Sunday 22 April 2018

Garden of plenty

Suzanne Macdougald's half-an-acre has it all -- from roses and lupins to spuds and beans

Suzanne in her half-acre garden
Suzanne in her half-acre garden

Dermot O'Neill

Elegance and style are two words that came to mind when I visited the garden of Suzanne Macdougald. A former model and owner of the Solomon Art Gallery, Suzanne is in the enviable position of being able to work from home and enjoy one of her greatest pleasures -- the garden.

Suzanne's garden is a little over half-an-acre and is split over three levels. The first part is a courtyard with attractive furniture, which offers glimpses into the garden of old-world planting.

When Suzanne moved to her current home about 11 years ago she inherited lovely old apple trees, which she has used to grow climbing roses. She has enhanced the country feel by adding lots of cottage-garden perennials.

Among her favourites in flower at the moment are phlox, which she has gradually been collecting. She now has many different colours ranging through pink, mauve, purple, red, white and two-toned. Phlox are wonderful mixed in with old-fashioned roses, and have great impact when planted in groups using one colour per group.

They also add a very pleasant evening scent to the garden. They appreciate well-prepared soil, but aren't overly greedy. Once phlox get enough light and air, they rarely suffer from disease.

Suzanne also loves lupins and delphiniums, and grows them in a wide range of colours. Another essential ingredient in the garden is the hardy geraniums. The rich cerise-pink Geranium psilostemon along with the violet G 'Johnson's Blue' make superb ground covers.

Suzanne explained how they're wonderful to use at the edge of borders: "They're easy to divide and to spread around to spots where colour is needed during mid- summer," she said.

At the end of the garden, on the third level, Suzanne grows an extensive collection of vegetables. She explained how she learns more each year, but sometimes she gets things wrong when something comes either too early or too late.

But part of the joy of gardening is not giving up and trying again.

Favourite vegetables include French beans, which she grows every year. Courgettes are always popular and she uses them in her cooking. Suzanne is fond of making chutneys and the courgettes are invaluable for her risotto chutney recipe.

She also makes a very good apple and sultana chutney, taking advantage of the mature apple trees that grow in the garden.

"Each year I try potatoes," she explained. "Last year was a disaster -- I got bad blight -- so this year I decided to have a go at the blight-resistant variety Sarpo Mira, and so far it has been a great success. I also love tomatoes, but unless the weather is very good they usually end up being very late. Onions, both red and white, are always a success, and this year, the carrots seem to be doing extremely well."

"Apart from pickling and making chutneys I like to make jams, and I grow raspberries and strawberries, which are always in demand," said Suzanne. "I sometimes find it difficult to find enough jars, so I rely on the help of friends and family to collect them for me as I never seem to have enough."

One of Suzanne's gardening passions is growing roses. The variety 'Paul's Himalayan Musk' is one of the most beautiful, and this, along with 'Rambling Rector', she allows to grow through some of the old apple trees.

Suzanne also grew the variety 'Kiftsgate', but it became too big and overpowering and event- ually had to be taken down.

David Austin roses have become very popular because of their old-fashioned character and colours, and especially their wonderful scent, but two that Suzanne is particularly fond of are 'Shakespeare 2000', a glorious dark red with a very sweet fragrance, and a pale pink variety called 'Heritage'.

In another part of the garden, a rambling, rich-pink rose called 'Excelsa' creates a great show.

Suzanne believes it pays to practise good housekeeping in your garden. Keeping things organised and tidy leads to more enjoyable and successful gardening.

As Suzanne says, "Tender loving care always pays off".


Irish Independent

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