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Donegan Gardens: A Dublin City Garden

Wider rather than longer, this garden may appear quite simplistic, maybe at first glance. For me however, it is one of the nicest small/ city gardens I have ever created.

Don’t get me wrong there are other gardens, more show off pieces so to speak that maybe and of course can come quicker to my mind. The one offs aside and to this case I will note that there is a big difference between the warm home and nice house feel outside and my ticket always, unless otherwise directed by you, is on your behalf to create your garden.

Here my first step was to clad the walls and piers with white-painted timber, allowing the join lines to show and running left to right [or right to left], something that really gave the impression of a far greater and brighter space as it moved out of the seating room to the lawned and planted areas. Vertical lines would have done very much the opposite in working with the existing layout.

Partly down to plant choice, I really like the dappled shade as it flickers against the walls on the bright sunny days. I like the fact that the seating area, a room within itself comes with a view of the entire garden; there is a lovely feel from within of separation from the rest of the garden.

In making the space look greater, timber clad aside, the idea was to stretch the eye to the furthest points; the lawn runs longest from the bottom right hand corner to the top left and the steppings walk from the bottom left to the room now created in the top right hand corner.

Over many other alternates the brighter and smaller in size sandstone cobbles were chosen, again the lean was to creating the feel of a greater space. Though I’m sometimes hesitant to recommend it, the built-in seating and table area was a smart move. I find it helped the finished garden look of existing for some time yet very well maintained.

The planting wasn’t over complexed and was kept to a quite short palette. The choice was to a quite natural flow of foliage and silhouette, allowing for some specifically chosen to have their day on the horticultural podium through the seasons. Outlandish only through the photosynthetic maybe. Of note the tall and thin [note: bright, airy feel of space] dwarfed fruit trees were used to the back wall and for want of a better description by category, the tall shrubs brought in semi mature also helped create that instant existing feel to the new space.

Whether it be the steppings that lead out from only one set of doors though both of course can be used, the seating to the side wall or the fact that there is via the plant choice colour for all seasons and intrigue when maybe there shouldn’t be, or very simply a decent sized lawn, this garden for me, works.

My personal test as to whether I like or love a garden always comes down to the question of whether I would happily sit within A specific space outdoors and allow time pass me by. This garden passes with flying colours.

Thoughts, comments or queries:

  • leave a comment below or
  • have a chat with/ contact Peter Donegan

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Grow Your Own Raised Beds

raised vegetable beds

If you are going to invest in raised vegetable beds for the purposes of growing your own kitchen garden or more, then there is only one real way to do it. Enquires, getting some built suited to your space outside or changes in design and style…. my contact details are below.

Build requirements:

  • Well built. Structurally sound, strong and solid.
  • Built to last for the future, well able for the Irish weather
  • Fit their intended use aesthetically

making raised vegetable beds making raised vegetable beds

Main ingredients:

  • 10cm x 22cm x 240cm new timber sleepers [10 x 8.5 inch timber]
  • 6.3 x 200 mm [8″ long] corrosion resistant In-Dex screws
  • butyl rubber lining

in-dex screw in dex screw hex driver

Of note:

  • The screws are expensive but – they are the modern version of a coach bolt and are seriously strong. So strong that a standard drill would not do the job of churning them in. Then again, they are 8″ long. Also they use an 8mm hex driver bit. Again, for the long term quality will matter.

dewalt saw draper spirit level

Know in Advance:

  • Timber can vary in length by up to/ about 10mm. When one is 230cm and the next 245cm – as precision goes, it matters and is is extremely important, for me. Measure twice – cut once.
  • Wood can twist and bend, slightly. This is not unusual – it’s just what wood is and what it does. It may need some working.
  • Spirit level is one thing – aesthic levels are far more important. This is not a swimming pool.

making raised vegetable beds making raised vegetable beds

Alternates:

One could reduce on timber quality and timber dimensions, but each of these beds will have 2- 4 tonne of wet soil forcing against it’s sides. Strong, durable and tough matters here and hence why the screws/ bolts are the quality that they are.

