Linda's star turn
Despite sharing her home with 22 rescued dogs, singer and 'You're A Star' judge Linda Martin keeps her two-acre garden and vegetable plot in shape and full of colour
Singer and TV presenter Linda Martin is passionate about gardening. She has a big, two-acre garden in north Dublin which has she lovingly developed over the past 20 years and which she shares with no fewer than 22 dogs that she has rescued.
There's a Yorkshire Terrier called Missie, a big mongrel called Donovan, who loves the tractor, "and all sorts in between, including two collies, a huge German Shepherd and a Rottweiler", says Linda.
"I love my garden and I could spend day and night in it. I find it so restful, it is a therapy in itself," she continues.
"The soil is very heavy and sticky, with a high clay content. This soil was used to line reservoirs, so that gives you some idea of what it's like -- very oily."
Linda has worked very hard at improving the soil by incorporating organic compost and horse manure. She thickened the dense hedge so her dogs couldn't escape, and she has woven Hawthorn and native species through it. If a gap appears, she fills it in with plastic coated wire. "The dogs never make a run for it, they are too happy here," she says with a smile.
It is a fragrant garden with wild woodbine (honeysuckle), lavender and flox. There are lovely splashes of colour, including Potentilla -- a shrub that delivers great pops of colour in yellow, orange, pink or apricot.
"I used to have two horses and I still have a supply of well-rotted horse manure, which is absolutely brilliant," says Linda.
Linda has developed a small vegetable and herb garden, and this is the one area that the dogs don't have access to. "I used to have two French bulldogs called Oberon and Puck and, sadly, one of them scratched his cornea on a thorn, so you really have to be careful about what you plant if you have dogs.
"When they were puppies they used to eat the flowers off my tulips, because they loved colour. They didn't eat the leaves, just the flowers, so I scolded them and they got the idea."
The flowering display in Linda's garden includes Lady's Mantle, or Alchemilla mollis, which looks fantastic when planted beside old roses and perennials. It blooms in late spring and through the summer, seeding itself and creating a pale-green haze of fluffy flowers.
Linda has a lovely flowering Olearia, also called Daisy Bush. It usually comes in white but I can recommend the variety 'Henry Travers', which is a very beautiful mauve colour. It is harder to get but well worth shopping around for.
Having a big family of dogs to look after with her partner Ronan does not present a problem for her beloved garden. "It is the cold that kills plants here, not the dogs. Last winter was very cold and I lost a few things in the garden. When choosing plants, I go for tough things that will survive. I couldn't go for anything delicate that the dogs would trample over."
The two-acre site would be daunting for most, but Linda has a ride-on mower and cuts the grass in no time. "I tend to pick an area of the garden to work on and I find that the easiest way to operate.
"I'm a great believer that if you are a beginner at gardening, you should ask keen gardeners for advice; that way, you will learn more," she adds.
"I did this and it has helped enormously and given me confidence."