Dublin Garden: Raised Beds, Low Maintenance

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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.

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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.

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My Garden: Refreshing The Landscape

old glasshouse

I’ve got Shaken Stevens playing in my head as I look back and forth at this picture. I was never a big fan of his and should there ever be a list of things that get on my nerves, he’s definitely up there at the very top. No offence. None taken Shakin’.

To more pressing matters this was, until this week my glasshouse. Now, it is but an empty space.

If I’m honest, I felt a little guilty taking it down. There were those who said it could have been saved, salvaged or repaired. In reality, it was made of that late 1970’s Cliff Richard era mobile home/ caravan park at the time nouveau type aluminium and was til now almost a putty that could melt and bend in my hands. And whilst the two periods of severe storms had done it no favours, the bends, aches and pains missing pained me as they fell so regularly as it fell out of shape and to the point it was time for history and evolution to collide.

corkagh park (16)

In talking with Matthew Jebb, Director of Dublin’s Botanic gardens some time ago, he chatted how a landscape should evolve. Even the ye olde, as I sometimes see them, Botanical Gardens. And he says [quote – Scroll the audio player below to 20:02 minutes and take a listen.]:

Nothing is ever static. We would never say you can’t touch that bit of landscape because it’s been like that for 50 years. As in a domestic garden, if you don’t give a garden a makeover every 10 – 12 years it starts to show. It really does look a bit decrepid. You need to start digging things up, changing things around, replanting and it just freshens it up. It’s what nature does….

Based on that, or not, I didn’t feel so guilty. And in reality, it very politely looked like I just didn’t give a damn any more. Something that is far from the case. In all honesty, things simply get old. The now 1980’s glass could no longer be cleaned. The bolts were tired and disintegrated in my new würt drill bits as I attempted to fix it….

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I see gardens now in passing and I can tell you by the plants still existing, and their placing whether it was 1970’s or boom era planted. And just like that the cogs click. One realises how illogic holding onto your appendix is, now and that [r]evolution is good. Especially in gardening. It was logically and aesthetically time to do the honourable thing.

In my head, I have many pictures. What I see in front of me some times, irks me. It irritates my mind to the point that, for the very right reasons that you and I both knew all along, the aged old planting style has to be stripped. It may well use some of the old components – but, the end result has to look good, leaning towards damn good. And I, I don’t really do the sure that’ll do ye, it’ll be grand type mindset. Especially when it comes to gardens.

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A Dublin Gardeners Look Back On 2012

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I did do a review of this gardeners year for 2011. But it’s onwards and upwards and as we head into 2013… here’s a look back on the last 12 months and more unique points that made up the year that was Peter Donegan’s 2012.

*If I missed or forgot something or someone – just hollar and I will amend as soon as. In this review I try to include the bits that are not garden making….. if you get what I mean. Also when it gets really [really, really] busy…. well gardens come first. It is where I am at my happiest.

hedgerow walk peter donegan #ettg

  • January saw the year kick off with a first tour of my local hedgerow walks as Peter Donegan Landscaping Ltd began its 12th year in business.
  • And as we stepped into February the [Peter Donegan Landscaping Weblog] garden group visited Rathbeggan Lakes and I hit the tele visual on RTE’s Ear to the Ground talking Ugly Veg. It was recorded in Movember, hence the moustache.

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garden speaker, peter donegan green sax, sodshow

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  • July was a bumper summer month for more gardens to be created, but I did manage to get in another garden group outing, on this occasion with Trevor Sargeant as our guide as we made our way to Sonairte Ecology Centre.
  • August allowed me take a wee break from the great outdoors. Well, not really. I went camping by Lough Derravarragh and took in Tullynally Castle Gardens. Enjoyed that one.

spirit of folk 2012, peter donegan best irish podcast

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  • November was again a little unique and saw me become a Strictly Come Dancing charity guest judge. That was good fun.
  • December however was all gardens. Maybe not as entertaining for you reading this…. but it is what I do, for my living. The entire of December ? Yup. And I love[d] every minute of it.

Whilst I flicked through my diary and realised just how much I actually had done outside of making and creating gardens… it should be noted that none of this would make any sense without someone to share the stories, the laughter and equally the tears with. I am forever greatful to the so many great friends and people I have met along this years road. From my heart, thank you.

Did I enjoy it? Every second. Don’t get me wrong… no road is an easy one especially when I work in an industry that is so weather dependant and I am self employed. That is not a complaint…. more an additional reason to appreciate the people who stand tall by my side when times are a little tougher. You were there too when we laugh our socks off.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh. Nollaig Shona duit agus na hathbhliana. Slán agus beannacht.

Thank you, again, for everything.


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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

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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.

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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.

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

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