This is Peter Spade from the new Irish Gardening magazine “Gardening Harmony”. Gardening Harmony loves to showcase gardens and gardeners who work in harmony with their local habitat. Today I am visiting the garden of Breege and Martin Walsh in Castlerock Co. Sligo nestled at the foothills of the Ox Mountains. It is a beautiful sunny day in July not a cloud in the sky as I take the turn opposite the old national school as advised. When I enter the driveway I see a couple sitting at a table under the native ash trees chatting over a cup of tea.
As I get out of the car the couple approach me the lady dressed in a pink floral summer dress the gentleman in khaki shorts and T-shirt. We shake hands and do our introductions. As I am offered a cup of tea in a delicate china cup I am struck by the tranquility of the setting and the huge variety of densely planted ornamental and edible plants. The sound of the babbling brook and the native bumble bees adds to the rustic charm of the setting.
As I was not quite sure of the origin of the accents I started the interview by asking if they were from the local area?
Martin informed me with pride that he hails from the rebel county and Breege said that she grew up not too far from here and that this property is the birthplace of her maternal grandmother Brigid Clarke.
PS. How did you get involved in Gardening?
BW: For as long as I can remember I have always loved growing vegetables in particular – I only came to appreciate flower gardening later on. My father was a great gardener and when we were children we helped him in the garden. I remember him saying that no matter where I planted a seed it would grow and of course this inspired me even further – even when we lived in Dublin I dug a few ridges in the back garden to grow a few potatoes.
PS: What would you say to people to encourage them to grow some of their own produce particularly as vegetables are available so cheaply in local supermarkets?
BW: Firstly I would say there is nothing like the taste of home grown in particular the first crops of the season the sweetness of the first strawberries still warm from the sunshine or the carrots freshly pulled from the soil – Remember to start with growing something you love to eat and that is relatively easy to grow e.g a strawberry plant in a hanging basket or a few salad leaves in a window box.
Secondly there is increasing numbers of scientific studies that suggests that a diet which includes a wide variety of colourful plant phytonutrients or “eating the rainbow” helps protect against a wide variety of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and neuro-degeneritve diseases and this is so much easier to achieve by growing and eating your own seasonal healthy fruit and vegetables.
Thirdly gardening feeds the body soul and mind.We don’t need any Gym memberships as we get plenty of exercise and muscle building working in the garden. I believe doctors are now recommending gardening to people who are suffering from mental illness and depression which comes as no surprise to me – I always feel better after an hour spent in the garden.
PS: Why Gardening in Harmony?
BW: Gardening in Harmony allows me to enjoy the diversity of life e.g. being able to enjoy plants like the dandelion and nettles as part of my garden rather than seeing them always as “weeds” that must be destroyed. These plants are so beneficial to the insects butterflies bees and birds which in turn are essential to our growing efforts. It’s also about growing plants and varieties that naturally thrive in the west of Ireland.
The second part of the interview will be available in next months edition of “Garden Harmony” where Breege shares some of her tips for cooking and storing some of her garden produce.