Designing and Planting a Woodland Garden by Keith Wiley: A Review

keith wiley 2When I first visited Keith Wiley’s garden, “Wildside” in Devon, I though the man must be a complete nutcase. At the time, the planting of the garden was almost complete with some area still under development. To me, it didn’t seem much like “development” when I walked it as there was still a large area which resembled a working quarry.

The site had been reasonably flat with a slight fall away from the house. However, Keith had gone onto this site with a large digger, removed the topsoil and had then “reshaped the contours” of the property into a series of meandering high ditches with gullies between where one walked.  The topsoil was spread again on these new land forms at various depths in line with his planting plans and the plants earmarked for each location. The results at this early stage, with the plants still quite young, left one with the impression of being in a lunar landscape  much like the first impression one gets when you first step out onto The Burren in Co. Clare; there was something alien about it, something which clashed with all previous concepts of gardens and gardening. It was certainly a new and bold approach and, with kindness and patience, we could only wait and see how it would develop. Keith had twenty five years experience as head gardener at The Garden House, only up the road from Wildside, behind him and the beauty he had created and managed there was testimony to his skills so our patience was well earned and we expected great things.

The higher areas created by his “land forming” were used to plant trees which were to provide the dappled shade encountered in a woodland garden and, because of the extra height they gained by their planting position, they cast longer shadow that one would usually have from such young specimens. The slopes of the gullies (my word, not his) were then used for woodland planting and, because they were on slopes to either side of you as you walked the plants were brought  much more into your view and more easily appreciated and enjoyed as a result. The passing of the years and the growth and filling in of the plants has clothed this reshaped land into a tapestry of colour that is simply breath-taking in its beauty and vividly displays that Keith’s original concept was true genius. My initial assessment shows only my lack of vision while the completion of the project displays his gardening genius.

Woodland Garden

Keith has now written a book “Designing and Planting a Woodland Garden”  where the greater part of the content focuses on the choices of plants to suit a woodland garden, the best manner in which to grow them,  which plants they will best partner in the garden and suggestions of plants for particular situations. These sections make up more than half of the book and present us with delectable selections of “Woodland Trees and Shrubs”,” Woodland Perennials”, “Bulbs, Corms and Tubers” and “Ferns, Grasses and Grass-like Plants”. As we would expect from such a passionate plant grower the selection is wonderful with new and interesting cultivars listed and described.

The earlier sections of the book deal with the development of a woodland garden, the function of plants within the garden and the practicalities of making such a garden. He begins with a general description of woodlands, “Into the Woods”, followed by an outline of how plants function within such an environment, “The Woodlanders”, and continues with guidelines on how to develop such a garden on your own property, “Creating a Woodland Garden”. A section on “Special Situations” gives comments on moist woodlands, sandy soil, growing on peat, and small woodland gardens suggesting approaches and plants suitable for each. It continues to outline how to care for the woodland garden and traces the seasons in one suggested planting plan.

The larger section of the book, that dealing with the various categories of plants for the woodland, was very informative, well presented, well illustrated and inspirational. There are so many wonderful plants I would love to try in my own garden and I will be better informed on how to use them and how to combine them after reading this book.

keith wiley 2

The earlier sections on the development of a woodland garden left me disappointed on two accounts.  One aspect was probably not of the author’s choosing but a decision made by the publishers to attempt to make this book appeal to as wide a readership as possible so there were regular references to growing in North American gardens, to the selection of plants suitable for North American gardens etc. Keith Wiley is well travelled and is familiar with North American gardens but it is his experience in his own garden which is so special and, while it may transfer to some degree to other countries and continents, sometimes trying to be all things to all people is just trying to do too much.

