There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in my coastal garden watching the sea lapping at the shoreline.
Some days are calm and restful. Another day you’ll find yourself wrestling with the garden furniture, such can be the ferocity of the wind and rain. Our garden lies where the two forces of nature come together, where the North Atlantic Ocean meets the land and can often be unforgiving.
Aside from the weather, our garden is home to many plants, animals and insects. Our garden is an extension of our holiday rental. We want to inspire our guests with a stress-free environment.
End of year review
After a busy season, we always take stock of all the positive reviews and rectify or adjust what needs improvement (updating furniture, installing long mirrors in the bedrooms, etc.) The feedback allows us to look at what we should add to our self-catering lodgings. When we started in the holiday rental business, we focused on the interior function. We wanted our guests to feel comfortable and relaxed. At Devlin Farm life, we understand how vital a tranquil outside space is. An outdoor living area is an extension of the way we live indoors.https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/2186557?source_impression_id=p3_1636926019_TieNOVvUplaJNH8o
Before Covid, many of our visitors came from mainland Europe such as France, Germany and Switzerland. They love the unique natural landscape and climate that is synonymous with the west of Ireland.
Why did we start a garden for our guests?
We’ve always had a garden; My husband Richard is the garden enthuses. Every year he grows vegetables, fruits and trees (apples, oak, ash, raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants). When Covid descended upon us last year, I found myself ebbing back into the garden. I have a lazy disposition and prefer a garden as close to the house as possible. A few years ago, Richard built and designed a stone wall adopting a contemporary rustic approach to reflect on the farm’s traditional stone walls.https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/agri-business/how-an-eco-friendly-airbnb-can-complement-a-traditional-farm-40938900.html
Our coastal Gardens challenges?
We live along the west coast of Ireland. The Atlantic Ocean is an extension of our back garden. We know how lucky we are to live in this oasis. Our Spring and summer seasons can go from balmy to freezing temperatures. Autumn and winter are where we experience the high winds, torrid rain and salt-laden air. Certain vegetables, flowers and shrubs find it challenging to grow in this climate. A few summers back, I planted some Lavender shrubs. Within a few short weeks, their green leaves turned a charcoal colour.
Climate change and reducing our carbon footprint is something you can’t ignore. For many years I was convinced that growing a garden was a waste of time. It is more convenient for me to buy my preferred vegetables and fruit than to grow it myself. It’s cheaper to buy veg in any supermarket than dig a plot. While on holiday in Portugal two years ago, I came across a well-researched article that disturbed me greatly. I had to ask myself many challenging questions.
Where to seek garden inspiration?
“There is nothing like growing your own tasty and delicious food along with being healthy and nutritious” Lily Champ, Irish Country Living Magazine, November edition 2021
There are so many inspiring gardeners out there. I’m fortunate to have my cousin Maureen to aspire to; she has the ultimate garden. Maureen has turned her passion into her full-time job. My cousin also lives in the same area as me. Meaning our environments are very similar. The only difference is I live closer to the sea, which means shelter is essential.
Horkans Garden Centre
Another creative gardener is Paraic Horkans. I love listening to Paraic every Saturday on Midwest radio (Our much loved Mayo-based radio station). His family-run business (Horkans Garden Centre) has a great website and blog. I love the blog because Paraic gives tips and advice on what to do in the garden each month. For example, last winter, when travelling was restricted to 5km’s. I used Horkan’s online service to buy garlic, red and plain onions.https://blog.horkans.ie/paraics-tips-garden-november/?_ga=2.133504526.125200310.1636925427-334503003.1636925427
The farmer’s Journal
Every week without fail, I buy the Farmers journal. This weekly paper is accompanied by the Irish country living magazine. For me, it has a fountain of knowledge. I love reading the wonderful gardener Lily Champ. Her encouraging articles are easy to read. She has so much knowledge about vegetables, flowers and fruit. I keep all the newspapers and refer back to them because I find they are helpful.https://www.farmersjournal.ie/farming-news/irish-country-living/3
Social media such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are great places to connect with like-minded gardeners. Facebook have garden groups you can join. There you can post pictures and ask questions. The group members and individuals are helpful and will respond within a few minutes to an hour.https://www.facebook.com/devlinfarm/
What we grow in our garden?
There is so many plants, flowers, herbs, vegetables I would love to grow. Unfortunately, our coastal garden offers the harshest environment in which to grow plants. We have to keep this in mind when it comes to planting. I find myself repeating this mantra, “Its lovely but will it grow in the garden.”
Sheltering is a priority; I’m always taking a cutting from our mature hedges along our driveway. I like evergreens such as Griselinia Littoralis and Escallonia (It produces a beautiful red flower). They are robust hedges, fast growers, widely available and inexpensive. Every month I take a hundred cuttings, and so far, it’s going well. But, nature is unforgiving, and I want to give my plants every possible chance.
