For the moment writer #5 is Adrian Mc Mahon. One of lifes really nice guys. Genuinely. If he could help you, he would. And when I have asked – he has. That said ‘Aidos’ main reason for living usually seems to always end with ‘….ah but he’s a mate, you’d have to’. For that reason alone, Im so very proud to know him. He’s also ‘a Ballyboughal resident’. 😉
One of the brains of the Segala team, the Wubud team and the reason why Donegan Landscaping is so advanced from a technology aspect [that said his garden usually looks very good?!!]. He also resides over at Ballyboughal.net. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the sound man from Emmerdale Farm, North County Dublin…..
The Garden – what I like about…
From a child hood perspective what I liked most about gardening was digging holes. In those days the garden was what the Playstation or XBox is to many kids today.
One of my earliest memories of our back garden was a big muck hill.
Builders rubbish but to a kid it was what ever you could cook it up to be. Some days a dig-out for action man or else a ramp providing hours of endless fun.When it was removed to make way for the new tarmac drive way I’m sure we shed a tear.
Those tears didn’t last long, with tarmac came new adventures. Firstly skate boarding the mother broke her ankle on a board. Good thing she didn’t try the jump! Enter the BMX, we used to jam a sheet of ply wood up against the garage door as a make shift quarter pipe, thats when kids could be kids and no on worried about insurance.
While this was going on there was also the other aspects of life in the garden. I remember having to cut the grass! A huge chore with the aul push mower, mind you I was happy to use it after I heard about the local doctor who cut his toes off while using his new petrol mover.
I was a little too young at that stage to man such a machine… little did I know it would provide me with a summer job when I got older. Yes, all summer long myself and my best mate cut grass.
We charged about 50p (front and back) I remember being so chuffed at getting paid for doing something we enjoyed.
At the back of our garden, like Damien I was given a plot to grow what ever I wanted. I used to buy the bags of seeds in the local hardware. They never grew and I never really understood why but if honest I didn’t really care, it was all about the planting.
Many years later after building a house in Ballyboughal. I enjoy the garden more now than I ever did. I’m not over the top with plants. I like it to look nice and clean yet simple to manage. The garden is my excuse for getting some fresh air into the lungs. No one else will do it, its a great excuse for some quiet offline time, be it weeding the roses or battling bramble bushes and having the arms cut to bits.
I’m still a big child at heart and love my gadgets. The garden is my excuse for a petrol hedge cutter, with enough hedgerow to keep me occupied for the whole weekend is a gamers dream to me.
I don’t get hung up on the name of a flower, if it looks good it stays, if not then it goes, a garden should be as simple as that. Ask me what are my plans for next summer sure as ‘be darned’ I couldn’t answer that right now but one thing is for sure it will involve doing something in the garden 🙂
For the moment writer #4 is Damien Mulley. When I first suggested that I do a garden guest slot… suprisingly, possibly, the first person to contact me on twitter was Damien.
He owns Mulley Communications runs the Irish Blog Awards; the Irish Web Awards; writes; speaks; teaches; does tv/ radio on the subject – the list is endless. One might say he is to computers what I am to horticulture. hmmmm….? 😉 That wry wit of mine aside and when with a minute to spare one pretty quickly realises outside of a passion for ‘techie things’ – Damien is, genuinely, a really cool gentleman.
Ladies & Gentlemen please be upstanding and enjoy:
The Garden – what I like about…
Actually, let’s call this My Mum, Mr. Roycroft and my Nana.
Oh and hello. I’m actually going to talk about three people who encouraged me to like plants and gardening and getting things to grow. My mother was always and still is into gardening and when we lived up in the Northside we had a small garden front and back with really crappy soil. She had roses and lillies and bulbs and all the usuals. She used to then get “slips” off my Nana, her mother-in-law amongst other people and grow loads of shrubs as well as buying the odd few plants when we could afford those luxuries which only happened much later in life.
My grandmother was still very much in the background at this stage when it came to her influence. I used to like helping my mother out in the garden and eventually when I was 6-7 she gave me a little patch of the garden to call my own and I didn’t do too much except rake the tonnes of stones that were in it.