The tone of the earlier sections of the book might be viewed as instructional – how to make to woodland garden etc – and while Keith Wiley may be well qualified to give such instruction I feel, and had hoped, that the book might have dealt more intimately and in greater detail with the creation and planting of the garden at Wildside. It strikes me that this would have drawn more on his strengths and experience and it is a topic on which only he could write with authority. I would rather he had not told me how to make a woodland garden but how he had made his woodland garden.  His garden is a treasure and a delight; his selection of plants is marvellous and the manner in which he has combined them is pure artistry – this is what I would have loved to have read more about. These disappointments aside, this is a book which will be of great benefit to anybody planning or renovating a woodland garden and a visit to the garden would put it all in context.

Designing & Planting a Woodland Garden: Plants and Combinations that thrive in the Shade

by Keith Wiley, Frances Lincoln, January 2015, Hardback, 280 pages, £25. ISBN 9781604693850

Paddy Tobin

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Royal Horticultural Society: The Garden Anthology – edited by Ursula Buchan.

The Garden Anthology The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 with aims “to collect every information respecting the culture and treatment of all plants and trees” and to disseminate this information to it members. How this information was disseminated has changed but little over the course of the society’s history from “The Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London” (it became the RHS in 1866) to “The Journal” to “The Garden” from 1975 onwards. It has always been an especially good publication with a great emphasis on quality of content and service to members.  Over the years it has strived to serve the interests of its members with reports on the latest scientific discoveries which are of interest to gardeners, comment on the latest plant introductions, on gardens to visit including the society’s own three regional gardens and it provided a forum for comment, opinion and criticism. Such a well regarded publication, and one with such a large distribution, has enticed the greats of the gardening world to contribute to the magazine: E.A.Bowle, Anna Pavord, Hugh Johnson, George Forrest, Matthew Wilson, John Brookes, Stephen Lacey, Tony Kirkham, Graham Rice, Nigel Colborn, Helen Dillon, Nigel Dunnett, Val Bourne, Joy Larkcom and on and on and on, including Ursula Buchan who took on the task of selecting from this enormous volume of material a representative selection of material for this anthology. It is inevitable when such a selection is made that some people will be pleased with some entries and not with others but it is fair to say that the selection will appeal to most people and that everybody will find much of interest in the collection. The entries are organised thematically and presented under the following headings: Seasons & the Weather (no surprise that this would feature in an anthology for gardeners!), Gardens, Wildlife & Wildflowers, The Environment, Plants, People, Garden Design, The Kitchen Garden, Practicalities, Science & Innovation, Pests & Diseases, The International Dimension and Inside the RHS. There is a final section which gives pen picture biographies of the contributors. One dimension of the book which is somewhat different is that the original photographs and illustrations which accompanied the articles have not been used but have been replaced with illustrations by Jenny Bowers and these give a design unity to the book. These are an unobtrusive accompaniment to the text but, as I read the book, I often reflected on the great value a good photograph adds to an article. Certainly, articles on gardens, plants and garden design would be all the more enjoyable if well illustrated. The nature of the book is such that the reader can dip into it for a few minutes and leave it without losing the thread as there is, in fact, no thread other than the grouping of articles under the selected themes. I have found it a pleasant book bringing back authors I haven’t read for a while, reminding me of topics of previous years and presenting a quick scan of interests over years of the RHS journal.

Paddy Tobin

The Garden Anthology,Edited by Ursula Buchan and illustrated by Jenny Bowers, Royal Horticultural Society, Published by Frances Lincoln, London, 2014, Hardback, 220 pages, UK£16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7112-3485-7

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society, membership, events etc visit our website:

By Coincidence – Two Irish Plants go to Cornwall and Back.

Plants with variegation in their foliage give colour and interest at this time of year when flowers are rather scarce in the garden. Two presently catching my eye are both of Irish origin, Griselinia littoralis ‘Bantry Bay’ and Luma apiculata ‘Glanleam Gold’. Peculiarly, neither has showy flowers so it is a testimony to their attractiveness as garden plants that they are popular despite what  might generally be regarded as a disadvantage.

