RTÉ One, Thursday, 7.00pm
Dermot's Secret Garden

About the Show

DERMOT'S SECRET GARDEN is a 6 part documentary series following gardener Dermot O'Neill as he strives to restore his secret Victorian Walled Garden and achieve self-sufficiency - this is his dream, his passion or some might say madness.

Following the phenomenal success of the first series of DERMOT'S SECRET GARDEN, RTÉ have commissioned Tile Films to produce a second series. The first series followed Dermot's attempts to restore his secret walled garden 'Clondeglass', while he battled with a vicious stomach cancer. This second series finds Dermot fully recovered and ready to start restoring his Victorian Walled Garden with renewed invigoration and determination to bring it fully back to its former glory.

This captivating new series will follow Dermot's own personal progress - all the setbacks, tensions, diversions, tiny triumphs and high drama that go with it. Dermot will introduce us to his holistic gardener friend - Fiann Ó Nualláin - who will work on this documentary series with him. It's time to return to the seeds and shoots of true horticulture.

Between them, they are responsible for the day-to-day running of Clondeglass, including vegetable, fruit and herb production. There are various themes that will run concurrently and organically through the documentary series. Dermot and Fiann will establish practical, perennial veg beds and a Potager (French style ornamental kitchen garden) from scratch and we'll follow his progress as the documentary series progresses. They will also be tackling the tricky task of establishing a wild flower meadow on Dermot's 1/2 acre site outside the walls of Clondeglass. Wildflowers are crucial in clothing our landscapes and maintaining biodiversity by encouraging bees and other wildlife - they are a link to our past. Dermot will reintroduce bees to Clondeglass and we will witness first hand how they thrive in this beautiful environment and relish their key role in pollinating his flowers and vegetables. Just like in Victorian times.

DERMOT'S SECRET GARDEN will be an emotional journey for Dermot O'Neill as he strives to fulfill his dream of restoring his Victorian Walled Garden to its full potential and former glory. He is ready to start working on his garden again with renewed health, invigoration and determination. This insightful documentary series will also be a journey of discovery for viewers as Dermot explores Ireland's rich horticultural heritage, exotic and indigenous plants, flowers and vegetables, our finest walled gardens and our native wildlife. Directed by IFTA award winning directors Sarah Share and Stephen Rooke, our cameras follow Dermot on his journey and what unfolds is an authoritative, comprehensive creative series that is thoroughly engaging and a highly visual experience for viewers.

PRESENTER - DERMOT O'NEILL "I bought Clondeglass Walled Garden because I wanted to honour the craft of gardening. A place where I can harvest fruit from heritage Irish apple trees; grow vegetables that will provide authentic taste and quality; harvest eggs from a brood of rare hens and care for other poultry such as Toulouse Geese and keep bees that are so important for pollination and honey" - Dermot O'Neill

As a child, Dermot can remember being taken by his grandmother to visit an old walled garden. On their arrival, he can recall the heavy, solid door to the garden that gave an incomparable feeling of privacy and aroused his curiosity as to what lay beyond. Inside lay a garden paradise, a secret world full of beauty, an Eden separated from the rest of the world. This place stayed vividly in his memory to this day.

Many years later, this memory was to help him fulfil a dream - a dream of someday owning a walled garden where he could indulge his love of plants. In recent years, he purchased Clondeglass, a Victorian walled garden, which nestles in the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in County Laois, Ireland, and he started the process of achieving this ambition. The garden had long been abandoned and showed very little trace of its former glory.

Clondeglass Walled Garden is over an acre of land enclosed by high sandstone walls. As is traditional with these old gardens, the site slopes gently to the south, taking full advantage of the sun's warmth. Outside the walls on the north side is a mature deciduous wood of oak and beech, planted to protect the garden from the north wind. Within the walls, the soil has been cultivated for generations. It is dark and rich and easy to work.

In his garden, Dermot will practise traditional gardening methods that he has learned over the last 25 years and, along with these, he is now able to use modern-day interpretations of old ideas. His plan is to create an extraordinary outdoor space within four walls, integrating structural design, carefully balanced with colours, textures and patterns. In making this garden, he is realising a childhood dream and he hopes that he never loses that sense of wonderment and magic as he steps through the door into his own walled garden paradise.

