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Irish horticulturist Peter Donegan was a wee bit surprised a few months ago when he received an invitation to teach classes and broadcast "Sodshow," his internationally recognized gardening podcast, in Salt Lake City.

He accepted, even though the request meant for the first time in his 41 years he would be away from Ireland during the country's biggest celebration of the year — St. Patrick's Day. He likened it to being away from family on Thanksgiving Day.

While initially hesitant, he accepted, because "it was an experience to see how others celebrate."

His Utah hosts — including the Utah Hibernian Society and Thyme and Place, a new Salt Lake City boutique garden shop — have a full slate of activities to prevent homesickness during Donegan's first trip to America.

Thyme and Place owner Melinda Meservy had 250 boutonnière shamrock sprigs shipped from Ireland for the occasion.

These are the "real deal," not the Americanized version that are usually found in stores and gift shops in March, said Meservy, an avid listener of the "Sodshow" podcast and the person who invited Donegan to Utah.

The shamrocks came from a family-run garden center in Castlebar, County Mayo, with a history dating back to the late 1800s, Meservy said. It's the same center that donated a live bowl of shamrocks to former President Obama in 2009 as a symbol of enduring friendship between the two countries.

Some of the shamrocks — made into boutonni√®res and centerpieces — will be given to those attending Thursday's Hibernian Society member luncheon, but about 100 are available for sale at Thyme and Place, 362 E. 900 South, for $15 each.

The tiny, three-leafed plants are prolific in Ireland, said Donegan. "They are very easy to grow, so we tend to take them for granted."

But Utah's Irish community is "thrilled" to have the plants be part of the celebration, said Michael Hildon, Treasurer of the Hibernian Society. "The shamrock is deeply rooted in our Irish traditions and carries meaningful historical and religious value to us."

According to legend, the shamrock was a sacred plant to the Druids of Ireland, as the leaves formed a triad, and three was a mystical number. And St. Patrick used the shamrock in the fifth century to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as he introduced Christianity to Ireland.

Besides teaching gardening classes Thursday through Sunday, Donegan will walk in Saturday's St. Patrick's Day parade and visit a few Irish pubs for a pint of Guinness — two things he would do if he were back home in the rural town of Bally Boughal, County Dublin, population 650.

On Thursday and Saturday, from 8 to 10 p.m. he will host episodes of "Sodshow," at The Mandate Press, 1077 S. Main, interviewing Utah gardening experts and authors. Guests can get tickets through

Before his Monday flight back to Dublin, Donegan plans to leave a little bit of Ireland in the Beehive. He pulled a few strings and will give six stones from the world famous Blarney Castle to Utah's Irish community.

For centuries, pilgrims — including statesmen, literary giants, and movie stars — have climbed the steps of the Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone, which is said to "bestow the gift of eloquence," said Donegan. "It's a rare gift."

But one that's fitting for an Irish podcaster.