Griselinia littoralis 'Bantry Bay'  (2)

Griselininia littoralis, a species with plain green foliage from New Zealand, is commonly used as a hedging plant and is valuable as a wind-break plant by the seashore, given its tolerance of salt-laden winds.  As a hedging plant it is fast growing and easily maintained and generally came through our recent particularly harsh winters unscathed. The variegated form was spotted by Murdo McKenzie in the garden at Ilnacullin, Glengarriff, Co. Cork, in 1950 growing as a sport on the species. He removed the green shoots over time, leaving only the variegated sport and transplanted it to the garden at his cottage where it grows to this day, now to a height of more than 20 metres. It was named Griselia littoralis ‘Bantry Bay’.

Griselinia littoralis 'Bantry Bay'  (3)

The leaves have attractive cream patches in the centre with light green and darker green outside. This gives the shrub a bright and attractive appearance in the garden, something especially valued in the darker days of winter.  I have noticed over the years that there is an inclination in this shrub to revert to green shoots following pruning when is occasionally necessary as this is a strong-growing plant. However, these are very easily rubbed out and do not dominate the variegated growth.

Griselinia littoralis 'Bantry Bay'  (1)

Those who grow Luma apiculata (syn. Myrtus apiculata), the common myrtle native to Chile and Argentina, will know how prolifically it self-seeds in the garden. Among innumerable seedlings in the gardens of Glanleam House on Valentia Island in Co. Kerry Peggy Uniacke, wife of Colonel Richard Uniacke who had purchased the property from the Knight of Glin, spotted one which was variegated. The leaves had creamy yellow margins, tinged pink when young, and it made a very attractive plant for the garden. The flowers are small, practically insignificant, and the shrub carries red berries through winter. It also has the attraction of colourful peeling bark and in time forms an attractive small tree which would suit the smaller garden very well.

Myrtle 'Glanleam Gold'  (2)

Cuttings were distributed to various nurseries among them that of “The Glen o’ the Downs’ in Co. Wicklow, who quickly put their name to the plant,  Myrtus apiculata ‘Glen o’ the Downs’ , however the name was not to last as cuttings had also been given to Neil Treseden of Treseden’s Nursery in Truro, Cornwall, and he had already applied the name Myrtus apiculata ‘Glanleam Gold’ and this name had precedence and is used to this day.


Neil Treseden had also received material of the variegated Griselinia from Murdo McKenzie and had suggested they use Murdo’s name for the plant but he declined and left the naming to Neil who settled on Griselinia littoralis ‘Bantry Bay’.

So, in the oftentimes peculiar wanderings of plants, two Irish plants went to Cornwall and came back to us to be grown and treasured in our gardens. Both are reasonably common plants and you should have no trouble sourcing them for your garden.

 Paddy Tobin

You can read of these and many other Irish heritage plants in “A Heritage of Beauty”, written for the Irish Garden Plant Society by Dr. E. Charles Nelson. It is for sale here on our website: A Heritage of Beauty

For more information on the Irish Garden Plant Society, to get information on the society, upcoming events etc,  visit our website at

Burtown House is Opening Early – Special Events This Year!

Burtown House  (5)

The gardens at Burtown House will open earlier than usual this year as more and more people have expressed a wish to see the gardens at this time of year and especially to see the collection of snowdrops and wonderful display of winter aconites.

Burtown House  (1)

Snowdrops and Early Bulbs

There are many varieties of snowdrops and early bulbs to be seen in the garden with the displays of Winter Aconites especially fabulous – simply outstanding and a must see.

Assumpta Broomfield will be giving a Walk and Talk around the garden on February 22nd at 12 noon.
Assumpta is a leading snowdrop expert, with particular knowledge of Irish Snowdrops, many of which are in the garden at Burtown.  She will tell their histories and stories.

The gardens will be open every day from February 14th – March 1st, from 10am – 4pm and we would be delighted to have you visit and enjoy the gardens with us.

The Gallery Cafe and current exhibition will be open every day and we will be serving delicious lunches based on our fresh organic seasonal produce from our walled kitchen garden.

Burtown House  (6)

Admission – €6 per adult, €4 per child, children under 12 free entrance.

