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See a sample issue of The Irish Garden!

May 2008

To see a sample of the current issue of Ireland's best-selling gardening magazine, click the image below.

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The Joy of Vegetables. Sandra O'Hagan meets an inspirational gardener, in her own backyard!

A good few years ago, when I was designing my potager, I stumbled across a book called ‘Creative Vegetable Growing' written by Joy Larkcom.As I pored endlessly over the wonderfully written pages and numerous photographs, it showed me just how attractive and productive my garden could become. And while it lasted, I was very proud of what I achieved in such a small space, my only regret being that my family don't really like eating vegetables.

Lack of demand at home curtailed any vegetable-growing ambitions I had and there was no need for any more books on the subject. I therefore never got to read any of Joy Larkcom's other volumes, some of which are the authoritative works on salads and vegetables, from oriental to organic. My seed-sowing habits had changed from peas and beans to half-hardy annuals and first-year flowering perennials in a matter of months and all my vegetables now came from the supermarket. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Joy and husband Don had moved into the parish. Obviously I understood completely why they wanted to live here in beautiful Barryroe, I just couldn't get over what a small world it was. 

As I pored endlessly over the wonderfully written pages and numerous photographs, it showed me just how attractive and productive my garden could become

My family and I went to the house-warming party, enjoying their generous hospitality with all the neighbours and the likes of Denis Cotter and Brian Cross, to name drop just a few. As a cook I admired Don's impressive cookery book collection and as a gardener I was amazed at how much already had been achieved. The design had been marked out and wind-proof netting sheltered the young trees and hedging. I'm not sure some of the locals appreciated quite who Joy was but, for those in the know, it didn't take long for her West Cork residency to be discovered. Life went on and like me they just became part of the local community.

After a few years, the garden was opened in summer in support of Amnesty International and the Barryroe Garden Club was cordially invited along with various other groups and individuals. I couldn't wait to see how the garden had developed, while other members were seeing it for the very first time. It was a bit like seeing the film of a book, everything written about was being put into practice, crops of vegetables, herbs and ripening fruit. Massive fan-trained pears and apples the size of grapefruits, under-planted with strawberries, yummy!

As our party headed off to make plans for the coming club season, I cheekily sort permission to pick a Russet apple (a particular favourite of mine). As I waited I noticed how people hung on Joy's every word and thought about how much she has touched people's lives. She has been a part of my garden inspiration but for others she was quite simply everything and they loved her very much. The very next day I left my well-thumbed gardening book at the Post Office for my neighbour to sign, now that's a joy!



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