Oh man, it’s perfect timing for this introduction to gardener and blogger David Corscadden because it’s finally a little bit warm out there in Dublin! Today’s Irish Makers at Work post about David is another collaboration with my friend and photographer Christine Burns. She takes incredible photographs and then I get to ask a bunch of fun questions and we put the two together for you!
If you have missed our previous posts, you can find interviews with a florist, a soap maker, a print artist and a ceramicist so far!
David and I chatted by email, and since he’s a journalist and blogger as well as a gardener and horticulturalist, his answers were downright eloquent! So I’m going to veer from my usual storytelling style and hand David over to you in Q&A format. He’s dishing on his favorite flowers, what he learned from his grandfather, how he started reading gardening magazines from the age of 10, and how to deal with slugs and snails! Thanks, David!
What do your days look like at the moment? How much time are you spending in the garden?
For the last 10 months my days have been spent at a desk staring at a Mac, editing news stories and features for a newspaper. In August 2014 I became the Deputy Editor of the University Observer newspaper in UCD and so horticulture and gardening was replaced with student news and features. Due to the way the paper is set up I lost every third weekend as that was when we produced each paper so my own garden has really been neglected over the past year.
I was also the Food Editor for the paper which meant I got to interview some fantastic chefs like Neven Maguire, Donal Skehan and Cuan Greene from Dublin Pop Up. Food has always been something that I have been interested in and try to tie in to my blog when I can. For me the two really go hand in hand!
While I was working for the University Observer I still wrote my weekly gardening column for the Kildare Post. This again just saw me sitting at the kitchen table writing about gardens and spending 10 or 15 minutes each week fighting with plants to get a good photo!
Since April however the paper has finished and my life has switched back to horticulture and garden writing. I started working with Bord Bia for Bloom in the media department and am getting to really dive into horticulture writing again. It is very interesting being on the other side of Bloom and seeing how it is organised as I have always been a big fan of the festival and spend the entire June Bank Holiday up at the show so now at least I have a genuine reason to be there!
Since finishing up with the paper I also have more time to actually get out and work in my garden which is great as there has been a lot of work to do. The work has not been helped by Lola, my 2 year old Labrador, who has a fondness for digging holes and pulling plants from the ground.
My end goal or dream job with horticulture would be to edit or set up my own gardening magazine. I just love the combination of horticulture and writing. The blog really was the first step along the journey and I would love to develop that into a magazine. My thesis project for my Masters in Griffith is going to be a garden and lifestyle magazine so I am treating that as a trial run to see if I can do it or not!
Are there flowers or plants you look forward to with every season?
This has to be the hardest question you can ask a gardener. Each year my choices change! Spring is all about tulips and hyacinths for me. I have always loved them and tend to be the ones that I will buy each year from the garden centre but I am trying to get a few different spring flowers in to my garden too. I inherited a lot of bluebells from my grandfather which have made their way all over the garden at this stage.
Summer for me is the hardest time to pick a favourite flower in as there are just so many. I love peonies and sunflowers. They are the two main flowers that I love to grow or even to just buy in florists to have around the house. I am a big fan of roses (just not red ones!). They have a reputation of being hard work and old fashioned but I love them in a garden. I find yellow roses have the best scent and also the best impact in a garden. Lavender is a great plant to grow in pots and place around door or patios.
For winter I love violas and primroses as I fill up empty pots and hanging baskets with them to add a splash of colour around the house.
In autumn I pretty much ignore flowers and focus on trees. I am a big fan of leaves as they turn colour (sounds very sad) but it symbolises a change in the garden and I really like that time as the garden slows down a good bit. My phone is half summer flowers and the other half pictures of leaves!
In an interview for Garden Heaven recently, you mentioned you learned your love of gardening from your grandfather. Can you tell us more about him and what he taught you?
My grandfather was a big inspirtation to me. Not only in terms of gardening and horticulture but just in life in general. He was always happy and willing to help people which I was kind of brought up to be like.
In terms of gardening I learnt all the basics from him by just following him around the garden and seeing what he did. I think most of things I learnt came from be doing something and him telling me not to do it and then showing me what I should do! The biggest lessons I learnt from him though would be the importance of watering and deadheading plants. That really just sparked the interest in horticulture and from about ten I started getting gardening magazines and books and looking things up myself.
Do you have a favorite garden or park in Dublin or Ireland?
My favourite public gardens in Dublin are the Botanic Gardens because you can find such unusal plants to admire there, and Farmleigh House has fantastic gardens which I only discovered about two years ago now.
I love June Blakes Garden in Wicklow as it is a real plant lovers garden and she has some brilliant flowers there. It is also a lot different to my own garden as she has a lot of reds and oranges in it which I don’t have a lot of in my own garden. I am a big fan of Powerscourt Estate too. I blogged for them for a year and got to really explore the gardens during that time. Powerscourt during spring is fantastic with its tulip display.
What encouragement do you give to people who tell you they have no green thumbs?
The one thing I find myself telling people I know is to not be afraid of gardening or plants. For many people it is a scary topic and Latin names can really turn people away from it. I just tell everyone to give it a go but to take it slowly. Start off by growing a few things in pots or on a window and build up from there. A lot of people take on too much and will try to redo their entire garden in a summer and then get frustrated when things don’t work out. Gardening for me is all about trial and error. Seeing if things will work and if they don’t moving them around until it does work.
My biggest advice would be to talk to plant people and admit you don’t know something and get the right advice. Garden centres are full of very knowledgeable people who are just looking to help. Twitter is also a great place to get advice!
This last one is purely selfish. How do you deal with the darn slugs and snails in this country?!
Slugs are one of the most annoying things in the garden for gardeners and I have to admit I am not the biggest fan of them. My girlfriend on the other hand tries to protect them and could be considered the snail saver by hiding them or moving them to different parts of the garden when ever I find them.
In terms of advice on controlling them in my own garden I am not the biggest fan of just scattering slug pellets everywhere. I learn a very useful tip at the Hampton Court Flower Show last year and that is to put the pellets in a bottle or jar which is on its side. The snails or slugs will go to the container and come in contact with the pellets but it is much harder or other animals to come in contact with it.
I have tried beer traps before too and they do work well but I tend to forget about them or stand on them when I am working in the garden. Around my vegetable patch I use crushed egg shells which have worked really well for me in the past few years. You just scatter them around the plants and it creates a barrier that the slugs and snails will not pass over. They then just break down over time. This is a great cheap way to control them.
Thanks so much, David! I cracked up thinking of your plant-sabotaging dog and your girlfriend the snail saver! I have to admit, I can’t kill them but I do chuck them over our garden wall for someone else to deal with! Great tips and inspiration to get our hands a little dirty this week while the weather is balmy. And if you’re in Ireland, look for David’s article in the Lidl summer catalog for even more tips, and say hello if you see him at Bloom this weekend!