There will also be a series of Daffodil Weekends – April 10 – 12th and 17 – 19th when visitors will be able to see many old and new varieties in abundance.

Burtown House  (9)

Until 2012 Burtown House and Gardens has been a private house, and is considered to be one of Ireland’s hidden gems but has recently opened to the public as an historic house with gardens, sculpture park and art gallery
Less than one hour south from Dublin, Burtown House is one of two houses in Kildare that has never been sold.  Built in 1710 by Robert Power, Burtown is the only original house in Ireland that is still lived in by the family that built it, and it retains much of its original interior and exterior.

Burtown House  (2)

Burtown is close to the village of Ballitore, once the Quaker centre of Ireland, and home to the famous Shackleton school.  Present owner James Fennell’s great grandmother was Isabelle Shackleton, 1st cousin to the well known antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

The gardens at Burtown House cover about ten acres of borders, walled vegetable garden, woodland which is bordered by a stream garden, lawns, yew walk, and much more.  The gardens lead out into parkland, and venerable old trees, as well as many more recently and newly planted specimen trees.  Amongst the long meadow grasses, large sculptures are easily accessed by mown paths.  There is a newly added 20 acre field of wild flowers, that in summer is alive with not only flowers, but bees, butterflies, and many other insects.  There are large populations of garden and farmland birds, and these can be seen and heard on the walkways that have been created around the farmland.

Burtown House  (8)

The present garden has been mainly designed by Lesley Fennell, who has lived at Burtown for the last forty five years.  Today three generations work in the garden, and until last year Lesley’s mother, aged 98, was still active around the flowerbeds.  As one of Ireland’s most respected botanical painters, her love of plants is evident in the interesting and unusual collection growing in the garden, many of which were given to her as botanical specimens for both public and private commissions and publications.

Burtown House  (3)

The year starts with the garden opening in February for wonderful snowdrops, aconites, cyclamen, hellebores, and large numbers of varieties of early bulbs.  In April we have many old and newer varieties of daffodils, tulips, magnolia, anenomes, etc, and the stream garden is bursting with primulas, iris, trilliums, and much more, to be followed by many woodland bluebells, and borders of iris, peonies, old roses, flowering shrubs, and mixed herbacious perrenials.  Having been created by artist (Lesley is also a painter, and her son James a photographer) this is a garden full of colour and interest all year, and offers much to enjoy for all visitors.  The vegetable garden produces a wide selection of fruit and vegetables, which we use in The Gallery Cafe, where Joanna (James’s wife) cooks delicious, fresh and organic food in the friendly and charming atmosphere of the courtyard cafe.  The gallery is hung mostly with paintings relating to the garden, including originals from Wendy Walsh and Lesley Fennell, and the Irish Society Of Botanical Artists, as well as photographs from James Fennell’s many published books.  The exhibition changes with the seasons.

Burtown House  (7)

Now starting it’s fourth year of opening to the public, the garden is included in Shirley Lanigan’s book “The 100 Best Gardens in Ireland”.
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Contact – 05986 – 23148 or or Lesley Fennell at 05986 – 23028.

Lesley Fennell, January 2015

Show Me Your Garden – The Irish Episode! by Ali Rochford.

