Hello - welcome to Howbert and Mays. If you were expecting dyg.ie, don't worry, we've just given the site a new name and a new design! Hope you enjoy browsing our new look site!

Coming soon..... some very cool pots and planters

water bowl pot.jpg

Lily bowl in Stony Slate finish

We have just placed our first order with Urbis pots in the UK. These people design and construct some really big pots and containers - big enough for trees or entire 'micro-gardens'. The pots are made in the U.K. from glass-reinforced concrete and come in a range of sizes and finishes. They can also be made waterproof and act as water bowls or other forms of water feature. We're very excited about this latest order and we plan to keep a few pots always in stock. Delivery is expected in the next 3-4 weeks.  To order a specific model or finish, or to enquire about prices, please get in touch.

acer in pot.jpg

Poppy Bowl in rust finish

urbis pots.jpg

Radius 90 in Dolomite White


Drum 62 in Stony Slate finish

Trees in pots 1.jpg

Trees in pots 2.jpg

Large Globes in stony white

urbis dimensions 1.jpg

urbis dimensions 2.jpg

Screen shot 2014-04-12 at 13.30.44.png


Farewell to DYG


In 2008 we had the idea of making an online garden centre. We had been designing and planting gardens for several years and we had steadily built up relationships with some great growers around the country. Often, when we were planting a garden, people would ask us where we got our plants and.... could they buy some too? So we set about organising the plants that we knew and liked into logical categories and, with the help of the very patient Shane Magee (now Nirbhasa) we built the website DYG (Delivering Your Garden) so that people all over Ireland could browse and purchase plants from us. The gargantuam task of writing plant descriptions, taking photos and arranging began. Every spare moment of every day and night went into researching, writing and uploading information, mainly based on what we had learned from our work as gardeners. A lot of the photos are taken of plants 'in context' rather than in pots on benches, and as many of them as possible are taken in Irish gardens. The camera was in constant use and no opportunity was passed to take a photo of a garden-worthy plant happily growing. But a few days after going live, sure enough, a complete stranger came across our site and bought some plants. A new era of 'Dyg Orders' began, heralded by a little ping in the inbox which made life terribly exciting. 'Dyg Orders' became an everyday phrase in our household, the cause of a sudden injection of excitiment and adrenalin each and every time one came through. Little could any customer imagine, when ordering online, that at the other end the order is received with such a thrill. This is the great thing about the internet: all over the world there are 'cottage' websites that are in fact as personal, vital and small-scale as any shop. No need for all the complicated trappings involved in running a shop - you can, quite literally, run your business from your kitchen table.

We operated on a shoestring and ran the business from home, buying plants from suppliers as soon as they were ordered on our website. Logistically, this was very complicated: someone would always order a plant just after we had a delivery from one grower, so we would have to place another order. Soon, our stock of plants grew and grew until we were surrounded at home by many hundreds of plants. Our sheds and house were filled with garden supplies and we had a never-ending string of vans delivering and collecting plants from us. Our suppliers and growers were always understanding and patient. We had plenty of regular, returning customers and a growing amount of new ones too. We got more efficient with deliveries and started using DPD for almost all deliveries - they are organised, fast and careful, so we very rarely had any problems with deliveries getting damaged or going astray.

home page no 3 grey back.jpg

An early version of DYG when we were still working on the layout - done by us, not a web designer!

The aim of the website was not just to sell things, but to allow people to research too. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming in a garden centre: so many plants, distracting things in bloom, promotional material. On line, you could look at plants and make informed decisions. Does this grow is the sun? Does that plant survive damp soil? What would look good under that tree? The website was filled with tips and advice and articles about gardening in Ireland. Each month the number of visitors to the site, and the number of customers, grew and grew. We added more and more items so that we were selling landscape supplies such as bark, topsoil and roll out grass. We added Biohort sheds, Springfree Trampolines, chestnut fencing, Hotlogs and many other items. By 2013 we had about 16,000 unique visitors per month and had sent out over 5,500 orders. The longer we had the website the more people tried to find us in real life. We had a steady string of people who wanted to collect their plants or supplies, and our home was getting increasingly crowded with stuff. One day when we were passing through Monkstown we spotted an old hire centre that was to let (Action Hire) which had a large yard to one side. This would be the perfect place to store all our stock and also to have a real-life shop that people could easily visit.

Retail websites need to change regularly in just the same way that shops themselves do. It is easy enough to add new products but much harder to alter the way they are arranged. We designed DYG in Photoshop or Illustrator and then gave it to Nirbhasa to 'make come alive'. It gave the website a nice home made feel which some people really liked. But it also made it a bit awkward to find your way around: there was simply too much going on and you get get easily lost.

Screen shot 2014-02-24 at 15.33.53.png

The website by March 2014 when we had 15,000 unique visitors per month and had sent out over 5000 orders

In May of 2012 we opened our shop in Monkstown and were confused as to what to call it. DYG sounded a bit wrong for a shop, so we called it after ourselves - Howbert & Mays Gardens (Howbert being Anthea and Mays being Tig). As garden designers we had been using this name for many years, and all along we had been keeping this side of the business going: in fact, it was the gardening, planting, designing and maintenance that funded DYG and allowed it to grow. DYG continued to prosper and we quickly realised that despite the wonders of online shopping, people really love to see and feel things too. A good chunk of our customers were (and are) web customers who do their research at home and the actual spending and double-checking in the shop. For some it was just a bit confusing. Is this the same shop as DYG? Is everything that's on DYG in the shop? Is everything in the shop on DYG? So we decided that the time had come to roll parts of the business into one name, and it was the name above the shop door that would be the name of the website too. The aim of the new website is to make navigation simpler. The 'shop' part is on the left where all the different categories are arranged. The 'information' part is on the top, with links to portfolio, design advice, contact information and so on.

Here we are then. Howbert & Mays is the new DYG. In fact, it's exactly the same thing but with a less cluttered layout and easier navigation. It has the same content and the same range of stock.... just differently arranged.

Howbert and Mays home page.jpg

Our new home page, March 2014

home page no 4.jpg

home page no 5b.jpg

home page no 5b_0.jpg

home page no 11.jpg

home page no 12.jpg

home page no 13.jpg

Early versions of the home page, made by us on Photoshop or Illustrator.


The shop in March

It has been the wettest and windiest few months in many years.... since records began? On the other hand, it has also been relatively mild, with only a few frosty nights and hardly any significant snow or ice. All of which has made us realise that it's important to think about indoor plants too. These can give those of us with itchy green fingers something to care for and enjoy when the outdoors are simply too inhospitable.

Slipper orchid.jpg

slipper orchid 2.jpg

Lady's slipper orchid (Cypripedium) are beautiful, unusual orchids.

Hanging votive.jpg

Orange votive.jpg

A new delivery of ceramics from Danish company Bloomingville has provided plenty to admire and display. We burn the Bergamot and Nettle tealights from St Eval Candle Company in these. Gorgeous.

BBud vase.jpg

Bloominville vase.jpg

Bloominville stem vase.jpg

A selection of beautiful bud vases, stem vases and pot holders (jardinieres), all by Bloomingville.




Hate the weather - love plants? Stay inside!

There's a lot growing-on indoors!

indoor cycad 3.jpg

Isn't that pretty?

Indoor amaryllis 6.jpg

Amaryllis bulbs dipped in wax: no care required. They even come on a small metal support.

indoor cactus 1.jpg

Perfect for a sunny windowsill indoors.

indoor bench 5.jpg

Plants enjoy the sunshine too!


Little Gems in January

On the surface, January is a pretty colourless month, and there isn't an awful lot going on in the garden. But if you look closely, you will see that 'God is in the details' of the plant world. Two subtle favourites, both in bloom in our shop at the moment, are Sarcococca confusa (Sweet box / Christmas box) and Hamamelis x intermedia (Witch hazel). They both have a delicious scent and both flower at a time when, delicate as they are, they can make themselves noticed. The glossy, evergreen leaves of Sarcococca, along with the sweetly-scented small white flowers, make it a most useful plant. It's excellent in shade and is a slow-growing plant that should be somewhere its fragrance will be appreciated. Hamamelis likes a sheltered spot in sun or light shade, and requires neutral to acidic soil. It also has excellent autumn colour and is considered one of the 'essential' plants for the winter garden.

Sarcococca confusa


What Christmas present do you give to a gardener?

Christmas comes right at the time of year when you are least likely to be thinking about the garden. On the other hand, Spring is around the corner and there is nothing a gardener likes to do more than planning ahead. It's also good to give something useful. The things that we sell are designed to be useful or pleasurable in the garden, and everything is high quality.

Here is a list of garden gift ideas for gardeners, all of which are in stock and can be delivered in plenty of time for Christmas. If you're nervous about stock or delivery cut-off dates, just call us on 01 2020027 before ordering. And do drop into our shop - we have many things that never make it onto the website.


Boules set Seed pod Brazier


The shop, December 2013

Howbert and Mays Garden Centre Dublin at night

Gardeners like to give and receive as much as anyone else. Here are some snapshots of the shop this December.

Garden centre Dublin interior Shop interior
Wall in shop Shop interior 2013 Dublin


Plants that reflect the season that's in it - for indoors or outdoors

Cyclamen and festuca Thamnocalamus Kew Beauty
Pine cones

Tools that work properly and last for a long long time.

felco secateurs Garden hand fork
Burgon Ball topiary shears Shop interior 2013 Dublin


Fun things for outdoor living in the garden - from trampolines to directors' chairs.

springfree trampoline Boules set
Directors chairs ireland Garden brazier


Books and toys - all with something to do with gardens and nature.

Garden and childrens' books Dublin singing wind-up bird
Toys and garden gifts wrapped garden gifts


Bare root trees and shrubs - 'tis the season to be planting

2013 - 2014 season. Browse our range of keenly-priced, well-established bare root plants. Order online. Nationwide delivery.

Many trees and shrubs can be planted bare root - ie without soil or pots. This is done during the 'dormant season', when plants are not growing and they can be easily transplanted. Planting bare root is cheaper, easier and faster. Many of the bare root plants for sale on this website cost less than €1.00 each, and most of them are good-sized plants between 60 - 90 cms tall. It generates less waste (there are no pots to get rid of) and the plants are far easier to transport and the plants establish and grow very quickly. Most commercial forests are planted with bare root plants, known in the trade as 'whips'. The fastest way to plant a bare root tree or shrub is to cut a T-shaped incision in the ground and slot the plant in, firming it in carefully and checking that the roots start to flare out exactly at soil level. See our range of excellent value bare root trees and shrubs - delivered throughout Ireland.

Bare-root hedges: Many plants which are traditionally used in hedges can be planted bare root. Whether a native hedge of mixed species of a more formal hedge of one species, you just need to calculate the correct spacing. As a general rule, choose between 3 plants per metre for a single row or 6 plants per metre for a double (staggered) row. If the soil is already cultivated, a trench can be dug, the plants laid out and then filled in carefully around them, as shown below when planting a box hedge. If the soil is not cultivated, then use the T-shaped cut method. In all cases, it is very important that the plants are not allowed to dry out. They should be kept heeled in the ground or in their bags until the absolute last minute.