Then in school we got this great teacher called Mr Roycroft who was older than old and I can’t even remember what he first thought us but it was all to do with flowers and plants and so forth. Mr. Roycroft popped up again when I went into 4th class in primary or rather 5th class. I was deemed very bright so as an experiment in the school they took the brightest from those going into 4th year and the brightest of those going into 5th year and they created a new class and Mr. Roycroft would foster all those kids. Best year ever. We learned so much stuff from maths to Geography to Irish (lots of Irish) to nature to botany. Ahhh flowers and plants and things. Roycroft not also thought us the green agenda way before consultants ripped people off wholesale to teach them about it but he also taught us latin by tellng us the latin names of the plants and the families they came from. He then explained what each one meant in English so we had a good grasp of the basics when we finished with him. That year was a very happy year for me in school and was also the last year that I ever applied myself in the schooling system.
We moved house into the country and I lost touch with all my non-schoolfriends. Me and myself and sometimes I. Only kid in the family, big feckoff gardens and instead of a small patch I had the whole wall outside our house and a kind of a rockery which over a few years I expanded and expanded so much so that I started to become the “consultant” about plants at home. I don’t think I was yet 9 at this stage.
Around the same time I became the “chosen one” of my grandmother and grandfather and every Sunday I would be brought along to Skibereen with them, driving down one route and taking the back route home through Iniskeen and Ballineen where we’d stop off at my Nana’s sister’s place. On the way down and back I would basically help my grandmother to vandalise gardens by taking “slips” from shrubs, which if you don’t know what slips are, are small cuttings, though we used to just yank them off. Spring time was worse. That was trowel and bucket time as we dug up West Cork to get Bluebells and Primroses AND very special and rare “wild dafodils”. No idea were they wild or just went native but they had a scent and were big and leafy.
One Christmas I got the very sad (perhaps) present of a propogator and holy crap but it became the best value for money present ever. So I started growing things from seed. Lots and lots and lots of seed. Eventually the parents got a glasshouse which pretty much was for me. Our garden had some fantastic stuff grown for it then. Annuals to start with and then I just didn’t think they were worth all the effort if they were dead at the end of the season so it became perennials and shrubs and that ilk.
There’s not been a lot of calm for me in the past few years but I could literally spend 5 hours in the glass house with a break for lunch and plant seed after seed. I didn’t just feck the seed down in rows, no, I placed each individual seed down and spaced them. A huge amount of work but I enjoyed it.
We moved house again then and at this stage I was in my teens, listening to heavy metal, spotty as fuck but I still grew things, still went out for a bit of peace (no Internet then helped). In the new old house the garden was a heap, the front garden was grass and hedging and nothing more so we got rid of the hedging and threw in a few borders but it was boring. I then started thinking up of proper designs for the Garden and what was needed. The before and after for the front and back are stunning but that’s for another time and another blog post.
I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did and learn so much about nature, life and science if it wasn’t for those three main people educating me but more importantly encouraging me to explore. Exploration is mostly not the physical. I don’t do much gardening anymore but I know I’ll go back to it eventually, it’s a strong part of my psyche and always will be. That’s my gardening story, tell us yours.
For the moment writer number 3 is Marie Boran alias Pixie von Dust. A writer, editor and journalist of all things technical with Silicon Republic, Marie was recently awarded Technology journalist of year at the IIA awards. That aside Marie is a garden lover. Not in the passionate uber botanical sense, but more in that memories of the great outdoors are those that make her [and others] smile;) Ladys and gentlemen, one of the coolest ladies since Aretha Franklin, enjoy…
All stories should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Even the story of a garden. Especially the story of a garden.
Mine began a long time ago with a donkey, cow dung and some potatoes and strangely I hope it ends up this way also but it must pass through a graveyard in Paris with four conkers and two blue roses first.
I grew up in the countryside in Laois and like many other rural children I did not have a concept of garden because that would be like defining oxygen as separate to air. The garden was an intrinsic part of my daily life and merged into the fields around and the back door behind it.
There was no groomed garden per se, or at least it wasn’t my domain. My mother used to weed, water, shape and plant all these contrived and cultivated plants and hedges that looked like business men standing awkwardly amidst a heaving crowd of filthy hippies.
