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ranting and raving… ?

(c) diarmuid gavin designs magazine

(c) dgd magazine

I wrote an article some time ago for Diarmuids magazine. It went in under the rant and rave section and was titled knowledge versus experience’. Of course if you want to see what the rave was about I suppose you’ll have to buy the magazine [april/ may 2008 issue] from the good guys at harmonia.ie

It opened with, ‘In a new series ‘rant and rave’, two professionals present two sides of an arguement. Horticulturist Peter Donegan wonders – or rants – why so many people walk straight out of college into the ‘self-promoted title of garden designer’.’

GRADUATE:  N 1 A PERSON WHO HOLDS A UNIVERSITY OR COLLEGE DEGREE. DESIGN: VB 1 TO WORK OUT THE STRUCTURE OR FORM OF (SOMETHING).  BY MAKING A SKETCH OR PLANS. 2 TO PLAN AND MAKE (SOMETHING) ARTISTICALLY.

HORTICULTURE: N THE ART OR SCIENCE OF CULTIVATING GARDENS

COLLINS DICTIONARV FOURTH EDITION

And there holds the problem. If one reads this definition, after qualifying it may be perceived or even believed that one has the ability to walk straight into any garden and begin designing. That is true, theoretically.  But is it true in reality?

Horticulture — the art cultivating garden — and its use as a design platform is something far more than an art form. It ultimately requires a necessary experience. From this a person can decide if he or she likes a style, or believes there is a better alternative or preference more genuine to their taste and in order to be true to their artistic individuality.

This experience and love as an artist however requires much more. It necessitates a biblical knowledge of horticulture and botany in so many more forms and these hierarchal stripes cannot be earned in any college. One must dirty their hands, experience nature and almost understand plant life by touch, feel and sense intuitively.

Akin to the factors required for the growth of any plant, if one is missing, living becomes defunct and for a designer it is similar. Because unless the essential landscape experiences have been courted, made love to and then married — that is if the designed landscape fails to become a reality — then it is nothing short of paper with etchings upon it to possibly be admired.

As a business venture or whether working in the business, it is here that the pitfalls are made because business and associated time costs money. If a ‘designer’ cannot exactly calculate the time, timing schedules and the process of events unequivocally that must occur, or understand a client’s circumstances, including lifestyle and budget; in most cases, then, there is definite potential that the design maybe relegated to the nonchalant paper upon which rests one’s coffee cup.

It is wise to appreciate that your reputation starts again and again, every day of your business life. So why do so many walk straight front the doors of a college into the self-promoted title of garden designer? Is it an impossibility based upon inexperience and possibly an ill conceited dream that gardening is great? The trouble is, maybe, that some forget or don’t admit to where they should start. That is if one wishes to work with the ground, one should start at that level and work up. It is not all theory. It is nature, a subject that comes with a constant learning, and to understand that requires more than a fine education.

‘It is natural that the newcomer, perhaps accustomed to the fixed routine of other pursuits, may expect rules which, if followed, will give certain definite results, but these I cannot give, for climate, soil, aspect, shelter, and many other connected factors vary widely, so that an exact formula would be useless.’
from The Flower Garden by E.R. Jane, 1952

For more information on Peter Donegan’s work go to www.doneganlandscaping.com

[courtesy diarmuid gavin designs magazine]

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self build ireland show

dreaming of the picture

dreaming of the picture

5/6/7 Sept 2008 Dublin Show, Punchestown, Co. Kildare

I was at this last year. A genius event on the calender and will be there again this year. I do get a free ticket because I write for the magazine, but, this is about selfbuilding? So why am I putting in out there? Because as this article says and what the self build team try to promote is an understanding of all the factors required to complete your home [there is a big difference between that and a house!]. And I’ve just gone through it…

From the old ways of building to sustainability and the future – it’s all there. Who knows I might buy you a cuppa even bump into you! For more information click here. As a by the way – my self build finished in March and [before one asks] yes my garden is ‘almost’ complete and the inside decorating is not yet started… ?!

