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Why Do I Put Myself Through This

pic courtesy John williams

I was 24 when I went out on my own and I thought I knew it all. Cocky little f@*ker, was nothing new to my ears. Though I didn’t know and still don’t if that was a compliment or an insult. Like I cared.

I hadn’t a penny to my name and the rest of that violin story has been well noted here before…. Since then the landscaping industry has changed. Pre February 2012, it was on the one hand two bouts of snow, sub-zero temperatures, the highest rainfall levels on record within the space of three hours as Noah’s Ark sailed past my bedroom window. Probably fair to discount them. But when the country’s soil is frozen, you can’t really say economy. Can you ? Honestly, no.

On the other hand and pre, pre that, there was an industry of which the higher percentage of turnover ran off the back of a so-called building boom. Something I never really witnessed. And whilst some companies chose to insert plants into industrial and housing estates all over the country I was pretty fine just doing my own thing. I still am. I did make the show gardens for some builders developments, but I have to admit I never really got into bed with them.

Did I get stung ? Yup. Winkers. That said I still work with two or 3 good fellows. We are good friends to this day. For the right reasons.

Like some infatuated love struck fool ~ and though there’s nothing wrong with that, I did and had to look hard at myself in the mirror and ask myself the hardened question.

Why the flip do you put yourself through this ?

Not getting paid. The longest hours and not enough in the day. No summer holidays… the bad weather, the politics. The taxman. Winker. And so the list went and goes on.

In the middle of all of this was always [at least] one beautiful garden and one of the same cloth type client. I don’t like that word, client. And it made it all worthwhile. It was never and not necessarily the garden with the biggest budget or the best final photograph, for me. It has always been the story, the behind the scenes and the person that is as I would hope my wee daughter to grow up to be. If you get me.

I remember doing a front garden for a friend of mine. Rolled turf. Simple but just delicious when it was finished. It could only have been. It was a derelict overgrown space for over 2 years. This was his first house and mortgaged up to the hilt, he eventually got himself a couch and some second-hand mod cons and some matching cups. He wasn’t there when I put it together for him but, he rang me in the wee hours of the Friday night to tell me that he had just come home, off the night bus and was lying on the lawn, totally naked and can of beer in hand for the last hour. A terrible image I know and a complete nut job, but still one of life’s nice guys.

I could have given you a far sexier [of the garden] type example. My point – it was never about the dollar signs. I know, I know that doesn’t pay the bills. But I was making gardens when I was 12. Cutting grass at 8 or 9 and in college studying horticulture at 17. Also I knew and still know that Ireland is not famed for as a sun holiday resort and yet I still spent 4 years in college, studying horticulture for that I would do work of the great outdoors category. On that note, the one pound dearer than a Matthews,  Bus Eireann bus was nothing as cosy as it is now.

I like the quote that if you see a bandwagon it’s too late. In my personal life, I’m a little bit, of a why buy a bookmark for a dollar when you can use the dollar for the bookmark. I think that goes back to when I was 17 years old and working in the garden centre out by Dublin Airport, hoping that I had a days work that Saturday coming. One got used to the off-seasonal. Even through 3rd level, the pint of Guinness after a full summers earnings eventually churned into a pint of coke with a Guinness head – 30 pence if you must ask, for the latter. On a slight side note and back to it, the quote I stand by the most is only surround yourself with people who lift you higher. In that regard, I am most blessed.

To the original question, why do I put myself through this ? A question I was asked last night. In short, I’m not really putting myself through anything. Sure, I think you’d be mildly confused if you broke into my home* as there really is very little to take – unless you like camping. That said, it is a good home and you won’t taste a finer salad this side of Dublin when I’ve got my green groove on.

To the suggestion that I should be concerned about peripheral factors such as the budget, the Vincent Browne television programmes of the economy and the like, maybe so. But in reality it can only ever have a depressionist outcome on me and I find that unfair on those around me.

I find myself extremely fortunate that my passion is what I do for a living as well as my past-time. I know that the weather has been tough. I’m sick to the teeth of the newspapers and the constant depression that oozes from their pages [running a very close second is the X-Factor] and as a result maybe, I haven’t bought a newspaper in some years now. Also I can’t remember the last time I watched an economy type programme, which is to an extent mildly surprising considering I studied only business subjects all through secondary school. I won’t mention the radio, but fair to say the down-turn-lovers have had a field day and either or it’s a little overkill and for far too long, for me at least.