I had a pet lamb named Skippy and he ate all of her hideous lurid orange tulips and promptly vomited them back up. I felt the exact same way about them.
My granddad lived up the path from my parents and this was where all the exciting stuff was to explore. Grandad had these mangled old gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes, a rhubarb patch and loads of peas and potatoes.
My first experience of hands-on gardening (or farming if you want to call it that but it was a hobby for my granddad) was putting on my wellies, sitting on Neddy the donkey while he pulled a plough behind him and making drills for the potatoes.
Next step was planting. We used Daisy the cow’s dung (Yes, every animal had a name. We had a ram called Rambo too.) to fertilise the potatoes while I screamed ‘Ugh, that’s poo, granddad, we’ll be eating potatoes that grew in poo!’.
I’m not sure why I objected to this when I used to chew the dog’s old bones, dirt and whatever else I found outside because I wasn’t really a fan of indoors or clothes when I was 3 and 4 and just sat in the garden squashing those little red ant things and putting bees in jars and drowning them (Children are cruel but I cried after I realised that I’d killed it).
Grandad has been dead for many years now but his love of simple plants will define how I want my garden to look. My parents gave me grandad’s field over a year ago and this obviously prompted my thoughts on how I would like my garden to look.
I’m not sure how the house is going to look aside from that fact that I want it to be eco-friendly and I would love a grass roof with a goat on it but my dad thinks I’m a bit mad.
The garden on the other hand is something I can start on now and the house will damn well work around it.
Unlike Peter’s other guest bloggers I have no knowledge whatsoever of horticulture and exotic plants. My interest lies in wildflowers or what are commonly termed weeds but have you ever seen how beautiful dandelions and clover are?
I did study botany for a year when I was in UCD but that did nothing but cement my view that all flowers are equal and to each his own because when you look at them on a microscopic level they all have the same basic cells, they all photosynthesise and they all have those carpels and stamens for making flower-babies.
Wait. I love plant diversity. What I’m trying to say is that I love all flowers and plants as they have arisen through evolution. I don’t really like ones cultivated by people to smell strongly, look very pink or otherwise but I’m not going to get into plant bio-ethics (!) because I realise that cultivating new and beautiful varieties is an important part of what has made the modern garden what it is. Wildflowers are just a preference for me.
So with my lack of knowledge but general liking of all things green I found myself in the Pere LaChaise cemetery in Paris last September with a good friend and two blue roses on a quest to find Oscar Wilde’s grave and pay our respects.
It took bloody ages to find the thing. On the way I got a chance to say hello to Jim Morrison, Honore de Balzac, Frederic Chopin and Victor Noir [Noir was a journalist that liked to get around and his statue in Pere LaChaise has a somewhat enlarged genital area that has been rubbed for luck by some many visitors that it is almost worn away].
I went through an obsessive phase of loving Oscar Wilde when I was about 16 so it was amazing to be able to pay him a visit but I couldn’t bear to part company without bringing a keepsake.
I noticed that there were horse chestnut conkers everywhere as we walked around Pere LaChaise so I took four of these home with me and prayed that they’d survive the trip because these were to be the beginning of my garden in my grandad’s field.
One plane trip and one burst shampoo bottle later and I was already down to three. (I may have cried a tiny bit at the lost conker) but with my mother’s magic the three remaining conkers survived and grew and although they have shed their leaves and look slightly miserable they, along with the wild roses that remain in my grandad’s garden, will be my future greenspace.
Their names are Oscar, Wilde and Victor Noir and hopefully they won’t mind a bit of dung.
12th February 2010
I got the news today that Debbie has passed away. Shocked, stunned, saddened… apart from all of the many beautiful charachteristics – she was also a fellow gardener 🙂 Funny thing, we spoke last week and were planning on doing garden tours together as a bit of a new business…. She was gonna call back after she did some research….. All that aside, Debbie would smile knowing I’m still trying to figure out if it’s a coffee or a pint she has in that photograph 😉 Missed already.
For the moment writer number #2 is Debbie Metrustry alias debbiemet. A lover of all things outdoors and botanical. I first met Debbie at Electric Picnic. A common love of horticulture is more professionally shared here. An absolute lady, a pleasure to meet and a great person to be around. For now, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Debbie.