Have a great day and enjoy!

selfbuild magazine, garden time…

selfbuild ireland magazine - peter doneganThis magazine is really good. I like writing for them. In fact I’d have to say my editor Gillian is really cool too! Is that unusual? That said I enjoyed writing this article. Check out the exclamation marks and you’ll understand why!!

This article for Selfbuild is in summary:

Trees are your best antiques

Working from a blank canvass is not alway the best approach to a site. Don’t rip up what could be a valuable asset and learn how to invest in antiques for the future

Just pop into any good bookstore if you want a free read to grab yourself a copy. Enjoy!

Considering the hours, effort and mental anguish that go into the design of your new home, it is extraordinary that the exact opposite is true of the garden and wider surroundings. Most of us give it a passing thought, amounting to not much more than remembering to ask the digger driver to cut a swathe through the mud up to the front door, to be lined with concrete edging and covered with tar later.

Whilst the main thrust of environmental legislation is concerned with energy conservation, there is an increasing requirement to pay attention to the surroundings in two ways. Firstly, to do as little damage as possible to intrinsic features and wildlife and secondly, to create a setting that enhances what is there and helps to blend the new house in with the landscape.

Investing a minimum of 3% of the value of your house on your garden should add approximately 10% – 13% to the value of your home, so read on!

The logical suggestion is to allow for the garden within the entire building budget, and like your house, it can be priced and scheduled prior to work beginning on site. The trouble is, that rarely happens. The ‘oirish’ way, outside of the building budget, used to be to build the house and ‘throw down a bit of seed’. But this is changing. We as a nation now spend over €2.33 billion annually on horticultural products and services. So, is it not rational that the garden receives the same attention as the house itself?

The Landscape Designer

A landscape designer will charge for their design, and also a percentage fee to oversee. Designs will be detailed and will come with a planting plan, complete with a visual impression of what you can expect to see. It is important to let your landscape designer know how much time you wish to devote to it and what gardening tasks you are willing to undertake. No less important is ensuring that your requirements are met, in order to avoid the planting of your designer’s very own memorial. The first step is to get a cost estimate for the landscaping of this wonderful design before you pay for the actual drawings; otherwise you might end up with a very expensive piece of paper that will never become a reality.

The Landscape Contractor

Landscape contractors provide a design and landscaping service. A reputable firm is likely to charge for a consultation, but this is a wise investment, you are paying for a professional service to help you to design the garden. Given the importance of this element to the success of the whole project, the design, build and budget should all be as agreed with you. “Approximate” and “estimate” are not words you want to hear being used. If, on the other hand, you know of work done by the contractor and feel comfortable that they will produce a suitable final scheme, you could start with a rough ‘outline overview sketch’ of what the garden will look like, on headed paper, saving you the cost of the full design service. This should suffice, with a little vision and trust on your part.

Remember! Only use a contractor from a registered list! The association has a rigorous vetting procedure and ensures that all members meet strict guidelines. This also eliminates the rogue trader, the cheaper quotation and the tears that might result from a possible ‘rogue-contractor’. Ensure that your landscape consultant has a qualification in horticulture.

Planning

The site assessment with your Planning Application is a look at how your house will affect its natural surroundings and what you intend to do to ensure that it does not look out of place within its habitat, by planning additional planting. Whilst this is something that is a requirement more often for sites in rural areas, the site map will possibly require you to show what you intend to do with the existing hedges, stone walls, trees and shrubs. Certain species of plants and wildlife are protected, whilst trees are a particularly emotive issue to which we will return later. Very often, as a condition of Outline Approval, the natural features must be maintained. Additionally, building materials should not be stored on the root crown area of the tree and you are likely to be asked to re-plant if shrubs and trees are removed in order to build.

The extent to which you will be required to do the above very much depends upon the attitude of your local council and the area in which you are building. It is however an aspect that should be covered by your architect, preferably working with a landscape architect, before your Planning application is submitted.

Tree preservation orders are increasingly being issued as trees are rightly seen as being central to the character of the landscape, at the same time there is a desire to maintain indigenous species. Taking a tree survey as an example demonstrates the range and depth of information that can be obtained; it can sometimes read more like a medical chart! A tree survey should only be compiled, via your architect, by a suitably qualified arborist [in theory a registered tree doctor] or horticulturist. It’s an outlay that you probably haven’t thought to budget for, but it is an investment in your house in exactly the same way that you are paying your architect. The cost will depend on the complexity of the site but will not include a landscaping schedule; that is a separate piece of work. Remember that this is a professional service and one that will pay dividends in the final look of both house and setting.