Few gardeners would expect to have a film crew descend on their garden. For some, it would be thrilling, for others it might be daunting. For the owners of three Irish gardens, last August it became a reality. As part of new Sky tv series ‘Show me your Garden’ film crews came to Cork to pit three gardens and their owners against each other to win a cash prize and a ‘Golden trowel’ trophy.
Show Me Your Garden
The program makers were looking for passionate, amateur gardeners to take part in a series celebrating private gardens across the UK and Ireland. They  chose three very different gardens thereby highlighting the different conditions Irish gardeners face and the great diversity of garden styles we have here – a tropical city retreat, a more formal garden with herbaceous borders and parterre in the grounds of an 18th century rectory, and an elevated and exposed wildlife friendly garden, referred to as a ‘windy gap’ by its owners.
Bruno Nicolai's garden with Tetrapanax, ginger lilies and grasses
Bruno Nicolai’s garden with Tetrapanax, ginger lilies and grasses
When first contacted by the show makers, plantaholic Bruno Nicolai was hesitant. “I was so nervous at the thought of taking part, that I gave the contact details of others who I saw as being better gardeners than myself. Over the next couple of days, my partner Chris convinced me how much fun it would be to take this once in a life time opportunity…and fun it was.”
Exotic planting at Bruno Nicolai's garden
Exotic planting at Bruno Nicolai’s garden
Lush planting, including Rhododendron macabeanum in Bruno Nicolai's garden
Lush planting, including Rhododendron macabeanum in Bruno Nicolai’s garden
The overall impression in Nicolai’s garden is one of exuberance, reminiscent of the surroundings of a tropical villa. But you don’t have to be an unusual or exotic plant to earn a place here. Although impressive unusual specimens abound he uses Primulas, albeit dark ones to edge some of his beds and Snowdrops can be found at this time of year. “Though I’m drawn to unusual, rare, and often tender exotic plants, I’m not a plant snob in any way. My garden is just as full of common hardy plants, some of which others might consider weedy and invasive.“ Nicolai modestly displays great flair in the garden and you could say his borders are an exercise in inspirational planting design.
Hydrangeas in Erika Treutler and Harry Sexton's garden
Hydrangeas in Erika Treutler and Harry Sexton’s garden
A wildlife pond with flag iris in Erika Truetler and Harry Sexton's garden
A wildlife pond with flag iris in Erika Truetler and Harry Sexton’s garden
For Erika Treutler and Harry Sexton who garden on a windy hilltop the show was also a positive experience. “We both enjoyed the making of the show immensely, especially once we knew the other participants, Bruno, Mike and especially Bee [Fitzgerald – owners of the third garden]. I think it is fair to say that we all had a great time”.
Erika and Harry's garden.
Erika and Harry’s garden.
The format of the show consists of the participants visiting each other’s gardens and evaluating them. Treutler had some concerns in the beginning. “The London gardens [in the first episode] looked very posh and well manicured. The competition was very tough. Our garden is very elevated and in a very windy location and from this point of view it was hard to compete with Bruno’s walled and nearly tropical garden or even with Bee’s sheltered garden. For over 30 years I am trying to grow some plants and they keep dying on me as our garden is too exposed. To have the plague of rabbits was not much help either. I planted some new plants in the garden and by morning the flower heads were all eaten away by rabbits. I was close to crying some days.” But they persevered and eventually found plants that would establish inspite of the wind and now have a garden of flowers, shrubs, rockeries and a pond where they can relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. “I love the beauty of flowers in different seasons and to watch them grow from small seeds to large plants bursting in all the colours of the rainbow. Over the years we managed to find plenty of plants that acclimatized well in our windy gap and over all we have many well established flowering shrubs, trees and plants to make it a place to relax for us and enjoy weekends and summer evenings after work.”
Treutler also describes the perpetual battles against garden foes as well as the battle for more planting space that most gardeners will be familiar with. “It is a struggle against weeds, slugs and rabbits to keep the garden in colour and a small struggle with Harry to turn more and more of his precious lawn into herbaceous borders or shrub borders.” As gardeners we like to expand our worlds whether that be physically or suggestively as Nicolai explains “For me gardening isn’t just about producing something nice to look at. It’s about creating a world to experience. My own garden is a combination of obsessive plant collecting and my desire to create a lush, exotic escape and I like to think of it as a big garden in a small space.” Nicolai says he uses his garden to recharge after the hustle and bustle of Cork City and his work where he supports people on their mental health recovery journeys.
Bee Fitzgerald's garden in Crosshaven
Bee Fitzgerald’s garden in Crosshaven
The gardeners also inspired each other as Treutler hopes to bring a bit of Nicolai’s exotic garden to her own by creating a sheltered area to grow more delicate plants. But ultimately she believes that people should stick to their own visions and work within the limitations of their site.  “For a while I was comparing the different gardens and I wished I could copy some of the features of the other gardens but in the end we are creating our garden to suit us and the conditions given by nature.”
A colourful border in Bee Fitzgerald's garden
A colourful border in Bee Fitzgerald’s garden
For all of the gardeners, taking part will have been an experience to remember, particularly the initially uncertain Nicolai: “I loved every minute of taking part in ‘Show Me Your Garden’. I never thought my interest in gardening would lead me down so many different paths. Who knows where it will lead me next.”
Bee Fitzgerald's garden in Crosshaven
Bee Fitzgerald’s garden in Crosshaven
Show Me Your Garden, Fridays at 8pm on Sky 1, with the episode from Cork on Jan 30th.
This article was previously published in The Sunday Business Post and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the newspaper and the author, Ali Rochford,  who is an IGPS member. Bruno Nicolai is Chairman of the Munster Branch of the IGPS