I’m wasn’t into herbs until 2020. So you could say I fell into it by accident. Last year a few of our guests left various herbal plants, such as basil, parsley and rosemary. I didn’t want to compost them, so I planted them along the stone wall adjacent to our rental. I made sure they were placed next to a larger shrub to help shelter them. It was a great success, and I find myself going out to the garden every day. I like to add parsley to salad and mashed potatoes or a garnish over soup. If there are leftovers, I give them to the hens. Rosemary is gorgeous with lamb.
You may have noticed I’m always going on about sheltering. When we built our house, we planted hedges along the driveway. Today these hedges reach over 30 ft. Behind them, my husband has planted apple trees and raspberry bushes. W The apples and raspberries ripen from July to October. Richard uses them to thicken his blackberry and rhubarb jam’s (They grow wild along our village roads). He’s a great baker and makes plenty of apple tarts. Our teenagers love his pies, and they don’t last long in our house.
As a young child, I spent many a summer holiday with my granny in Kilmeena (A local village outside of Westport town in Mayo). Her garden was small with limited space. Yet, she created an excellent area for her roses, tulips and daffodils. We have done the same in our garden. In the spring, lines of daffodils sprout along the driveway and our flower bed. Their resilience is inspiring. I can’t say the same for the tulips. But I’m told by a local gardener that tulips need to be grown in pots. Then, when the weather gets rough, you can move them around. I’m going to try this out for next year.
What I love about growing vegetables it entices you to eat what you’ve grown. Growing up, my grandad would sit with us at dinner time until we ate every bit of turnip and cabbage on the plate. They were turbulent times. Looking back, I’m glad I wasn’t left to my devices because it made me quite adventurous when it comes to food.
Every year Richard does a garden. He loves to plant as many green vegs as possible. The husband is very skilled at digging and rotating the ridges. This year he planted kale, spinach, onions, lettuce and Swiss chard. He transferred a few of them along the stone wall next to our kitchen window at my request. The green net has kept back the wind, rain and sheep.
We are now into November, and the garden is better than it was in July. Every day I grab the scissors (I’m so lazy) and go a cutting. To our amazement, when you cut leaves a few days later, they’re back sprouting. We do a stir-fry most days. We’re eating so much Swiss chard, kale and spinach because we’ve grown it ourselves.
Why our garden needs Bees, butterflies and nettles?
This summer, the garden was alive with the sound of bees and the flutter of butterflies. Some days I’d stand listening and watching these essential insect’s t working away. They are there because of the flowers we have planted. We only buy pollinator flowers because they provide the bees with honey. We grow nasturtiums; they are easy, bright and edible. At the end of the season, I love to collect their seeds.
Valerian (Perennial) is another flower that has done very well in our garden. It’s quite a vigorous plant and can overpower nearby shrubs. I love many things about it
1- It thrives along the coast
2- It grows in compromised spaces, such as wall and Stoney roads sides
3- It flowers from June to October
4- You can collect the seeds
5- It is low maintenance
During the first lockdown, RTE’s Today show had gardener Diarmuid Gavin on each week. He talked about the importance of nettles. He said every garden should have them. Why? Because they attract butterflies.
Another interesting thing he mentioned, the butterfly will stay close to the nettle plant. Many scientific studies are out there confirming that the population of wild bees and butterflies is in severe decline. We want to do our small part.
Gardening and sheep
Our grazing sheep surround our garden and farm. There is nothing more tranquil than watching them clipping the ground. I’d even go as far as to say it’s therapeutic. In addition, these animals are an extensional part of our farm and holiday rental business.
I love our sheep until they break out and conveniently wander into the garden. As big as our lawn is, our ewe’s bee-line straight to the flower bed or anything that isn’t grass. Within a few minutes, six months of hard work is travelling down into their stomachs. As someone who has grown up with sheep, you’d think I’d take this all in my stride, but I don’t.https://devlinfarmlife.com/6-facts-about-sheep-in-Ireland/
Last year I decided I had enough and bought a green net. My good husband erected it for me. Aesthetically it could be better, but the flowers, shrubs, hedges and vegs thrived. The green net is designed as a barrier against the wind and rain. So it’s succeeded in doing two jobs successfully.
We are now in the throes of a stormy winter, and the net is holding up well. The sheep occasionally visit and under my husband supervision. They have a new role as chief lawnmowers. We want to be more sustainable, and we are happy to report that they have done a splendid job keeping the lawn in great shape.
Writing this blog has conjured up many memories for me. I found myself reaching back to the past. Thinking about my grandparents and how vital gardening was to them
One of my earliest memories was helping my grandfather plant potatoes. My job was to carry the bucket of spuds. I loved to watch his spade maneuverer into the newly dug ridge. Unknown to me at the time, my grandfather had cancer. I think he found great solace in the garden, especially in the later years as the disease progressed.
I’m planting bulbs of tulips in memory of my granny because it was her preferred flower for spring.