Bare root box plants being laid out approximately 4.5 plants per metre for a good-looking hedge.

Bare root tree roots should be kept moist by leaving them in their original plastic bags or by healing them into the ground.

When planting a hedge such as beech or hornbeam, it is a good idea to snip the tops off some of the taller plants after planting. This will encourage them to bush out. It is also important to make sure they are well firmed-in. Do this with your heels, holding the tip of the tree with your hands between your legs. After planting, weeds should be kept at bay by either: keeping the base mulched with leaves, compost or bark mulch; pulling up grass and weeds by hand once or twice for the following year or more; with a herbicide, if you believe in their usage. Do not strim around the base of young trees - it invariably does more harm than good.

A newly-planted hornbeam hedge in West Cork. The base is well protected by bark mulch. This is a fast and inexpensive way to create longer hedges.

Small means fast! A lot of people want 'instant hedges', but the smaller plants used as bare-root plants will outstrip and out-grow substantially larger plants after only a couple of years. You have only to keep an eye on your local stretch of bypass or motorway to see just how fast the new plantings are developing. It seems like only yesterday that they werd planted, and now they are young forests! They require no soil amending either. As a general rule, do not amend the soil. You want the plants to settle into their surroundings, not be molly-coddled. If this happens (ie amendment is added) the roots will stay in their comfort zone and be less willing to set off into their surroundings.

What to expect when you receive bare root plants: We send our plants via an overnight courier, so they will reach you in excellent condition and fresh from the field. You will receive plants that are alive and healthy - just asleep! They will be tied into tight bundles, bagged and labelled. Most plants (all except evergreens such as Yew, Pine and Laurel) will be without leaves. Some, such as Hornbeam and Beech may retain a few brown leaves. The trees have been grown in the ground for approximately two years. Most will have been undercut the previous year, which gives them a good vigorous root system. It is recommended taht some plants, such as Hawthorn and Blackthorn, be cut down by as much as half to encourage them to bush out the followig spring.

The importance of planting at the right depth: Never be tempted to plant a tree too deep. Plant trees or shrubs so that the root flare (ie where the roots begin) is exactly at soil level. You want trees that will one day look like the one below. When I was a student in Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, planting depth was one of the big things I learned about. If in any doubt, plant the the tree on a small mound - about half a barrow of soil or even an overturned sod. And make sure that no soil or mulch builds up against the stem.

A root flare on an ancient oak at Glendalough, Co Wicklow.

From bare root whip to this; a magnificent root flare on a magnificent beech tree at Larchill Gardens in Co Kildare. Just remember when planting to have the root flare (ie the start of the roots) right at soil level. You don't want the going into the ground like lamp posts. They also never prosper and roots require oxygen and rot gets into the stem.

Storing bare root plants: Drying out is the biggest threat to bare root plants. When you receive your bare root plants they will be in strong black plastic bags and tightly tied to keep in moisture. They can stay in these for a few days, but if it will be any longer then they should be heeled into the ground (ie planted out in their bundles and firmed in). The bags should be stored somewhere cool and dark such as an unheated shed or cellar. A small amount of water can be sprinked into them to keep roots moist. They should never be allowed to dry out, and it's very important that on the day of being planted they stay in their bags until the last possible minute. The bags can have an addition of water added to them to keep the roots moist - they should no be left unbagged where winds can dry out roots in minutes. Once plants have been delivered safely to you, we can take no responsibility for their welfare.

See our range of excellent value bare root trees and shrubs - delivered throughout Ireland.

When is the best time to plant?

This is a question that people ask us all the time: when is the best time to plant plants in your garden? It's confusing for people who aren't experts. There has been a campaign in Ireland for the last few years, every spring, called "It's Garden Time". This campaign is run by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board and is also associated with "Bloom", the main garden show for the country, held at the start of June each year. "It's Garden Time" is heavily promoted, so it's no wonder that people are a litttle confused. Didn't we always learn that autumn and winter were the ideal planting seasons?

Of course, spring and early summer are lovely times to enjoy the garden, and there is plenty of work to be done then. This is a time for sowing seeds, filling gaps and tidying up. However, the best time to plant is actually at the end of the summer / autumn / early winter. If you think about it, the soil is still warm, the plants are preparing to wind down and there is less pressure on keeping things watered. The days are shorter, the sun is cooler and plants have some time to settle in and establish themselves before they need to reawaken again in spring and start using their roots.

Now that we have plastic pots for most plants (perennials, grasses, shrubs and smaller trees etc) they can be planted throughout the year - except when the ground is frozen solid, which is a rarity in this climate. The only down-side of planting in spring or summer is that you need to water things much more: they're growing, haven't developed any additional roots and are burning through water.  Newly-purchased plants are generally in very good health as they are still 'fresh' from the grower. By and large, newly-planted plants are not going to perish from diseases or pests in their first year. The main cause of their death will be lack of water.

If you do plant in spring or early summer you need to have a couple of things in mind. Do you have a tap and hose nearby? Will you be going away for a prolonged spell when there will be nobody to water? Even in Ireland it doesn't rain all the time! Have you planted properly and in a way that will make life easier for the plants? This would include watering properly after planting and top-dressing the soil with mulch such as garden compost, bark mulch or well-rotted manure. The addition of this layer on top of the soil does all sorts of good things: it stops the sun beating down on the soil and the moisture from evaporating; it rots down slowly and improves the soil structure, making in better and retaining moisture; it maintains the soil at a steadier temperature, ie cooler in summer and warmer in winter; and it keeps down weeds.

Some plants are only available at particular times of the year. Bare root trees and shrubs are just as they sound; they are grown outdoors, in the ground, and are then dug up without soil on the roots. This can only happen in the dormant season - between late autumn and late winter. Root-balled plants are grown outdoors in the ground. They are dug up with a 'ball' of soil around the roots and are then wrapped in hessian. Larger specimens also have their roots held together in a wire cage. These plants - normally larger specimen trees and shrubs - can only be dug in the dormant season, although they can be planted all the way into the summer. However, it's best if they are planted as soon after digging as possible, as this will allow them to settle in without watering for several months.

Below is a timetable of what can be planted when in the Irish climate:

  • Bare root trees and shrubs: These plants should be planted during the 'dormant season' which is between approximately November to March. This is an inexpansive and convenient way to plant woody plants and is ideally suited to hedges and forestry. Because these plants are sometimes in short supply, it's generally ideal to order and plant them before the new year rather than after it. Growers and suppliers can run out of stock in the new year and heading towards March.
  • Root-ball plants and mature specim trees and shrubs: These plants, generally larger than bare root plants, are also best planted the 'dormant season'. Because there is soil attached to teh roots, they do not dry out as quickly after being dug from the ground and they can be planted when i leaf in the growing season. However, this puts pressure on them as they have a greater requirement for water by this stage. Ideally, they should be ordered, dug and planted in the dormant season. As supply can be limited, it's a good idea to at least have these plants ordered adn booked before the new year.
  • Container-grown trees and shrubs: Container grown trees and shrubs range in size from smaller plants available in the garden centre to very mature specimens available form nurseries and suppliers. These plants have the advantage of being available all year round. If planted during the growing seasoon (April to October) extra care needs to be taken to keep them watered.
  • Container-grown perennials, grasses, ferns etc: A hundred years ago, before we had cheap plastic flowerpots, these plants would have been supplied either bare root or with a root ball attached - ie as divisions of larger existing plants. This can only happen during the dormant season. As it happens, this is probably still the best time for planting perennials etc as they haev plenty of time to settle in without the need for water. However, the convenience of plastic pots means they can be planted all year round, and it can be immensely satifying to turn an empty bed to one in full-bloom withing a couple of hours. Take the advice above if planting during tehvgrowing season: water and mulch well.
  • Bulbs: Bulbs are generally planted one or two seasons before they flower. Therefore, spring-flowering bulbs are planted in the autumn and early winter. Summer-flowering bulbs are planted in spring. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule: autumn-flowering crocusses (Colchicum) are planted in winter as they actually grow and send up leaves in the spring and then flower without leaves in late summer. Also, some bulbs can be planted 'in the green' (ie in leaf) as small plants in containers. This is frequently the case with Snowdrops (Galanthus) as some horticulturists argue that they take off better when planted first into pots and then into the ground.
  • Bamboos: Bamboos are generally cultivated in the following way. They are grown in the ground in specialist nurseries. Clumps are divided up and small sections are potted on into plastic pots. These pots are grown on for about a year and the plants are frequently potted on one or more time into larger pots. The end result is a healthy, established plant with a well-developed root system in a plastic pot. These plants can be planted at any time of the year. However, the same caution should be applied if planting bamboos during the summer as they are very 'thirsty' plants after planting. The large leaf-surface means they can dry out quickly. It's more important with bamboos than with almost any other plant to ensure that they are well watered and mulched, whatever time of year they are planted. If an ideal time for bamboo planting had to be given, I would suggest autumn and the first half of winter.
  • Lawns: Lawns (ie grass seed) is best sown at two times of the year: spring and autumn. September is generally considered the best month, when the ground is still warm, moisture or rain is more abundant and there is a long spell without onerous competition from weeds. The second best period is in mid-spring when it's starting to warm up. Generally, however, Ireland is a favourable climate for sowing grass seed and grass grows easily and fast.

 Useful planting tips and advice:

A little roof garden in Dublin City Centre

This week we have been asked to design and plant a tiny roof garden in Dublin city centre: right opposite Government Buildings in fact. Several flights up, the 'garden' is only visible from the bathroom of a smart hotel suite. The 'garden' isn't even accessible: it's just a view which could be very pleasant. It's currently a dreary tunnel of black asphalt which does nothing but detract from the smart room inside. Our proposal is to hide the asphalt with a thin layer of Wexford beach pebble and to plant a series of terracotta pots with Pinus mugo and Tulbaghia violacea (two of the toughest, hardiest plants that we know for such difficult situations). As the garden can only be seen from one angle (the window), the pots and plants will hide the drab walls and concrete sills and will survive the challenging environment of a roof garden. There will be drip irrigation on a timer as well as occasional maintenance.

Roof Garden in Dublin

What a view over the rooftops of Georgian Dublin!


The view from the window

A view from the window and, looking the other way, of the window


A room with a view

A room with a view. What we're doing: Wexford pebble on the ground to hide the asphalt; square terracotta pots of alternate PInus mugo and Tulbaghia violacea; a larger pots and pine at the end. The 'garden' has only one point from which it can be seen: the window of a hotel suite. Because of the way the pots and plants are positioned, the asphalt is entirely hidden and the room has a very pleasant aspect

Roof garden planting and pots proposal

The proposal: large square terracoota pots planted with Pinus mugo and Tulbaghia violacea. Wexford beach pebble covers the asphalt and a taller pine tree marks the end of the vista.

Roof garden general view

Roof garden at night

At night, subtle lighting can add a great sense of drama.

Dublin roof garden finished 1

Settling in: after a couple of months. Plants have thrived during a long, hot dry summer.

Merrion roof garden

Looking the other way - you cannot see the irrigation from the window, where the garden is designed to be seen from.

Our Shop in Summer

What a great Summer we have had: sunshine, warmth and blue skies! And may we have many more of them.... The weather has helped us all to enjoy the garden this year more than most years. Although plants got off to a slow start, they have caught up and it has been a good year for gardens - though too dry for some plants.