Gardening – The Next Generation: Bruno Nicolai interviews Paul Smyth

IGPS Munster’s Bruno Nicolai Interviews Young Horts Ambassador Paul Smyth

Paul Smyth

Paul Smyth

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’m 21 years old and live in Nurney, Co Carlow. I have studied in Waterford Institute of Technology for my Level 7 degree in horticulture and currently I’m completing the final year which will give me Level 8 in Land Management (Horticulture). For my work placement in 2013 I worked in for Angela Jupe in Bellefield house and gardens in Co Offaly. I have also worked for Altamont plants sales. I’m currently involved in a group called YoungHort, which was set up last year and aims to encourage younger people into horticulture and show people the diversity and the benefit of a career in horticulture.


    Wildflower Wackos’ Mini Garden at Blarney in Bloom 2014


Paul And Bruno at Blarney in Bloom


Paul and fellow Wild Flower Wacko, Laura Quinn tell a Blarney in Bloom visitor about their garden.


I first met you at Blarney in Bloom 2014 where you and some of your fellow WIT Horticulture students had installed a garden for the event. How did your participation in the event come about, what was your aim in creating the garden, and were you happy with the result?

Well, like a lot of these things it sort of came out of a mad suggestion in the college canteen last year , when we all moaning about a business subject we had and how it would be great to do something like Bloom. We had a look at the Shows around and approached a few. Laura Quinn (who along with myself and Rory Newell were the brains behind the idea) had worked in Blarney and we approached Adam who was up for having us. We were just doing it to prove to ourselves de that we could do it.  We christened ourselves the Wildflower Wackos. Our initial plan changed drastically, but the overall aim of the garden was to show people how simple it was to brighten up a dull area of your garden with a simple packet of seeds, minimal effort and how with a few simple ideas you could greatly increase the biodiversity of your garden while making it more attractive for you too. We were delighted with the result. We all live in different provinces so the whole project was organised and discussed via Viber and Skype after we left college and was done on a shoestring budget so we were delighted how it eventually came together. It was a fantastic experience and we met some great people too.
What drew you to horticulture?

Food initially. When I was in my teens I started watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and his adventures with becoming self-sufficient. This got me really interested in that area and growing my own food was my main interest then. I grew up on a farm and subconsciously have been gardening since I was big enough to hold a trowel. My grandparents were all great gardeners too though its only now that I appreciate how much they all knew. We always had a veg patch on the farm and when I was about 15 my parents basically gave me free reign of this. From there my insterest grew and I began to get interest in ornamentals and it has steadily grown into an obsession

In what way do you feel horticulture benefits you?

