The following are a selection of show or display gardens – or – ones that are just that little bit different if you will – that you may or may not have seen before.
Some sat in shop windows or were part of festivals, whilst others were are actually real gardens that didn’t or won medals and awards.
Whilst there are about 14 years of ’em with my name, here, I simply chose but 8. No apparent reason. Apart from the fact that I tried to make them very different. And they all made me smile in their own unique way. Now I sound like my Mom. More importantly and of note, it was really tough to pick just one image that represented each garden.
All images and gardens by Peter Donegan/ Donegan Landscaping, Dublin
The better nee best features of any garden I have ever seen work, are those where the client, with the designer or creator almost decides to compel that design feature to commission.
A little Machiavellian by way of word choice maybe – but it is the revelation, the revealing over time and finally the receiving of that something very unique, created one-off and just for you and your garden – that makes what may possibly seem like a gamble that I note, irrespective of garden size and budget – so very, very, very worthwhile.
That said, there is a difference between a house and a home – and – with gardens, better gardens – the main feature or what some may feel should be the main focus, should also work in tandem with its surrounds. Get that chemistry spot on and you might just have something very special.
The following are five examples of features in gardens that I have created. They are also decisions that made that garden a little different from the rest and for their owners, for the better.
1. Garden Walls with a Difference
If you can get this one right, you are on to an absolute winner. What I will say is it does require one to be a little bit daring, maybe, at the point of imagining what it will look like. Most tend to choose, as one might in interiors to have one featured colour wall and the rest white, for the sole logic of light purposes. As you can see in this garden, myself in the top corner planting away, the white was actually used on the lower walls the entire way around therefore allowing licence to be a little more sporadic on the upper level.
The backdrop plant of choice to soften is Fargesia, a dwarfed bamboo brought in slightly more mature and that shall only grow to around eight foot tall in its lifetime.
2. Garden Art
It doesn’t have to be a piece of sculpt type olde art that you choose for your space outside, but do rest assured we have been using art in our gardens for absolute centuries. This piece was used in two of my gardens – one won two awards, one didn’t. Both great gardens. That aside, the decision to use art in our gardens has it seems been on the decline for some time.
That said, pick the right piece for the right space and surround it with choice perfect planting and you might just have that something so very special. In my opinion, we don’t use art outside enough.
3. A Feature Garden Structure
I’ve made and designed some great structure for some so much the better for it gardens, but this has to be one of my all time favourite garden structures I have ever used. I will admit there is no feeling greater than sitting underneath the stars whilst feeling like you are in a room of your own sipping a gin and tonic with some close friends.
If you can master that feeling ie. including the surrounds, so that the structure just stands out for the very right reasons during the day time, you have managed to achieve something extremely wonderful.
4. The Water Feature
There is nothing worse than a grandé anything in the wrong space and it is at this juncture that some variation of the quality not quantity cliché comes to mind. The key in all garden features is to get it just right and that’s were a good eye comes in for a great overall picture of just what it is you want. A bit like the gazebo, if it can have an additional use ie. during the day and at night-time, you have just got double bargain value for your pound.
5. A Hard Garden Surface
Decks, cobble and all that is functional does have its place in the great outdoors – but if, once again, one can master so very good-looking with functionality then who am I to argue. I have created many walkable hard-surfaced finishes in my time – one of the simplest ever used in a garden of mine was this timber surface above. Divine perfection. Extreme simplicity.
In summary: the images used are ones I thought might strike a chord with you and personally, I’ll be very surprised if you like all of the images you see here. That said, they are a little unique, a little personal and individually loved by their owners.
There’s a small space in your big garden, you’ve a big space in a small garden ? Or maybe you’d just like a little more interest formed from a little more of a varied range of plants that won’t take over and at the same time will keep maintenance slightly more to the lesser side of things.
If colour is the answer and you’d like a little of it throughout the year, take a look at the list below and see if something takes your fancy.
Whichever way you might see fit, the following are 10 plants that may just get the taste buds tingling and make your space outside a little more exciting.
1. Agapanthus Africanus
The Agapanthus/ Liliaceae [african blue lily] are a genus of around 10 species originating in Southern Africa. The clump forming lilly is a deciduous perennial with leaves around 12″ long and produces a 1.5″ long trumpet shaped flower in a cluster that can measure about 2′ by 1′ in size in late summer. Some note them as vigorous, but I say well worth it and a great one for the plant swapper.
