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Friday 28 July 2017

An essential experience for budding gardeners

Mount Congreve gardens
Mount Congreve gardens
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Gardening is such a huge and wide-ranging subject that it leaves us all in need of advice and inspiration. I can think of nowhere better to get both than at the upcoming Bloom festival. Now known as Bord Bia's Bloom, the festival takes place in the Phoenix Park Dublin over the June Bank Holiday weekend.

Bloom will again include gardening displays of all kinds and numerous trade stands, as well as a huge food hall offering the best from Irish food producers. Don't miss the show gardens which demonstrate what is possible for the rest of us to imitate.

Reusing potential waste products such as pallet wood and old windows is very much in fashion and we can pick up useful hints from our current crop of garden designers. Do also visit the floral and nursery pavilion where you can purchase a wide range of plants as well as enjoying the great displays that our top nurseries have created.

The Craft Village, another spot not to miss, is where craftspeople and artists show off their skills with natural products, often using old methods such as pole lathe turning and demonstrating genuine hand crafts like basket weaving and woodwork.

A garden can be a place of beauty and a joy forever to some but to others, it can prove to be a constant annoyance. It all depends on the mindset of its owner. We all know those to whom gardens are a nuisance and a tiresome chore to manage.

They groan at the sight of lawns that need mowing or vegetable plots to be weeded and wish the whole thing was covered in concrete or tarmacadam. You can see examples of this all over Ireland where potential garden spaces are either black or grey deserts depending on what material has been used to prevent anything growing there.

Happily such barren areas are in the minority and most of us prefer the opposite. We are prepared to roll up our sleeves and try to make our own gardens places for leisure and pleasure. We like to sit under trees, enjoy the scent of flowers and freshly cut grass, listen to the birdsong and the hum of the bees and maybe watch children play on lawns on warm summer evenings.

People living in towns usually have relatively tiny spaces to work with but farmers have the luxury of acres that have the potential to make others stop and gaze and admire planted landscapes that, if cared for, will endure for centuries.


The late Ambrose Congreve is credited with having said that "If you want to be happy for an hour, open a bottle of wine. If you want to be happy for a day read a book. If you want to be happy for a week, take a wife but if you want to be happy for a lifetime, create a garden"

His amazing garden (inset) at Mount Congreve in Co Waterford bears testament to his passion for gardening and seeing he lived to be 104, there must be something in what he stated.

Here at home, the polytunnel has proved invaluable and I cannot imagine how we would produce so much of our own food without it. It is where most of our salads grow, undamaged by wind and frost. Tomatoes and cucumbers thrive in the warmth and shelter that it provides as do a small bed of early spuds.

As I write this, we have just finished planting out the peas and vegetables which were started in the tunnel along with sweet pea and other tender plants. This gives a far earlier crop than if we had waited for warm weather to sow the seeds in the open.

The Kilcock Men's Shed team has turned an area of derelict ground, formerly a hardcore yard filled with rubble and general rubbish, in to a lovely garden with raised beds now growing a mix of fruit, vegetables and flowers. Climbers have been planted to cover unsightly items like fuel tanks and bring life to bare concrete walls.

Rather than spending huge sums on glasshouses, cold frames and cloches, waste materials from skips and house renovation were reused to construct the equivalent at little cost.

With knowledge and the essential enthusiasm, anything is possible. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Indo Farming