Well, personally it’s like a therapy. It keeps me fit and constantly busy. It’s a complete relaxation. I don’t ever consider gardening work, especially not at home. I’m the type of person who gets itchy feet if I’m not at something, particularly in summer when the days are so long. I despise being inside when it’s bright, so gardening is a good excuse to keep me busy all throughout the year. It also has helped me form a lot of great friendships. I love when a plant has a story behind it and so many plants I have at have come from people who mean a lot to me. Obviously it’s important to support our nurseries, but there’s something special about having plants you can relate to the people who gave them. Horticulture keeps you fit, active and keeps your mind fresh. Personally I can’t fathom why more people don’t garden, though it is easy preaching to the converted!

ps dahlias

Some of Paul’s Dahlia hybrids

ps primula

Primula capitata in Paul’s garden.


Do you have any favourite plants?
That’s like asking a parent do they have a favourite child. Like the parent, it depends on the time of year and what is behaving best on the particular day you ask!! There are definitely a few plants that I have soft spot for though. Snowdrops and Primulas are close to the top of that list. From working in Bellefield my interest in both these plants grew, but in particular Snowdrops. So much so, that I have completed my final year project for college on Twin-scaling Snowdrops. They are scarily addictive! I’m slowly building a collection of both of these plants. Herbaceous plants are my main passion. Irises and Dahlias are two other groups of plants that I think I may have too many of. I especially love experimenting with Dahlias, crossing different hybrids and growing on the seedlings in the hope of finding something interesting.

ps hortsPaul (second from right) with his fellow Young Hort ambassadors at Wisley Gardens


Can you tell me a little bit more about the Young Horts, and your role as ambassador?

Young Horts was formed in December 2014 in the UK by Jack Shilley. It was set up entirely in Twitter initially! Its aim is to encourage more young people into horticulture and to support young people who have already decided on a career in horticulture by hosting events to promote this talent and as a means of networking amongst young people and students in the industry. There are 12 ambassadors scattered over the UK and Ireland. Our role is to promote the YoungHort initiative in our different regions, be involved in new projects, and help organise and attend various events.
Are there any challenges you think young people face when they have an interest in horticulture, or when considering horticulture as a career?

Absolutely. Horticulture has this stigma attached it that it’s only for people of a certain age. It has such a poor public image, with the common perception being that it is a poorly paid, involving hours of hard work, physical labour and an industry with little opportunity. This could not be further from the truth! The opportunities that this industry allows you are vast. It is definitely a career for any young person with a love for the outdoors and nature to consider. Horticulture is considered a career for those who don’t do as well academically, however there are opportunities for all in the horticultural industry; it’s such a shame that this perception has been created. To overcome these we need first to educate kids and teenagers in particular about the importance and opportunities that horticulture allows. We also need to inform parents to allow them to encourage their children’s decisions to pursue a horticulture career. We also need to value the work of horticulturalists and view them as professionals.

ps border

Paul’s garden in Nurney, Co. Carlow

What could gardening clubs do to make them more attractive to younger gardeners?

I suppose the first thing they could do is be as welcoming as possible to any newer entrants to their clubs. It can be hard as a young person approaching these groups, and at first you do feel out of place. So maybe those involved in these groups that know any young people interested in gardening could approach them and invite them to tag along, maybe informally to a meeting at first and see what they think. Reduced membership rates are a must, perhaps even allow their first year of membership to be free to encourage them to join. This will hopefully mean that younger committee members will be encouraged, who will in turn give other younger people the confidence to join these cubs and societies, showing us that they are indeed open to everyone!  Younger committee members will all have their own ideas as to how to encourage the next generation and I feel it is important that they are involved where possible. Another area that could be looked at is the use of social media. YoungHort was founded on social media and has led me to meet some amazing people and see some amazing places. The negative effects of social media are all too commonly highlighted. It can, if used correctly, be used for so much good and YoungHort is a prime example of this.
Have you any advice to young people who are interested in horticulture?
Try it. Whether you manage to coax a patch of land off your neighbour or like me was lucky to have loads of space to experiment with. You learn so much more from getting involved in horticulture. My advice when it comes to getting a professional education is to start off with a practical based course and work your way up. The most you will ever learn is when you are out in the industry. The worst you can do is kill a few plants or maybe drive your parents mad by filling every spare inch of the garden in plants and taking over ever sunny windowsill in the house! Meet others too. YoungHort, events, societies, and talks are all a great way to so this. That’s where you’ll learn from.

