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Damien… Thursday garden guest #4

If you’d like to know more about Thursday garden guest time – click here

peter and damien
peter and damien

For the moment writer #4 is Damien Mulley. When I first suggested that I do a garden guest slot… suprisingly, possibly, the first person to contact me on twitter was Damien.

He owns Mulley Communications runs the Irish Blog Awards; the Irish Web Awards; writes; speaks; teaches; does tv/ radio on the subject – the list is endless. One might say he is to computers what I am to horticulture. hmmmm….? 😉 That wry wit of mine aside and when with a minute to spare one pretty quickly realises outside of a passion for ‘techie things’ – Damien is, genuinely, a really cool gentleman.

Ladies & Gentlemen please be upstanding and enjoy:

The Garden – what I like about…

Actually, let’s call this My Mum, Mr. Roycroft and my Nana.
Oh and hello. I’m actually going to talk about three people who encouraged me to like plants and gardening and getting things to grow. My mother was always and still is into gardening and when we lived up in the Northside we had a small garden front and back with really crappy soil. She had roses and lillies and bulbs and all the usuals. She used to then get “slips” off my Nana, her mother-in-law amongst other people and grow loads of shrubs as well as buying the odd few plants when we could afford those luxuries which only happened much later in life.

My grandmother was still very much in the background at this stage when it came to her influence. I used to like helping my mother out in the garden and eventually when I was 6-7 she gave me a little patch of the garden to call my own and I didn’t do too much except rake the tonnes of stones that were in it.

Then in school we got this great teacher called Mr Roycroft who was older than old and I can’t even remember what he first thought us but it was all to do with flowers and plants and so forth. Mr. Roycroft popped up again when I went into 4th class in primary or rather 5th class. I was deemed very bright so as an experiment in the school they took the brightest from those going into 4th year and the brightest of those going into 5th year and they created a new class and Mr. Roycroft would foster all those kids. Best year ever. We learned so much stuff from maths to Geography to Irish (lots of Irish) to nature to botany. Ahhh flowers and plants and things. Roycroft not also thought us the green agenda way before consultants ripped people off wholesale to teach them about it but he also taught us latin by tellng us the latin names of the plants and the families they came from. He then explained what each one meant in English so we had a good grasp of the basics when we finished with him. That year was a very happy year for me in school and was also the last year that I ever applied myself in the schooling system.

We moved house into the country and I lost touch with all my non-schoolfriends. Me and myself and sometimes I. Only kid in the family, big feckoff gardens and instead of a small patch I had the whole wall outside our house and a kind of a rockery which over a few years I expanded and expanded so much so that I started to become the “consultant” about plants at home. I don’t think I was yet 9 at this stage.

Around the same time I became the “chosen one” of my grandmother and grandfather and every Sunday I would be brought along to Skibereen with them, driving down one route and taking the back route home through Iniskeen and Ballineen where we’d stop off at my Nana’s sister’s place. On the way down and back I would basically help my grandmother to vandalise gardens by taking “slips” from shrubs, which if you don’t know what slips are, are small cuttings, though we used to just yank them off. Spring time was worse. That was trowel and bucket time as we dug up West Cork to get Bluebells and Primroses AND very special and rare “wild dafodils”. No idea were they wild or just went native but they had a scent and were big and leafy.

One Christmas I got the very sad (perhaps) present of a propogator and holy crap but it became the best value for money present ever. So I started growing things from seed. Lots and lots and lots of seed. Eventually the parents got a glasshouse which pretty much was for me. Our garden had some fantastic stuff grown for it then. Annuals to start with and then I just didn’t think they were worth all the effort if they were dead at the end of the season so it became perennials and shrubs and that ilk.

There’s not been a lot of calm for me in the past few years but I could literally spend 5 hours in the glass house with a break for lunch and plant seed after seed. I didn’t just feck the seed down in rows, no, I placed each individual seed down and spaced them. A huge amount of work but I enjoyed it.

We moved house again then and at this stage I was in my teens, listening to heavy metal, spotty as fuck but I still grew things, still went out for a bit of peace (no Internet then helped). In the new old house the garden was a heap, the front garden was grass and hedging and nothing more so we got rid of the hedging and threw in a few borders but it was boring. I then started thinking up of proper designs for the Garden and what was needed. The before and after for the front and back are stunning but that’s for another time and another blog post.

I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did and learn so much about nature, life and science if it wasn’t for those three main people educating me but more importantly encouraging me to explore. Exploration is mostly not the physical. I don’t do much gardening anymore but I know I’ll go back to it eventually, it’s a strong part of my psyche and always will be. That’s my gardening story, tell us yours.

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marie… thursday garden guest #3

... and marie
... and marie

If you’d like to know more about Thursday Garden Guest time – click here.