Deck chairs on the street

A new deck chair delivery in - we've lined them all up so we can decide which one we like best.

Penstemon 'Apple Blossom' Phlox, white

Penstemon and Phlox

Shop in summer

Plants and people enjoying the sunshine!

Verbena Cat statue Director's chair

 Verbena, Cat statue and our new director's chairs.

Watering Can Polish tools Heavy duty Polish spade

Our delivery of beautiful, high quality and affordabel garden tools came in from Poland.


Dierama / Angels' fishing rod

Cotinus 'Little Lady'

Cotins 'Little Lady' on one of the plant benches


50% Off Plant Sale: 27th & 28th of July

We're tidying up our benches! Please come and join us for a 50% off plant sale on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th of July in our Monkstown Garden Shop - Howbert & Mays Gardens. (Selected stock only).

Our Dublin Garden Shop Summer 2013

We specialise in interesting and unusual plants, the vast majority from Irish nurseries. Irish growers have great knowledge and know better than anyone what works - and what doesn't work - in our unpredictable climate. What's more, the plants hardly need to travel: no big road miles on homegrown plants! We have an extensive collection of plants and cater to the serious gardener as well as to those who appreciate lovely plants, common or uncommon. We're putting hundreds of plants in our sale, including trees and shrubs such as Azalea, Cedrus, Cercis, Davidia, Edgeworthia and Magnolia. We will have climbers such as Hardenbergia, Pandorea and Vitis. We will include roses, perennials and ferns....... all in all, if plants seem a little expensive normally, now is the time to buy them!

For lovers of plants and lovers of lists, here is a snapshot of what we had in stock earlier this month. Our stock changes constantly so some of these plants will have already gone. On the other hand, lots of new plants will have come in. Many, but not all, of the plants will be included in our 50% off sale.


Acacia Baileyana 'Purpurea'
Acacia boormanii
Acacia dealbata / Mimosa
Acanthus spinosus
Acer davidii 'Serpentine'
Acer palmatum 'Deshojo'
Acer palmatum 'iInaba-shidare'
Acer palmatum 'Senkaki'
Acer palmatum 'Ukon'
Achillea filipendulina 'Cloth of God'
Aconitum 'Bressingham Spire'
Actinidia deliciosa
Actinidia deliciosa 'Jenny'
Osteospermum 'Sea Spray'
Agapanthus / African blue lily in variety
Alcea rosea
Allium cristophii
Allium 'Summer Beauty'
Amelanchier canadensis
Anacyclus depressus
Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'
Anemone x 'Konigin Charlotte'
Anemone x H. 'Whirlwind'
Anthemis punctata cupaniana
Anthemis tinctoria 'E.C.Buxton'
Apple malus domestica 'James Grieve'
Aquilegia 'Winky Blue'
Aquilegia 'Spring Magic' (yellow)
Aquillea 'Huteri'
Arabis alpina 'Snowcap'
Arabis rose delight
Aralia spinosa
Araucaria excelsa
Arbutus unedo
Arbutus unedo 'Compacta'
Armeria maritima 'Splendens'
Astelia chathamica
Astelia 'Silver Shadow'
Aster  'Monch'
Aster 'Little Carlow'
Astilbe 'inshriach Pink'
Astrantia major 'Hadspen Blood'
Athyrium filix femina 'Frizellia'
Athyrium otophorum var. okanum
Aubrieta 'Red Cascade'
Azara lanceolata
Phyllostachys aureosulcanata 'Aureocaulis'
Begonia 'Silver Splendor'
Bergenia 'Bressingham White'
Betula utilis 'Jacquemontii'
Betula lenta
Betula pendula 'Youngii'
Billardiera longiflora
Blackcurrant 'Ben Cameron'
Blueberry in variety
Boronia heterophylla
Bronze fennel
Buxus micro 'Herrenhausen'
Buxus sempervirens balls and pyramids
Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'
Caltha palustris 'Plena'
Camelia japonica 'Berenice Perfection'
Campanula 'Bernice'
Campanula lactiflora 'Elizabeth Stam'
Campanula muralis
Campanula pers. coerulea
Campanula 'Pink Octopus'
Campanula posch 'stella'
Campanula punctata 'Hot Lips'
Carex comans 'Bronco'
Cedrus deodara
Centaurea montana
Cephalaria gigantea
Cercidphyllum japonica / Katsura Tree
Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'
Chimonanthus virginicus
Chimonanthus yunnanensis
Chocolate peppermint
Choisya 'White Dazzler'
Choisya x dewitteana
Cimicifuga 'Brunette'
Cistus ladanifer
Clematis 'Jackmanii'
Clematis 'The President'
Clematis armandii
Cobaea scandens
Convolvulus cneorum
Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'
Cornus contoversa 'Variegata'
Cornus controversa
Corydalis flex. 'Purple Leaf'
Corydalis flexuosa purple leaf
Corylopsis sinensis 'Veitchiana'
Corylus avellana 'Contorta'
Cosmos 'Chocamocha'
Cotinus coggygria 'Royal purple'
Cotinus coggygria 'Young lady'
Crambe cordifolia
Crambe maritima
Crinodendron hookerianum 'Ada Hoffman'
Crinodendron Hookerianum / Japanese Lantern
Curled parsley
Cut leaved hart's tongue fern
Cyathea australis
Cymbalaria pallida 'Albiflora'
Cyrtomium fortunei
Cytisus scop 'Red Favourite'
Dahlia cactus 'Playa Blanca'
Daphne odoratum cvs.
Darmera peltata
Davidia involucrata
Delphinium 'Guinevere'
Delphium 'Black Knight'
Deschampsia flex. 'Tatra Gold'
Desfontainia spinosa
Dianthus 'Waterloo sunset'
Dicentra spectabilis
Dicksonia antarctica
Dierama pulcherrimum
Dierama pulcherrimum cvs
Digitalis purp. 'Dalmation Purple'
Dilphium 'Galahad' group
Double camomille
Drimys lanceolata /Mountain pepper
Drimys winteri
Dryopteris sieboldii
Echinacea 'Pow Wow'
Echinacea purpurea 'White swan'
Echium pininana
Embothrium coccineum lanceolatum /Chilean Fire Brush
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee'
Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'
Eucalyptus gunnii
Eucryphia lucida 'Pink Cloud'
Euopatorium mac. 'Purple Brush'
Eupatorium 'Baby Joe'
Eupatorium purpureum
Euphorbia char. ssp. wulfenii
Euphorbia mellifera /Honey spurge
Euphorbia myrsinites
Euphorbia myrsinites 'Taplow Blue'
Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride'
Fargesia 'Asian wonder'  bamboo
Feijoa 'Apollo'
Felicia amelloides
Ferula communis
Festuca glauca
Feverfew Golden
Ffancoa sonchifolia
Ficus carica 'Brown Turkey'
Field forget me not
Fothergilla major
Franklinia alatamaha
French tarragon
Fuchsia 'Mrs Popple'
Fuchsia upright 'Dolla Princess'
Garlic Chives
Gaultheria procumbens
Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'
Geranium macrrorhizum 'Bevan's Variety'
Geranium 'Mary Mottram'
Geranium nodosum
Geranium  'Mrs Kendall Clark'
Geranium 'Rozanne'
Geranium x oxinianum 'Old Rose'
Geum 'Flames of Passion'
Hosta cvs / Giant plantain lily
Ginko bilboa
Greek oregano
Gunnera manicata
Hamamelis mixed
Hardenbergia violacea
Hardenbergia violacea 'Alba'
Hedera 'Dentata Variegata'
Hedera canariensis 'Gloire de Marengo'
Hedera helix 'Gold Heart'
Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty"
Helenium 'Waldtraut'
Helianthemum cvs
Helianthus 'Sunshine'
Helictotrichon sempervirens
Helictotrichon sempervirens / Blue oat grass
Hemerocallis 'Chicago Sunrise'
Hemerocallis 'pandora's box'
Hoheria poplunea
Hoheria sexstylosa / Lacwbark
Hosta 'Big Daddy'
Hosta ' Empress Wu'
Hyacinthoides non-scripta /Bluebell
Hydrangea arborscens 'Annabelle'
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Mme emile mouillère'
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Shakira'
Hydrangea 'Merveille Sanguine'
Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
Hydrangea quercifolia
Hyppsopus officinalis
Iberis semp. 'Snowflake'
Ilex aquifolium 'J.C van tol'
Ilex crenata convexa / Japenese hollly
Indigofera heterantha
Indigofera heterantha
Iris cvs
Iris 'Yedo Yoman'
Iris pumila 'Volts' Pink
Irish tatting fern
Japanese anemone cvs
Jasminium nudiflorum
Jasminum officinale 'Clotted Cream'
Juniperus communis 'Repanda'
Juniperus communis 'Stricta'
Kirengeshoma palmata
Knautia mac. 'Melton Pastels'
Kniphofia 'Royal Castle'
Lampranthus white
Laurus nobilis
Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead Strain'
Lavandula stoechas
Lavatera cvs.
Lavatera 'Bredon Springs' 'Shrubby mallow'
Lavender French
Lewisia 'Rainbow'
Leymus arenarius
Leymus arenarius
Libertia formosa
Linum perenne 'Blue Saphir'
Liquidamber orientalis
Lithodora diffusa
Lobelia tupa
Loganberry thornless
Lonicera henryi
Lonicera periclymenum 'Graham Thomas'
Lonicera periclymenum 'Graham Thomas'
Lonicera Periclymenum 'Serotina'
Lophomyrtus x ralphii 'Red Dragon'
Lupinus Gallery Blue
Lupinus gallery blue
Lysimachia 'Snow Candle'
Lysimachia ephemerum
Magnolia 'Franks Masterpiece'
Magnolia grandiflora
Magnolia loebneri 'Leonard Messel'
Magnolia loebneri 'Merril' (White)
Magnolia macrophylla
Magnolia soulangeana 'Lennei Alba'
Magnolia wilsonii
Mahonia 'Winter Sun'
Mahonia x media 'Wintersun'
Malus 'Evereste'
Malus domestica ' Golden Pearmain'
Malus domestica cvs (apple)
Matteuccia struthiopteris
Maytenus boaria
Melianthus major
Mesembryanthemum edulis
Metasequoia glyptostroboides
Meum athamanticum
Michaelmas daisy
Mint Creeping (Corsican mint)
Mint Grapefruit
Mint indian
Mint Peppermint
Miscanthus sin. 'Morning light'
Monarda 'Beauty of Cobham'
Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet'
Monkshood / Aconitum
Montbretia cvs / Crocosmia
Morus nigra / Mulberry
Myosotidium hortensia /Chatham island forget me not
Myrthus luma / Chilean myrtle
Myrtus ugni
Myrtus ugni 'Flambeau'
Nandina domestica cvs
Nepeta 'Six Hill Giant'
Nothofagus dombeyi
Olea europea / Olive
Olearia lacunosa
Olearia lacunosa
Olearia virgata
Omphalodes cappadocica 'Starry Eyes'
Osmunda regalis
Osmunda regalis /Royal fern
Osteospermum sea spray
Paeonia cvs
Paeonia lactiflora 'Inspecteur Lavergne'
Paeonia lutea
Pandorea jasminoides 'Bower of Beauty'
Papaver nud. 'Spring Fever' (red)
Papaver orientale 'Allegro'
Parochetus communis 'Blue Gem'
Parsley plain leaved
Parthenocissus henryana
Paspberry 'Glen Prosen'
Paspberry 'Malling Promise'
Passiflora caerulea / Passion flower
Paulownia tomentosa
Pennisetem red. / Bunny tails
Penstemon 'Rubicundus'
Penstemon 'Polaris Rose'
Petroselinum crispum var. Neapolitanum plain parsley
Philadelphius 'Manteau d'hermine'
Phlomis russeliana
Phlox 'White Admiral'
Phlox pan. 'Blue Paradise'
Phlox paniculata 'White Flame'
Phormium cookianum 'Cream Delight'
Phormium 'Tom Thumb'
Phygelius aequalis 'Sensation'
Phygelius croftway 'Snow Queen'
Phyllostachys bissetii
Phyllostachys nigra 'Punctata'
Pieris 'Forest Flame'
Pineapple sage
Pinus flexilis glauca
Pinus strobus 'Heavenly Blue'
Pinus wallichiana
Podocarpus salignus
Podocarpus salignus
Polemonium 'Lambrook Mauve'
Polemonium 'Stairway to Heaven'
Polygonatum x hybridum /  Solomon's seal
Polygonatum x hybridum (multiflorum)
Polystichum polyblepharum
Polystichum set 'Herrenhausen'
Potentilla 'Arc en ciel'
Potentilla recta sulphurea
Primula bullesiana
Primula vialii
Primula vulgaris
Prostanthera ovalifolia 'variegata'
Prunus 'Shirofugen'
Prunus serrulata 'Shirotae'
Pseudopanax crassifolius
Pseudosasa japonica bamboo
Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign'
Pulmonaria angustifolia
Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Alba'
Pulsatilla Vulgaris var Rubra
Eryngium bourgatii
Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula'
Quercus ilex
Quercus robur
Redcurrant 'Rovado'
Rhododendron 'Harvest Moon'
Rhododendron 'Horizon Monarch'
Rhododendron kn. 'Whitethroat'
Rhododendron luteum
Rhus typhina 'Dissecta'
Rhus typhina 'Laciniata'
Rodgersia aesculifolia rubra
Rosa banksiae 'Alba Plena'
Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus'
Rubus phoenicolasius /Japanese Wineberry
Rubus/ Tayberry
Ruta graveolans 'Jackman's Blue'
Sagina subulata 'Aurea'
SalixgGracilistyla 'Melanostachys'
Salvia nemorosa 'Ostfriesland'
Salvia x sylvestris 'Blauhugel'
Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold'
Saracococca confusa
Sarcococca confusa
Sassafras albidum
Saxifrage cvs
Scabiosa 'Blue Butterfly'
Schizophragma hydrangeoides. 'Roseum'
Schizostylis 'Pink Princess'
Sciadopitys verticillata
Scirpus tabernaemontani 'Zebrinus'
Sedum acre 'Aureum'
Sedum spath. 'Purpureum'
Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco'
Selinum wallichiana
Semiaquilegia 'Sugar Plum Fairy'
Sempervivum 'Lavender and Old Lace'
Senecio biidwillii
Sidalcea cvs
Silene schafta
Sisyrinchium saphhire
Skimmia confusa 'Kew Green'
Snowdrops / Galanthus cvs
Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin'
Solanum jasminoides 'Blue'
Solanum laxum 'Album'
Sorbus hupehensis 'November Pink'
Rosemary 'Barbeque'
Stachyurus yunnanensis
Stewartia rostrata
Stipa arundinacea
Stipa capillata
Stipa gigantea
Strawberry 'F1 Elan'
Sweet pea 'Spencer'
Syringa vulgaris 'Amethyst'
Syringa vulgaris 'Ludwig Spath'
Syringa vulgaris 'Charles Joly'
Syringa x josiflexa 'Bellicent'
Thalictrum delavayi
Thalictrum rochebrunianum
Thamnocalamus 'Kew Beauty'
Thymus serpenvirens coccineus
Thymus serpyllum 'Doone Valley'
Thymus serpyllum albus
Thymus vulgaris 'Sylver Queen'
Tiarella cordifolia
Troicolor Sage
Trollius chinensis 'Golden Queen'
Trollius lemon queen
Tropaeolum speciosum
Tulbaghia violacea
Vaccinium cor. 'Grover'
Vaccinium corymbosum 'Blue Crop'
Verbascum 'Blue Pixie'
Verbena bonariensis
Verbena rigida 'Polaris'
Verbena rigida 'Venosa'
Veronica inspire pink
Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn'
Viburnum carlesii 'Aurora'
Viburnum davidii
Viburnum plicata 'Dart's Red Robin'
Viburnum sargentii 'Onondaga'
Viburnum tinus
Viola 'Molly Sanderson'
Vitis coignetiae
Vitis vinifera purpurea
Wallflower 'Treasure Bronze'
Wavy hair grass
Deschampsia 'Tatra Gold'
Welsh onions
White Currant 'White Pearl'
Wisteria cvs
Zantedeschia act. 'Snowwhite'


