And its ….. live!!! The Big Hairy Green Book – Now On Sale !!!

Well folks, it’s D day for ‘the Big Hairy Green Book’. It’s available for purchase now from Amazon.

I’m going to be bold and simply ask for the sale. Please buy it. You might even enjoy it. It’s as much about the adventures of an Irish landscaper as a technical manual.

Better still please give me an honest review. I know the haters gonna hate. The book will, in due course, get zero stars and five star ratings with feck all in the middle. And that’s okay. Just hopefully some of you guys will be kind enough to be in the latter category of reviewers.


Here’s another couple of snippets not in the book—

Theres a TV show fronted by a genial celebrity architect where he transforms the homes, and therefore lives, of his clients. Rather like us with gardens come to think of it. Only annoyingly gardens for him are merely an afterthought. When the TV company’s producers called us I quickly overcame my annoyance. They wanted an oval shaped lawn installed the following Saturday, the last day of the shoot. The weather forecast was horrendous but we promised to show up. What should have cost €3,800 we discounted to €2,500 inc VAT hoping that the resulting publicity and exposure for our new fangled ‘plastic grass’ would make it more than worthwhile.

The familiar story arc of filming documented the hopes, the busted budgets, the inevitable dramas of delays, mistakes and rows culminating in a triumphant reveal at the end where clients, builders and architect are all friends again
drinking champagne and admiring the work.

We played our part, going above and beyond our brief, adding copious amounts of bark mulch to hide the mess the builders had made. I remember getting very wet but we got finished.

Our work made the final cut and featured prominently as the backdrop to a fabulous wrap around home extension. As the champagne was being drunk ‘sanctuary synthetics’ appeared fleetingly in the credits. So far so good.

We were to be paid by the builders. Months went by with no sign of a cheque. Eventually they admitted that they in turn had not been paid. In fact they were being sued, along with the architect and the TV production company. It turned out that the homeowner had form in this regard. The bogus list of flaws in the building included such crimes as a chip in the paintwork behind a radiator. I don’t think it included the new lawn. In this writers humble opinion the work was top notch. The home owner, who it turns out had a close personal relationship with a
legal professional, possibly had no intention of ever paying. To make matters worse, they demanded a big settlement to boot.

The production company correctly fought it but to make a long story short, a few years later, they lost. The builders and other parties involved were sympathetic to us but it was out of their hands. If the person had had any semblance of honour they could have paid us directly. No chance.

A total sickener for all involved. If this story is truncated it’s because of legal advice. It can be dangerous to tell the truth. As John Wayne said ‘forgive your enemies, but remember the bastard’s name’.

I myself can often be seen wearing a rain proof cowboy hat. I consider it a practical if a touch flamboyant item of clothing suitable for our outdoor work. When not on my head it resides on the dashboard of the jeep. It’s become
something of a recognised calling card. But there’s method in my madness.

It’s simple reverse psychology. My thinking being that if people see me deliberately trying to look like a cowboy well then surely they will conclude I’m not actually a cowboy.

What, another one?

Ah lads, really? Yes, I’m back again mostly to remind you guys, my favourite people, that I’m putting my head above the parapet with the imminent publication of ‘the Big Hairy Green Book’. No doubt, regardless of its literary merit, I’ll be royally slated by the horrified eco warriors.

The fact that large tracts of the book honestly analyse the environmental implications of the product, as well as vigorously attacking so called real lawns as an abomination, probably won’t help. I would hope for some support from those of you who see the practical necessity of artificial grass. Hey, I’ve always said it. You can still have a garden and be a gardener even with a fake lawn.

Here’s more snippets that I reluctantly removed from da book—


At the time of writing our British friends have blatantly gone ahead and, much to the delight of the Kremlin, exited out of the EU. Arguments are still ongoing, years after their flawed referendum about the merits of Brexit. Lemmings running straight off a cliff from my perspective. As a sovereign nation it’s free to do what it likes but the arrogance and wilful ignorance of many towards (a) the Northern Irish border and peace process and (b) the devastating effect on their economy (not to mention the knock on effect in the Republic) is depressing. That it is entirely self inflicted will be of no comfort to struggling businesses. Combined with the Covid 19 economic fallout it’s a total mess.

Rant over. For now.


Back again!

Hello again. Jeez, back so soon after being so quiet for so long. You’d swear he had a book to sell or something.

Funny you should think that.

Unless Putin pushes that big red button in his Kremlin office the ‘Big Hairy Green Book’ should be out later next week.

Below is some of the stuff edited out as at 130,000 words initially it was deemed by my editors to be a tad too long for some reason.


Sanctuary car in Grassland

‘Mark, small problem’

Here’s a sorry story about ‘Patriona’ mark II and an eight mile tailback.

