Peter Donegan of “The Sodshow” on his trip to the US
Interview: expert horticulturist, professional landscaper, and popular podcast host Peter Donegean
6 April 2017
Peter Donegan setup his professional landscaping company in 2001, an expert horticulturist, Donegan established his popular and award winning podcast – “The Sodshow”. Regularly hosting experts in the horticulture industry on his podcast, Donegan was invited to the US, by Melinda Meservy, owner of Thyme and Place, a garden store, to present his podcast live, over the St Patrick’s day celebrations in Salt Lake City, Utah. Spending a week in the US and from being interviewed live on US television to presenting speeches at events attended by Mary Robinson, we caught up with Donegan to see how he got on.
How did you find your whole experience in the US?
From the first night of The Sodshow Live in Salt Lake City and on KRCL (their main radio station), I described my being there to: as close as I could get to being Ireland; in that we inherited this very beautiful yet slightly rugged, shaped by nature landscape, we call home.
Even though Utah has a very different climate, essentially it is always the people that make a place, irrespective of what else exists there. To be quite fair, I’d never been to the States before – and, I’ve never felt more at home when working away. For the greater part, that comes down to Melinda Meservy, owner of Thyme and Place who brought me there.
To put the people I had the honour to meet, slightly aside for just a moment, it was an absolute whirlwind of an experience. Not to put myself down, but who is Peter Donegan ? Michael Donovan asked before I flew out. That became something I asked the audience I addressed from The Alta Club on St Patrick’s evening, having sat next to the Irish Consulate Philip Grant and former President Mary Robinson.
At home in Dublin, I’m Donegan Landscaping and I do The Sodshow in my spare time but during my week in the US, I had my debut on live US television, two appearances on radio, I was on the front page of The Salt Lake Tribune as guest of honour presenting a bowl of shamrock to The President of The Hibernian Society, a second speech and the presentation of a piece of Blarney stone to The Irish in Utah and the Irish Consulate, whilst sitting next to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – and all that before a pea planting ceremony at Wasatch Community Gardens and walking in their St Patrick’s Day Parade. The list is endless; and yet I still find myself asking, who is Peter Donegan ?
You compared yourself to Dundalk F.C. entering the Champions League, did it feel like that in the end?
I seem sometimes to forget that the last time The Sodshow Live happened, it was at Dublin Castle with Ron Finley (as part of Bloom Fringe), being on stage to me is nothing strange or new.
However to be very fair, I think it did, though maybe a little less so by the end because when – If you will allow the analogy – the girl you never thought you could ever muster up the courage to ask up to dance, approaches you and essentially asks you out, sometimes it is warranted to find that little bit of surprise, if only just initially. In this case, it was something I make, and it was invited to the United States – maybe that little Irish trait prevents a complacency setting in and makes you strive to be better or give more.
In the end, I think it’s fair to say that the very hard work behind the scenes from everybody at home and in the US resulted in something that really, both I, and all who worked on this, should be very proud of.
What was it like to be a guest of honour on St Patrick’s Day in Utah ?
Not to sound entirely naive, but I’ve never been to the US or been away from home for St Patrick’s Day. On the one hand, I guess my parents would have reared me and my siblings to do one’s utmost to anyone visiting here feel as at home as was absolutely possible. To be welcomed to Utah in the way I was, not only the person who brought me there, but also the people who lived there, who read and heard about me being there, and then by The Hibernian Society, was a real honour.
It’s fair to suggest that I was well enough known by the time the parade kicked off and as any participant in any St Patrick’s Day parade or event on that day will agree, it’s always a great occasion to be a part of. Maybe, that means just that little bit more when abroad and one is welcomed and invited to be a part of it.
How was it meeting former President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson?
That evening was wonderful but also unusual in that I missed out on
meeting Utah Mayor, Jackie Biskupski (I had a pre organised radio interview at the exact same time the event in The Alta Club started) and it meant I arrived post the drinks reception just as we were formally welcomed to take our seats. Nothing can compare to that moment when when you’re away from home, to be so proud of where you’re from – and why I was actually there – on St Patrick’s Day, in Salt Lake City. I literally could not have been more proud.
Amongst the conversations we were having, I noted that I first met Mary when I was a student in Kildalton College of Horticulture, while working there during summer, during her first term as President. I told her that at the time, I was too shy to get a photograph taken with her. No more than
ten minutes later, I took to the stage to give a speech to the invited guests at the dinner that evening. How things have changed, you might say.
What are your plans for the future of The Sodshow?
Tough question. In reality I’ve got a plan of what I would like to happen, but to an extent, no idea of what the future holds for The Sodshow.
To quantify that and for all it successes, if I may call them that, The Sodshow remains unsponsored; and logically at a point, one has to turn down some things in favour of what essentially it does not have the spare money to afford. Basic economics in a nutshell I guess.
Let’s see what happens. Or as Mom would have said, what’s meant for you won’t pass you by.
Are there any plans to move to Salt Lake City anytime soon?
Salt Lake is as noted earlier, a really beautiful place and filled with the kindest hearts you might only dream of in a Roald Dahl story about sunbeams. Realistically, I guess we’ll have to see what happens there. But it’s fair to suggest that talks have already begun for 2018.