The lining could be done cheaper. However, butyl rubber is generally noted for lining ponds and again that amount of wet soil lying constantly against timber sides…. you simply won’t find a stronger longer lasting liner than this.

Quality counts:

The ground here had three different levels from three different sides. A spirit level is of benefit but so is a good eye for appearance. A mattock will dig perfect trenches.

The timbers are [the tallest] three high on their side – 66cm – the largest area of which is 240cm x 180cm. I didn’t want them to look like [silly as it may sound] big boxes. The alternated end corners help for that reason.

Above all the right tools for the right job and life will be made much easier less complex. The tools I use are not that that will put together an ikea type book shelf.

raised timber beds

After Construction:

This is a place as versus being thought of as labour intensive, I would like to be renowned and considered for being one of retreat, relaxation and escapism.

Next for this garden space, from the same timber I’m going to build a garden bench. If I could, I put a matching espresso machine in there too – hand-made, from wood of course. Select planting to the peripherals will also help make this more of a home. But, Rome was, in this case, very well built in a matter of days – phase 2, the growing, begins soon after the soil is hand balled in. 😉

Enquiries or further information on your made to measure grow your own raised beds ?

Ask for Peter

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10 Plants for Small Irish Gardens

garden colour plants

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

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

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

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

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’

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

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

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’

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

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

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.

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supporting plants…

looking for a little alternative other than the sheet of trellice that keeps rotting away behind that overgrown climber? maybe a more presentable way to support that new tree you just bought? maybe a new way to divide that strip between you and the neighbours….. ?

Take a look and see what you think….

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activity in the garden this month…

gat the garden in groove...
get the garden in groove...
need some effin direction...
need some effin direction...

You may think there is little to do in the brrrr freezing cold this January. But, it is what you do now that will prove so fruitful in a few months time. Aside from the aesthetic gains to be reaped and after listening to RTE1 for too long recently – where the news, primetime and even the weatherman depressed me – I realised we all need something to smile about. I had to get outside.

But there is also another [moreso recently more serious] side to gardening and that is of keeping active. According to one report, if maintained for at least 30 minutes gardening can be so beneficial. They say…

  • Digging the garden burns between 150 and 200 calories per half hour
  • using a push mower burns 180 calories in women in half an hour and 240 calories in men, while using a motor mower it drops to 135 and 180 calories each.
  • planting, pruning and trimming flowers, shrubs and trees gives a moderate workout, burning 135 calories in women and 180 in men in half an hour.
  • weeding might be the scourge of most gardeners, it burns off 140 calories in women and over 180 in men per half hour
it's not a total dead end...
it's not a total dead end...

So having dusted down those tools and psyched yourself; having saved your petrol money so as you might drive to the gymnasium and having sold those spandex tracksuits 😉 here’s what you can do

  • trees, trees, trees – the best time to plant bare roots and rootballs types as they’re still dormant. They’re also great value.
  • tree’s, the Christmas tree – it could sit there for ages. Recycle it!
  • weeds – start doing it now. [see above]
  • mulch – i find it warms my hands! Buy it loose or by the metre cubed. It’s better value.
  • tree’s – adjust those straps and buckles. Not too loose mind you.
  • hedging – bareroots are still available – plant them now.
  • fertilise – yes fertiliser. If you use a slow release version [not 10:10:20 style] you can apply it now as you are planting or as you are mulching.
  • buy Grandma’ a rose plant – and pot it up yourself. Great value and she’ll love you for it
  • edging – re-edge those beds. Use a length of timber to stop damage on the lawn if necessary
  • prune – remove any dead or diseased wood from your trees
  • fruit – trees [more] are always good
  • vegetables – plan your plot for the new year – now!
  • birds – fill the feeders
  • garden hygiene – a good garden ‘spring clean’ so to speak is always necessary. It prevents a build of pests and diseases.
  • planting now means no watering – good for the environment

However, if you’re like my Dad 😉 you’ll probably just do the 30 mins and leave the rest to someone else….. That said, a great time to get a head start is now. Enjoy 🙂

start now & add that little groove into yours...
start now & add that little groove into yours...