The Garden – What I Like
There are so many things I like about The Garden that it’s hard to know where to begin. From the personal lessons I have learnt through gardening, through the visceral joy of being connected with the earth, the curiosity and wonder at observing plants grow, the pure aesthetic pleasure of being in gardens of great beauty and intriguing design — through all these and the wonderful opportunities that I’ve been given – from the profound to the frivolous – there is not one aspect of my being that remains untouched.
My first ‘go’ at this blog came out as a chronological list masked as my biography: not so interesting, really. So I ditched it, and decided instead just to give you the things I like, in no particular order.
I love the brown earth. I love having my hands in the soil. I mean I really love it. When I look at the rich, chocolate-coloured earth, dormant, but harbouring and nourishing all manner of living things, I feel a deep sense of rootedness, a connection. The smell of it after rain. Or a bright, crisp day with the sun shining and birds singing: well then there’s nothing to beat digging it. And mulching. Spreading well-rotted manure on a just-weeded or newly-planted bed is incredibly satisfying. It’s like Guinness for plants: black gold.
Plants: I get excited about all sorts of plants and really have no discrimination. There’s nothing more exciting than going to a garden or nursery and discovering lots of fabulous plants I’d never heard of. Some nurseries are better than others, and this one, Plant Delights in North Carolina, is at the forefront of plant introductions. I spent hours and hours there, and had to be torn away from all the amazing new plants.
Banana and Tetrapanax
OK, so it looks a bit nettley (same family)…
…but it’s actually a really cool foliage plant
Beautifully laid out, and just look at all those lovely labels (bottom left) 🙂
I have a weak spot for herbaceous perennials which I love to grow myself, and I adore gardens that are full of them, especially when mixed with grasses in what is called the American prairie style. I’m a big fan of naturalistic planting, using natives where possible.
Trees make me go weak at the knees and I am passionate about looking after them [blog/rant on the treatment of Dublin trees coming up soon]. But give me a mature beech and I’m as happy as Larry. There is nothing so majestic as the mature or champion beech, and it reminds me, whenever I’m in doubt, of why I went into horticulture in the first place. Trees teach me that we are caretakers of this earth, that we plan and plant for future generations, and that the passing of time is a Good Thing. They also remind me to curb my impatient side, which is rather too well developed at times.
Since becoming a gardener of course I’ve always loved Spring; here it starts early, and you feel and smell the excitement in the air from February if you care to look, or if you just go out and sniff. In the US it seemed as if Winter would last for ever, but then one day Spring arrived, and it took me completely by surprise. The flowering trees – which were everywhere and I hadn’t previously noticed – had exploded into fabulous, floriferous, glorious life so abruptly and dramatically that I very nearly crashed the car. Seriously.
I didn’t quite get the full impact of autumn, because 2005 wasn’t a particularly spectacular one, and this year I was just a week or so too early. However, there was still some good drama going on, and I liked it very much indeed. 🙂
Woodland plants provide a wonderful and never-ending array of variation. These are plants who display their wares shyly, biding their time waiting for that window between dappled spring sunshine and the shade of full leaf-burst. They have a way of creeping up on you: for example, trilliums! Do you know how gob-smackingly beautiful they are? — albeit in a subtle way. The wonderful Mount Cuba Centerin Delaware has a fabulous collection of them, and I was lucky enough to be there in Spring to see them in all their tentative glory.
I confess I have a soft spot for garden gadgets. It’s not surprising really, I am an aspiring geek, after all. Stainless steel spades are beautiful, good secateurs are a gal’s best friend, my oscillating hoe makes hoeing spectacularly easy and keeps my back pain-free; my Bosch shredder gives me free mulch in the woodland area of my garden while recycling any woody prunings. And my state-of-the-art builder’s gel kneepads are a godsend, and I wouldn’t be without them.
Exciting stuff, I know.
Last, but absolutely not least, I have found inspiration and true joy in every garden I’ve worked in, and most I’ve visited. They all have moments of great beauty and creativity to share. There are dozens of gardens that I love, each with its own special atmosphere that lifts the heart and soothes the soul. Here is a very small random selection from the thousands of photos I’ve taken in the last eight years.