Gorgeous Tulips!

Every autumn we plant the tulip bulbs that weren't sold in our shop. In Spring we use them as cut flowers and I think: "Silly people - if they had bought these they would have these beautiful flowers now". They really are one of the prettiest, easist and most joyous flowers around: just as good in messy, informal gardens as they are smart city gardens. Some of them, such as the fabulous yellow-orange 'Ballerina' come back year after year and bloom in our garden in long grass: a great way to hide the messy foliage. All tulips make the most fabulous cut flowers.

Here are some tulips - grown by us and used in bouquets in the shop.


Celebrate our first birthday!


This weekend (Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th of April) is our first birthday weekend. We celebrate this by giving one lucky shopper everything for free!

Simply put your till receipt in the box provided, with your phone number on the back, and we'll pull a name out of the box on Monday morning. The customer whose name is pulled out will be refunded in full! If you buy a packet of seeds for €2.25, kit out your flowerbeds for €150 or purchase a Biohort shed for over €1000.00, the winning receipt will be fully reimbursed. You will be notified with a phone call on Monday morning. We'll ask one of our neighbouring shopkeepers in as a witness - we don't want to be accused of cheating! Good luck and see you at the weekend!

We're Hiring!

The closing date for applications has passed for this postition. Sorry.

Rare, beautiful and unusual: some of the more special trees and shrubs in our shop

Edgeworthia chrysanthus Garden centre view Dublin Camellia (Red)

Sometimes we buy plants in small numbers and these come and go quickly in our shop. Because of this we cannot get all of them up onto our website. Below is a selection of some of the many trees and shrubs we currently have in stock that have not made it onto our website. For details or to purchase, please contact us via phone or email....... we ship nationwide.

Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea'   €20.50

Acacia pravissima   €19.95

Acer davidii 'Serpentine',   €24.95

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' 'Deshojo', 'Dissectum Viridis' 'Sangokaku'  €29.95

Amelanchier alnifolia 'Obelisk   €12.95

Aralia spinosa   €29.95

Araucaria heterophylla / excelsa   €59.95

Azara lanceolata   €9.95

Camellia, many varieties from Mount Congreve, from €9.95

Cercis 'Forest Pansy'   €38.95

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula'   €54.95

Chimonanthus yunnanensis   €12.95

Chionanthus virginicus   €12.95

Cornus contraversa   €29.95

Cornus 'Eddie's White Wonder'   €29.95

Cornus kousa 'China Girl'     €34.95

Coronilla glauca 'Citrina'   €11.95

Edgeworthia chrysanthus   €29.95

Fothergilla major   €9.95

Ginkgo biloba   €29.95

Hoheria populnea   €10.95

Hoheria sexstylosa   €22.95

Lagerstroemia indica 'Petite Pink'   €12.95

Magnolia 'Frank's Masterpiece'   €39.95

Magnolia loebneri 'Merril'   €29.95

Magnolia macrophylla   €39.95

Magnolia sieboldii 'Collossus'   €29.95

Magnolia stellata   €19.95

Magnolia soulangeana 'Lennei Abla'   €29.95

Magnolia wilsonii   €29.95

Nothofagus antarctica   €19.95

Nothofagus dombeyi   €17.95

Olearia lacunosa   €10.95

Paeonia (tree paeony), various colours   €31.95

Parrotiopsis jacquemontiana   €29.95

Pear, espalliered €49.95

Philadelphus 'Frosty Morn'   €8.95

Pinus flexilis 'Glauca'   €22.95

Pinus strobus 'Heavenly Blue'   €27.95

Pinus wallichiana   €9.95

Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata'   €10.95

Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'   €19.95

Prunus 'Shirotae'   €49.95

Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'   €49.95

Pseudopanax ferox   €28.95

Pyrocydonia daniellii   €34.95

Rhus typhina 'Laciniata'   €13.80

Sasafras albidum   €14.95

Sciadopitys verticcilata   €26.95

Stewartia monadelpha   €34.95

Stewartia rostrata   €21.95

Viburnum carlesii 'Aurora'   €8.95

Viburnum plicatum 'Dart's Red Robin'   €8.95

Viburnum plicatum 'Janny'   €8.95

Viburnum plicatum 'Shasta'   €13.95

Viburnum opulus 'Roseum'   €8.95


Growing plants in pots and containers

Pots in autumn

There are many reasons to have plants in pots. You may not have a garden, but a balcony or roof terrace instead. Or you may need to bring greenery and colour to a part of the garden where you can’t plant into the ground such as beside the front door or on the patio. You may want to grow a type of plant that doesn’t want to grow in the conditions that your garden provides: in a container you can manipulate the soil type and the drainage far more easily that you can with open ground.  Another good reason for gardening in pots is that you may be renting your house or apartment. If you plan on moving at some point, you can have a mobile garden that you take with you when you move, eventually planting things into the ground when you have your own garden.

Pretty well all plants can grow in pots. In a garden centre, people often ask “What plant should I put in my containers?’” My response is normally to ask where the container will be going (ie sunny or shady, exposed or sheltered) and how big the plants should end up. It’s worth bearing in mind that most pots end up in more exposed parts of the garden, and many of them are for apartments where there is more wind and exposure to the elements than at ground level. The other big consideration is if the plants are going to be in an extreme of either sun or shade. You need very different plants for an essentially shady north-facing aspect than you do for a sunny south-facing area. (See my listing of top plants for containers below).

If you want a plant to grow big and stay healthy, then you need a big pot. You can grow trees and large shrubs, provided that the pot can sustain them. Taller plants such as trees and bamboos should be in lower, squatter pots as this makes them more stable. If you have a plant with a large surface area – ie a lot of leaves – that makes it act like a sail and catch the wind.  Square pots with the proportions of a cube can be good for taller plants as they have a relatively low centre of gravity. Always chose a pot size that will be able to sustain a plant into the future and has room for more growth. If the pot is too small it will stop the plant from developing properly and also mean that it needs constant watering. The larger the pot the slower it will dry out and the healthier the plants will be.

