Saturday 25 January 2020

How her garden grows

Dermot O'Neill visits Kathryn Thomas a year after her big garden make-over

Kathryn Thomas
Kathryn Thomas

Dermot O'Neill

Kathryn Thomas's garden is like her personality: bright and colourful.

In 12 short months, the country girl from Carlow has developed green fingers in the city, with the challenge to tend a 27-metre-long garden behind her period home in Inchicore. Some might have been daunted, but not Kathryn and her partner, Garda Enda Waters, who have clearly caught the gardening bug.

"I'm hooked, absolutely hooked and I'm out in the garden all the time, day and night," says Kathryn. "I absolutely love it and the fact that it is like a series of extra living rooms outside."

Last year, Kathryn and Enda briefed Steve Ryan of Angel Landscaping (www.angellandscaping. ie) on what they wanted and, with a budget of €15,000 excluding labour, he created a series of three very distinct gardens, each one the size of a small suburban garden, measuring 9 x 7.5 metres wide.

"What we have are three very different garden experiences, which is absolutely wonderful," says Kathryn. "We have BBQs in the paved area at the top area beside the house, and this is what I called the 'new gardener's garden' because that is where we have our herbs, fruit and some veg in raised beds."

So far, they have successfully grown tomatoes, strawberries, chives, rosemary, peas and an apple tree in a series of raised beds.

"I love coming home to the garden after my radio show in the morning. I turn on the water feature, sit down and read the newspapers. It's really restful listening to the water and I have strawberries for breakfast. My first crop of strawberries lasted for about two weeks, but there's more on the way," says Kathryn.

The second and middle garden is on a lower level with a pergola planted with climbing plants, leading to a third garden which is a great place for entertaining -- it has been wired for music and lights. From here, they can enjoy views up the garden and across the grass section, which has a "picture perfect" bog oak sculpture.

The fragrant Jasmine is doing well and Kathryn says she is looking forward to seeing it growing up and over the trellis by next year. It is very important to give Jasmine support on trellis otherwise it will just collapse. A feed of liquid tomato food is also recommended because the potassium encourages growth.

The bamboo which Kathryn brought from her mother's garden in Kerry has done well in the third garden, but do remember that while the weather has been wet, it is important not to let bamboos dry out completely. If there is a dry spell, remember to water them.

The blue and white hydrangeas planted last year have turned purple. When blue hydrangeas turn pink, it is because the soil is alkaline, and when pink ones turn purples, it is because the soil is acidic.

In my experience, people always want the first colour they planted and, while the purple ones are very pretty, if Kathryn wants them to return to their original colour then she could use a granular colourant, which is available in garden centres.

Behind this third garden, Kathryn and Enda have extra land where they have planted courgettes and kiwis. Courgettes like lots of space. Hot weather could do a lot of damage to new plants, so they should be watered in the evening and given a good soak.

Kiwis (which originate from China and not New Zealand, by the way) will require big trellis and lots of space, so they are not suitable for every garden.

Surveying the square of lawn, Kathryn confesses, "I haven't touched the lawn mower all year", but she has been busy elsewhere. With an eye for detail, she picked up little cream lanterns at Woodies, which hang from the pergola and look very atmospheric at night with tealights twinkling inside.

"I really enjoy coming out every day and checking up on what's happening in the garden, what's coming out next -- it's all very exciting," sats Kathryn.

"In fairness, Enda is great and he is very passionate about the garden, probably more so than me. I like to come out and check on how everything is going and he generally does the maintenance. My brother was up with me and we did a few days of weeding, and my next job is to get garden furniture to enhance that space at the end," she adds.

From the third garden, Kathryn can enjoy the colourful vista of a raised bed planted with flame- coloured Crocosmia Lucifer. They look great at the back of a border but they do not like to be crowded. I suggest you plant it in uneven numbers -- five if you can afford it -- and make sure soil is well dug.

"Looking back over the past year, the fun we've had working on the garden and then having parties here, I cannot get over how established it looks, how everything grew and came out again this summer.

"Steve was totally right when he said to create a space close to the house that you are going to use all the time, and we do. I look out at the garden first thing in the morning and last night at night, and it is constantly evolving week by week. It has changed our lives, absolutely," says Kathryn.

Irish Independent

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