gardening

I stumbled upon Dublin's 'Secret Garden'

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I love old secret gardens, hidden away behind walls where ivy trails the paths and the bustle of a city slips away. I stumbled upon Dublin’s ‘Secret Garden’ yesterday.

On a warm April morning when dog walkers and tourists stopped to chat, I was talking to a complete stranger about her two Bichons when I noticed an old gateway at the end of Clonmel Street, off Harcourt Street. If you don’t know our capital city, this is a stone’s throw from the centre and St Stephen’s Green.

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A passer-by stopped to advise me (as they do in Ireland). No, he said, this was not the famous park, this was called the Iveagh Gardens.

So I had to take a look and here it is. A peaceful oasis in the centre where locals take their thoughts and cups of coffee. So quiet too - a silence broken only by birdsong and a young girl playing a guitar on one of the steps leading down to a lawn.

The Iveagh Gardens isn’t alive with bright flowers or splashing ducks. It is cool and green and soothing, where trees throw shadows across grass and wrought-iron gates in high walls lead to gardens at the back of Georgian houses. It is a glimpse into the past.

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Apparently it was once the site of the Dublin Exhibition Palace in 1865 and now it has been restored and is cared for by the Office of Public Works. If you’d like a stroll through a historic garden or even a short cut from Harcourt Street to the National Concert Hall on Earlsfort Terrace, walk through the gates of the Iveagh Gardens and allow yourself a few minutes to drift back in time.

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The Neglected Garden is a page-turner seeded with mystery, romance and suspense. Available worldwide.

Spring is here and it's competition time

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Competition to win a paperback of ‘The Neglected Garden’

Spring is here today and I ran out with my mobile and took this photo of wild cherry blossom flowering in our garden against a clear blue sky. To celebrate its arrival, I’m holding a competition for a paperback edition of my novel The Neglected Garden. To enter all you have to do is go to the competition page and pick the answer to the question. If you’ve already read the book, you’ll know the correct answer and, if you haven’t, just take a guess. You’ve got a 50% chance of being right.

Thank you to readers and reviewers

The Neglected Garden has been published for almost six weeks now. I’d like to thank everyone who bought it and I’m especially grateful to all of you who posted reviews on Amazon. It makes such a difference to authors these days. If you have read the book and enjoyed it, I would really appreciate it if you could leave a short, honest review if you have a few moments to spare.

The garden plan for the walled garden

I thought you might like to have a look at Gilly’s garden plan for the old walled garden at Glanesfort in The Neglected Garden. I asked garden designer Arthur Shackleton to design the layout of the fictional garden and this is what he came up with. It was inspired by the walled garden my grandparents used to own years ago, although it never looked like this because they used it mainly for vegetables and fruit. We used to love playing as children among the rows of peas and eating strawberries straight from the plants. My grandmother had a long cutting border, as she called it, and she grew flowers there that she used in arrangements. She loved roses too, like me, and I remember she had a bowl in her hallway with rose heads floating like lilies in water.

If you’d prefer to see a larger version of the garden plan, you’ll find it here.

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Invitations to literary events

I have been invited to several literary events since the novel came out. One is to talk to a book club, another is to a literature appreciation group and the third is a book reading in a library in my home county in Ireland. This last one takes place during an arts week in May.

I’ll let you know how I get on another time.

Enjoy the good weather, if it has arrived with you.

All the best,

Suzanne x





The Neglected Garden opens today

The-Neglected-Garden-with-snowdrops

Happy Valentine’s Day to us all.

Today is the official launch of ‘The Neglected Garden’ and the novel is available to purchase worldwide as a paperback and e-book.

I took the photo of the book with the snowdrops in my own neglected garden, which is beginning to come back to life now that winter is nearly over. We have miniature daffodils flowering at the moment.

It’s been a long but enjoyable path to this day and, if you read the book, I hope you will enjoy it. I would love to hear from you so please send me an email by the contact button below or join me on Facebook and Instagram.

Enjoy the rest of the day!

Suzanne x

The path leading to 'The Neglected Garden'

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It has been a long path often strewn with obstacles but we’re nearly there now. The walk to the red door with the peeling paint is almost over. ‘The Neglected Garden’ will be published next week and I would like to thank all who have accompanied me on this adventure, especially my friends who encouraged me, the editors who pruned my overgrown words into shape and all the kind people who have joined my Facebook and Instagram pages. I’m really grateful to you all.