2. Choisya Aztec Pearl
The Choisya [Rutaceae] are an evergreen genus of around 8 species more commonly known as the Mexican orange blossom. Funnily enough, the flowers are white and some say perfumed – although I personally find it a bit hard to get the scent more often. The Aztec Pearl bears 1″ in size pink-ish white flowers in spring/ summer that form in cymes of around 5 blooms. It can grow to around 8′ tall, but I’d never allow it go to that height and it will therefore need a good cut back every season once established.
3. Convolvus cneorum
The Convolvus [convolvulaceae] are a very varied genus of about 250 species. In Ireland the most famed is the cousin you don’t really want to have call by at Christmas time, but does and more often over stays its welcome. This fellow however, the Convolvus cneorum, is a low growing rounded clump former and only grows to about 2′ high x 3′ wide producing an almost trumpet like white flower with a yellow dotted centre from its pink buds at the start of the summer.
4. Crocosmia lucifer
The Crocosmia or Montbretia [Iridaceae] is a clump forming genus of about 7 species also originally from South Africa and another great one for the plant swappers of the world. This particular chap grows to about 4′ tall and produces burning red flowers mid summer that slightly jumps out of the grass like clump. Personally, don’t like the name, but it’s an absolute stunner and looks great on the kitchen table.
5. Dianthus ‘Shooting Star’
The Dianthus or Carnation [caryophyllaceae] are a genus of over 300 species from Europe, Asia and Southern Africa. Personally, I hate carnations as bouquet of cut flowers, but I love them in this format. Pretty, low growing and relatively easy to maintain.
6. Matteuccia streuthiopteris
The Matteuccia [dryopteridaceae/ woodsiaceae] are a genus of about 4 species originating from the woodlands of Europe, N. America and E. Asia. This particular beauty is more commonly known as the shuttlecock or ostrich fern. It can produce fronds of up to 4′ long and the plant itself can grow to around 5′ tall. Once again it grows by spreading and will need some attention, as all plants do.
7. Osteospernum Cannington Roy
This evergreen clump former [astreaceae/ compositae] is from a genus of about 70 species mainly hailing from Southern Africa. It’s daisy-ish flowers are purple tipped white that change to mauve pink/ purple on the underside with purple florets and it can flower from the end of spring to autumn [depending]. A great ground cover plant and another one for the plant swapper.
8. Papaver orientale ‘Prinzessin Victoria Louise’
The poppy family [Papaveraceae] are a genus of about 70 species. This, the oriental poppy is a clump forming perennial that grows about 3′ x 2′. Its short lived flowers are produced in late summer and are apricot in colour and are followed by a quite striking seed head. A little different from your usual, but definitely one to try out.
9. Polemonium caeruleum
I haven’t done this fellow any favours in the photography department, but the commonly called Jacobs ladder [polemoniaceae] is a clump forming genus of about 25 species. It can grow up to 3′ tall by approximate 1′ wide and produces blue flowers on axillary cymes. The image above may not make you want to rush out the door to pick one up, but I’d definitely rate it in the small garden department.
10. Polystichum setiferum
The Holly or Shield fern [dryopteridaceae] is a genus of about 200 species. This evergreen is better commonly know as the Soft shield fern and produces fronds of up to 4′ in length. The description is short and sweet, but ferns just that and the image tells it like it is. Personally, I love it.
I have selected gardens… whose design clearly illustrates a particular period of garden history, and whose plantings demonstrate an almost obsessional love of plants and the surrounding Irish landscape
The post-its popping out the top of this book will show that this one has been used; and used very well.
Put simply it is not one for the feint hearted. I shall rephrase, it is, maybe, one for the more serious garden enthusiast, those involved [in some research] or those who enjoy visiting the grander gardens of Ireland.
Olda chose 20 gardens and from the original designs to stunning photographs [by Stephen Robson] – this truly is deserved of a place on my book shelf and also‘my books – my reviews’.
That said, some time ago I paid a very worthwhile €65 for this publication. Written by Olda Fitzgerald. Photography by Stephen Robson. First published 1999 by Conran Octopus.
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