Home & Garden Spring 2022

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Home Garden The Southern Star | Home & Garden




We meet Rob Hennessy from RTÉ’s Great House Revival 1

Home & Garden | The Southern Star

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The Southern Star | Home & Garden

Welcome to

Home & Garden magazine for spring/summer 2022


IN this great 32-page magazine you’ll find lots of articles, advice, images, ideas and inspiration to help you get the most from your West Cork home and garden in the coming months and throughout the rest of 2022. Read our bluffer’s guide to painting, get some great advice on curtains and blinds and find out what’s new and exciting in the world of gardening technology. Regular Southern Star columnists Lauraine Farley and Joyce Russell give us their top tips on interiors trends and ‘gardening for colour’ respectively. Joyce also has some great advice on growing summer salads.



We also have a very special interview with Rob Hennessy from Passage West who was a big hit when he appeared on RTÉ’s Great House Revival in recent weeks – an inspirational story for anyone thinking about, or in the middle of, a big home renovation project.


All this and lots, lots more in your guide to the perfect West Cork home and garden!

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Home & Garden | The Southern Star

Blending old and new!


Southern Star WARM ACCENT PIECES interior design columnist To Finish Any ROOM Lauraine Farley gives her top tips for keeping your home on-trend this season


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Tell a story!

A period ‘mash-up’ in your home interior, mixing up different styles using old pieces with newer items, makes a home more unique, and this trend is right up my alley! I always feel that putting old and new pieces together is like storytelling in your home, and your ‘story’ can be very interesting depending on the pieces that you use. And right now, vintage styling is making a comeback for a few reasons – not least because current supply chain issues are at times making purchasing new items somewhat more difficult. So the message is, have a look at what you have lying around the house, in the attic or wherever, maybe have a look around at some second-hand items, and have a think about how you can mix and match them with new, up-to-the-minute pieces for a truly riveting ‘story’ in your home!


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Modern and vintage frames in gold – on pictures or mirrors – give a classy, touch. Mirrors have the added bonus of reflecting light and making smaller spaces seem bigger.

Textured fabrics and interesting patterns in material are huge for 2022, especially on walls, surfaces, in paint, and, of course, through fabrics on cushions, throws, and foot stools. A particularly trendy, bold pattern popping up a lot is herringbone, particularly in flooring. Herringbone is certainly a bold, classic style that can work beautifully in contrast to modern interior design trends, providing balance to a contemporary room. Where 2021 saw a rise in natural textures like rattan, wicker, seagrass, bamboo, etc, 2022 will continue to see the use of texture rise, but it’ll be a mix of textures. Whether it’s patina from vintage pieces or plush velvets on curved furnishings, a mix of textures creates a warm and inviting space.







R Baskets are practical while also adding colour and texture. They can easily be moved to different parts of the room or home if you feel a mini-revamp coming on! Painted

Sisal rugs (left and right) are easy and stylish ways to add texture and colour to your space.

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The Southern Star | Home & Garden

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Dotty! Traditional & Modern A bit of a wild card but

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conjure up images of a warm summer afternoon and they add instant warmth to any space. However there is definitely long life in a deep brownish palette because it can transition seamlessly from summer to autumn, giving you a year round colours and shades that delight the senses.

Home & Garden | The Southern Star

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The Southern Star | Home & Garden



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Home & Garden | The Southern Star

Create a safe and happy garden for your pets BY DEIRDRE O’BRIEN PETS are very important members of our families and like us they like to relax and play in the garden. We want them to have freedom and a garden gives them a chance to get outside. While planning a garden space it is worth taking into account what you can do to create a space that both you and your pets can enjoy. For those of you with existing gardens there are some simple changes you can make to keep your pets happy. Many people are afraid that dogs and cats will ruin their flowerbeds, but it wouldn’t be fair or right, to keep any pet cooped up inside all day, even if it’s for their own good. So what’s the best solution? Here are a few guidelines:

Clear paths

Our pets naturally prefer a clear and solid path to follow. Gravel can deter some pets from using a path, resulting in them creating their own routes, usually through your shrubs or flowers. Using flat paving encourages the pets to stick to the designated routes.


ing new plants it’s also something always worth considering. If you find out that some of your plants could be harmful it is best to remove them. A list of plants poisonous to cats can be found at icatcare.org/advice/ poisonous-plants and for dogs go to thekennelclub.org.uk.

During the summer months in hot weather, animals need to be outside. It’s the prime time for them to exercise and feel the benefits of being outdoors. However, for animals with thick or black fur they can get too hot and overheat. By giving them just a few spots of shade, it gives them an opportunity to relax but still enjoy the weather. It should also stop them from burrowing into any bushes. Cats love their privacy and a place that is cool where they can sleep or hide. Large bushy herbs are perfect for this. Perennial herbs like rosemary and lavender are also great to deter fleas!!