Monetarily speaking, I know I’ll never be the richest man in the world. Then again, I don’t really know that. And on that note, I and you don’t really know what’s around the corner. Sure, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow – and if you’re Irish the only bit of advice you can take on that note is to make sure you’ve clean underwear on.

What I do know is, I work extremely hard at what I do and I am good at it. I’ll happily settle with that knowledge for now.

The Sodcast – Episode 17

sodshow, garden podcast

The Sodshow Garden Podcast – every Friday – in iTunes, www.sodshow.com all good podcast stores.


Listen to The Sodcast in MP3 – or subscribe/ listen to the podcast in iTunes. Alternatively, subscribe to the blog and listen to them right here. Missed Episode 16 of the garden podcast ?

First Up:

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Back to life….

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This Week On The Blog:

Links For The Podcast:

Images For The Podcast:

This Weeks Oddities:

Fellow hen fanatic Simon Kenny send me this email

Hi Peter

I don’t have a photo of bark mulch on the plastic but do have decorative pebbles on plastic in my own garden. It’s basically the same principle. The soil is blocked from sunlight and weeds push up the plastic around the edges. Attached is a photo which I took this morning.it would be great to hear what your views are on the use of the plastic stuff, and how you would go about flower bed fabrication

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Also these little trinkets 😉

I asked if anyone had a happy Garden story for me….? You replied… and I had to tell you all to stop!
  • @rauldore: Yes – my garden is happy : I haven’t had a BBq in ages 😀
  • @jkeyes: Iggle Piggle, Upsey Daisy and Makka Pakka.
  • @maryrose: I planted crocus today… at least they will bring a smile to my face come January
  • @orlamcdermott: 10 gizillion pretty red crab apples from a small tree made into 25 jars of jam 🙂
  • @maryrose: oh I couldn’t … sure I’d have to get my hair done..!!!
  • @powersflowers: Funny Hissingfirst story for you from @ArabellaSock : http://bit.ly/gmmSrh It’ll make you laugh. I promise.
  • @knetstop our strawberry is still blooming and having fruit. Does that count?
  • @primaryposition: one easter sunday i awoke early to find little paw prints leading out our garden and down the street path. Convinced it was the Easter Bunny, I took off after them like an excited blood hound. about 5 houses down the road i found a poor little tortoise trapped in a hole in a neighbours garden. He was alive and we kept him for a week before giving him to a zoo 🙂
  • @EWgardens: 10 years next year since we began to revive 400+ year old gardens abandoned for 50 years. My other halfs grandfather died having pulled house down and not knowing he had an heir. He would be delighted to meet his great grandchildren and visitors in his revived garden. How’s that?
  • @dervlam: Funny looking mushrooms growing on my back garden lawn!
  • @ianbrunswick: Worked @ Chicago botanic gardens & stopped a snapper turtle getting run over. He tried to bite my hand off. Some thanks!

And Finally:

I found the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra via Christian Carey and the gentleman [and lover of the great outdoors] that is Mr Jonathan Grimes

The Sodcast – Episode 13

sodshow, garden podcast

The Sodshow Garden Podcast – every Friday – in iTunes, www.sodshow.com all good podcast stores.


Listen to The Sodcast in MP3 – or subscribe/ listen to the podcast in iTunes. Alternatively, subscribe to the blog and listen to them right here. Missed Episode 12 of the garden podcast ?

First Up:

Thanks to Repak recycling – who sponsored the sodcast for the month of October.

Fancy a fancy garden….? Contact me on….

This Week On The Blog:

Images For The Podcast:

Links For The Podcast:

Davy Mac Donald is a legend – nice news coming soon.

Speaking of which, I tidied up the homepage for my landscaping website. I think it looks better…?

Jane Powers noted : Bad news for Monsanto here: http://bit.ly/146vL8 and here: http://bit.ly/diwGeN But will anyone pay any attention? Jane is most probably right you know. I wrote this post on Weedol and Scotts – check out all the comments 😉

@antonmannering Anton Mannering says You get what you pay for… http://post.ly/17kyC

This Weeks Oddities:

I wrote this post about Sonairte and pumpkins last year and I also wrote this post on Sonairte itself. Halloween on the horizon – this is what they have this year….