‘The Neglected Garden’ is a mystery with romance, suspense and a sprinkling of light humour. The story takes place in Ireland and London. I’ll let you know more about the launch in a few days’ time but first I’d like to share some of the photographs that inspired the walled garden setting when I was writing this book.

This old red door inspired the one in ‘The Neglected Garden’. The photo was taken at Duckett’s Grove in Co. Carlow in Ireland where two interconnecting walled gardens have been restored and are open to the public.

This old red door inspired the one in ‘The Neglected Garden’. The photo was taken at Duckett’s Grove in Co. Carlow in Ireland where two interconnecting walled gardens have been restored and are open to the public.

I loved this arch in the Colclough walled garden on the Hook Head peninsula in Co Wexford. The garden is attached to Tintern Abbey and has been beautifully restored. Another historic garden open to the public.

I loved this arch in the Colclough walled garden on the Hook Head peninsula in Co Wexford. The garden is attached to Tintern Abbey and has been beautifully restored. Another historic garden open to the public.

One of the herbaceous borders at the Colclough walled garden in Co Wexford. I took this photograph in August 2018. I like to imagine that when Gilly Townsend has finished planting up the garden at Glanesfort in the novel, it is might look something like this.

One of the herbaceous borders at the Colclough walled garden in Co Wexford. I took this photograph in August 2018. I like to imagine that when Gilly Townsend has finished planting up the garden at Glanesfort in the novel, it is might look something like this.

A lily pond with fountain. This photo was taken in Spain by my friend Anne.

A lily pond with fountain. This photo was taken in Spain by my friend Anne.

Detail of water lilies in a pond.

Detail of water lilies in a pond.

Unlocking the door of The Neglected Garden

I have a sneaking suspicion that authors get more excited about the arrival of a new book cover than readers. I’ve been waiting a little while for mine and I’m now convinced it’s been worth it. So… tah-dah, here it is! I am grateful to Stuart Bache of Books Covered for his wonderful design.


Welcome to an old walled garden

Let me tell you a little about the background. When garden designer Gilly Townsend first visits The Neglected Garden, she feels both nervous and excited. Paid projects have been scarce since the recession in Ireland in 2010 and her bank balance has reached depressing lows. When she’s shown into the overgrown mass of tangled briars and weeds at Glanesfort, she is overwhelmed by the walled garden’s potential.

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Family Secret

But the garden is not the only thing that has been locked away. Its owner, Marc Fletcher, a property developer from London, has a family secret that has been hidden for over a decade and now an increasingly aggressive blackmailer is threatening to destroy both his future and that of his four-year-old son.

If Gilly hadn’t stepped through that door and if she hadn’t found herself falling for Marc, her own future might have been very different.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but the story moves between County Kildare in Ireland and Marc’s property business in London, featuring eccentric characters, a ghostly woman from the old house and a sprinkling of humour.

Valentine’s Day, 2019 is the day The Neglected Garden will be unlocked - the day the action in the novel begins - so if you’d like to find out what happens, please come back.

Wishing you and your families a very happy Christmas and a healthy New Year.

Suzanne


See the full book description here:

Summer drought brought ghostly reminders of the past

One of the most interesting things that happened during this summer's unusual and prolonged heatwave in Britain and Ireland was the mysterious reappearance of historic gardens and buildings. Outlines of old houses and villages that had been lost and forgotten for centuries emerged and brought the past vividly to life, if only for a short few weeks. Why does this happen?

Apparently it's caused by the depth of soil, or lack of it. Parched grass in extreme temperatures dies off when there is less soil under it. A hard area, such as a wall or pathway, will show up as a brown scorch mark.

The lawn at Chatsworth in Derbyshire displays scorch marks of a 17th century parterre - (Photo: © Chatsworth House)

The lawn at Chatsworth in Derbyshire displays scorch marks of a 17th century parterre - (Photo: © Chatsworth House)

What was once a 17th century parterre, or formal garden, at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire reappeared and was photographed from above. In this first photo, the hard landscaped areas of Chatsworth's parterre are clearly visible in the modern lawn.

A 1699 illustration of the parterre garden at Chatsworth - (Photo: © Chatsworth House)

A 1699 illustration of the parterre garden at Chatsworth - (Photo: © Chatsworth House)

In the second photo, we can see the illustration of the formal design dated 1699 and it's obvious where the original paths belonging to this are still lying beneath the lawn today. The 1699 design was covered over when Lancelot 'Capability' Brown created his more natural landscape. I'm grateful to Chatsworth for allowing me to use their photos. They weren't certain whether scorch marks of this historic parterre had ever appeared before. 