Avoid pesticide

Although pesticides aren’t usually deadly, they can be troublesome for your pets. They usually make most animals sick. The problem is, they’re a lot lower down to the ground and have much less body weight, so any chemical effect is concentrated. Going natural with all your pesticide is a much better solution for your plants and it won’t have any harmful effects on your pets. If you have to use pesticide, then try limiting its use and keep your pets away from the applied area for a couple of days. Slug pellets are poisonous to dogs and also to wildlife – a bird eating a poisoned slug ingests the poison and dies and so on up the food chain. Rodent bait is another serious danger

Poisonous plants

It’s not a common issue, but some cats and dogs are vulnerable to certain plants. Not many chew on garden wildlife, however, some younger animals do, and this can lead to big problems. It’s worthwhile just doing a check around your current plant life, seeing what could be harmful. When buy8

to other animals. Even lawn sand can harm your animals as they pick it up on their paws which they then lick to clean.

Grassy space

Although the idea of having less grass is beginning to pick up in popularity, it can be quite limiting for your pets. Animals need a space to run, they need a space where they can be free and chase after others pets or play with children and toys. If you keep just a small space available, it will stop them from running riot and shredding up your flowerbeds.

Waste disposal

To protect your own horticulture, it’s worth setting up an area where pets can do their ‘business.’ You might not think it’s an important issue, but dog and cat urine can brown your plants and actually cause damage. If you’re going organic this is the last thing you want on vegetables. There is a simple solution; it just requires time and patience. Patrol daily and pick up your dog’s poops

The Southern Star | Home & Garden to allow the garden to be enjoyed by humans and animals alike. One useful tool for disposal of dog waste is the dog loo which you can find with a little research on the internet or in good pet supply stores. This is a container which is placed into a hole in an out-of-the-way corner of the garden where poo (from cats too) can be disposed of to compost down. With a lid, it keeps smells and flies at bay. For cats, a special area can be made with sand, compost or bark chippings (they like to dig to cover up their deposits) – this will keep them off your precious plants and out of your neighbour’s garden and thus maintain neighbourly harmony. To encourage use, to start with you can put a little soiled cat litter on top, but remember to remove it daily. Try training your dog outside, so that they have regular spot to go too. Some pets, especially dogs, tend to ‘mark their territory’ and usually it is your plant pots which take the brunt of it. As well as training them, use taller pots to shelter your shrubbery from any possible harm.

Mind your mulch

Mulch is a hugely beneficial product for your garden. If you create it yourself, it’s filled with natural organic ingredients which are full of nutrients and are great for your whole garden. However, for some pets elements of mulch can be harmful. Coffee beans have just as much of an adverse effect on dogs as chocolate does, so just make sure you’re careful as coco bark mulch is very attractive to dogs because it smells like chocolate.


If you live in a city or close to a busy road, it can be worrying letting your pets out. The simplest solution is giving your garden some protection by erecting adequate fencing. Always make sure that gates are securely closed. Some animals might be able to find a way out, but generally it gives them a good perimeter. In general giving your pets the freedom and space to express themselves in the garden is essential. It has so many health benefits for them, which will make them happier animals.

Above: Animal waste can be harmful to your plants, so it’s worth setting up an area where pets can do their ‘business.’ There are even special, hygienic animal ‘loo’ options available. Right: It may make for a cute photo opp, but be very careful what plants your pets can come in contact with. Puppies in particular love to chew on things, but some vegetation is poisonous and can make them sick.

• Deirdre O’Brien is PRO with RAWR (Rural Animal Welfare Resources Ltd) – a 100% volunteer-run, non-profit charity which rescues, restores to health and releases injured and sick wildlife. They help to source homes for abandoned animals as well as running a Trap Neuter and Return (TNR) program for feral cats. They also facilitate subsidised neutering of pets when owners cannot afford to do it. You can support RAWR’s work in its charity shop on Bridge Street, Bantry, by following on Facebook and through donations via Paypal.

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Home & Garden | The Southern Star

A bluffer’s guide to painting Spring brings out the need to get those pesky DIY jobs complete before summer really hits. Here’s our bluffer’s guide to painting the house – inside and out – for a spring fresh look by Paula Burns 1. MOVE STUFF! Probably the most tedious part of painting is prepping the area for the job. While it may sound like a no-brainer, it’s best to clear the room of furniture, fittings and appliances as much as possible. If you can’t, then move things to the centre of the room and cover with plastic sheets. Spilling or spattering paint on furniture/appliances is not really something you’ll want to have to deal with in the middle of an already stressful job!



2. CLEAN THE WALLS Paint doesn’t stick to greasy, dirty areas. Even if you are a clean freak, your walls won’t escape ground-in dirt. Prep the walls with a degreaser before any paint job. 3. SANDING In order to have a smooth finish you need a smooth area to begin with. You should sand down walls that have rough areas as a result of filling nail/screw holes etc. Other areas that require sanding are wooden window frames, skirting boards and doors. It may be tedious but it’s essential to having an even finish. Use medium grade sandpaper for walls, ceilings and woodwork. Oh, and sand everything that needs sanding before painting anything. The last thing you want is dust ending up all over your nice fresh paint.


