There are only two things that matter when making any great garden – What the client [I hate that word…] wants and equally as important the end result. In short, whilst I would love, that every garden is a Peter Donegan memorial, the reality of how happier I have made someone because of their new space outside kicks in in two parts: the minute I finish and handover the picture perfect postcard garden. And secondly in the months and years after I am gone.
In the non-cheesiest way of saying, it is a real honour to get to make people smile because of what I do, but that latter happiness factor requires much smart thinking and it is only then that you really notice, horticulturally what you have [I guess] paid for.
That aside, I could not have wished for nicer people to create this garden for and that very simply makes my work and this northside Dublin garden just that extra little bit sweeter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Laid well and chosen correctly sandstone can make one of the nicest outdoor spaces you’ve ever seen. There are however a few things that I chose to do on this project to make the finished garden look and the creating of just that little bit smarter.
Of note, you will find in sandstone that there are ruffles in its surface which do add character to its finish. Also you will find no matter which way you lay them, you will get some puddling of water within the slabs because of that; note again: no matter which way you lay them it will retain some water. That said it should also freely drain by the levels you set.
Aco Drain Channels – In reality I’d rather not have any drains but entirely necessary in this case I chose not to use the silver steel version but instead the matt black plastic just to fade it, as versus highlight. That said it does look quite smart.
The Sandstone Circle – was going to be 3 metre in diameter. A really smart call was made on this part way through to change to the 2 metre diameter. It comes as a set, so the only thing I really had to do was remove the outer third tier of the circle. We also made a smarter call to put it off centre ~ when it’s not a ye olde type formal garden, central rarely works out. Gardens for the long-term, good calls are very necessary. Great clients [I’d have preferred a friendlier word] really do help when it comes to things like this.
Fuge – was also used in between the joints of the paving. In the context of time cost/ man hour units versus a more expensive product [?] it was for more reasons a far better choice than the old days of filling mortar into the joints by hand. The video explains that a little bit more.
The mix of slab colour was also a good choice as versus going with the one colour theme and I personally find it almost changes colour as the light descends upon it. I also used an old timber edge as the surround. From a logic perspective, this will allow the pebble to be retained on the peripheral beds and from a design point of view the colours tie in quite well with the stone colours.
note: the garden was created 2nd week in April and in the paving images, the sand/ grit had literally just been brushed in.
Mirrors are a great way to brighten up any garden and add that extra added and varying dimension to your space outdoors. The following are 5 examples of how I have used mirrors in gardens to change, for the greater a gardens space.
If you have an area which needs that little something to brighten it up, this should get the mind flowing and maybe thinking in a slightly different light.
1. Surrounded by Walls on all Sides
This garden area is walled in on all four sides making available light almost at a premium. To change that, three of the walls in this garden were painted white whilst one was covered with three full length, slightly separated mirrors. The light increase now as the sun moves around is phenomenal. More than that, it made the garden interesting and the views so different depending on where you stood. Brighter for the better on so many levels.
2. Low Level Light Reflection
With lights installed at ground level a 4 metre wide paved area separates the light source from the mirror surface installed on the far side. This allows the light, as you see it in the image, to be viewed from a very different angle. Extremely effective at night and made even better by choice planting which dappled the lights shadows as the winds movement caused it to appear to flicker.
3. The Small Courtyard Garden
This small courtyard is around 1 metre by 3.5 metres in size. Raised beds in place the mirror choice allowed the transformation from a dull and non descript potential no mans land to one were dappled planting gave it just that extra added dimension. The photograph was taken from inside the kitchen area and the rain at the time dapples the image captured slightly.
4. Mirror Garden Surface Furniture
Sometimes less is more and this table top covering was just enough to create a little intrigue from one point within the garden. On a non garden design side note, the use of mirror here also ensured a clean easy of the eating area. That aside, personally [and although I might have been told off for it in my youth], I liked it most when my elbows rested on it.
5. The Narrow Garden Space
Just at the point where the garden narrows and the design may appear like it has just, well… ended. In this case this garden very simply needed that something to take ones eye away from a path that I was not able to change nor move – [client is king]. Note the distance it created as you look at it. Simple, yet effective.
mirrorn1 a sheet of glass with a metal coating on its back, that reflects an image of an object placed in front of it
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