On Saturday 30th October, between 11am-1pm, Deirdre Rogers visits the centre for a workshop of Pumpkin Carving and Halloween Festive Crafts. This workshop is suitable for all the family, and all participants should bring a glass jam jar which, with Deirdre’s help, will be turned into a scary Halloween direction.

On Sunday 31st of October Sonairte will host its Halloween Family Fun Day. This event, which includes our regular Food and Craft Fair, will feature lots of games, fancy dress competition, zombie hunt, pumpkin bowling, scary stories and loads more.

Visit The Sonairte Website – for more details

Say no to topped trees – I agree.

Jason Roe had his BTW meet up last week. I’m now thinking I should do Movember. I also wanted to say thanks to Jason. A bit like the garden group, Jason does it free gratis and for the craic. I like that. It’s not always about the money….. right ? 😉 That reminds me, Open Coffee Drogheda is on soon. Good girl Mary.

Thanks to Stephen O’Leary – I now know Movember has an Anthem

And Finally:

one of the worst jokes I have ever heard….. 😀 Still made me laugh.

The advantages of audio and the internet. I listened to this whilst typing this post. The advantages of knowing Paul O’Mahony. I have noted those two places for my next visit there. Paul is right about the ducks 😉

The Happy Gardener

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In 2001 at 24 years of age with a rented bedroom to work and live from I set up Donegan Landscaping. Now aged 34 I guess things have changed a fair bit. In particular in the last 12 months. Nothing deserved of a Nobel Prize, just life and I guess with that, I as Peter the Gardener and as Peter individual have changed. The many time related cliché’s come to mind….

The fact that my hobby is also my job is an absolute honour I am blessed with and about the only thing in life I do take for granted. But it can also be a bit of a curse, for others…. I jest. But 24/7 and 365 days of Peter, trees and the great outdoors can I’m sure get a bit, you know…

To delve further, it’s well known I’ve not had a summer holiday as long as I have been employed in the horticultural industry, summer and hay making I suppose [?]. I did take my first summer holiday a Friday off this year and go camping in Roscommon, in a forest. In the great outdoors. My point is that I work hard and extremely long hours.

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But by far, even more important than that, this year there came a new addition to the Donegan family and that really made me stand up and analyse myself. It may have been the catalyst, but I guess it was becoming more and more necessary to assess my 24 hour 365 day timetable. There was a mild point also where I simply wasn’t enjoying gardening, for a period anyway. But then I think everyone has a little blip like that in their career and you and I both know that was never going to last long as far as I and gardens are concerned.

I guess I also needed to get back to basics. Simplify Peter Donegan. Make myself the gardener that I always was and am. I wanted to start wearing my shorts in the rain again, having my cup of coffee on a winters morning break and enjoying going back out into the rain. I don’t know how to explain that bit, maybe dirty fingers on a more regular basis…..? Does that make sense….? Today, in terms of staff and conglomerate [?], it’s just me and one other. Or just me. Things are getting a lot less complex. In gardening terms, I guess there were things I wanted to achieve as a gardener. And I did. I now have no title after my name. But I’m enjoying myself, more, like I used to.

To what has changed, in everyday terms…. the most obvious to mind is that I’ve not built a show garden in competition in over two years now. I would happily in the morning, but the financial unnecessaries that comes with self funding don’t seem so logic anymore.

The last one I created was in Bloom 2008 and it very nearly closed me down. I’m not irresponsible or silly in that regard but a very long story [?] left me with no sponsor for a second year running and although there may have almost been a sponsor – in the end I pretended I had one so I could build a garden.

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In reality, I was 90% there in terms of cost layout and also owned a very large prop. Essentially, the show gardens I have done have taken me about 9 months to put together. It can be done a lot quicker – if the money is there – but when reliant upon what and who you can lay your hands on free gratis, friends essentially, it’s very wise of me to remember that cars and boats don’t restore themselves within weeks. With zero dollars and zero signs of a potential partner knocking on my door, I dont see a design being entered into a garden competition in the near future. As versus that, I’m all for the variant journey and the interesting story – if the opportunity knocks I’ll answer the door, but I guess I just won’t bank on it taking place, for the moment.