Before the Green Machine, I christened my first ever work van ‘Patriona’. My wife always suspected it was called after a ex-girlfriend. Not true. I just thought the German name suited my lovely secondhand beige 1.8 litre VolksWagon with drop sides and toolbox compartments under the floor, a pickup version of the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo. Striking out into the world of self employment, master of my own destiny, I was like a dog with two tails. I possibly worked Patriona too hard and all too soon had to replace her with Patriona mark II. This investment was a newer bigger crew cab version of the same VW, difficult to find on the second hand market. They were so reliable their owners tended to keep them for ever. It was ideal for our work at the time, a mixture of landscaping, maintenance and steadily building up the synthetic grass side of the business.

The villain of the story, I’ll call him “July” to grudgingly protect his identity, had been with us a year or so. He never had more than a couple of words of English to rub together. Still he was reliable and could be trusted to get on with things.

After all every business needs indians as well as chiefs. I had just put our logo on Patriona II but, mercifully, hadn’t gotten around to covering it in grass yet. Then
came the dreaded phone call.

Ring, ring.
‘Mark, small problem’
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon in July as it happened.
‘You come. Quick, quick’

Here we go, what now.

He handed me over to a traffic cop. ‘Are you the owner of this vehicle and trailer?’ Oh shit. It was overturned and blocking the entire northbound stretch of the busy M50 at exit 13. It would be number 13. I dropped everything and floored it up to the Dublin motorway with an ever increasing feeling of dread. Listening to traffic reports of a huge tailback didn’t help. Sure enough, despite it being rush hour, there was zero traffic coming towards me as I hurried south. I soon saw why.

Coming up the off ramp on exit 13 I could see the van on its side with the upsidedown trailer, still attached, contents strewn across all three lanes. The most shocking part was not the tailback as far as the eye could see. Rather it was the appalling vista of ‘July’ standing smiling and posing on top of the wrecked van while his helper, a student on work experience, snapped photos of his handiwork. I’d include a photo of it here but if I’d gotten my hands on his phone at the time I’d have shoved it where the sun doesn’t shine. Judging by their demeanour I think the cops shared my sentiment. By the grace of God no one was hurt.

It transpired that ‘July’, the absolute muppet, had loaded a tonne or so of top soil at the very back of the trailer then, no doubt speeding, managed to somehow lose control on a long straight flat section of motorway, see-sawing, breaking and eventually rolling the lot. No other vehicles or people were effected other than being late for tea, missing their flights or having to pee into bottles. My own sister was among the many inconvenienced by his incompetence. As the wreckage was cleared I stood sheepishly suffering more than a few dirty looks.

There was no happy ending. Yes the insurance paid for most of it but I was never be able to replace that written off unique VW. I did however quickly replace Mr ‘July’. My sister Jen still gives me abuse over the holdup that day.


It’s been a while …

Hi guys,

I know, it’s been a while. But that’s ‘cos I’m (a) both lazy and busy plus (b) I’ve been working on a little side project.

Announcing, for those who didn’t already know, the imminent publication of ‘The Big Hairy Green Book all about Artificial Grass’, hopefully available for purchase on Amazon by the end of this week.

The Big Hairy Green Book cover

It’s been a long time in gestation and it’s exciting to finally get it out into the world. I’ll send on a link (including to Kindle) shortly.

Meanwhile there are several yarns that, for one reason or another (sometimes legal) never made the final edit. Here’s the first couple. More to follow.


Keep on Truckin stories

Currently we’ve a modern(ish) fleet of 8 vans and 2 larger grab-lorries on the road. I don’t need an expensive tracking system for them. People often say to me ‘oh, I saw one of your vans on the M50 / in Mullingar / coming back from Cork … at lunchtime yesterday’. The office often gets calls – ‘hey, I’m behind one
of your vans, could you come out to quote me for my garden?’.

Our hairy green vans

Initially we went with a simple green covering plus our logo and phone number. But over time it’s evolved into something more. I pride myself on giving our fitters artistic freedom so the lads enjoy pimping their rides. They have personalized their vans with Irish and Polish flags, GAA county colours and each van is now unique but recognisably a Sanctuary van.

I guess we’ve been paid the ultimate compliment of being blatantly copied by several competitors. The rotters. One of the leading franchise brands in the UK, following a visit to our offices, suddenly rolled out a fleet covered in grass. They then had the cheek to send stroppy solicitors letters to other companies in the UK who followed suit. No, I didn’t get the idea from the doggie van in the movie ‘Dumb and Dumber’. Several trade customers have since done the same, either on their entire vehicle or just the roof, wheel arches or on trailers. Hey, it’s a good way to use up offcuts.

Over the years we’ve covered double decker buses, trucks, boat decks, trailers, a dozen tipper vans of our own, the mini vans of the Innocent drinks fleet, a golf cart, a mini digger and muck trucks. Although it’s slow and technically challenging work to stick artificial grass to vehicles it's been great fun to do.


