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Dublin Garden: Raised Beds, Low Maintenance

donegan landscaping dublin

Historically, almost every ornamental raised bed I ever made was from stone. No apparent reason, it’s just what was done, what was the trend and what clients requested… like Lonicera nitida hedges maybe, in pre 1980’s Ireland. In that context this Dublin domestic back garden is a little bit different. A little; yet still there’s something in this space outdoors that is a little old school funky, like a really great vinyl record collection.

garden design sketches

I don’t know whether its the fact that the timber will age ever so as the plants mature or the fact that the planting choice, to the eloquent plants person could maybe be considered mildly eclectic. Maybe it’s the whitewash walls, or the pebble, or that fact that [by definition] there are two hedges in this garden, both serving two different functions.

Of note, the plants in particular within this space, fresh from the nurseries, will need a little time to come into their own, to harmonise, acclimatise and turn towards the preferred source of light.

low maintenance, gardens

The garden layout and build aside, I like the raised beds in wood. I love that I made them to measure and that client in mind, we did build in that wee seat just below the Dicksonia antartica. More than that, they will make the gardening work easy-er, after I am gone.

In the plant selection department I know I was really smart when it came to this as the growth rates per annum are quite low. Aesthically to counteract that, were possible they were brought in a little more mature; it was important that they looked like they had been there for some time and there is nothing worse than waiting five or so years for a garden to come entirely into its own. A bit like taking too long to paint your home and only giving it one coat of paint, if you get me.

garden design sketch

Tied in with a semi-permeable membrane used within the raised beds and a decorative pebble, this gives the client a low-er by far maintenance garden. And when you look at it, really outside of the grass; there isn’t really much by way of annual maintenance costs or time at all.

To the rear of the [rear] garden I love that the front hedge is Laurus nobilis and though it will take a little for the dots to join, there will be nothing nicer when it does than sitting behind it on the south facing raised patio area, within what already feels like a separate room within the great outdoors.

Far more than that, this is a garden that I’m really going to look forward to returning to. There is something truly wonderful about being able to see a photosynthetic picture of the future, in my imagination (?), for it exists nowhere else. Far, far better that picture coming to fruition and others smiling because of what was created for them.

garden patio

Peter Donegan:

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Dublin Gardens: Lawn To Pebble

There are gardens I have done that I like and there are gardens I have done that the client simply loves. This, in that context, is up there with the best of them.

No lawn and low maintenance was the top request and considering there is no side access to the house, it was one that I felt was quite logic. With that in mind, front gardens have two choices: they can stand in or stand out. The home being situated in a quiet enough block in Ranelagh, Co. Dublin, I wanted the end result to fit and look like it had been there for some time, though still fresh well maintained.

The Escallonia macranthas and the Grisilinia littoralis were cut back and the dogged old roses, the overgrown Crocosmia and the thorned mass that was a Chaenomeles in some previous life form were removed. In its place went some newer and established Hydrangea’s, Buxus semprevirens, Laurus nobilis and some Vinca minor of the non variegated variety ~ Still old school, just fresher and with brighter surroundings. Of note: it’s almost December and the plants are young. Also of note, my qualifications are horticultural, this clients are definitely not. No offence. None taken.

If I’m honest here, the mild dilemma’s (wrong choice of word, i know) were less photosynthetic and more organisational and planning. A one car width street with metered parking either side did not allow anything more than a small commercial vehicle, therefore no trailers or large delivery trucks to gain access. More than that the one story house came with low-lying overhead cables.

The big squeeze was that I needed to shift 3-4 tonne of decorative pebble from the road, over a path, underneath cables, over railings and into a garden. By hand was an option not up for grabs ~ mainly as it would have added one extra day to the costs and also individually bagged costs more than loose pebble. By far, far better was the alternate of knowing my suppliers [and their vehicles] extremely well, my asking very politely for a wee favour and a few 5am starts. That and as much time spent off site as on.

To the end result, I will admit, it is not a Peter Donegan memorial garden. That said, it was not a place to be making a very large statement. Also not since Bloom have I had so many passers-by take the time to stop and pay compliment[s] for the work that was done. In short: it fits, it works, it looks good and it looks one heck of a lot better than it did last week. Far more important than that, the client loves it.

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Dublin Gardens: Modern, Low Maintenance

peter donegan, gardens

The thinking behind this garden was very much a modern feel, bright and natural, with lower maintenance to be kept in mind. The latter I feel is something that isn’t entirely apparent at first glance and on a personal note, I have to admit, I really do like this garden. Quite simply, it feels natural and equally as important, it looks good.

The backdrop of the upper back wall is bright tinged purple covered by instant semi mature planting which brings ones eye down to the brighter white of the lower wall. The gardens decked area is similar in feel to the wood cladding of the side walls, this in itself allowing a little more of a natural feel. To the pebble, soft and subtle I like the way it allows an ease of meeting between the two separate finished timber floorings.

peter donegan gardens peter donegan gardens

The plants of choice were just two. But here they were two very smart and well thought photosynthetic investments.