 

The lost village of Edensor

What was also fascinating at Chatsworth was the reappearance of parts of the lost village of Edensor, which has only been seen a few times in the last two hundred years. The last time was an extremely dry summer in the 1940's. When a drone camera took photographs from the air during this summer's heat wave, outlines of the high street, a school and other buildings that had been demolished to make way for Capability Brown's new natural landscape in the 18th century were clearly visible. The new village of Edensor was completed in 1842. 

 

 

Prehistoric site discovered near Newgrange in Co. Meath, Ireland

Closer to home in Ireland, a 'giant henge' structure appeared on a tillage farm near historic Newgrange in Co. Meath. Drones photographed the outline of a prehistoric archaeological site approximately 200 metres in diameter. It's thought that this might have been built 500 years after Newgrange, which dates from 3,000 BC. The summer drought provided archaeologists a once in a life-time chance to discover outlines of important sites that we didn't even realise existed. 

 

 

More reading:

An abandoned demesne with walled garden

Abandoned demesne, walled garden, Ireland, Victorian kitchen garden

I’m fascinated by walled kitchen gardens and there are many in Ireland. Some have been restored and some aren’t so lucky: their history of people and plants either celebrated or else fading into oblivion.

Two interconnecting sections in a walled kitchen garden

Two interconnecting sections in a walled kitchen garden

Back entrance leading to an abandoned yard

Back entrance leading to an abandoned yard

I stumbled across this property last week. It looks like the original mansion from the 17th century was demolished and replaced with a smaller house, now also a ruin. It must have been a fine home centuries ago as there are two entrances. 

The walled garden is made up of two interconnecting sections and vegetables and fruit for the big house would have been grown here. It now appears to be used by a farmer for grazing livestock as the grass is short.

It obviously takes money and time to restore and maintain an old walled garden and some owners can't afford this. Some owners don't need to. An enclosed space is useful for farmers for keeping animals that are adept at escaping from more normally fenced fields, such as sheep, calves and small ponies. The high walls provide shelter from cold, winter winds. 

At least the red brick walls still stand and the property gives us, with its noble gateways, a shadowy glimpse of the lives once lived here.

 

Ivy and brambles scramble up the walls but they remain solid

Ivy and brambles scramble up the walls but they remain solid

The red brick arched entrance leads to a yard and another archway

The red brick arched entrance leads to a yard and another archway

Dramatic setting for two walled gardens at Duckett's Grove

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Duckett's Grove. A ruin of an Irish Victorian Gothic mansion, abandoned and mysteriously set on fire. Home now only to the birds that swoop amongst its turrets (and several ghosts, according to locals).

I love walled gardens and their history. I was fascinated to find Duckett's Grove last week in County Carlow, with its two interconnecting walled gardens built of red brick with curved corners. The first garden has large lawns and long borders with a mix of shrubs and herbaceous planting. The second garden is smaller than the first and includes a row of fruit trees. 

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The property oozes romance and mystery. Ghost hunters flock to it and it has also been used as a film set. The dramatic Gothic features were added to a Georgian mansion in the nineteenth century. The Duckett family left it in the early 1900s and, three decades later, the house went on fire one night. Locals managed to put out the blaze but another fire the following week destroyed the property. No one knows who or what started it.

The gardens are being restored and maintained by Carlow County Council. It's an interesting place to visit for a walk and a cup of tea. But perhaps not after dark.

I look forward to further developments there. 

More info here... http://carlowtourism.com/ducketts-grove-walled-gardens-and…/

May spring growth be with you

Gilly has been working on her design for the walled garden at Glanesfort (THE NEGLECTED GARDEN - due to be published in 2018)

Gilly has been working on her design for the walled garden at Glanesfort (THE NEGLECTED GARDEN - due to be published in 2018)

As I look out on my May garden, it's hard to imagine what it was like only two months ago but all I have to do is glance back at the photos in my March post to see several feet of snow. Unlike my hero in THE NEGLECTED GARDEN, nature never dwells on the past and, although spring plants are late arriving this year, they are just as beautiful and even more welcome than ever. I'm going to celebrate spring with plenty of photographs.

 

Gilly's design plan for the walled garden at Glanesfort

Leo our cat likes to think he has been helping my heroine to dream up some garden design ideas

Leo our cat likes to think he has been helping my heroine to dream up some garden design ideas

I mentioned earlier in the year that I would post my heroine's garden design plan for the walled garden in my novel THE NEGLECTED GARDEN. Here it is (see top). She's been working hard on it but has had a little bit of help. The garden has been divided into four sections or rooms. I'll go into more detail about these another month with a list of suitable plants.

