I'm delighted to say hello to the readers of Weekend and introduce myself to you as your new guide to all things gardening.
e are lucky in Ireland when it comes to growing plants - almost everything works in our favour. Visitors from afar constantly remark on how green and lush our landscape is. This isn't a given everywhere in the world.
We benefit from a temperate (mild) climate that plants love to grow in. We also enjoy definite seasons. Our gardening year has highs and lows - at the moment we are experiencing a long, cold, damp winter and are getting ready to yield to a, hopefully, glorious and colourful spring.
Summers are mild and occasional delightful, while autumn presents its own russet-flavoured pictured before we retreat inside to plan and dream it all up again.
In short, as a result of weather and seasons, our gardens are ever-changing.
We understand the importance of good, well-drained soil, the value of shelter and the need to work in harmony with the landscape. Many of us are just a generation or so removed from a background in farming - we've learnt to obsess about weather! More recently and in common with many other places, Ireland has become increasingly urban and suburbanised. More of us than ever have gardens but they are often smaller than what's gone before.
That's no problem - we've busy lives, constantly attached to digital devices, working, studying, ferrying kids between activities with limited time to embrace, develop and care for our private Edens. But when we do, we want to understand, create and have them perform for us.
In this new column, my aim is to help you to get to know your plot, to enable an understanding of the basics of gardening and to inspire you to embrace the possibilities it offers.
Together we will embark on a mission to help you achieve what you dream of from your garden, however big or small.
Gardening isn't difficult and, more often than not, becomes a passion. It involves developing an awareness of what you're starting with (aspect, local weather conditions, soil) and understanding what you'd love to achieve. So, if it's a Lee-side balcony, a Carrick-on-Shannon semi-d, or a Dublin demesne, I hope my garden ideas will be of help. We have wonderful form at garden making on our little island. Over hundreds of years, the moneyed and aristocratic classes imported styles and plants from across the globe and adapted them to suit our situation. As a result, Ireland has a collection of great gardens to enjoy, learn from and show off.
From the Italianate grandeur of Powerscourt in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, to the oriental charms of the Japanese Gardens at the National Stud, Co. Kildare, there's a world of gardening wonder on our doorstep.
When you add to that mix the embarrassment of riches that exist at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin - through its plant collections, craft and education - it's easy to see that gardening is taken seriously in Ireland.
We are well-served by a thriving horticultural industry; garden centres, nurseries, growers and public parks to enjoy.
My plan for the weeks to come involves exploring all of these things with you to develop an understanding of both the science and design of garden making, to take a look at garden styles from around the globe which influence us, to help you revitalise your plot or plan a new one, to examine the wonderful world of planting, show you what will thrive in our gardens and where, and how to look after it.
We will also examine some of the wonderful plots that surround us and meet the people who look after them.
Often, we are landed with gardens, and we haven't a notion of what we would like to achieve with them. At this time of the year, with bulbs pushing up through warming soil and daylight hours increasing, we can be filled with a sense of optimism.
Next week we will build on that feeling. We will begin our Gardeners' Notebook, packed with tips and advice on what to do, when to do it and how to do it.
To start, it's all about taking a long, hard look at our gardens. Decide that this is the year, and now is the season to get it in order. What have you got? What do you love? Together we will begin to make our gardens glorious.
Pictured from top to bottom: Powerscourt Estate in Co. Wicklow; the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin; and the Japanese gardens at the National Stud in Co. Kildare
great irish gardens