For the moment writer number 3 is Marie Boran alias Pixie von Dust. A writer, editor and journalist of all things technical with Silicon Republic, Marie was recently awarded Technology journalist of year at the IIA awards. That aside Marie is a garden lover. Not in the passionate uber botanical sense, but more in that memories of the great outdoors are those that make her [and others] smile;) Ladys and gentlemen, one of the coolest ladies since Aretha Franklin, enjoy…

All stories should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Even the story of a garden. Especially the story of a garden.

Mine began a long time ago with a donkey, cow dung and some potatoes and strangely I hope it ends up this way also but it must pass through a graveyard in Paris with four conkers and two blue roses first.

I grew up in the countryside in Laois and like many other rural children I did not have a concept of garden because that would be like defining oxygen as separate to air. The garden was an intrinsic part of my daily life and merged into the fields around and the back door behind it.

forget me not
forget me not

There was no groomed garden per se, or at least it wasn’t my domain. My mother used to weed, water, shape and plant all these contrived and cultivated plants and hedges that looked like business men standing awkwardly amidst a heaving crowd of filthy hippies.

I had a pet lamb named Skippy and he ate all of her hideous lurid orange tulips and promptly vomited them back up. I felt the exact same way about them.

My granddad lived up the path from my parents and this was where all the exciting stuff was to explore. Grandad had these mangled old gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes, a rhubarb patch and loads of peas and potatoes.

a place for conkers...
a place for conkers...

My first experience of hands-on gardening (or farming if you want to call it that but it was a hobby for my granddad) was putting on my wellies, sitting on Neddy the donkey while he pulled a plough behind him and making drills for the potatoes.

Next step was planting. We used Daisy the cow’s dung (Yes, every animal had a name. We had a ram called Rambo too.) to fertilise the potatoes while I screamed ‘Ugh, that’s poo, granddad, we’ll be eating potatoes that grew in poo!’.

I’m not sure why I objected to this when I used to chew the dog’s old bones, dirt and whatever else I found outside because I wasn’t really a fan of indoors or clothes when I was 3 and 4 and just sat in the garden squashing those little red ant things and putting bees in jars and drowning them (Children are cruel but I cried after I realised that I’d killed it).


Grandad has been dead for many years now but his love of simple plants will define how I want my garden to look. My parents gave me grandad’s field over a year ago and this obviously prompted my thoughts on how I would like my garden to look.

I’m not sure how the house is going to look aside from that fact that I want it to be eco-friendly and I would love a grass roof with a goat on it but my dad thinks I’m a bit mad.

The garden on the other hand is something I can start on now and the house will damn well work around it.

Unlike Peter’s other guest bloggers I have no knowledge whatsoever of horticulture and exotic plants. My interest lies in wildflowers or what are commonly termed weeds but have you ever seen how beautiful dandelions and clover are?

I did study botany for a year when I was in UCD but that did nothing but cement my view that all flowers are equal and to each his own because when you look at them on a microscopic level they all have the same basic cells, they all photosynthesise and they all have those carpels and stamens for making flower-babies.

oscar and wilde...
oscar and wilde...

Wait. I love plant diversity. What I’m trying to say is that I love all flowers and plants as they have arisen through evolution. I don’t really like ones cultivated by people to smell strongly, look very pink or otherwise but I’m not going to get into plant bio-ethics (!) because I realise that cultivating new and beautiful varieties is an important part of what has made the modern garden what it is. Wildflowers are just a preference for me.

So with my lack of knowledge but general liking of all things green I found myself in the Pere LaChaise cemetery in Paris last September with a good friend and two blue roses on a quest to find Oscar Wilde’s grave and pay our respects.

It took bloody ages to find the thing. On the way I got a chance to say hello to Jim Morrison, Honore de Balzac, Frederic Chopin and Victor Noir [Noir was a journalist that liked to get around and his statue in Pere LaChaise has a somewhat enlarged genital area that has been rubbed for luck by some many visitors that it is almost worn away].

a blue rose for oscar
a blue rose for oscar

I went through an obsessive phase of loving Oscar Wilde when I was about 16 so it was amazing to be able to pay him a visit but I couldn’t bear to part company without bringing a keepsake.

I noticed that there were horse chestnut conkers everywhere as we walked around Pere LaChaise so I took four of these home with me and prayed that they’d survive the trip because these were to be the beginning of my garden in my grandad’s field.

One plane trip and one burst shampoo bottle later and I was already down to three. (I may have cried a tiny bit at the lost conker) but with my mother’s magic the three remaining conkers survived and grew and although they have shed their leaves and look slightly miserable they, along with the wild roses that remain in my grandad’s garden, will be my future greenspace.

Their names are Oscar, Wilde and Victor Noir and hopefully they won’t mind a bit of dung.