If you are growing something that you intend to have for a long time – say a tree or shrub – you should choose a pot that doesn’t narrow towards the top. If you plant, say, a gorgeous Camellia or Japanese maple that after five years needs to be transplanted, you will need to be able to get it out of the original pot. If that pot doesn’t widen towards the top it cannot be got out and either the pot has to be smashed or the plant has to stay put and suffer.

On the other hand, if you want to grow smaller plants such as bedding or bulbs, you should select smaller pots. Again, if the pots are too small then they blow over easily. When the plants develop a lot of foliage the compost can dry out quickly and the pots are less steady. Generally, a mixture of shapes and sizes is best: small pots for flowers, herbs and bulbs and larger pots for trees, shrubs or topiary.

It’s important to choose good quality compost. Using pure topsoil from the garden rarely works as it is too heavy. The best medium is to mix a multi-purpose, low peat compost mixed with John Innes compost (a soil-based compost) and some soil enricher – we use Gee-Up which is the best soil improver we know. If you are planting Rhododendron, Camellia or any plant that requires acidic soil, be sure to choose Ericaceous compost which has the correct pH (acidity level) for these plants. If you use regular compost they will look unhealthy and possibly die.

Plants in pots require special care. They don’t have access to the moisture and nutrients of open ground, so you need to provide these. Regular watering is essential. Evergreen plants such as Box, Laurel and Skimmia need watering all year round: every second week in the winter and every week during spring, summer and autumn. Plants with a lot of foliage – such as Bamboos – need a lot of water if they are in pots. In an exposed place such as a balcony they really shouldn’t be planted: they don’t much like the wind, and they don’t like drying out.

Plants in pots also require regular feeding, and the easiest for is to use a liquid feed when watering. A couple of capfuls of feed (liquid seaweed fertiliser is best) approximately once per month should keep the plants healthy. Every year the top layer of compost should be discarded and a new layer applied. We use Gee-up for top-dressing as it feeds the plants slowly and also helps maintain moisture levels in the pot.

Top plants for containers:

Agapanthus: tall blue or white fowers. Best in sun.

Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis): excellent specimen plant or topiary.

Box (Buxus sempervirens): excellent for topiary and evergreen structure.

Bulbs: Tulips and Daffodils thrive in pots.

Camellia: a glossy evergreen shrub. For a sheltered spot out of full sun.

Herbs: Oregano, Mint and Rosemary (preferably the prostrate form). Best in sun.

Hosta: away from the slugs, Hosta grow well in pots. Best in light shade.

Japanese maple (Acer): excellent tree for a container. Needs a sheltered spot.

Olive: in a sunny sheltered spot an olive can thrive in a pot. Milder areas only.

Pine: dwarf pines such as Pinus mugo make excellent container plants.

Rhododendron: often better in pots than in the ground. Use ericaceous compost.

Skimmia: a fragrant evergreen shrub. Best in shelter and light shade.

Stipa: (grass) the best ones for pots are ‘Pony Tails’ and Stipa arundinacea.


Up the garden path

In all seasons, there is one area in the garden which we enter - or at least pass through - every day. It greets us in the morning and it brings us home every evening. It welcomes visitors and it hosts farewells. It brings in the new and ushers out the old. It's the garden path or, more precisely, the path to the front door.

A path to the front door, lined with Box (Buxus sempervirens) in a garden designed and planted by us (Howbert & Mays)

In winter we may just pass along it with our collars up and eyes down. In summer we may linger with spirits raised. But whatever the weather, the garden path is probably the most frequented part of the garden: which all goes to make it a Very Important lace. A front garden - and most of all the garden path, or the route to front door if there isn't a precise path - shows how you want to present yourself to the world. A well-loved front garden and unkempt back garden raises the same important question which you can have about your car: is it more important to clean the outside, and show a good side to the world at large, or to clean the inside because you're 'worth it' (and want to be clean and comfortable too.)

pebble mosiac path in Bray

A Victorian pebble mosaic path in Bray, Co Wicklow, complete with traditional glazed rope edging.
For these reasons, it's a good idea to think about the garden path: materials, lines and flow, as well as the plants around it. In the past, especially on grander houses, the path to the front door was often elaborately paved. Availability of materials rather than a conscious decision to be worthy was behind the choice of 'locally-sourced' products. Coastal parts of Dublin have (or had) paths made from pebbles, artfully arranged into wonderful patterns. More inland parts of the city had more tiles or bricks. But all in all, there was a necessity to use materials that, if not entirely local, were at least from somewhere nearby. Thus, granite, brick, beach pebbles and tiles were the main materials used in the Dublin area.

Path in Bray

A concrete path to the front door, bordered by fabulous Kniphofia and succulent plants.
These days when labour is so expensive, a complicated pebble mosaic is pretty well out of the question in most cases. A no-labour alternative which still uses local materials is gravel. Gravel has the advantage of being cheap, easily installed, free-draining and noisy - excellent if you like to hear footsteps as they approach the door. The down-side is that is can get stuck in shoes and work its way into the house where it is a nuisance. It is however, relatively 'soft' compared to, say, a paved surface. Other options for the path to the front door include paving stones, cobble-lock or various combinations such as paving stones set in gravel.

Pebble mosaic path in Bray

Spring bulbs and roses flank the path, terminating in two superb Pyracantha (Firethorn) against the house.
From a planting point of view, many winter-flowering plants come with the advice 'plant somewhere that you will pass in winter so that the blooms can be appreciated'. This advice makes sense as most winter-flowering plants are fairly subtle in terms of their blooms: Sarcococca, Hellebore, Snowdrops and Daphne are all plants that take a bit of looking at (and sniffing) to appreciate. At the far end of the garden they would be lost and their scent unappreciated. Box (Buxus sempervirens) is an excellent plant for bordering a path to the front door. Although much planted, it is unbeatable as a low, formal, low-maintenance hedge or specimen.  It is low enough for the subtle plants behind it to be seen and appreciated but also evergreen. Its new leaves in early summer are cheery and it adds a sense of formality. Other plants that make an excellent formal or semi-formal edge include Lavender (the best ones for Ireland are 'Hidcote' and 'Munstead'), Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft) or, if you have lots of space, Nepeta 'Six Hill's Giant' (Catmint). Nepeta does what many people want lavender to do - masses of lilac flowers, a haven for bees and butterflies - but it is pretty vigorous and is best when cut back in mid-summer so that it can have a second round of flowering later in the year. This also keeps its size in check.

Garden path

A pebble mosaic path near Monkstown in Co Dublin.

decaying cobble path

Another pebble mosaic path in Co Dublin: weeds are starting to gain a foothold.



garden path with concrete

Tragedy revealed: new over old: under every concrete path how many older paths are there?

Paving stones through gravel in a pretty cottage garden path to the front door in North Dublin.


January in our shop: lots in bloom and looking good!

There isn't a lot of colour about in January, but there are still plenty of things to bring life to the garden. Here is a selection of plants, pots and other items in our shop, all taken in eary January 2013.

Festuca glauca grass and white Cyclamen in a black 'Artstone' bowl planter: an excellent combination.

Organic vegetable and herb seeds

Spring is only around the corner: a peaceful couple of hours was spent arranging a full stand of Suffolk Herbs organic vegetable and herb seeds. There is plenty to look forward to.

Our new Biohort storage shed: this is the best garden storage shed we have ever seen: discreet, secure, well-designed, compact and stylish.

'Artstone' window box planted with variegated ivy, Gaultheria and red Cyclamen.

Maggie O'Dwyer ivy painting

One of several paintings by artist Maggie O'Dwyer - this one of ivy leaves and berries. Many of her paintings and prints are based on botanical themes, and her 'Botanical Alphabet' prints are very popular.

Birch nesting box

Birch robin nesting box for larger birds such as blackbirds and robins.

Indoor outdoor thermometer from France

We love this stylish indoor or outdoor thermometer: our shop is a balmy 11ºC indoors!

Indoor outdoor garden thermometers

But we also love these ones..... can't decide which colour we prefer though!

Tall Artstone planter with buxus ball

This tall black flower pot /  planter is very stylish and elegant. 'Artstone' make pots from a plastic / stone resin that has a natural finish and is lightweight,characterful and durable.

Artstone hanging 'bowl' pot

Hanging planter made by 'Artstone' which has a discreet plug, meaning that in can be used inddors or outdoors.

Omphalodes verna

Omphalodes verna: winter Forget-me-mot living up to its name: in full bloom in early January.

Sarcococca cofusa in bloom

Hamamellis in bloom

Hammamellis x intermedia in bloom. Witch hazel is an excellent plant for a lightly shaded garden.

Helleborus niger (Christmas rose) in bloom.

Rosa 'Avalanche' in wedding bouquet

Anthea made bouquets for a wedding a few days after Christmas, including this one using Hypericum berries, Callistemon and Rosa 'Avalanche'.






The Garden in Winter

Sarcococca confusa / Sweet box Hamamellis 'Pallida' / Witch hazel

It's not all doom and gloom in these dark days of winter. In the garden there are some subtle delights that bring cheer on even the greyest of days. In a summer garden these plants would be out-shone by bigger and brighter delights. Yet in winter they have the lack of background distraction to draw our full attention. Many winter-blooming plants are highly fragrant and their sweet smell can be surprisingly powerful given the small size of the blooms.

The sweet fragrance of Sarcococca confusa (known as Sweet box or Christmas box) is powerful enough to waft around the garden, though like most fragrant plants it should be located somewhere where it will be noticed: no point in having a wonderfully fragrant plant at the far end of the garden which nobody ever gets to except in summer. As it is a plant that prefers a shady spot it is ideal around the base of the house or in the part of the garden that gets least sunlight. It's perfect near a path - or even as an edging plant to a path - or interspersed with shrubs, ferns or bulbs. Another benefit of this plant is that is makes an excellent cut flower: the glossy leaves and fragrant flower makes it an excellent choice for a winter flower arrangement.

Omphalodes verna Helleborus niger

Another subtle winter delight is the Witch hazel (Hamamellis x intermedia). There are several varieties, with flowers varying from pale yellow to dark yellow to burnt orange to red. The spidery flowers have a delicate fragrance and appear on bare twigs, giving the plant a delightfully wispy character. Perfect for a lightly shaded part of the garden, the witch hazel grows to be a modestly sized shrub (approximately 3 x 3 metres) in soil that is neutral to acid. It has the benefit of fabulous autumn colour and, when in summer leaf, perfectly attractive foliage.  It is an excellent plant for a container: we have one by the front door which is underplanted with ferns and ivy, making a set-piece which has something going on for most months of the year.

When choosing plants for the garden it's always worth thinking about all the different levels: there should be something happening on or near the ground (perennials, ferns, grasses, bulbs etc); in the middle area (shrubs, tall perennials and grasses); and, if possible, up above (trees and climbers). Two pretty plants which are looking great right now at the start of January are Omphalodes verna (creeping forget-me-not) and Helleborus niger (Christmas rose). Both of these plants are close to the ground. The clear blue flowers of the Omphalodes look like they belong to a couple of months later into the year. It's a perfect plant for going under larger trees or shrubs and is most content in moist soil. More well-known is the Hellebore / Christmas rose. The pretty white or green flowers stand up tall amongst or above the glossy green leaves of the plant and, when established, these plants can survive and spread for many years. Given the lack of light in the winter, many of the best winter-blooming plants like to take advantage of the conditions provided by deciduous trees and shrubs above: they like humus- rich soil, which they get from fallen leaves, but they also like the light they get when the plants above are without leaves. Many of the plants disappear entirely half way through the year when available light and moisture is taken up by the bigger plants above them.