4. TAPE OFF No paint job would be right without the use of masking tape. This magical sticky delight allows painters to paint a wall without daubs to ceilings and skirting boards. Run a putty knife over the tape to firmly press it down to prevent any wrinkles or paint bleed. 10


The Southern Star | Home & Garden 5. PRIMER It can be so tempting to just get out the paint and start rolling, but for an expert finish a primer is a must. Just like putting on make-up, applying a primer to the area will create a seamless finish that will survive the tests of time. For a more vibrant finish, tint the primer with a touch of grey or the colour that the wall will be. 6. DON’T SCRIMP ON TOOLS Keeping down costs is always at the forefront of any DIY job. However a master is often only as good as his tools. Opting for the cheap paintbrushes is very tempting but when the bristles become a part of the finished look, embedded deep into the paint of the wall, you will regret it. The same advice goes for the paint. A more durable paint that costs a little extra will leave you with a professional look that will last longer, saving you money in the long run. 7. WASH YOUR ROLLERS A top tip to getting the best out of your rollers is to give them a wash before getting down to the painting. Wash with water and a smidgen of soap and then run your hands up and down to pull off any loose fibres. This will stop any bits of fuzz getting into your finished look. Choose a 9-inch roller, as it’s lighter and so easier to use. 8. HOW TO LOAD THE BRUSH Now that you have the tools and have prepped the area it’s time to get down to the actual job at hand, painting. Any pro will tell you that loading the brush correctly is paramount. General rule is to dip the brush to about two fingers width at the end of the brush. Tap each side of the brush against the side of the bucket to lose any excess paint. Too much paint will leave big drips; too little the job will take much longer. 9. WHERE TO START Paint ceilings first so any drips can be cleaned away. ‘Cut in’ to the edges around the ceilings, window frames and skirting boards before painting the main wall area. You can get a special brush with an angled bristle line for getting into those tight edges. Paint around windows at the brightest part of the day for extra light. 10. ROLL WITH IT! When rolling the area begin in the middle and roll to the top and then down to the bottom. Use long vertical strokes and overlap each paint section you roll by 6inches. Leave the area to fully dry before painting your second coat.

Tips for tackling an exterior paint job 1. CLEAN AND PREP As with painting the interior of your home, preparation is key to painting the exterior. If you are painting brickwork, a pressure washer is the most efficient way to clean the area of dirt, mildew and old paint. Pebble dash is obviously more time consuming but is best done with a hose and stiff brush. Again mask off areas such as windows, doors and drainpipes to avoid overspill. 2. THE PAINT Always ensure you use a proper exterior paint. The outside of your home is open to the elements so an interior paint simply will not work outside. Well it might, but not for long at all so it’s not worth even trying. Masonry paint is required. It comes in smooth and textured finishes. The textured will help cover cracks and uneven surfaces while the smooth is easy to apply to large areas. 3. PAINTING PEBBLE DASH The most time consuming of all exterior paint jobs is painting pebble dash. Use a high quality masonry brush in a dabbling or stippling motion. Alternatively you could spray-paint the pebbledash. This would require renting the specialist equipment – it’d cost more but would save on time. 4. PAINTING BRICKWORK Use an alkaline-resistant primer to seal the area of brick before painting. Once dry use a masonry paintbrush to cut in around windows, doors etc. For the remaining area use a medium to long pile roller using the same technique as outlined above for painting the interior. 11

Home & Garden | The Southern Star


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The Southern Star | Home & Garden ADVERTORIAL

Polytunnels – not just for growing OVER the last four years, Polytunnels Kenmare owners Dan Keane and Ben van Deventer have been developing a quality range of tunnels designed especially for the individual needs of gardeners, allotment holders, farmers and the commercial horticultural market.

Sound advice for anyone looking to buy a Polytunnel? You will only buy once so purchase one that will last and make sure it’s big enough for all your requirements. Apart from growing veggies, flowers and plants in a polytunnel, can they be used for anything else? Aside from the organic fresh foods, the polytunnel has become a lifestyle offering where you can escape from work or a busy house. Many clients are kitting out a section with decking or sheeting to allow them set up a table and chairs or recliners, and read a book in peace. The family can even enjoy a poly-lunch or poly-dinner; a great routine breaker! Perhaps a sand pit in the corner for the small ones, an artist studio for the creatives in your home or a shelter for hens or sheep to stay warm in wild weather – the uses are endless.

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Home & Garden | The Southern Star

Gardening Clockwise from left: Butterflies are attracted by coloured flowers and they can add colour too; Decorative fuchsias grow well in the southwest; Visit gardens to get ideas – Garinish Island is a great choice. (Photos: Ben Russell) BY JOYCE RUSSELL

WHEN the first flowers start to appear early in the year, I notice each one. I peer and admire and bring anyone who has any interest to have a look. I’m sure I’m not alone in having spirits lifted by the first opening snowdrop or daffodil, but by the time a mass of blooms are waving around I often don’t look that close. Some flowers are grown as significant individual specimens, of course, and these can be the main focus in a small garden. But for larger gardens, planting for colour is often considered in broader brush strokes. This might be through growing several of the same flowering plant together to provide impact. This can be seen at a distance as a blaze of colour at flowering time.

Plants that flower at different times It is easy enough to get a spectacular display in June, but if you

like rows of bold bright dahlias or are the softer tones of chrysanthemums more your thing? Use a plant identification app on your phone if you aren’t sure what the flowers you like are called, or take a photograph to show to staff at a garden centre. Ask everything that it is important for you to know before buying lots of plants – what grows well in your type of soil, how big they grow and when they flower, for starters.

want colourful flowers through most of the year then you have to look closely at flowering times. Remember you can’t expect a plant to perform exactly the same each year. A hot spring and summer can bring autumn flowering plants into flower much earlier and this means they might finish flowering in early autumn. Do your best and if there are gaps at any point, it’s nearly always possible to buy some bedding plants to pop in for instant effect.