CO-PRESENTER - FIANN Ó NUALLÁIN "I'd describe myself as an holistic gardener I play music to sick plants, I plant by the moon, I use colours in the garden to balance the energies of the client, unorthodox is the polite way of putting it. Dermot comes from the linage of William Robinson, Gertrude Jekyll, Bett Chatto, Christopher Llyod, refined, dignified, well versed, immersed in horticulture as noble art, orthodox some call it, but there is a madcap passion in all of those people, a real spirit and a brilliant determination to see their dream become reality. I love that. That fuels me. Dermot is an inspiration. It was such a treat to work on this television series with such a master. There is something in the air at Clondeglass - an infectious desire to achieve perfection. Not easy in the rain, not easy with several projects happening at once, Potagers, wildflower meadows, new borders, bee gardens, butterfly habitats, ponds, bulbs and more bulbs, students, volunteers and well-wishers, plant breeders and truckloads of perennials, builders, architects and craft artists, and all competing for attention, not easy but the end results are so deeply rewarding. Would I do it again - not in a million years - just in a heartbeat!." Fiann Ó Nualláin

Fiann Ó Nualláin is an Award winning garden designer, naturalist, ethnobotanist and functional foodie. His gardens have won 'best in show' at bloom and prestigious honours from the RHS. He has taken ethnobotany beyond the stuffy corridors of academia and out into the communities - he was an early pioneer of both guerrilla and community gardening and a forerunner in outreach horticulture with early school leavers and disenfranchised community groups, an advocate for mental and physical health through gardening his holistic approach incorporates not just organic practices to soil preparation and plant cultivation but active cultivation of esteem and self-empowerment via interaction with nature and knowledge of the food we eat.

Fiann's understanding of the healing power of gardening and the medicinal values of foods and herbs sits perfectly with Dermot's quest, following his caner dilemma, to have a healthy chemical free garden filled with life affirming ecosystems, the freshest and most vitality yielding foods and a contented life that a garden brings. Dermot's passion to bring a dream to life and his expertise of the rarest and most beautiful plants from around the world ignites in Fiann a flame to achieve at Clondeglass a garden that could match paradise. Blight, builders and bad weather may dampen the spark of most but Dermot and Fiann are on a mission and hail, rain and snow, literally, will not prevent their determination to succeed.

The grow your own challenge

For many growing your own is nuanced with the genuine challenge to take an active role in their own sufficiency; either as part of an overall lifestyle choice of low impact on the environment or as part of personal health management decisions. For others edible gardening is an option taken to offset recessionary constraints. So be it balancing the cost of our food consumerism on our bank balances, on the equilibrium of the planet, on our health homeostasis or all three, growing your own will tip the scales in your favour.

A single seed potato can yield 30+ potatoes. What you would spend on a bag of roasters for Sunday you could spend on 'planters' and have enough roasters for a month of Sundays. Growing your own is simply miles better; shipped in, flown in, trucked in, off the shelf veg and fruits just negate all your endeavors to limit your carbon footprint but there are no petrol fumes in a step outside your back door and five paces to succulent sun warm tomatoes. Shop local yes but let's admit it, there is nothing more local than food you have grown in your own garden, nothing fresher and nothing more assuredly healthy - for you know where it has come from, how it was treated, handled and harvested. If you did not use chemicals then it is 100% chemical free.

Growing your five a day means you will eat your five a day and you can select to grow not just delicious and nutrient rich produce, you can pick varieties with phyto-agents that help combat illness, boost immune system and do your body good. Don't daydream about the day you will start on a regime of super foods and anti-aging smoothies, just grow them - if they are there you will use them.

For others the grow your own challenge is pure fun; a happy adventure or a pleasant pastime and really it is both; fresh air, vitamin d sunshine and the wellbeing feeling of achievement. And honestly it's not that challenging. Follow the simple check lists and expert tips on this site and you can't fail.

  • Month by month guide
  • Fiann's functional foods
  • Dermot's top tips
  • Fiann's tricks and cheats
  • Recipes from the show (and beyond)

Garden projects

A garden can be as beautiful as it can be functional. But beautiful functional gardens are best of all. Enjoy the best of both words with ideas and advice on home scale versions of some of Clondeglas's garden projects.

  • Feed the bees
  • Butterfly haven
  • How to make a meadow
  • Bulbs for naturalizing
  • Good reasons to plant a tree

What's On