Bringing it all back home — generations of love for the garden

Peter and Paddy Cunningham of Dangan House Nurseries. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Peter and Paddy Cunningham of Dangan House Nurseries. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

There is an old Irish saying “Briseann an dúchas trí shúile an chait,” which, loosely translated, means you can‘t deny your roots. When the Cunningham brothers were looking back through some old family photographs recently, they came across a picture of their maternal grandmother Else, taken about 1890 in Helsinki when she was a young girl. In the photograph she is in her garden posing with her trusty watering can. Over a century later her descendants are still in the garden. Her picture can be seen in the weekly advertisement for Dangan House Nurseries. Paddy and Peter Cunningham have been partners in business since the mid-1970s, initially selling their produce in the Saturday market before opening the gardens of their home to the public in the early 1980s.

The business has grown from a two man venture over the years to now boasting a large staff of qualified horticultural advisors. They grow the vast majority of their produce, including all their vegetable plants, bedding plants, and up to 90 per cent of their shrubs. Peter and the rest of the staff are working at full pace from the beginning of the season planting and thinning, watering, feeding, and hardening off the produce. They have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of people who want to try growing their own vegetables this year, both in the garden and in containers. This move towards some form of self-sufficiency is welcomed by the brothers who started their enterprise from similar beginnings, growing vegetables and strawberries for the local restaurant trade. This time of year is always their favourite time.

“St Patrick’s Day was always a red letter day in the Irish farming calendar,” says Paddy. “It was traditionally the time that the potatoes and summer vegetables were planted.” The nursery also offers specially selected plants for children, to get the green fingers started early. Expert advice is part of the service at Dangan House.

Another recent related trend has been the upsurge in those wanting to keep chickens. One of the biggest sellers at the moment is chicken houses. Anyone wishing to get a feel for such animal husbandry can experience it first hand at Dangan House, where the hens share the garden with customers, staff, guinea pigs, rabbits, and even a few budgies.

The Coachhouse shop was opened at the nursery 12 years ago and is the best stocked garden shop in the province, where everything is available from bird seed and bulbs to water pumps, fountains, and statues, including a huge range of tools, fertilisers, pots, containers, seeds, and watering systems, from the most advanced to the basic model used by Else in 1890!

The activity is endless in the gardening business at this time of the year. Allied to the traditional jobs, there is also work of a more technological nature afoot in Dangan House. By Easter the new company website will be launched at www.danganhousenurseries.com, where the whole garden catalogue will be available online for delivery.

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