Percy Lovegrove’s garden

Percy lives on a large site overlooking Dublin bay. The south west facing front garden sports an immaculately manicured lawn and garden pond. The back traditional garden is divided into three sections, the lower spring garden, middle acid garden and the rose and vegetable plot. Rather than being landscaped over a weekend, the garden developed over time and reflects this with use of quirky finds salvaged through the years. Flowers are allowed to self-seed wherever they want, and Percy uses only those chemicals he cannot do without, spraying roses for black spot and only seldom for greenfly if they really need it. There are four water butts around the garden reducing the need for household water, and beneficial birds and insects are welcome.

What marginal plants are growing in the pond?
Flag irises and water lilies, outside is planted with libertia, crocosmia, hardy geraniums and alchemilla mollis or lady’s mantle.

I see a few goldfish.
Yes I’ve got ten goldfish in there now, they’re getting quite big. The netting is to prevent herons getting them.

So what fruit and veg do you grow?
I have apples, strawberries, plums, loganberries, raspberries, rhubarb, early potatoes, lettuce, beetroot, French beans, peas, cucumber and courgette.

What’s the worst pest you have to control?
I always put netting over this patch to prevent birds getting there first, otherwise I would never have anything. I put slug pellets around cabbages and lettuce and I’m not worried about beneficial birds being poisoned because the netting prevents them going near the pellets. I freeze and give away a lot.

Any advice for a novice?
Yes, don’t try parsnip, they don’t germinate easily, and carrot root fly is a problem so avoid them.

How do you prepare your veg plot?
I’ve dug deep beds in the beginning. No more digging is needed, just mulch in Autumn with homemade compost and add chicken pellets when sowing. That’s it.

You’ve got lots of colour in here already.
Yes, this is the spring garden. Its planted with camelia, hellebores, bluebells, and my favourite part is this restored window balcony from Mountjoy square.

How did you manage to get your hands on that?
I was driving by when they were demolishing the house. I asked for the two balconies. They gave them to me for one pound! The other one got destroyed in the demolition. On top I’ve planted up two pots of trailing petunias.

How did you get into gardening?
I grew up gardening in rural Ireland. In them days you had to grow your own to survive. It wasn’t a choice. When I was a lad my job was to go down and weed the vegetable plot. I always had gardening. When I moved here, I already knew how.

Do you make your own compost?
Yes, I’ve got four compost bins so I have compost every day of the year. I add compost maker occasionally to accelerate decomposition.

I see you have lots of erysimum, aqueligia and hypericum dotted all over the place.
Yes they seed themselves. I just leave them alone.

Do you often spot beneficial birds or insects?
Yes, blue tits are nesting by the back door. They’re great for greenfly.

You have acid loving plants, camellias rhododendrons. Is your whole garden on acid soil?
No, this wasn’t acid soil to start with. I added my own compost and made this area into an acid bed.

Is it hard to keep it that way?
No. I’ve done nothing since the start, except add a bit more compost every year. The middle garden also houses escallonia apple blossom, and a lovely compact variegated griselinia Glengarriff.

This is a nice little feature.
I made that little bench from old coping salvaged from the Howth tramway lines.

What’s your favourite gardening job?
I think my favourite has to be sowing seeds because it’s so rewarding.

How do you think gardening has effected you health? Well, I’m in my ninetieth year and I spent three hours gardening this afternoon.


Ninetieth year! I thought you were about seventy!
Well there you go!







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