Visit, enjoy and learn Enjoy a day out in a garden that’s open to the public. See what is growing well at what time of year and consider where it is growing. Look at colour schemes. Do you

Left: Alstromeria is prolific and comparitively slug-proof. 14

Soil and sun

Some plants will only succeed in full sun, others will do fine in a shady corner. Some like dry soil and others like wet. Then there is the acidity of the soil and how many nutrients it contains. In general aim for some sun and a damp, but not waterlogged, soil (unless you are interested in plants for around a pond). Most plants flower well if you add some fertilizer to the bed each year.

Two approaches to a flower garden

One is to research and plan carefully. Draw a scale plan of the garden and think what size of shrub or tree will fit in a given space. Mark herbaceous borders with where you will put perennial plants, that come back each year, and consider flowering periods so there is always some colour. Put taller plants to the back and low ones at the front and leave a few spaces for some annual plants to go in – these will be replaced each year and you can

The Southern Star | Home & Garden

for colour! ring the changes when you do this. Ask for professional help if you need it. The second approach is to divide existing clumps of plants and grow on rooted cuttings from friendly gardeners, pick up some more on supermarket offers and look for bargains on market stalls and at garden suppliers. It is helpful to have some idea of height and spread, but you will probably still get some surprises when they establish in your garden bed. Both of these approaches only really offer a starting point and both can lead to something that brings great enjoyment. A beautiful blooming garden isn’t just for one year. It’s a continuous growing and learning experience as you move some plants, replace others, divide and plant more.

hydrangeas can be easy to grow in this area. • Avoid tender plants that aren’t frost hardy unless you never get frost. You can wrap and cover them each winter, but frosts arrive in late spring too and you can’t keep plants permanently wrapped. • Some plants may thrive, others may die or be eaten by pests. If you want to grow delphiniums, for example, then be prepared for a battle with slugs. Japanese anemone and Alstromeria seem to be prolific and slug-proof. The larger the plant is when you put it in the ground, then the more likely it is to survive. • Plant in blocks of colour, but don’t get too fixated. Splashes of colour dotted here and there can also look fabulous. • Perennials can be split in early spring or late autumn to provide more clumps to dot around the garden. Division also helps to rejuvenate the original plant. • Lots of flowers grow well in containers. These can be positioned as needed to fill bare gaps in the garden. • Don’t ignore wild flowers – these can succeed where cultivated ones don’t. Wood anemones, violets and celandines are creating beautiful carpets right now. Bluebells paint colour through woodland a few weeks later. • Dead head regularly! Borders look neater if dead heads are removed and this encourages more flowers to form. The exception is for flowers that form decorative seed pods. • Plant hollyhocks against a fence or wall – they love the shelter and will flower better.

‘A beautiful blooming garden isn’t just for one year. It’s a continuous growing and learning experience as you move some plants, replace others, divide and plant more’

A few tips

• Sow seeds of annuals – sweet peas are a favourite and children love growing sunflowers. Both of these are easy choices that brighten the summer. Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seed and they provide months of bright flowers suitable for beds or containers. Try sowing nigella, calendula and marigolds for flowers over a long period or buy from a wide choice of plug plants for the fastest colour. • Buy a few large special plants that you know you want. This will get you off to a good start in year one. Shrubs can take a couple of years before they flower, but interesting foliage can also be a great feature. Buy as big a pot-raised one as you can afford. Fuchsias, azaleas and


Cloc by c too sou Gar

If you’re out and about and see a plant that you’d like for your garden, use a plant-identifier app on your phone to find out what it is. Alternatively, simply take a photo and show it to the knowledgeable staff at your local garden centre.


Home & Garden | The Southern Star



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The Southern Star | Home & Garden

Growing summer salads

(Photo: Ben Russell) BY JOYCE RUSSELL IF you want to grow something simple and delicious to eat then a great way to start is with some summer salad leaves. These grow fast, they are as fresh as can be, and they cost way less than a bag of salad from the supermarket. You can pick one or two leaves for a sandwich or a whole bowlful for a dinner party. This is a great time to start growing if you want some home-produced salad in a few short weeks. A GOOD PLACE TO GROW You can grow salad in a container or in a garden bed. A bit of compost dug into the soil will help provide nutrients. Lettuce can bolt quickly in the full heat of summer sun, but it can do well in a semi-shaded spot. Keep the soil damp and don’t crowd plants. BUY IN SOME PLANTS Market stalls, shops, and garden centres may all sell small lettuce plants. You only need around a dozen for an average family and it is nice to get a mix of red and green varieties with different leaf shapes. Heads will

mature at the same time for a single planting, so be prepared to plant again in a month’s time if you want to have a continuous supply of lettuce leaves. Plant 25cm apart in rows 30cm apart. This may seem like a lot of space, but plants soon grow to fill it. Mark each row with sticks and string so nothing treads on tiny plants. You can start to pick a few leaves as soon as plants are big enough. If you cut a whole head it will keep in a plastic bag in the bottom of the fridge for a few days.