The Fargesia, a naturally dwarfed bamboo is set within the raised beds and used as the backdrop. Personally I love the rustle of the foliage here and in my mind, eyes closed it is as soothing as the sound of water.The alternate may have been to choose the lesser and more vigorous Phyllostachys aurea or P. nigra. Growth rates aside, I prefer the softer foliage and stems of the more feminine Fargesia.

gardens dublin

The other plant of choice, Vinca minor. Extremely low growing, almost flat to the ground, the commonly know Periwinkle will form a tight knitting green cover over its planted area. En mass, in this garden, it looks absolutely stunning. Soft and subtle, it is just a touch similar in colour and feel to the leaves of the slow growing bamboo and when its delicate blue flower does decides to blossom, it simply adds to the natural feel of what is a really fine example of a a room outdoors. The alternate to the V. minor is of course the by far, more vigorous Vinca major.

There’s something about this garden that I really do love. In it’s category, I have firmly placed it up there with only the finest. More than that, it feels good sitting within this space. And that, that feeling, requires just that extra little touch of thought, consideration and imagination.

donegan gardens

Q’s or thoughts [?] leave a comment below or drop me a line.

Peter Donegan:

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Trampoline Sinking

sinking a trampoline

I’ve heard many varying reports on how one should or can sink a trampoline. In my honest opinion logically, in reality and in fact, unless it’s a wee trampoline for a leprechaun, there is only one real vorsprung durch technic method of doing so. I did this as one part of a bigger picture where, I should add, works are still in progress.

Before you get to crater creations, choose your trampoline. Buy once, buy well, buy right and buy this before you dig. In this case the trampoline is [by specification] 14′ foot diameter. Spot chosen, the central point is found and the hole is dug. Note: not recommended you do this by hand, brutal soil or not. There is a fine reason why I note this.

trampoline sinking

Approximately 40 tonne came out of this soil sided cylinder and *if Irish rainfall weather does not work in your favour, it will fill up and depending, the walls can/ may/ most probably will collapse. You may say it didn’t. I say that is one heck of a gamble.

Levels sorted below ground level, distances and levels are checked at almost every interval. Foundations were then laid and whacked, yes, with the whacker [compaction plate]. Once the base set, it was straight onto the first course of cavity blocks.

The cavity blocks and foundations had rebar/ steel set into them and once we got to the top level into that then is poured concrete. In short, this is known as a retaining wall. We chose to cap them off with a solid block on its flat.

Allowing time for the concrete in the walls to dry, we returned to level the soil about 7 days later. Weather dependent, you will need this. Any sooner and the weight of the machine plus the weight of the soil against wall may cause it to cave in. Not an option. The base of the pit made allowances for a sump/ drainage pump to be put in place and the base of the pit was brought to foundation level with stone for drainage. After that the trampoline is put into its new home.

The trampoline was planted after with a dwarf type bamboo to surround it. I like the way this dapples the matt black saftey net. Of note, flick back up to the top of the post and see the difference in the height versus the wall.

I’ll get a better picture of the trampoline set in place, but for now this will have to suffice. Questions or queries, leave a comment or….

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UPDATE: 3rd July 2012 – Trampoline Safety Netting

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St Annes Park, Dublin

st annes park

It may well be January and a little chilly for some, but for me, Parks and Gardens have to be seen in their Sunday best as well as first thing in the morning – by way of all the seasons, if you get my drift – in order to fully appreciate them. Sunday 22nd January saw me visit St Annes Park that borders Clontarf and Raheny on Dublin’s Northside.

A park I have noted it many times here on the garden blog, but never on its own. A credit to dublin City Council, I have to admit one that I am very fond of and will highly recommend.

A little research look on wikipedia tells me thus:

The park, the second largest municipal park in Dublin, is part of a former 202 hectares (500 acres) estate assembled by members of the Guinness family, beginning with Benjamin Lee Guinness in 1835 (the largest municipal park is nearby (North) Bull Island, also shared between Clontarf and Raheny). Features include an artificial pond and a number of follies.

Not wishing to brush history to one side, the park is a great way to see garden features built as they should be. The views and ‘what is around the corner‘ type challenges exist and adding to that there are many ‘should I take the road less travelled’ routes – or not [?] to its design and layout. Intrigue in any garden, irrespective of size is always good.

More than that, there are age old majestic Quercus Ilex [Holm oaks] all along the banks of the water running streams, their roots exposed for all to see. And equally there are trees clad in Ivy with daffodils just waiting to explode the park into colour. Good parks, nee great gardens should look brilliant at any time of the year – and that includes the months outside of Summer. That doesn’t mean they have to be infinitely perfect – more, at the very least that they should call, invite and want you to want to spend time in them.

The Rules of St Anne”s Park and Rose Garden ? (mp3)

The audio I recorded is a little windy in parts – but irrespective of what I say – I do love St Annes Park. We had coffee and cake there, used the playground, wandered the woods and admired what I can only imagine will be a busy week after for the lawn repairs division.

On a side note, do keep an eye out for my upcoming garden tours to be announced this week on my garden blog.