Burning bridges
In late 2009 we were well into the ‘great recession’, property values had halved as unemployment quadrupled. We were very much in the doldrums.

Needless to say consumer confidence was at an all time low. The customers we did get would often ask us to keep a low profile lest their neighbours see them spending money, in deference to the fact that many had been made redundant, finding themselves in negative equity, unable to keep up mortgage payments.

Bleak times indeed.

Someone once said – ‘when you are broke put on your best suit’. That Autumn it was becoming apparent that our trusty green machine was on its last legs. A replacement was needed.

We could have easily found another second hand van but as a bold morale boosting statement of confidence in our business and it's future potential, I plucked up the courage to borrow for my first ever brand new van. Dealers were desperate for business and in January 2010 we availed of a hefty €5000 discount from Ford and took delivery of a €33k list price shiny new Ford Transit pick up tipper.

The next day it was raining (no surprise there) so we parked it up in the shed and got to work. We were busy covering the entire vehicle with artificial grass when my Dad walked past and stopped in his tracks.

‘What…’ he asked looking vexed ‘…the hell are ye doing?’.
‘Covering the new van in grass’ I answered.
‘But you’ll never be able to get that off, you’ll never be able to sell it now….’

Indeed. Much like Cortez when he burned his ships having landed with his conquistadors on the Mexican coast or the crew of the Bounty on Cooke Island after their mutiny, there would be no going back. Shit or bust. We’d drive this
baby for half a million miles. Or so we thought.

Junior, a relatively new employee and another young lad were sent off on a job the far side of the republic’s second city Cork (they claim its the real capital). It’s a 600+ mile round trip so, thinking ahead, they filled a drum with spare diesel. All went well with the job and they headed for home. Running low on fuel Junior decided to top up. On board the back of the van were miscellaneous tools and equipment, cut branches, offcuts of grass, the spare diesel and a drum of Roundup, aka weedkiller.

You may already see where this tale of woe is going.

After only a few miles the nearly new van started acting up. It started spluttering, spewing out weird smoke and was way underpowered. Whatever could be wrong? Undeterred Junior nursed it slowly along the motorway.

The first I heard of it was via a phone call from a lay-by outside Portlaoise more than half way home. Just before it conked out for good he decided to stop and seek help. By mistakenly pouring in gallons of roundup instead of diesel into the fuel tank and pressing on for so long he had made damn sure that all the pistons and
injectors were destroyed.

It being late I sent a rescuer down to collect the lads but the tools and the van had to be abandoned for the night. By the time the tow-truck arrived early the next morning the drivers side window had been smashed in. The radio
and other contents were nowhere to be seen.

Eventually all the damage was repaired, costing thousands, but the van was never the same. However it worked on for seven more years doing over 300,000 miles and carrying more than half a million tonnes of soil and stone and grass.

I later parted company with Junior for (a) constantly coming into work hungover and (b) speeding in company vehicles. Good riddance. I will not knowingly put the public at risk. One thing is for sure. There were never any weeds found growing in that Transit van.


We’re using a lot more artificial grass than we used to. It’s on pitches, playgrounds, balconies, rooftops, gardens, road verges and everywhere in between. It’s a phenomenon and the jury is out on whether it’s a good thing or not. To help articulate this debate in public we decided to invite two well- known and vocal garden professionals to share their side of the story. Continue reading Swardfight

The Hell Of Bloom!

As I write this my IPhone is on 1%- that’s kind of how I feel right now. Tired. Not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. It’s draining to stand and be nice to people for 5 long days over a bank holiday weekend, presenting to the press for a 6th, meeting the judges and the deadline on the 7th, all on top of a 2-3 week show garden build…and all at the height of the season, after the longest winter ever.

Continue reading The Hell Of Bloom!

The Grass is always greener over the hill

Instead of New Years resolution bullshit – no doubt disillusionment has already set in by now for those who’ve broken them already – I want to explore something pertinent to our daily endeavours. I came across the following in a blog by Vicky Frazer which I’m now blatantly stealing as it struck a chord with me:

“Comparison is the theft of joy, and it destroys us if we let it” Continue reading The Grass is always greener over the hill

Networking can damage your marraige

Last Saturday, in between watching Naas beat ULBohemians in division 1b of the AIL and a guest appearance at Palmerstown golf club AGM (normally I’d prefer to poke sharp sticks in my eye than attend but my buddy is incoming captain and … politics), I shot up to the horticultural industry get-together in Airfield, Dundrum. Continue reading Networking can damage your marraige

A brief musing on Brexit and it’s implications

The Brits have made their bed.

Their folly will cause us grief but, having survived the Great Recession, Irish people now have another challenge. Another choice; panic or have a cup of tea. Be victims or be bold.

We’re now the only English speaking (what have they ever done for us!?!) country in the EU/ euro zone. 
Continue reading A brief musing on Brexit and it’s implications