Q&A with Dominick Cullinane in the Irish Examiner

Aileen Lee interviews Dominick Cullinane for the inside scoop on being a garden designer and landscape architect.

What’s your background?

My parents were fanatical gardeners. I grew up in a three-quarter-acre walled garden in the Powdermills in Ballincollig. Mum and Dad provided fruit and veg for all seven of us.

I studied horticulture and garden design, and then garden centre management in Pershore College of Horticulture in Worcestershire, England. That was from 1981 to 1984. I loved it. I hated school, so I went from hell to heaven. I travelled to all these beautiful gardens all over England during those first two years in college.

I then worked in a nursery in Luxembourg. I played rugby for Luxembourg’s only club. When I came home to Ballincollig after that, they all thought that I had played international rugby! We travelled all over Germany, mostly drinking beer, but we did play a bit of rugby and it was great fun.

Then I came back to college and studied garden centre management. In the meantime, I had started my first venture — my mother and I actually started it when I was 17 years old.

We had 80 varieties of herbs, so while I was in college, I collected different varieties of herbs, from different herb nurseries. We called it J&D Herbs and supplied Ballymaloe and Roches Stores. It paid for my college fees the second year I was over there.

My Mum kept it going and then I would come home on the holidays and we’d pot thousands and thousands of herbs. Darina Allen would ring us at 10 o’clock at night, and say she wanted 800 herbs for the following morning, so you’d love getting the order but you’d kill her for ringing so late at night! But it all paid off.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

I am up at 5am. I start with paperwork and reading. I like to work on designs and ideas between 5.30-7am, and then it’s off to work between 7-7.30am. We are currently working on several projects.

We closed a nursery this year in Killumney. I had it for seven years but the farm got sold, that I was renting on. I have now taken another piece of land, five acres, by the river in Ovens, down the old Cork Road, so we’re developing that nursery.

We are starting another project in Killavullen, which is a lovely wildflower planting scheme, for a client who is based in the States. This would be Ann’s design. We are also looking at a project in Ballydehob for a young couple down there.

I sub-contract work out, but I have my own crew as well. Ann and I are both fanatical gardeners and designers, and we love to get our hands dirty as well.

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