along 40cm of drill. Cover with a thin layer of compost or soil and seedlings can start to emerge within a week. Start nipping out leaves as soon as they are big enough to use. You can use scissors to cut along the row when plants are 15-20cm tall. A second flush of leaves will grow and

SOW YOUR OWN Start lettuce seed in pots and plant out when 5-10cm tall. Sow a few seeds of different varieties and there will be plenty more seeds in the packet for several more summer sowings. It is easy to grow three or four plants of different varieties if sowing your own. Rocket, mustard greens, purslane, cress, mizuna and baby spinach are all good types of salad leaf. These do best if sown directly into a drill where they will grow. Make repeat sowings four or five weeks apart if you want a continuous supply. A pinch of seed will stretch

Left: Use scissors to harvest some cut-and-come-again salad leaves. Above: Use organic-approved pellets to ward off slugs and snails. Below: Lettuce plants need plenty of room to grow – plant 25cm apart in rows 30cm apart. sometimes a third and fourth if you are careful. Slugs, snails and rabbits. All of these pests love to eat young salad leaves. Use organic approved pellets against the former and some rabbit proof fencing might be essential if you want to keep rabbits off your patch.

(Photo: Ben Russell) 19

Home & Garden | The Southern Star

Work those windows! BY PAULA BURNS IF you’re planning on sprucing up your interiors this spring, dressing your windows is a must. Choosing curtains and blinds can often fall to the back in interiors decision-making but they are a vital component to completing a look – not only for the interior of the house but also from the outside in. A welldressed window can add extra ‘curb appeal’ to the overall look of your home. When it comes to choosing blinds and curtains, Elaine Doolan, owner of Fusion Home Interiors in Skibbereen, recommends considering the size of windows and what you need from

your window dressing. ‘With so many options, you need to decide on what function the curtains and blinds will provide. Is it purely aesthetic or are you looking for warmth and privacy?’ ROMAN BLINDS Roman blinds (below left) have continued to be a popular option for those seeking a traditional look but without the clutter. ‘Roman blinds sit seamlessly, providing clean lines while being practical,’ explains Doolan, ‘The beautiful simplicity of the Roman blind is that the fabric covered head rail allows for a sleek look. With thousands of fabrics to choose from you can create a classic look in a modern home.’


ROLLER BLINDS As clean lines and sleek modern interiors gain popularity so to has the roller blind (below). Its simplicity allows

Roman and Roller blinds can also provide an element of security in the home by opting for the motorised version. Easy to install you can have up to 15 blinds on one remote, allowing you to open and close them without getting up from the couch. They can also be controlled remotely. ‘Motorised blinds can add to your home security by downloading a Home Hub app you can control the settings from anywhere in the world, allowing you to open and close them whenever you want. You can also set them to a timer to open at sunrise or sunset,’ says Doolan.

it to sit neatly inside the window making it fuss-free. Thanks to its sleek appearance, its functionality can be made two-fold making it more than just a pretty window dressing. ‘The roller blind can be altered to work as a double blind, whereby there is a screen on the inside that allows light to filter through,’ explains Doolan, ‘This type of roller blind works really well in a large floor to ceiling window or where you require privacy but still want light shining through. You can see out but you can’t see in. And at night it can have the opposite effect with a blackout screen.’ Thanks to modern technology your

VENETIAN BLINDS AND SHUTTERS In terms of privacy, traditional choices such as Venetian blinds and shutters remain popular. For those with windows onto a street, shutters work well in stopping people seeing in so giving you extra privacy. They’re also a good option for those who want to avoid curtains as Elaine explains: ‘If curtains are not your thing, shutters are a great option as they can provide the cosy, dark feel in the evening while during the day they can be opened right back to allow light in.’ In areas of the home where durability is a must the Venetian blind is a popular choice. The modern version of

The Southern Star | Home & Garden faux wood is lighter yet sturdier and is more durable then the traditional wood, making it a perfect fit for kitchens and bathrooms. CURTAINS Contemporary curtains have come a long way from the heavy, brocade styles of the past. While some do dare to be brave choosing colour and print, neutral shades are having their moment. Going neutral allows you to change the colour palate and soft furnishings in a room without having to change the curtains too. It gives your curtains longevity, which in turn is more sustainable making it a plus for the environment. Elaine has noticed that her customers are more aware of sustainability when it comes to interiors. ‘Customers are becoming more conscious of sustainability and will sometimes ask for recycled fabrics, which we do provide. It’s great to see and I’m delighted to be able to provide that option.’ When it comes to windows, one size doesn’t fit all. Styles such as a bay window or an L-shaped window would have been too awkward to hang a curtain in the past, however, curtain poles have evolved to bend or curve into the shape you need. For this type of window Elaine recommends opting

for the wave heading curtain. This style of curtain gives the illusion that the fabric is floating creating a seamless look in an ornate window style. It may seem like a big job and a little daunting trying to decide on a style that suits both your home and budget, however the experts are there to help you along the journey. ‘We provide a free measuring and design service to make the process of choosing the right blinds or curtains for you easy and stress free. All you have to do is enjoy the finished look for years to come,’ says Elaine. Clockwise from right: Wave fold blinds give the impression that curtains are floating with minimal visible fittings;Venetian style blinds are always practical, always popular; Shutters are a great option if curtains are not your thing.