The National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin – my alma mater. I spent three years studying here and so it is a place of very special significance. Every week amidst the busy-ness we cherished stealing some time out just to do the walk around. The Palm House was actually closed for the whole three years I was there, so I was thrilled when it finally opened.
The Palm House was actually closed for the whole three years I was there, so
I was thrilled when it finally opened.
Victoria cruziana, an important and beautiful plant in the garden’s history.
The bandstand in the arboretum
Apart from beech, this is my favourite tree in the garden,
entirely because of its wonderful bark. Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis
A superb Japanese maple near the rockery.
It’s also near the plant in the rockery that was planted in memory of a dear friend
and classmate who died in 2006.
Altamont Gardens, Co. Carlow was where I did my first placement. The lake there is full of life and a very beautiful setting. When I started working there I found it impossible not to stop and stare all the time – I couldn’t believe my luck.
Altamont house from the lake.
Fast forward now to the USA and Longwood Gardens where I interned for a year. Longwood is defined by its water and its spectacular colour.
The daily fountain shows are set to music
About twenty thousand tulips are planted each year
Not far from where I fell – actually I walked – in. I still like it, in spite of that.
Longwood’s hybrid Victorias – originally bred from one at Glasnevin.
Chanticleer is just as impressive as Longwood, but has a more contemporary design. It’s my favourite garden and is full of mystery and fun.
The Teacup garden
A spot of stainless steel
The pool where we had my farewell party. Nice!
I wanted to include more places but you’d be reading this forever if I did, so this will have to do for now. Once I started, I realised that actually there’s very little I don’t like about The Garden.
I’ll leave you with a sample of Longwood’s spectacular firework display. Yes, they were that glad to be rid of me. 🙂
For the moment writer number 1 is Ángel Luis González Fernández alias bohoe. A gentleman and genius photographer [a browse of his work is so worth while http://www.bohoe.com]. The graduate of Dublin Institute of Technology is now based between Dublin and Zurich. That aside Ángel shares a common love of plants and I am so proud that he was willing to take the time to share his experiences with me and the first of many greats to stand up and tell of their individual experiences made by a liitle green in their lives. Enjoy the series and for now Ángels story…
What I like about Gardens.
I, like many of you, have spent numerous hours strolling around parks, gardens and forests; I’ve relaxed my tired body under gorgeous old oaks, enjoyed a delicate scent at the rose garden, caressed the incredibly soft texture of the ‘lamb’s tongue‘, and listened to the relaxing rhythm of rain drops falling on a myriad of leaves. I laugh on a garden; I cried, I loved; I eat and I drank; I played and worked; but above all, and perhaps most importantly, I pondered.
Ever since I discovered the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin in 1998, my relationship with that Victorian mania for collecting, as a first step towards comprehension, has grown to be a matured love. A love that has me so bothered that now one of the first things I do when visiting a new city is to visit their Botanic collection. Or at the least, to observe what varieties are displayed on people’s balconies, house fronts, and specially shops. I am indeed perverted, but for a good cause, one hopes.
And so, during my visits to Glasnevin’s I learnt about plants I have never seen, nor imagined, that flourish in parts of the world I barely know even now, and for a moment I was both foreign and local.
My fascination continued as I joined the Irish Garden Plant Society in 2000, receiving small sachets with weird seeds and reading exciting newsletters that once I thought were just an old man’s pastime. I discovered what ‘seed saving‘ is, and why it is important for the future of mankind. I learnt that is ‘propagating‘, and not ‘multiplying’ or ‘reproducing’ (my Spanglish terms) what you do when growing new plants out of branches, stems, leaves, seeds or spores. I found out that the wonderful brightest colored flowers of the rhododendron represent in fact a horrible plague in disguise, ever since its introduction in the 18th century, specially in the threatened woods of Killarney – where friends have been going for years in search-and-destroy parties.
But I continued to wonder, as I discovered more interesting facts about the secret life of plants, like the existence of certain plants that don’t even require soil to thrive, or that a fungus is the actual world’s largest organism, or that other aquatic ones can hold the weight of an average human being afloat! But wait, best of all, most of them are around the corner, in your Botanic Garden!
