taking geranium cuttings, picking some flowers for a school teacher…. such simple things, all playing such a huge part in the ever increasing big picture of my time and life not indoors.

As I delve back into my adult head, my horticulturist hat back on I realise that last seasons snow meant that I couldn’t do certain things so that they might be in flower come this year. More than that it meant I lost a season. That means I must now wait until this coming October to plant my trees.  It also means the new hedge that doesn’t exist has a valid excuse. But more, even more than that, this time next year Ella will be two going three. A big difference. And if I don’t do the things I should to my garden now, this season…. well, as her Godfather explained to me, she’ll never be that age again.

I was chatting about this with a gardener friend of mine. I was explaining that my chicken coop is painted pink and white. I will of course openly admit I had a lot of that colour left over from a previous garden endeavour. I explained my thinking, my hands almost directing  traffic as they flapped about in the air etching the garden into nothing-ness. In jesting, we came to the conclusion that if I had had a baby boy I may simply have needed a set of goal posts.

But the horticultural minds considering poetry as versus trigonometry, both agreed that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the imagination is something that should be applauded and enccouraged, maybe even nurtured. We thought of the seasons, the seasons of nature one needs to pre-empt in order to be able to attract it to your garden so it is there when that time arrives.

Now that I have told myself my story and what I would like that road ahead to have in stock for me…. I think it’s about time I designed a garden for the future and for my family.

I remember some time ago being asked by a Client, who was also a Dad to visit his daughter. She had just bought her first home and had, as he described it an extreme case of the independance streak.

She inherits it off her Mother. Who inherited it from hers…..

He told me.

After a consultation with her and partner a list was drawn up. A wish list, that would make a garden. On the other page, a great big garden doodle. With numbers, arrows and outlines. But, after each item on the list was the ingredients to make that particular piece or space.

The benches, for example, were new railway sleepers, six inch nails, paint and some cement. The planting was seperated into trees, bulbs and then the lower growing plants, bed by bed. The sketch and the itinary were given to the Father. He then framed it and paid me for my time. It was her house warming present and it was hung in the kitchen, by the patio doors.

For each birthday, anniversary or celebration some items, ingredients or were it maybe got a little technical, my time was purchased by the various relations.

Better than the salt and pepper shaker she always wanted. Anyways the garden will be a nice home for that swing I’m gonna make her….

For the weekend that has just passed, Happy Fathers day. And before anyone asks why I didn’t mention Dads day last week….? I of course had to be reminded 🙂 There are reassons why I never buy myself socks.

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The Tribesman – Our Great Outdoors

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This week, nee the last twenty four months, have been a mass roller coaster of highs and some lows for me in every possible sense of being a horticulturist. I am fully aware it has been like that for a lot of businesses, but I can really only and honestly refer to myself and my experiences.

Back to it, in my mind and in my humour I like to say that that depends on how you look at it. In reality, I think I knew what I was getting into as regards the landscaping industry when I started growing plants under my bed as a nipper, when I went to college to study horticulture and further when I started my own gardening business almost eleven years ago – in Ireland.

The reason the last twenty four months have been particularly tough is more reasoned by the weather than anything else in my opinion and the snow last year did more than beat the stuffing out of plants. It really did take a lot from people like myself who are reliant upon the great outdoors for a living and as a way of life.

In terms of how tough it was…. well, you can quote me on this

I’d rather be held down by four hundred Oprah Winfrey fanatics and made watch the double season finalé episode of Desperate Housewives than go through it again.

But whilst hindsight is a great thing, I realise and know that the weather in this little island has always been contrary. What it has equally made me realise is what a great country we do live in and how more than ever when times become a little rocky do we depend on those we know best.

More than that, I think I began to realise that as a gardener based in Ireland – sub category – Dublin – sub category – North County, Fingal – that the guy who manufactures, invents, makes and creates, employs, sells and services in a sub category most closest to my home was the business I really should be going to. In short, shopping local. Or, as local as is possible.

In the grander scheme of thinking, the weekend past has seen Irelands largest gardening event, Bloom In The Park, just pass us by. It is phenomenal to think that just five years ago there was no garden show for Ireland.

To put in context what it has achieved, last year almost sixty thousand people crossed the ticket barriers of the largest annual gardening event in the country. That, one should bear in mind in just five years in operation. Contrasted with The Chelsea flower show, on the go since year dot and it attracts around one hundred and fifty thousand guests per annum.

But Irish garden shows don’t simply stop at the gates of The Phoenix Park – there are many,  many more around the country and in saying that I realise quite quickly that there are a lot more great people in this delightful little place I like to call home.

I’ve always had a theory in my head that to get a staunch non gardener, outside – into the great outdoors is a logic first stepping stone. Be that as discussed in last weeks article, via my non gardeners group or, as I found myself doing in the depths of autumn some years ago, down at the Irish Conker Championships in Freshford in Co. Kilkenny – and the more I think about it the more I see that all over Ireland there are so many unsung heroes in so many villages striving to make a something a little brighter and very much for the better.

In my own little village, a population I believe that at the last census had no greater than six hundred people and within, there sits a pitch and putt club. Two of the volunteers, a husband and wife team, aren’t even from the locality. That, makes me smile.

Vince, the husband, was seventy years young just two weeks ago.

I know that there are Tidy Towns committees, horticultural societies, village fairs and fetes, to name but a few examples, being organised all over the country, literally as I type. I also know that somewhere in between my front gardens and the end of the road I may have only enough time to say thank you, to applaud or even just to admire the work others have done. More than that I know that this business, in whatever format, that I like to call the great outdoors isn’t that bad after all.

Maybe, I just need to be a little more like Vince.