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Home & Garden | The Southern Star


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The Southern Star | Home & Garden


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Home & Garden | The Southern Star

Tend your garden with technology! From the simplest electric lawnmowers right up to completely automated garden-care systems, there’s a piece of garden tech to suit every need, writes Niamh Hayes THE world of gardening equipment is everexpanding, and advances in technology are making vast improvements in terms of efficiency and what is doable within your garden. Whether you’re an amateur gardener or more of a seasoned pro, you can make your garden into a subtle, technological haven, allowing you more time to sit back and enjoy its natural beauty. LAWNMOWERS Cutting your lawn can be a time-consuming task but technology has helped to make it more efficient.

up. However, the major advancement in technology when it comes to lawnmowers is the robot mower. Similar to robot hoovers, robot or ‘smart’ lawnmowers are automated and take the physical work out of cutting your lawn. The Honda Miimo HRM40 Live Robotic Lawnmower (pictured left) is ideal for smaller lawns. Its working area capacity is 400m2. An easy setup process will map your garden’s layout, calculating its size and creating a mowing calendar. It will return to base in time to recharge itself, then resume cutting from where it left off. SMART IRRIGATION SYSTEMS Forget walking around with a watering can or garden hose. Smart irrigation systems will save you time and hassle by watering your flowers and plants for you. These systems are great for when the weather is extra dry or hot and are also helpful if you are away from home a lot or are going away on holidays.

Electric mowers have become popular in recent years. Corded ones have unlimited run time, all you need is a power source. Cordless mowers run on a battery that is charged for a time. Once the battery runs out, the mower is plugged in to charge it back 24

The Irrigatia Automatic Solar Watering System is weather responsive. It includes a solar-powered pump which connects to a water butt or storage tank. The smart irrigation controller responds to weather conditions. It also includes a soil moisture sensor and will water plants more in sunny weather. The GARDENA Smart Water Control (below left) is a sprinkler that works through WiFi and involves a smart gateway between the sprinkler system and the water control unit which is connected to an outside tap. The whole system is then controlled via an app on your smartphone. You can set it manually or you can schedule it to come on automatically. SMART PLANT MONITORS Plant monitors are a great starting point for gardeners who want to be introduced to technology but don’t want to take the full jump into high tech. Plant monitors assess health and moisture levels, they track light, humidity, and can analyse soil and nutrient levels. They can be used both indoors for houseplants and outdoors. The VegTrug Grow Care Garden smart sensor is just one example. Stick it into a raised bed or an outside pot. It will send you real-time information straight to your smartphone thanks to its built-in Bluetooth connection.

The Southern Star | Home & Garden SMART GARDENS Wouldn’t you love somewhere that you just have to plant or sow seeds and then everything else is done for you? Well smart gardens are such a thing! They

GARDENING APPS ‘Gardenize’ is an online gardening journal that helps you to keep track of all your plants, in your garden or indoors, and offers tips and advice on how to care for them. ‘From Seed to Spoon’ makes growing vegetables, fruits and herbs in your garden or indoors easy as it lets you know when seeds should go into the ground and gives advice on companion planting, organic pest treatments and recipes.

provide light, water, fertiliser and heat. Click & Grow’s Smart Garden 9 (above) is a selfgrowing garden where you can grow your own food indoors all year round. It is ideal for growing herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables. It has integrated lights and a self-watering function. TRIMMING, PRUNING & SHREDDING The STIHL GTA 26 Cordless Garden Pruner (below right) has a wide range of uses. It can prune shrubs and trees and can cut up garden waste. It has a ¼” saw chain which is easily replaceable, without the need for any tools, and the battery is rechargeable. The Echo ES-250ES Shred ‘N’ Vac (above right) is powered by a 25.4cc engine that clears and vacuums leaves and other garden debris before shredding the material. It can also be converted into a blower.

Cream of the crop! ROBOT MOWER If your lawn is on the bigger size and you don’t want to spend time putting down boundary wires, the Husqvarna Automower 550 EPOS might be the robot mower for you. It can mow an area of 5,000m2, works on slopes of up to 45%, 20-60mm cutting height, and it uses a virtual GPS boundary so there is no need for boundary or guide wires. IRRIGATION The Pop-Up Sprinkler Kit is a complete lawn irrigation kit that includes popup sprinklers, a pump, timer and tank. The adjustable arc allows for 180- or 360-degree water spray. The sprinklers rise above ground-level when water flows through the system and pop back down when the water is off, meaning they don’t have to be moved for lawn mowing. The tank must be connected to your mains water supply. SMART SYSTEM The GARDENA Smart System allows you to take care of your garden from anywhere in the world, at any time. The system includes robotic lawnmowers, intelligent watering systems, soil sensors, garden pumps and electricity power adapters, all of which are connected via the GARDENA smart app meaning you can care for all your plants’ needs, no matter the time of year, from anywhere in the world.


