Get started with a bang
Pia Bang reveals the secrets of her gardening success
Many readers will be familiar with Pia Bang who, for more than 20 years, ran one of Grafton Street's most fashionable boutiques and, later, an interiors store on South Anne Street. Pia has a great sense of style and loves colour, and she has taken up painting, using her garden and her love of animals for inspiration.
Pia first got involved in creating and developing her garden in the early 1990s, and it has become a haven and a retreat. One of her first projects was to create a special flower garden, which would have colour throughout the seasons.
Pia sought advice and used gardening magazines and books for inspiration. She had a clear image in her mind and recommends that anyone starting out should seek expert advice.
When you're unable to explain exactly what you want, it's a great help to collect magazines that give an idea of the style you like, as this can help to guide a professional in the right direction.
For Pia, it is important that her flower garden not only provides colour and interest throughout the seasons, but also supplies cut flowers that can be used in her home and, formerly, in her boutique. She is especially interested in growing flowering plants in shades of blue, pink and purple, which combine extremely well together as cut flowers.
The garden has a cottagey feel and, when planting, one of pia's priorities is to have old-fashioned peonies, delphiniums, lupins and old-world roses.
She created structure and installed beds surrounded with box hedging to frame the floral displays. This worked out extremely well, and even in winter, when plants have died back, there is a framework to look at.
And when there is a chaotic display of flowering perennials, they always seems to look tidy because of the box hedge surrounding them [see picture above]. In a way it's like framing a painting, and it has transformed pia's flower garden.
Some inspiration was taken from magazine pictures showing some English Elizabethan gardens, where elaborate box hedging was used, though pia decided she wanted a simpler framework that wasn't too complicated to manage. pia recommends this to anyone starting out, too, as it's a way of creating an instant garden before there are any flowers.
Another tip that Pia is keen to share with beginners is to start off with the right equipment. Invest in a proper pair of secateurs. If you look after them, they will last for years. Spend a little money on them if you can, as the better brands usually have replaceable parts if anything goes wrong.
pia also found it invaluable to have a lady's spade. This is a shorter, lighter spade which she finds easy to manage and very handy for working in between perennial plants.
Last, but not least, get a good pair of gardening gloves. She has a large pair of thick leather gloves which help to protect her wrists and arms from thorns -- especially useful at pruning time -- and a regular pair which are lighter and ideal when planting bulbs or working with the soil. Most good garden centres offer a range of quality gloves.
When planning your garden for the first time, Pia believes it's essential to plan out places where you can sit with a cup of tea or coffee. Work out where the sun shines so that you can place seats or benches that follow the sun around the garden.
You don't have to spend a fortune -- sometimes a simple bench can be made out of salvaged material.