pm snowdrops

 Paul gets ready to twin-scale some Snowdrops


I’ve no doubt your name will gradually become known to many in the gardening world. Do you currently offer any talks or workshops?
At the moment I’m preparing a talk on Irish snowdrops that I will be doing at Woodville walled garden at their snowdrop festival on Sunday the 8th of February. I’m always up for attending and doing talks and workshops and it’s another great way of meeting new people and seeing some amazing gardens

What hopes and goals do you have for the years to come?

I would love to travel and see more of the horticultural world. Plant Hunting is an ambition of mine at someone point but I have a lot to learn first. I would love to work in a botanical nursery long term, but equally would like to experience things such as help build displays at garden shows such as Hampton Court and CheIsea. I don’t like to be tied down too much to plans and will happily take up anything that interests me and helps me further my knowledge and career if it comes my way. It’s an industry that you will always feel you need to know more in and it’s endlessly diverse, which are more reasons to add to the never-ending list of why I love it!

Wishing you the best of luck for the future Paul. We look forward to attending your talks and seeing the results of all your hard work.

Bruno Nicolai

Chairman of IGPS Munster

Remarkable Plants that Shape our World – Helen and William Bynum

I have a habit since childhood that I will finish reading a book once I have started it. At times I put this down to my background, that Irish Catholic upbringing of the fifties and sixties with its sense of duty and obligation, and at others to my stupidity and obsession to see matters through to the end. There have been many times while reading a book that I have longed for that other wonderful Irish ability to simply “feck it there”, put the book in the bin – or give it to someone I don’t really like – and move on.

Remarkable Plants Cover Remarkable-Plants-sample page

This is how it has been with “Remarkable Plants That Shape Our World” and this has puzzled me as to why it should be so. The book is, without doubt, well written, well researched, pleasantly illustrated and on a topic which interests me yet it left me quite cold, never raised my enthusiasm or enjoyment levels at all. However, I persevered – I’m sure there will be a reward in the afterlife – and finished the book.

The author, Helen and William Bynum, have selected and described eighty plants which they see as having a significance to mankind. They tell of their uses and benefits to people and how people have used them for various purposes. There are “The Transformers” which facilitated the change from a nomadic lifestyle to a settled one. “Taste” describes plants which added to our food rather than simply being our staples. Other plants were used to “Heal and Harm” while those included in “Technology and Power” made a significant contribution to our material world. Other plants were the significant “Cash Crops” of our world while others contribute to our “Landscape”.  Many plants have become the subject of man’s love and obsession, the “Revered and Adored” and many are simply “Wonders of Nature”.  All in all, as you can see, a rather comprehensive treatment.

The book is very well researched and the material presented is very interesting. The illustrations are all from the collections at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and are especially interesting in their own right. Yet, the book simply did not spark with me. The authors have a background in historical research in medicine and science and have separately published several books on these subjects. With this background they are perfectly qualified for such a project; they have the skills and the capabilities to carry it out but I felt there was something lacking. There is note on the flysheet that they are “making a two acre garden in Suffolk” but I have that niggling feeling that not a lot of soil has been caught under their nails to date. The book is well research and well written but seemed to me to lack enthusiasm and fire and love and devotion and experience. It was dry.

Nonetheless, I do not wish to write it off and feel many people may well enjoy reading it – I am loath to be too critical of someone else’s work as I feel it would be unfair of me to do so. I have never put in the hours and effort to write a book and wouldn’t wish to flippantly dismiss the work of others. However, I am a reader and I was not delighted reading this one. I must pass it on to someone in hopes that it will find an appreciative home.

  • ISBN 9780500517420
  • 60 x 18.60 cm
  • Hardback
  • 240pp
  • 205 Illustrations, 174 in colour
  • First published 2014


Paddy Tobin