 Buxus sempervirens (Box) domes, Dublin

It's also worth thinking about structure in the garden during the winter. When so many plants have retreated into the ground or into themselves, the garden can look very empty, even with a few flowering gems such as those outlined above. Structural plants are the ones that give the garden a shape, an all-year-round back-bone upon which some of the more ephemeral plants can be grouped. Without these structural plants - normally evergreen plants such as the Box plants (Buxus sempervirens) shown above -  a garden can look pretty bleak for much of the year. These structural plants can define paths or simply fill an otherwise empty space. When there is more going on later in the year the blend into the background somewhat.

Other excellent 'structural' plants for adding winter interest include Bay (Laurus nobilis), Yew (Taxus baccata), and Portugal laurel (Prunus lusitanica). These are normally clipped into interesting shapes to give a degree of formality.

Autumn colour in the garden

As the temperature drops, leaves respond with dramatic changes in colour. From yellows and oranges to burnt reds and ochres, nothing gives us that 'autumn feeling' more than the turning of the leaves. Here are some highlights: all easily grown in Irish gardens.

Autumn colour in the garden centre: Cotinus, Acer, Nerine, Hydrangea 'Limelight', Fothergilla.

Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia'

Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' (Golden honey locust): an excellent tree for small to medium-sized gardens. This tree has 'autumn colour' from spring until late autumn, as the leaves are a wonderful shade of pale yellow. In Autumn this yellow deepens to a very rich shade. This is a tree that prefers some shelter from strong winds, and it grows well near walls or houses: it is a popular street tree in many countries and it has a tall, narrow habit. Its small leaves never cast too heavy a shadow and its light, shimmering foliage brightens up a dark spot in the garden.

Hamamelis x intermedia (Witch hazel): there are lots of different varieties of Witch hazel, depending on the size and colour of the winter flowers. Hamamelis has fabulous autumn colour and is a highly prized shrub for a lightly-shaded part of the garden. It makes an excellent specimen plant or can be part of a woodland garden. The leaves are similar to our native Hazel (Corylus, which also has excellent autumn colour) but with more shades of orange and red. It requires soil that is neutral to acid and grows to an approximate height and spread of 3 m x 3 m.

Hamamelis x intermedia

Fothergilla major (Mountain witch alder): this shrub from East coast USA is rarely planted in Ireland, which is a shame as it has plenty to offer in Irish gardens. With brilliant autumn colour - dark rish shades of orange and red - it also has delightful fluffy creamy-white flowers in spring. It is a fairly compact shrub wchich grows to approx 1.5 m wide to 2 m tall. Ideal for a wodland garden, it prefers the shelter of taller trees above as many North American species dislike our late, unpredictable frosts. The cover of taller trees can protect plants from this. It alsogrows well in a container but, like Wich hazel, requires neutral to acidic soil.

Fothergilla major - stunning colour. The fluffy cream-coloured flowers in spring are also gorgeous.


Schizostylus major (Kaffir lily): An excellent late-flowering perennial plant for those difficult spots in the garden. Schizostylis is a strappy leaved perennial with cup-shaped pale red flowers from late summer to early winter. A remarkable feature of this plant is how late in the year it flowers. It prefers fertile soil, sun or light shade and can also thrive in moist or damp soils.

Disanthus cercidifolius: Disanthus has heart-shaped leaved, similar to those of the better-known Cercis (Judas tree) which turns a range of vibrant reds, purples and oranges in autumn. This small-medium-sized shrub prefers acidic soil and grows best in half sun, half shade. Protect from strong winds, keep out of full sunlight, and ideally locate it at a woodland edge or in dappled shade.

Rhus 'Dissecta'

Nerine bowdenii 'Alba' (Naked ladies): Native to South Africa, Nerine bowdenii is a very resilient and long-lived bulbous perennial with rich pink flowers in late summer and autumn - a white flowering variety is also available. The flower stems come out of the ground without leaves (hence the colourful common name). A plant for a sunny, well-drained site, and ideal for a warmer spot in the garden where they frequently thrive and spread. They require little care, once established, and although they can form a dense colony, they don't require dividing. Makes a fine plant for a container.

Hydrangea 'Limelight': This Hydrangea is very different from most: the creamy green flowers apper in sprays in late summer and autumn. The flower colour is hard to define, ranging from creamy-white to lime green fading to pink. The flowers make excellent cut flowers for flower arranging and can also be dried. The flowers are large and numerous and can last on into the autumn. Plant in light shade or shade in moist, well-drained soil. Cut back hard each spring, removing the previous year's growth. A much praised plant, ideal for most garden situations and very hardy.

Cotinus 'Grace': Cotinus is a really attractive shrub, with big, spoon-shaped flowers in varipus shades of green and purple. 'Grace' is an especially good variety because of the extra large leaves and stunning autumn colour. This bush or small tree has fabulous leaves, in shades of green overlaid with red and brilliant autumn colour. Plant in most garden soils - well-drained and fertile. It can grow to be a small tree with interesting lower branches. Good as a speciman plant, in a shrub border or at a garden boundary where it ca be left to grow up to 3 metres in height.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia


Acer 'Bloodgood'

Fallen leaves in Dublin's Fitzwilliam Square

 See directions to our Garden Centre at 27-28 The Crescent, Monkstown, Co Dublin....

Letting the outdoors in: designing the garden to suit the house

Modern houses have bigger windows than old ones. Picture windows, sun rooms, sliding glass doors – these are relatively new concepts. The ‘big house’ of old may have had big windows, but for everyone else, home was a fairly dark place. So, what do these big windows have to do with gardens?Garden in the rain

Big windows looking into the garden at our own home.

Most modern gardens are as much for looking at from inside as they are for actually being in. You could even argue that they are more for looking at: we see them while we eat our breakfast, watch our TV and cook our meals. But how often do we actually enter them? They play a huge part in the way our home feels. They are practically in our living rooms and,  if we’re lucky there’s a great view beyond.
Despite our mild climate, the outdoors in Ireland is a fairly inhospitable place for much of the year. It’s dark for most of our waking hours over the winter. If you have a job or go to school, it’s possible that you’ll only have the chance to see your garden in daylight for five or six hours per week. For those hours it could be cold, wet or windy: the grass is water-logged, the ground is slippy. You really don’t want to be outside. Of course, we do have glorious summer days when we can really be in the garden, and we should never forget them. But we should not plan our gardens around them.

House with big windows

A modern house in the Dublin mountains by Fitzpatrick and Mays Architects: garden design and planting by us.
The fad for the garden being an ‘outdoor room’ suddenly seems very out of-date in our more frugal, post-crash world. Do we really want  - let alone need – all the things outside that we have inside already? This includes furniture (with cushions), lights, speakers, cooking areas, painted walls, paved ground and wall-mounted ‘features’. These are the things that we have indoors anyway – only outdoors they are rarely used and probably falling apart.  We have to remember: this is Ireland, not New Mexico, France or the deck of a cruise liner.
Given the amount of hard surfaces in our daily lives, do we really want more than we need of this on our own home turf? We need paths and surfaces so we can get around our house cleanly, and we need somewhere for parking, but we don’t need swathes of paving that put us at a distance from what is probably the best antidote of all to modern life: the natural world.
Plants in this situation, pushed to raised beds or to garden boundaries are relegated to a very lowly status. They are used for a splash of colour here, a dash of movement there, a bit of screening over there. On the other hand, even the simplest garden - a lawn with some bulbs and well-chosen shrubs around it – can provide enough for seasonal change, rotation of flowers, weekly changes. If there are views to the landscape beyond, this planting can relate directly to that, merging the immediate garden with the borrowed landscape in a subtle way.

Sean O'Casey Community Centre

Sean O'Casey Community centre in Dublin. Planting by us brings nature right into the heart of this modern building.
Modern houses are built solidly. There have sturdy concrete foundations, damp-proof courses and many layers of cladding, each of which protects the next one. There’s no danger of damaging a house by allowing plants right up to it. There are a few obvious things not to do – don’t plant an oak tree six inches from your kitchen window; don’t plant a willow on your drains. Otherwise, allow plants to come as near to your house as you like. Often, the best part of a garden is that south-facing wall which is also the back of the house. Put it to ideal use, and that means plant it: with herbs, with lavender, with flowers or even with a trained fruit tree. If you need a path around the house, move it out a couple of feet from the house so that the house in nicely anchored in its setting. This is common in most countries except for Ireland and England where we appear to have a particular fear of plants. It’s known as ‘foundation planting’. If you need a patio for table and chairs, move it away from the house so that it can have planting all around it. This will make it a more pleasant place to be in and will also mean that you can have garden right up to your house.
If the trend over the years has been to create an ‘outdoor room’ by constructing a garden with all the trappings of an interior, I would suggest that the next trend will be a complete reversal: allow the outdoors to come in. Participate in the natural beauty of the outdoors without having to enter it – at least for some of the year!

Natural flower arrangements: a wedding in Dublin

A busy day! These flowers are all for one wedding: one hundred and sixty small posies and five large buckets, all from locally grown flowers. A colourful and natural start to married life. After the wet summer, flowers are at last blooming brilliantly. The flowers grown here are mainly from Leitrim Flowers, with supplementary flowers from the garden of our friends Ruaidhri Bashford and Cathy Burke, as well as from our own garden and hedgerows. Anthea arranged the flowers in our garden shop in Monkstown and then brought them on to venues in Dun Laoghaire and Dalkey.

Flower arrangement  Dublin

Flower posies en masses

Flower poseis en masse - soon to be laid out on the dining tables..

Detail with Eryngium, Cosmos and white Hydrangea

Wedding flowers

Smaller wedding posies

Cosmos, Dahlia, Calendula and wild grass seed heads

Wedding flowers DunLaoghaire

Wedding table with posies

The feast is set......... (the scene is Olivetto's in the Kingston Hotel, Dun Laoghaire).

Wedding flowers  DunLaoghaire

Eupatorium, Agapanthus, Echinops, Hydrangea 'Limelight', Aster, Monarda, teasel, Euphorbia, Pennisetum......

edding flowers Dalkey

Posies in position.

Wedding flowers Dalkey


Summer stock in the garden centre

See directions to our Garden Centre at 27-28 The Crescent, Monkstown, Co Dublin....

Every week plants come and go in our garden centre - there's always something new. The pictures show some of the plants availablethis summer. From bamboos to perennials, ferns to climbers, the vast majority of our plants are grown in Irish nurseries. These growers really know what they are are doing, and the plants leave the nursery one day and are with us the next. Hardy, well-grown, unusual and suitable for our climate........

Chocolate Cosmos

Chocolare Cosmos. The velvety, dark flowers smell distinctly of chocolate. Long-flowering and exceptionally pretty.