And there is also much to be said about our everyday friends, like the Apple, with more than 7,500 varieties worldwide! Number shared also by the Tomatoes! Now just imagine the apple & tomatoes section in the supermarket then, oh boy!
The more I learnt about the fascinating world of plants, the more it seemed like no matter what shape, form, variety, colour or size, I could imagine a plant can take, nature had already tried it and tested it! And lets not get into their inestimable medicinal values.
By then I managed to lay my hands on rare specimens of carnivore plants, ferns, air plants, and my current favorite the staghorn fern. I nurtured them, showed them like a proud carer, looked at them in admiration.
Over the years, I brought many friends to the Botanic Gardens, to share the incredible show that some plants do put up. I remember when the Victoria Amazonica at the greenhouse with the pond -now under restoration- did blossom, which does one a year only, offering the largest flower I have ever seen.
Living in Dublin for over a decade, I have been tenant in many homes. I always did my best to have a bit of greenery around me. Once I even dug a hole in my backyard and bricolaged a low-cost pond with a large plastic container so I could have water lilies beside my Gunera Manicata and my Black Lily. I was obsessed then with the idea of a black flower, how beautiful and unique! Little that I knew that although not common, there are more – in fact I saw a very large one recently in Zurich’s Botanic Garden. Oh, I also loved to take care of my Papyrus, such an elegant plant!
Of course, I tried to eat from my garden too: I’ve planted berries, potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, and various kitchen herbs like mint, basil, rosemary, sage, chives… you know, the usual.
Oh, I became so attracted to their world! I was even considering becoming serious about it, and joining a BA on Horticulture at my favorite place in Dublin. So insistent was I with the idea when talking to my flatmates that eventually it was one of them that decided to go for it! And later I learnt that my mate has been in New Zealand, amongst other paradises, working with amazing plants… pure envy!
Finally, I decided to pursue my parallel love to Photography instead, a decision that still today hunts me. Hey, but there is time for everything in this live, as we strive to be Renaissance man once again, isn’t it?
Well, what else can I say? I think you follow me.
So if you do, lets go to the beginning, to that part where I say ‘I pondered’.
All along I realized that just being in contact with these magnificent beings not only was relaxing, and even therapeutic, but it even helped me to concentrate at times when I needed to reflect on certain matters, and to find inspiration at other times.
Incidentally, the background image at my company’s web site is not other than a banana tree inside the Palm House at the Glasnevin Botanic Gardens, where I have spent hours and hours reading, thinking, taking pictures, strolling, and trying to resolve the question for which the answer is 42, as your manWittgenstain did. One always hoped to soak the same kind of wisdom there, I guess.
Well, I said that the Banana is a tree, but I think Banana’s are actually a grass, the largest indeed. Some say they walk, and even though it was Sean Lock who said so, it may well be true if it was the very same Stephen Fry who confirmed it! But no surprise here since there is one that even blogs about her own life.
Anyhow, I am trying to share here, in a long and complicated way, is that it was that very first visit to the Botanic Gardens what started my love for plants. Plants are truly fascinating, and fascination should be a full-time job.
To answer the question ‘what I like about Gardens’, I would say that I like the fact that they can serve as something more than manmade re-constructions of the world around us, concoctions of green-fingered geniuses, or plain aesthetic exercises. They can serve as educational tools, as libraries in which to read about fantastic specimens from far away lands and fabricate mesmerizing adventures, as incubators of ideas and nurseries of thoughts. It doesn’t matter whether they are in your back yard or in public lands, they all make me wonder equally and somehow inspire me in my daily design routines.
So I would really recommend to everyone to enjoy public parks and gardens as much as possible; to learn from the botanic garden near you, to observe, read, ask (to people like Peter Donegan), then reflect and experiment, thus cultivating ones self in the process; to develop your own botanic collection there in your back garden, greenhouse, allotment, balcony, window ledge, r even your bathroom, collecting and classifying ideas to propagate new ones.
Because I am sure that amongst the Victorian ritual of collection and classification, of interpreting and labeling reality, there is always room for the new, the unexpected, and the yet unidentified.
* * * * * * * * *
I made a selection of photos to illustrate some of the things I said above. Hope you enjoy it!
Just wanted to thank Peter for letting me write away about my passion for plants, gardens, parks and what not.
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