Home & Garden | The Southern Star

Reviving Rob! He captured the nation’s hearts with his recent appearance on RTÉ’s Great House Revival. Now Rob Hennessy talks to Emma Connolly about transforming a near-derelict shell into a serious ‘des res’ in Passage West LYING down and stretching out on the just-dried concrete floor of his self-renovated Victorian house in Passage West is a stand-out moment for Rob Hennessy. Rob has almost become a household name after his renovation project recently featured in an episode of RTÉ’s Great House Revival (RTÉ One, 9.30pm, Sunday night). The series charts different home owners on their journey to restore and transform their derelict properties into comfortable homes fit for the 21st century – while saving a piece of the country’s architectural heritage along the way. Rob’s journey was particularly compelling considering he had little or no building experience, lived in the house throughout the entire project, during which time he and partner Katie became first-time parents. He says it was love at first sight when he saw the derelict terrace house in Passage West in April 2019. ‘I was just after getting mortgage approval and I went on Daft.ie and saw the house, which was just five minutes down the road from the apartment I was renting at the time. ‘Two days later I met the auctioneer and two weeks later it was sale agreed,’ he remembers. ‘It was just meant to be.’ He didn’t get the keys until the following September and in the meantime he’d come by the house every night after work, walk up the steps, look in the windows and visualise himself working on it and living there. He bought the terrace house, which dates back to 1856, for €230,000 (below asking), and when the RTÉ programme aired he reckoned he had spent all-in €160,000 and there’s still the third floor to do, and some other bits and piece. But the 44-year-old who works for a large multinational in the tech sector saved hundreds of thousands of euro by doing the majority of the work himself. ‘The last time I’d worked on a building site was when I was 18, and that was a summer job! But I wasn’t at all daunted, I knew exactly what I was

Clockwise from left: ‘A stand-out moment’ – having spent months clearing the downstairs area himself, Rob Hennessy finally takes the opportunity to enjoy the new (heated) concrete floors; Rob Hennessy; the exterior of the double-fronted Victorian house in Passage West when Rob bought it. Photos courtesy of Rob Hennessy and AnimoTV/RTÉ)

taking on,’ he insists. By nature he’s a very positive person, and loves nothing more than rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in. That, he certainly did! ‘It was derelict when I moved in, there were seven fiveplaces but none could be lit. I had running water, a storage heater, a small oven and a bed, and that was it! But it was a great

move as I got a feel for where the light was in the morning and in the evening, and had time to work on layouts.’ He started out by doing ‘a tonne of research on YouTube and online,’ picking up different techniques and tips. ‘My dad Noel worked in the building trade all his life so he was also a massive help. During lockdowns I’d have video calls every night with him 26

at home in Thurles, he’d have a look at what I’d done that day and put me straight, and when restrictions lifted he was up and down the road all the time,’ he said. Naturally some work he had to outsource, including the plumbing and electrical fit-outs, the kitchen, underfloor heating, fireplace restoration and sash windows. ‘But all the hard labour was done by me,’ he says. As he has neighbours, he couldn’t start work on the house too early, but as soon as he logged off from his day job, it was down the stairs and back to filling buckets. ‘It really helped that I was working from home. There was no commute so I saved time. There was no getting into the car and that sense of unwinding. It was straight into the second job. Every now and then, when there was a big job coming up I’d take a week off work and hit the house really hard then,’ he said. Throughout the project, Rob made sure to be respectful to the house and its heritage. ‘I remember coming downstairs one morning and a big lump of the ceiling had fallen on the ground. For safety I

The Southern Star | Home & Garden

had to take it all down but it really hurt me to destroy the original cornice. So I got a company in to take a mould of the original and replicate it. I always said I didn’t want to live in a museum but I wanted elements of the original house to be there, which we’ve done with the cornices, the ceiling roses, the exposed brick walls, and the fireplaces,’ he said. In all the project took around 18 months, from May 2020 to January 2022. Rob had tracked the project on his Instagram page (victorian_renovation_glenbrook) which is where producers of the Great House Revival came across him.’ ‘They reached out to me and as I’m a big fan of the show I jumped at the chance,’ he said. Architect/presenter Hugh Wallace, he said, was ‘amazing.’ ‘His advice on and off the camera was so good, and he was always checking in on us to see how things were going,’ he said. Rob said he bought the property as a single man, but he always imagined it as a family home. Viewers of the RTÉ show will have seen his partner Katie, also from Thurles, by his side throughout it all. ‘I work with Katie’s sister and met Katie at her wedding. We’ve been friends for 10 years and started dating in 2019. We didn’t see each other for the three months of lockdown and when restrictions lifted she moved down and was a huge support. I knew she was a keeper when she was prepared to move into a freezing cold building site!’ She became pregnant during the renovations, and with the entire downstairs gutted, for a time the couple lived out of a bedroom, and bathroom which doubled up as a kitchen and living room. ‘We had to improvise! On the show I jokingly said I was the only person in Ireland who could fry an egg sitting on the toilet!’ said Rob They welcomed baby Caoimhe into the world in September 2021. When speaking to The Southern Star, Rob was looking out over Cork Harbour through the bay window in the kitchen. ‘The views are just spectacular, and the energy you get from it is amazing,’ he says with gusto. There’s only one more question to ask: would he do it again? ‘I have a few things to finish here first but yes, definitely! Maybe not as big a project as this but I definitely have an itch for it. And if I can do this, honestly, anyone can!’

WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN STARTING OFF? How much I’d spend on skip hire! I had thought it would be a few thousand euro – it ended up at around €10,000 and I’m not done yet! STAND-OUT MEMORY OF THE PROJECT? I spent at least two months, if not more, digging out the downstairs with a shovel, pick and a bucket, walking around 50 yards down steps, and tipping it over the railings into the skip at street level. So standing, and lying, on the concrete floors after they went in, with underfloor heating, was a really lovely moment! Clockwise from top left: Rob, Katie and Caoimhe; the hallway looking out the front door; the kitchen space combines elements of old and new; the nursery with its picture-postcard views; Rob and Katie ‘lived’ in their bathroom for a large part of the renovation; the bay window lets in huge amounts of natural light – not to mention the views again; the master bedroom. (Photos courtesy of AnimoTV/RTÉ)

CHALLENGING MOMENTS? We had a couple of very cold winter spells, which coincided with working from home. I remember a few times not being able to type my fingers were so numb, and going outside and being hit with what felt like a blast of warm air – it was warmer outside. With the brick walls the house was like a fridge. ADVICE TO ANYONE STARTING OUT? Believe in yourself, and trust your gut but don’t be afraid to put your hand up for help. Do your research, and accept that you’re in it for the long haul. Make sure to price around - just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s not good, and vice versa. And always ask for a trade discount! 27

Home & Garden | The Southern Star

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The Southern Star | Home & Garden





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Home & Garden | The Southern Star

A natural home gym! ALWAYS wanted a home gym? Maybe it’s been there all along and you never realised! Your garden is a great place to burn calories and stay active. If you’re longing to do some exercise that actually achieves something visible, gardening could be the way to go. You can burn a lot of calories digging, weeding and mowing – and achieve beautiful borders and an enviable lawn in the process. Completing simple gardening tasks such as planting, weeding and pruning can burn up to 300 calories an hour – a great way to keep fit while enjoying the fresh air, at home. Three hours’ gardening burns as many calories as an hour-long heavy gym session – around 600 to 700 calories – according to a study conducted by Clyde Williams, professor of sports science at Loughborough University in the UK a few years ago. Sowing and planting seedlings, collecting grass and leaves and raking the lawn can burn more than 250 calories an hour, while pruning and weeding use

up to 280, digging more than 320, and chopping logs more than 1,000 calories an hour. Here are 10 calorie-burning garden tasks to get you going:

ling garden waste into a wheelbarrow or garden waste bin. Do not overload the shovel, and try to work on alternative sides to prevent lower back pain.



Get rid of long, dead and old grass with a quick 20-minute session of mowing the lawn and burn up to 94 calories in the process. Try to stand upright and not lean into the mower to protect your lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine.

Strengthen and tone your arms and shoulders by pushing a wheelbarrow. Carrying heavy loads in the garden can burn up to 490 calories an hour. Standing upright will protect your lumbar spine and gluteal muscles, do not overfill and make sure the load is even so the muscles of the back are working evenly, otherwise you could cause muscle spasm.


Revamp your garden by digging and prepping it to plant something new and burn over 320 calories an hour doing so. Try not to twist your body too much to protect your rotator muscles, and alternate which side you dig to protect your hip joints.


When using tools to remove weeds, trim hedges and dig plants, perform gardening tasks in the same way as you would in the gym to get maximum benefits. For example, incorporate lunges between each movement etc. Use the correct equipment for the task, be careful bending, protect your back by bending from the knees.


Burn up to 280 calories an hour by squatting for each weed you pull out – remember to engage your glutes for each weed. Always use a long-handled hoe where possible to keep your lumbar spine straight. If you do need to weed at ground level, do it on a kneeling pad to protect your knees and lumbar spine.


Balance, strengthen and stabilise your body on props around the garden, such

as ‘chair leg raises’ if you are having a breather on your garden bench, or ‘heel-toe walk’ along your lawn. Treat gardening as you would any other form of exercise, warm up by doing stretching exercises.


After your session there will likely be quite a lot to pick up and tidy, including leaves and grass. Always bend from the knees if you are reaching over, if there is a lot to collect in one place, consider doing it on all fours to protect your back.


Wear the correct clothing and appropriate footwear (no flip-flops!) and use protective gloves. Wear a hat if it’s sunny and use sunscreen, as well as staying hydrated. Always check with your GP before undertaking any new form of exercise if you have any pre-existing health conditions, and if you are fit and healthy, don’t get carried away. Try not to do too much in one session and always ensure you are taking breaks between tasks. If a job is too big, always call an expert – but most of all, enjoy it!


Make your movements as wide as possible when pruning by increasing the arc from your start position to your end position. Pruning garden shrubs can burn up to 280 calories an hour. Do not overreach to protect your shoulders and rotator cuff muscles, try not to look up above your head as this can cause pressure on vital arteries and cervical nerves.

Tel: 028 20089 Mob: 086 8505693

Michael J Leonard Michael J Leonard


Put maximum energy into raking and seeding the lawn and burn over 125 calories in a half hour session. Again, do not overreach as this could cause [spinal] problems.

Building Contractor Reengaroga, Baltimore.

Building Contractor Tel: 028 20089 | Mob: 086 8505693 Reengaroga, Baltimore.


Burn over 570 calories when shovel30

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