A fond farewell

I HAVE embarked upon the writing of my last article for the Irish Examiner.

It’s certainly been fun these past three decades and it has given me an opportunity to make many friends and thousands of admirers. Without their encouragement and support it would not have been possible.

And so, faced with all the articles I still want to write, the stories yet untold, the ideas still bursting to find form, it is almost impossible to know where to turn. We could wander into the fascinating world of botanic gardens and the origins of garden societies, or, for that matter, delve into the hidden and now forgotten estates of the last century. Sometimes these used to be where gentlemen set up their mistresses, and Munster could boast more than a fair share in times past!

Equally, we could hunker down and analyse the value of the perfect greenhouse. We might sit for a morning among ‘Long-Tom’ clay pots, hanks of raffia and geraniums, and enjoy the smell of potting compost mixed with the strange perfume we associate with propagation and division.

There are people too to dust off and push into the limelight. There was a brewer who maintained a garden in Glounthane, Co Cork, which was once described (before our independence) as having the “Best Rockery in the British Isles”. There were gardening monks at Mount Melleray, Co Waterford, who maintained a wooded mountainside and substantial “secret” garden which I have had the privilege of seeing on more than a few occasions. Delving further, I could discuss with you the talented siblings of some famous Munster gardeners and the demise of the country’s earliest glass structures which later became known as orangeries.

Of course, much of what I have written about this great hobby of ours has come to me through experimentation, trial and error. Some of my earlier articles have been inspired by writers who have brought to many the joys of the natural world and garden plants to this country. In my mind I carry them with me, for they, like you dear reader, have in part shaped the things I have done. In a way, of course, the two activities of gardening and writing are rather similar, but whichever of the two you undertake remember that they should be the best possible version of themselves.

Over the years I have neglected my outside plot for this weekly dibbling amongst the Property pages. Perhaps now that I’m stopping this clean work, I shall have more time to be ‘up and doing’ among the bulbs, shrubs and perennials. One of the casualties of the year’s extraordinary spring weather was (yet again) my tree-fern Dicksonia antartica, still recovering in intensive care since the winter of three years ago. I loved it dearly because it was elegantly stately and structurally commanding. It had piercingly attractive mid-green fronds, which would have been enough to justify its existence, but it also threw dappled shade in a hot summer and gave shelter to the semi-tender beneath during winter. But I like to think of us all going on. There’s always so much to do. Certainly writing and gardening are two journeys that never come to an end.

* We will all miss Charlie here on Property and Interiors. He’s been the longest serving member of staff on the supplement. While creating a huge following, Charlie has spoken directly to the reader and has encouraged a generation of gardeners out there with his weekly contributions. He will be a great loss, not just for his informative writing, but also for his heartfelt, poetic prose.


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