Garden bouquet

One of Anthea's flower arrangemements - with thanks to our friend Cathy Burke who brought many of these flowers from her own garden.


Thamnocalamus 'Kew Beauty': this fine-leaved bamboo has wonderful dark-olive coloured stems. Beautiful against the whitewashed wall and proving to be very popular.

French lavender

French lavender with its distinctive 'ears'. Chocolate Cosmos in the background.

Gardenia 'Keim's Hardy'

Gardenia 'Keim's Hardy': the fabulous waxy flowers on this little plant are deliciously fragrant. Tight glossy leaves make it an excellent plant for a container - with the benefit of being able to bring under cover during cold snaps.

Hydrangea 'Ayesha'

Hydrangea 'Ayesha': the waxy pale pink flowers are unlike any other hydrangea..... said to be fragrant too, though we haven't got this yet.

Dublin Bay

Rose 'Dublin Bay': nestled as we are in the arms of Dublin Bay, we have to sell this plant. Long-flowering and tough, we can see why it is a popular rose.


Delphiniums against our gate. For a plant that looks delicate, Delphiniums grow very well in Dublin gardens, become taller and thicker each year.

Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

Brunnera 'Jack Frost': a fabulous foliage plant, used here in a terracotta pot.

Roman head

Terracotta Roman head: perfect for walls in courtyards or tight spaces. There is a man too!

Bird bath

Hanging bird bath: proving popular with our resident robin.

Metal bird feeder

Hanging metal bird feeders:  just the ticket if you have pesky magpies and crows as the perch is too short for them.

Greetings cards

Greetings cards, postcards and books: the collection is growing as people find us and we find them.

Botanic alphabet

A new addition to our painting are these pretty botanic alphabet paintings by Maggie O'Dwyer - also available in poster form as the complete alphabet.



Slugs and snails: a plague on all your gardens

A mild winter followed by a wet summer - a recipe for yet another year when slugs and snails cause devastation in our gardens. There are two - no three - ways of coping with this. The first is to wage war on them with an arsenal of beer traps, scissors, salt cellars and poisons. The second is to tolerate them, let them eat and destroy to their hearts' content and then only populate your garden with plants they don't eat. And the third approach is a bit of both: keep a check on them with traps, poison (only in the form of Iron oxide / 'Sluggo / Ferramol) and the occasional bout of vindictive butchery; all in combination with choosing plants that they don't like.

Black slug

Our own garden is a paradise for slugs: surrounded by long grass, damp soil and compost heaps, the place is quite literally heaving with slugs. Some plants disappear in days: our lovely Heleniums were stripped to the stems; sunflowers, courgettes and cucumbers savagely gnawed at the base. On the other hand, other plants breeze through unscathed: Ornamental grasses including Miscanthus, Stipa, Helictotrichon and Calamagrostis are all untouched. Flowering perennials such as Crocosmia, Paeony, Sedum, Geranium, Astrantia, Astilbe, Coreopsis, Papaver, Helleborus and Knautia seem to have complete resistance, as do many herbs including oregano, lavender, rosemary, fennel and thyme. Many shrubs have survived unblemished such as box, lavender, rose, cornus and bamboo species. Bulbs  - all leaves for a while - are mixed. They didn't touch our lovely Frittilaria melagris or our Anemone blanda but they gobbled the flowers on our snodrops and half our daffodil buds.

Primula in our garden

Most people are aware of the plants that are most attractive to slugs and snails: anything with lots of soft foliage such as Hosta, Delphinium or even Hydrangea. In our garden slugs ate the flowers on our snowdrops this year and had a good stab at defoliating our very pretty young Magnolia 'Leonard Messel'. In our new polytunnel - as yet untamed - they felled our few attempts at starting vegetables and munched their way through all our young vegetable seedlings. It is in places like this that the pellets really make an impact. 'Traditional' slug pellets contain the active ingredient methaldehyde which can get into the food-chain and soil causing untold damage to birds and other wildlife. On the other hand, there are now slug pellets that use Iron oxide or Iron sulphate: these pellets are effective, naturally occurring minerals that are not toxic to other creatures or to the soil. A very light sprinkling once a week can really knock them back and we have seen a dramatic reduction in their numbers since we started using 'Sluggo'.

Physical attacks can be unpleasant and invariably leave me feeling disturbed. Horrible as they are, slicing them in half with a half-moon lawn edger or melting them with salt always seems like an act of revenge than an act of plant-saving. There are simplyt so many of them that I am not sure this type of activity has any benefit. Maybe in a small or confined garden it does, as do the beer traps, which are altogether more humane. But when you have a lot of space, choosing plants that they don't like has to be the best and easiest option.

Perennials and grasses that slugs and snails don't eat (based on our own experience):



Anemone ( A. x hybrida and A. blanda)









Ferns (various species)

Foeniculum (fennel)

Geranium (herbaceous)


Iris pseudacorus / Yellow flag. Other species not (see below)















Our shop is up and running!

Thank you to the team of hard-working carpenters, landscapers, painters and helpers for making it all happen so beautifully. Thanks too to our growers and suppliers for some truly wonderful plants.

Find us on Google maps...

The outdoor area

The beautiful wall is built by Sean and Stephen Daly of Irish Stone Garden. It incorporates pockets of soil for alpines and herbs.

Walls and benches

The benches were built by Ciaran Kelly, who has built many garden fnces for us over the years.

Rhododendron 'Alice Fitzwilliam'

One of our favourite and best-selling plants: Rhododendron 'Lady Alice Fitzwilliam'


Some fabulous new plants in stock, including the exquistite Magnolia wilsonii.

Inside the garden shop

Inside the shop

Inside the shop - great light floods in from the south-facing windows. We added the new window into the yard.

Willow trug

Traditional garden trugs of unpeeled willow.

Book table, indoors

Books, compost caddies, bird feeders, terracotta pots, orchids, tools.......

Around the till

The fabulous paintings are by Mary West and Vanessa Butler - both local artists.

Birds on window sill

What a lot of rain we had in our first week! It gave us time to get organised.

Chair in window

Traditional deck chair in the window.

Organic vegetable seeds

A selection of organically grown vegetable seeds - we also have green manure and flower seeds.

Cards by botanical artists

Some beautiful cards by Irish botanical artists.

Location of Howbert and Mays garden Centre Dublin

We're the only garden centre between Dalkey and the city centre!


Our new garden centre in Monkstown, Co Dublin

Opening  23rd April 2012: our new garden centre in Monkstown, Co Dublin

Planning the new shopfront
Up until now, our garden centre has been selling online only. For some, buying plants or tools online can be somewhat nerve-wracking: say if the quality is bad, the plants are tiny, or they get damaged in transit? These are all questions that people have. Many people want to see, feel and smell before they purchase, and there can be something fun about browsing through a garden centre.

A few weeks ago we were in Monkstown and saw a 'TO LET' sign on the old Action Hire premises on The Crescent, Monkstown. What really caught our eye was the large yard beside the premises, enclosed by lovely high granite walls and with a door leading into the shop beside it. This was the perfect space for a compact garden centre, with plenty of room for a wide selection of plants, as well as great interior space for tools, seeds and other gardening supplies. We are now only a couple of weeks away from opening, and we are really excited. The online business (DYG) will operate from here, so all of the products and plants that we sell will be available to browse or purchase in the shop. We'll also have items that don't make it onto the website or items that cannot be sent via courier such as pots, potting composts and larger plants.

Up until a couple of years ago, the Dun Laoghaire area had two excellent garden centres, Mackey's and Harry Byrne's. Each of these closed down when their site was sold for property development. Their demise left a real absence of a quality garden centre for this part of South Dublin. Our new garden centre is for those who love gardens and gardening: a select range of plants, including the unusual and hard-to-find plants; quality gardening tools which are designed to last for years and be a pleasure when in use; gardening supplies such as seaweed fertilisers, natural insecticides and peat-free composts; and outdoor accessories such as traditional deck chairs, hammocks and garden games. We specialise in Irish-grown plants; these have the advantage of fewer 'plant miles', better hardiness to our fluctuating climate and supporting our horticultural industry.

Click for directions on Google Maps.

Early days

The Yard.

Interior - all of the partition walls are still in situ.

Work in progress week 2

New window into the yard

Our new window gives an excellent view into the outdoor sales area from inside.

Anthea with Seaa Daly, wall builder supremo

Anthea with Sean Daly, the best wall builder and general stone person that we know.

 Painting the interior

Painting the interior of the shop - the new counter is half built.... and it is NOT a bar!

 Week 4 - getting near the end.

Second layer of the new surface down in the yard: compacted Ballylusk dust over crushed recycled concrete.

Anthea and the landscaper checking out the new yard surface: one more layer to go.

 Week 5 - the last week

New signs just up

The sign is up: no turning back now. Endless discussions, drawings and plans for this and now it's here: very happy with it. The lettering was manufactured and erected by Baseline Signs. Very happy with them - unless the letters fall off!

Starting to look remarkably like a garden centre. With all the walls at different angles it took a bit of arranging to get this right.


Outside in: how to get the most from your garden - from inside

A house in a garden in Dublin, designed and planted by Howbert and Mays: the left photo shows the kitchen window, nestled in a sunny corner with flowering plants.. The right shows a bedroom window loking onto a shady woodland garden and pond. A house in a garden in Dublin, designed and planted by Howbert and Mays: the left photo shows the kitchen window, nestled in a sunny corner with flowering plants.. The right shows a bedroom window loking onto a shady woodland garden and pond.

A house in a garden in Dublin, designed and planted by Howbert and Mays: the left photo shows the kitchen window, nestled in a sunny corner with flowering plants.. The right shows a bedroom window loking onto a shady woodland garden and pond.

Modern houses have bigger windows than old ones. Picture windows, sun rooms, sliding glass doors – these are relatively new concepts. The ‘big house’ of old may have had big windows, but for everyone else, home was a fairly dark place. So, what do these big windows have to do with gardens?
Most modern gardens are as much for looking at from inside as they are for actually being in. You could even argue that they are more for looking at: we see them while we eat our breakfast, watch our TV and cook our meals. But how often do we actually enter them? They play a huge part in the way our home feels. They are practically in our living rooms and,  if we’re lucky there’s a great view beyond.

Irish old and Irish new. This wonderful group of buildings illustrates better than anything the difference in how traditional buildings and modern buildings differ in their realtionship to the outdoors. Bothar Bui, built by architect Robin Walker, on the Beara peninsula, West Cork.

Despite our mild climate, the outdoors in Ireland is a fairly inhospitable place for much of the year. It’s dark for most of our waking hours over the winter. If you have a job or go to school, it’s possible that you’ll only have the chance to see your garden in daylight for five or six hours per week. For those hours it could be cold, wet or windy: the grass is water-logged, the ground is slippy. You really don’t want to be outside. Of course, we do have glorious summer days when we can really be in the garden, and we should never forget them. But we should not plan our gardens around them.

Garden in rain

Our own living room and garden in Wicklow. The garden is always there!
The fad for the garden being an ‘outdoor room’ suddenly seems very out of-date in our more frugal, post-crash world. Do we really want  - let alone need – all the things outside that we have inside already? This includes furniture (with cushions), lights, speakers, cooking areas, painted walls, paved ground and wall-mounted ‘features’. These are the things that we have indoors anyway – only outdoors they are rarely used and probably falling apart.  We have to remember: this is Ireland, not New Mexico, France or the deck of a cruise liner.