 

Living in another world

THE NEGLECTED GARDEN manuscript is now back with the editor as I dream about how Gilly's plants will turn out. That's one of the best things about being a writer. I live in another world a lot of the time. Since last November, I have spent many hours at Glanesfort in Co. Kildare, the Georgian house bought by a London property developer. I have worked with Gilly in the walled garden and helped her choose suitable plants. I walked with her down to the lake and watched her employer's four-year-old boy feed his two favourite swans. I've worried with her about Marc's mysterious past that entangles her more each day and wondered what family secret he is trying to hide. 

Hopefully it won't be long before you too get a chance to meet these characters. I'll keep you posted so please come back soon or join my mailing list for updates and special offers.

 

Garden rooms add privacy and surprise

You don't have to have a walled garden to design garden rooms - use hedging instead

You don't have to have a walled garden to design garden rooms - use hedging instead

You can put garden rooms into any garden of a reasonable size. It's a great design idea for a large country garden or if you're starting from scratch with an open field around a new house. Garden rooms add privacy and surprise. We created them in our own garden but used beech hedging to separate the rooms as we had no walls. So, even if you don't have a walled garden, you can still create an interesting and unique space that flows from one section to another. 

 

Spring narcissus and tulips

Back to my own garden which is often an inspiration for my writing. April was cold and wet so spring flowers arrived late. Daffodils took a battering from the snow in March but bounced back to prove how tough they are. Narcissus poeticus "Old Pheasant's Eye" (a favourite of my grandfather's) is the last to flower with us and what a finale it provides! It has beautiful single white flowers with a round pheasant's eye in the centre. Its wonderful scent makes it a fine cut flower, if you can bear to pick it. If the weather is bad, it lasts longer indoors and gives you a chance to admire it close-up.

Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the white tulips (top right) but they open like stars to catch the sun and close again when the light fades. Like all white flowers, they add a touch of magic to a garden in the evening. The pink and white tulip Angelique (bottom two photos above) is a recent favourite. This peony-type opens like a rose and is one to plant in bulk so that you have some to pick as it is a charming and long-lasting cut flower. 

 

Spring wildflowers

Our garden cowslips have invited their family and friends to stay

Our garden cowslips have invited their family and friends to stay

Cowslips are enthusiastic self-seeders in gravel - or anywhere else where they feel at home

Cowslips are enthusiastic self-seeders in gravel - or anywhere else where they feel at home

An oxlip is a hybrid of a primrose and a cowslip and it is quite rare where we live

An oxlip is a hybrid of a primrose and a cowslip and it is quite rare where we live

And lastly the wildflowers. They've been fantastic this spring. Perhaps it's just because I really appreciate them after our unusually long winter here in Ireland. Clumps of violets and primroses peep at me from the hedgerows as I walk the dogs. Wild garlic along the avenue has burst into a mass of creamy flowers.

Yellow cowslips in the garden invited all their family and friends to stay and self-seeded in the gravel. Our one and only oxlip - a hybrid of a primrose and a cowslip and quite rare here in the Midlands - has grown in size since last year. 

I love to hear about other people's gardens and their plants, so please do get in touch and send photographs. You can reach me by email using the contact button at the end of every page or join me by signing up for my newsletter. I'm also on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. 

Take care and happy gardening until next time.

 

Rambling Albertine - fragrant and vigorous

Albertine flowers once in the summer

Albertine flowers once in the summer

I mentioned the vigorous rambler rose Albertine in my last post and here it is in the summer of 2017. One of my grandfather's favourites, Albertine is salmon-pink with a scent. It climbed the walls of his walled garden for many years. What I love is the way the buds are a darker, almost coppery-pink and they open and fade to a lighter shade. The rose dates from 1921 and comes from France.

 

Albertine growing tips

My rose in the photos was planted in my vegetable garden because I had nowhere else for it to go. It is vigorous and will grow to sixteen feet (five metres) and is ideal for planting against a wire fence because it appreciates air circulation. The rose will sometimes get mildew if planted against a wall but it's worth a try. A tip is to plant it where it will get the early morning sun to dry off dew and make sure you plant it in well drained soil. It doesn't like soggy roots.

Albertine flowers once in late spring or early summer but last year I had a bonus. The rose flowered again in the autumn. This is the first time I remember this happening. 

Copper buds open to salmon-pink and fade to lighter pink

Copper buds open to salmon-pink and fade to lighter pink