Below is an outline of what a tree survey covers:

Introduction

To include brief details of all other significant vegetation, for example hedgerows, a general commentary on tree related problems, tree measurements (which because of their shape will be approximate) and the suitability of trees for retention, but not their history.

The time of year will have a bearing on the above as some signs symptomatic of ill health within a tree may not be obvious in certain seasons any conditions Ivy can also obscure defects and ill health.

The Survey

This will cover the age, from established through to senile, the condition, from good to dead, height and spread including the canopy separately. It accompanies a description of the site based on a scale drawing.

Trees are sorted into categories ranging from A being a tree of outstanding merit to C, one which is dead, dying or dangerous and which should be removed.

The action to be taken covers:

Clean out – removing anything detrimental to the tree’s health, including dead and broken branches.

Crown thin – removing living branches to reduce the weight of the crown and thus resistance to wind, admit more light and improve air circulation.

Crown reduction – shortening the canopy limbs.

Remove dead wood – pruning all dead and diseased branches.

Address imbalance – as the result of deformed growth trees develop an imbalanced crown system. This may not be important except where the imbalance lies towards the house, road or pathway.

Conclusion

The report finishes with a section covering the overall and general future management of the trees and site factors influencing this.

The above is a very detailed survey, but it does demonstrate the extent of the information you can obtain. It’s an informed approach providing the best possible outcome for your trees, which could result in saving the tree – and the expense of removing and replanting.

As always when employing anyone, it’s best to contact a recognised and reputable trade association and choose a registered company with a track record in this sector. Whilst a local gardener or college graduate may be knowledgeable, this is not something for the faint hearted and a legal document is really what is required.

Prepared in association with Peter Donegan Landscaping Ltd., Co Dublin 01-807-8712 Mobile: 087-659-4688 www.doneganlandscaping.com

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bloom 2008 [6] & the malahide boat show

After an early rise this morning to admire the beauty around me I went to Malahide, North Dublin to see the bi-annual boat show.

One of the reasons I wanted to go was to see if there was anything I could do more to add to the ‘thats an unusual [pink boat all included] garden’ tag Pour L’amour de Jeux has given me! and the well organised event was extremely helpful in sourcing some ‘boat stuff’/ props we needed for Bloom 2008.

The other reason was to travel with a very good friend/ neighbour[ish]/ colleague of mine/ Adrian McMahon and his two sons where we would meet with Gene another colleague of ours for a coffee.

The day was of course fantastic, but like most things in my life it is always made that extra little bit special by those with who it is shared. As you can gather there was a lot of Bloom-in talkin’ goin’ on and I must say where good coffee, intelligents minds and good friends are involved somehow life seems quite easy! Thanks you all, it was Bloomin’ fantastic.

eddie hobbs cowboys & angels

From Irelands Eddie Hobbs You & Your Money Magazine.

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good reliable tradesmen are notoriously hard to find – and if you do find one, chances are they’re booked up for ages. Emily Manning gives a survival guide to beating the cowboys.

Manning suggests three websites to find the ideal contractor. pickapro.ie and online tradesmen.com do have a place in the ‘pay to register your business industry’, the other site mentioned homewise.ie is the only one I didn’t have to but can pay for – I tried them all! Oh yeah and I got ‘herself’ to put up a comment about me [none of it is untrue – I did do her garden, she did have to wait etc..]

The point I make is that I could be Pope if I got my family involved? and what the author does not mention is a registered internationally recognised association with a rigorous vetting procedure and a stern code of conduct that ensure standards are kept to the highest level possible. Here you can’t simply hand over a few pounds and the client finds the best in the country[?].

I’m a big Eddie fan and he has got the nation thinking for the better, but, if the point is to avoid the cowboys and the funny stories– in my opinion – Ms Manning has got it wrong, somewhat.

UPDATE: this link has just been mailed to me & this one. The second being possibly of more interest.