Going further, this year after 10 years, I left the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland. No apparent reason as such except for a bill of around €500 per annum. With that overhead eliminated it essentially means I can’t put a garden up for an ALCI award, obviously. Also after 5 years, I have left the Bord Bia Quality Award scheme. More an audit of the business and the behind the scenes rather than my ability to build good gardens. With two audits per annum and a please find attached invoice for a few bob I decided not to go ahead for the year 2010/ 2011. To cliché, if I’m not in I can’t win.

Essentially there is no other award scheme available in ireland that I am aware of. I know things cost money but I also know I’m going to be asked, especially when June 2011 comes around. When I met Aiden Cotter CEO of Bord Bia at Bloom 2010 – the second question he asked was if he would be seeing me at the next Bloom In The Park. I asked him if he had a sponsor in mind for me….? Cheeky, maybe 😉

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Gardens for me were never about, as much as they look well on the wall, awards, they simply came with the road trip.

Essentially, what really makes my day is knowing I made someone, you, smile because of what I did with your space, garden or patch outside. But outside of that, still with gardening in mind, I’ve things I want to do, different things in my life. I like interesting people who say hello, goodbye and thank you as a minimum. It is usually the basis for which I have taken on the more unusual projects. I hate saying I’d love to and much prefer to say I’m doing, pressent tense.

I was reading my review of what I did last year in 2009. I like the 2 closing paragraphs. I was trying to figure what I would write for this years review. It’s somewhat award-less, but as it nears Novemeber I know it’s been another one of intrigue and unpredictability. I like that. It’s not over yet.

What next for me? Honestly, I’m unsure what the future holds. But awards somehow or other in the greater scheme of things don’t seem as important. I guess I am simply trying to do whatever it takes to remain in gardening as Peter Donegan [please insert title of your own choice after name]. In that same breath, as an individual I’m generally a very upbeat, positive thinking kind of person and 99.99% of the time simply put just a happy gardener.

Go Raibh Míle Maith Agaibh

I am a really lucky fortunate guy. I have great friends. I know some really kind people. Really kind.

Now and again it’s important to say thanks. Put simply, that is all this post is……

Sunday just gone, afternoon, sitting at my kitchen table having coffee were Bernie Goldbach and his family, all the way from Cashel Co Tipperary – Bernie had come to Dublin to set me up with some new audio recording equipment; Phil Murtagh was there too – setting up my laptop that he got me out of bed to go and help me choose and buy [sunday rules apply here – hello Michael!]. Also there, for no apparent reason was George Foxe. I must make really good coffee.;)

The night before Luke Donegan [no relation] sent me this logo [see left] to spruce up my twitter page. No apparent reason. Luke has previously designed the #sodcast iTunes logo and the garden group logo’s. Watch this space. I hope he remebers me wants his garden done when he’s rich and famous 😛

Two days previous at around 9.30pm Krishna De spoke with me on Skype, just chatting about things I should and could do. krishna is a genius in her field [be dum] and to have that chat – money simply couldn’t buy it. She also has one of the best smiles I have ever seen 😀 Some time ago, Krishna gave me a lift. From Limerick.

This morning I spoke to Gordon Murray. Another tech genius. Another gentleman. He lives in Cork. The fact that the internet is not a garden helps a lot knowing that my computer and his garden have amazing similarities. He owes me a pint. It’s my notebook 😆

Take Brian Greeene and the sodcast intro jingle. Mark Rock of audioboo who I shall see shortly in London. Gentleman. Also Kevin Coleman of Back Page Football, Davy Mac Donald previously for my website header – Adrian McMahon and years [literally] of advice. Anthony McGuinness, Darren Byrne…. the list is literally endless. All in some form or other have been there for me and usually when I needed it the most.

Thanks also to Eoin kennedy, David and Daryll for Friday, it was an honour to be in your company. I think golf clubs would be a really bad investment. Thanks also to the lads at Simply Zesty for the lovely cup of tea 😉

There a long list of names I should have here, I know that. If I’ve left you out…. I know you know it’s not intentional….. Please do hollar and I’ll sneak it in. It wouldn’t be the same without you. I know also that in those above and so many more are simply great friends who I have laughed, possibly cried and smiled after with.

If you ever have the honour to work with any of those mentioned above, tell them I said thanks, again.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.