My Gardening Week February 5th 2016 … Happy Ten Year Anniversary !

The garden is ten year’s in existence in 2016 and started life on January 6th 2006 when I drew out on the ground the outline of the design with  garden hose for the immediate back garden constantly viewing it from an upstairs window until I got the curving design I wanted for the new lawn just right… happy innocent days !


January 6th 2006 the outline of the proposed back garden

And a view ten years later in 2015

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July 2015 The immediate back garden

I had just arrived back in Ireland after thirteen years working in the Balkans and my final posting with the EU in Sarajevo . I left Sarajevo at 6 am on a snowy bitterly cold Saturday morning on the 19th December 2005 and drove overland through Bosnia , Croatia , Slovenia , Germany , France and England finally arriving at my former work place of Rosslare four days later … sad at leaving Bosnia but delighted to be back full time in Ireland and no longer having to pack a suitcase after two weeks at home .

2005 My last year working in Bosnia … a work trip  from Konjic to Sarajevo October 2005 


On the mountain road from Konjic to Sarajevo October 2005


A local Bosnian Muslim family on the the mountain road to Sarajevo October 2005

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Arriving in Sarajevo October 2005

We had bought the house in my hometown of Clonmel six years previously but apart from planting trees and shrubs on twice yearly trips on leave had not yet started on a design so January 6th 2006 was the beginning ..Happy Anniversary !

To mark this anniversary I am preparing a small book showing the development of the garden from the beginning and last night I delivered a talk to my local Clonmel Garden Society with slides showing the challenging conditions we faced and the changes we have brought to what was virtually a swamp over the ten years .

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The view from inside the Garden Room July 2006

Same view ten years later in July 2005

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The view from inside the Garden Room January 2016

The last time I joined a gardening society was forty years ago and I never went back as like most Irish gardening clubs at that time the members were represented by scions of the local gentry and stocked with wannabes falling over themselves to tug the forelock and kiss some serious genteel ass …. not my cup of tea then or now but times have changed and garden clubs now are run by serious down to earth gardeners who don’t talk down to you .

The Clonmel Garden Society have been incredibly supportive to us here , donating plants and advice so it was a pleasure to address them last night and an opportunity to say thanks for all their encouragement since we opened to the public four years ago .

As I write this, today is February 1st … St. Brigid’s Day in Ireland and traditionally is celebrated as the first day of Spring and when working in the Balkans I always held to this tradition but of course my local colleagues in Bosnia always found this strange as February in Bosnia and Serbia is still the middle of winter , a month I dreaded as it meant driving in heavy snow and ice and unlike my Finnish and Swedish colleagues  I hated driving in those conditions . It must be psychological but stepping into the garden this morning I felt we had turned a corner and winter was over !!

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A chaffinch at the feeder outside the kitchen window February 3rd 2016

Spring flowers in the gravel garden February 5th 2016

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Helleborus corsicus Feb. 5th 2016 Gravel Garden

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Mineature daffodils Tete a Tete , Gravel Garden Feb. 3rd 2016

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Snow drops , Gravel Garden Feb. 3rd 2016

The lower garden is still flooded mainly from the run off water from the mountain and it will take a few weeks of normal weather for the pathways to clear , the ground is water logged everywhere so any digging for new plants will have to wait until February .

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Mother & Child marooned … January 2016

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Lower wood area under water January 2006

My tasks around the garden this January are mainly tying up any young eucalyptus trees blown over and clearing up some trees that blew down …. Usually in wet areas where the roots have little enough to hold them in the face of strong winds and before Christmas we lost a beautiful mature eucalyptus … I will cut it back hard to two metres high in the hope it will grow back which you usually have  good chance with eucalyptus and in fact the tree is all the better for a regular drastic cutting as it forces the young juvenile growth of smaller leaves and any logs make a great distinctive smell when burning .

I use this time of year when all growth has stopped and before any new leaves appear to spray around the bottom of deciduous shrubs such as the cornus as weeds and couch grass are a curse if you don’t regularly kill them off . This is also the time when you can plan for new plants in any gaps and I tend to divide plants now to plant up areas of the garden with similar soil and I have already set aside some bamboo and persicaria polymorpho divisions for transfer to other areas .

Every walk through the garden at this time of year I make mental lists of what needs to be cut back and now until the end of February before active growth starts is a good time to do hard pruning and as I do it I think how nice it must have been to be a gardener in Victorian time with a fleet of gardeners accompanying you and writing down all the instructions and all the while tugging the forelock and muttering aye aye Sir …. definitely could do with a bit of that around here !

I love picking up items with antiquity or a bit of character about them for the garden and this block of wood is pitch pine that spent the last 200 years underwater as part of the main wharf at Dublin Port and only recently brought to the surface in a restoration project … it will find it’s place in the garden as a seat where it will hopefully last another 200 years !

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200 year old part of Dublin Port wharves

This year I am cutting back hard along all the paths because as much as I like the wild look even I realise it has got a bit out of hand and it is easier to do this cutting at this time of year when there are no leaves as I am always reluctant to do this in the summer when the lovely leaves of the cornus and the rhus cotinus are out so I end up pussy footing around with the secateurs taking a little bit off here , a little bit there whereas now I take off huge chunks … conscience free pruning  !

Soon the new growth will start around the patio installed October 2015  in the former bramble area of the lower garden and the early February spring sun picks it up nicely .

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The new patio area in the lower garden February 4th 2016

 Happy Tenth Birthday to Petrovska Garden !

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