Modern houses really can have big windows! This house extension in Dublin by Fitzpatrick and Mays architects uses the view of and flow into the garden as a key feature in every room.

Modern houses really can have big windows! This house extension in Dublin by Fitzpatrick and Mays architects uses the view of and flow into the garden as a key feature in every room. Garden by Howbert and Mays.
Given the amount of hard surfaces in our daily lives, do we really want more than we need of this on our own home turf? We need a few paths and surfaces so we can get around our house cleanly, and we need somewhere for parking, but we don’t need swathes of paving that put us at a distance from what is probably the best antidote of all to modern life: the natural world.
Plants in this situation, pushed to raised beds or to garden boundaries are relegated to a very lowly status. They are used for a splash of colour here, a dash of movement there, a bit of screening over there. On the other hand, even the simplest garden - a lawn with some bulbs and well-chosen shrubs around it – can provide enough for seasonal change, rotation of flowers, weekly changes. If there are views to the landscape beyond, this planting can relate directly to that, merging the immediate garden with the borrowed landscape in a subtle way.
Modern houses are built solidly. There have sturdy concrete foundations, damp-proof courses and many layers of cladding, each of which protects the next one. There’s no danger of damaging a house by allowing plants right up to it. There are a few obvious things not to do – don’t plant an oak tree six inches from your kitchen window; don’t plant a willow on your drains. Otherwise, allow plants to come as near to your house as you like. Often, the best part of a garden is that south-facing wall which is also the back of the house. Put it to ideal use, and that means plant it: with herbs, with lavender, with flowers or even with a trained fruit tree. If you need a path around the house, move it out a couple of feet from the house so that the house in nicely anchored in its setting. This is common in most countries except for Ireland and England where we appear to have a particular fear of plants. It’s known as ‘foundation planting’. If you need a patio for table and chairs, move it away from the house so that it can have planting all around it. This will make it a more pleasant place to be in and will also mean that you can have garden right up to your house.
If the trend over the years has been to create an ‘outdoor room’ by constructing a garden with all the trappings of an interior, I would suggest that the next trend will be a complete reversal: allow the outdoors to come in. Participate in the natural beauty of the outdoors without having to enter it – at least for some of the year!

Trees in our cities, towns and villages

More and more people live in cities. There is a constant shift in habitation from the countryside to cities and the world now has more urban dwellers than it does rural ones – compared to 3% in 1800 and 14% in 1900. We crossed the 50% mark in 2008.

With the growth of urban culture, urban trees are more important now than they ever have ever been.  Trees in cities and suburbs will play an ever-increasing part in our lives.  It’s not just the big cities either: many of us live in country towns or villages where the view outside the windows and front door is the most important view in the world – or certainly the one we see the most often and over the longest period.

Plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia) in Dublin: Rathgar and Fitzwilliam Square.

The environment for a tree in a city is very different from a more natural rural setting. Water can be hard to access as it is whisked into drains by gutters and hard surfaces. Pollution can build up on leaves and bark. Greater extremes of temperature are likely as heat is stored and reflected off walls and roads. Soil is frequently contaminated with pollutants, chemicals or building materials. Wind can be intense as it is tunneled along streets. And there’s no end of potential for physical damage, either intentional – such as vandalism – or unintentional: bumps from cars, compaction around the roots and so on. In such an environment a tree can outgrow its available space, so it either needs to be able to take pruning or stop growing when it reaches a prescribed size.

Birch trees (Betula) around Dublin City centre: Dublin 8, Trinity College, Dublin 8 and Docklands.

Given all these constraints, some trees make better candidates for urban or suburban planting than others. Birches and Mountain ash species are good for confined spaces and they don’t undermine foundations or interfere with drains. Plane trees and Lime trees (known as Lindens in some parts of the world) are big trees which can take heavy pruning or pollarding. These trees are planted on the great streets of capital cities – from Berlin to Paris to Dublin – but also in country towns and villages. Hornbeams are adaptable to poor soil conditions, including compaction and bad drainage, and are one of the most commonly planted street trees along roads where they have to cope with heavy pollution, poor soil and bad drainage.  Other trees such as Robinia manage to grow tall but with an airiness that never casts too dense a shade.


Flowering trees on the street: Left to to right: Magnolia, Amelanchier and Laburnum

Trees in an urban environment don’t just have the difficult task of growing and flourishing. They have the difficult task of representing the natural world in a very unnatural situation. The cleverly planned Georgian squares of Dublin city centre were conceived as urban counterparts to many of the residents’ country estates: open space in the centre dominated by grass (like fields) with a densely wooded ‘ride’ around the outside. In a city that was – and is - frequently loud, smelly and full, these places are islands of green that allow trees to grow to their natural size unemcumbered.  Smaller, individual garden attached to houses simply don’t have the space for this.

Trees naturally bring wildlife with them, and provide habitats for birds and insects. In short, they make places nicer, and frequently the only difference between one street and another is the level of tree planting. Estate agents report that streets or houses with trees have a higher value than areas without.  Any area described as ‘mature’ usually refers to the size and density of trees.

Trees also play a major part in absorbing particulate pollution. The large surface area of a tree’s foliage captures pollutants and when the leaves fall in the autumn the pollution is broken down into the soil. In warmer climates they reduce the need for air conditioning. They play a part in stabilising rainwater runoff as trees can absorb water and breathe it out through their leaves. They absorb sound and also generate their own through the movement of leaves. Along roads they provide screening and privacy as well as a physical boundary which protects pedestrians or divides lanes running in different directions. Lastly, wherever they are, trees are bountiful suppliers of fruit, timber and blossoms – surely something we should all have on our doorsteps.


Plants for Hedges in Ireland

Laurus nobilis hedge, Dublin Hawthorn hedge, Northern Ireland Carpinus hedge, West Cork

You don't want to go to the trouble and expense of planting a new hedge, only to find that it doesn't survive more than a year or two. The last couple of years have been rough on plants in Ireland. Cold winters, wet springs and dry summer winds have left their toll. Plants that have been considered very tough have been killed or knocked back hard. Many gardens the length and breadth of Ireland have lost hedges, including traditional favourites such as Escallonia, Grisellinia and Olearia. What plants should people choose when it comes to hedges or shelter belts?

Know your site. Is it exposed or sheltered, coastal or inland? Is the soil damp and heavy or dry and free-draining? Knowing these things will allow you to make an informed decision. Plants have different requirements and preferences, and there is a plant for every location. Bear in mind that the edges of your site are often more exposed than the inner parts and that hedges create shelter in which you can grow more delicate plants. Choosing carefully will ensure that plants don't just survive but flourish. Read full article...

Difficult areas - choose native plants. In general, if you want the toughest plants with the best chance of survival, the wisest thing is to choose native plants. Native plants have grown in Ireland not just for hundreds of years but for thousands. They provide wonderful shelter and food to native wildlife species, are generally the cheapest to buy and they fit well into our beautiful landscape. Hedgerows are generally mixed and include plants such as Holly, Hawthorn, Dog rose and Blackthorn. Most are quite adaptable, and there are many species with ornamental berries or flowers. Elder, Spindle and Holly all fit into this category.

Milder sites - consider exotic. If you are in a milder part of the country there are many non-native plants to choose from. Think of Fuchsia flourishing in West Cork to know how well these plants can grow here. Excellent non-native plants for hedges include Fuchsia, Elaeagnus, Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) and Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus). Some of these were hit hard by the recent cold weather, so they are only recommended for areas where they have survived the previous two years. Plants from colder parts of China, Japan or North America can also grow very well in this climate: Hydrangea, Lilac (Syringa) and Bridal wreath (Spiraea) being examples of plants which can make excellent hedges. Browse our full list of plants for hedges...

Plant bare-root. Far and away the cheapest and fastest way to plant a hedge is with bare root plants. These are plants that have been grown in the ground in a nursery and dug in winter when dormant. They are easy to plant (you just dig a T-shaped slip in the ground and firm them in) and they are fast to establish. Real care needs to be taken that they don't dry out before planting, and they should be cut back lightly after planting to help stabilise them. They can be easily shipped and, when correctly packed, can be stored for several weeks. Not all plants are available bare-rooted, but many are.

Some top plants for hedges:

  • HornbeamCarpinus betulus. This plant is similar to Beech but has greater adaptability to difficult soil types. Especially suited for damp (not water-logged) soil. It makes an excellent clipped hedge that holds its leaves well into the winter when established. Very good autumn colour.
  • Holly - Ilex aquifolium. A classic native shrub, Holly makes a fine hedge either clipped, or informally as part of a hedgerow. The berries provide food for birds and the interior of the plant makes for fine nesting. Good in exposed sites and tolerant of drier soil.
  • Sea buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides. A really tough plant and one with very attractive berries and foliage. It is excellent as a 'first line of defence' against the sea, and is particularly successful in sandy or even salty soil. It is also a plant with many valuable medicinal properties.
  • Shrub rose - Rosa rugosa. Another excellent plant for the seaside. The Rugosa rose is incredibly hardy and vigorous and is particularly suited to seaside conditions or sandy soil. Suitable for a low to medium height hedge. The flowers are scented and the hips can be used in jams and jellies.
  • Hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna: Our native Hawthorn is perhaps one of the toughest and hardiest of all for the Irish climate. Able to grow in the most exposed of sites, it can also withstand grazing from animals - making it a natural barrier. The red berries and creamy white flowers are an added bonus.
  • Beech - Fagus sylvatica. Beech makes an excellent hedge, either in the countryside, suburbs or city. Tough, hardy and attractive, it does well in most situations, including by the sea. However, beech does not like overly moist, heavy or damp soils, where Hornbeam, which looks somewhat similar, makes a better alternative.
  • Privet - Ligustrum ovalifolium and Ligustrum vulgare. Privet makes a very tough hedge for almost all situations. It is extremely popular for smaller gardens and is adaptable to almost every situation. It can be kept clipped to make a tidy, formal hedge, or allowed to grow into a larger windbreak or garden boundary.
  • Field maple - Acer campestre: field maple is a small to medium-sized tree which has attractive leaves which turn a nice shade of yellow in autumn. It can be kept clipped or be part of an informal mixed hedge.Good tolerance to shade and damp or heavy soil.

Some unusual hedges:

  • Pittosporum: can make an elegant and attractive hedge. Suited for milder areas with some shelter.
  • Camellia: very cold hardy but with a preference for shelter from wind. Camellias can make very glossy, floriferous hedges in the right place.
  • Spiraea 'Arguta':  a very elegant smaller hedge which is clothed in masses of white flowers in early summer.
  • Myrtus communis subsp. tarantina: similar to box but with smaller, fragrant foliage. Only for milder areas.
  • Sarcococca confusa (Sweet box): a low to medium height hedge which is very cold hardy. It grows well in shade and once established is good in drier sites. Glossy evergreen leaves, scented white flowers in winter.
  • Syringa: Lilac makes a lovely, informal flowering hedge, and it is exceptionally hardy. Nothing beats the scent of its flowers in late spring / early summer.