Much more than that!

It is disappointing to see a good garden receive scant and silly coverage on a television gardening programme. Recently, BBC’s Gardener’s World visited Jimi Blake’s garden, Huntingbrook, and gave more time to Jimi on a trampoline than to the garden and plants. With any television programme there will be editing and selection of material but one would surely expect the resulting material to be reasonably reflective and representative of the garden. Perhaps, any publicity is good publicity but I am certain the programme was not a fair return for the amount of preparation and work Jimi did in anticipation. I have since visited Jimi’s garden and realise – confirmed my belief – that the programme reflected the poor standards of presenting gardening on television and failed to capture the delights of this garden. (Oh, bring back Charles Nelson and “A Growing Obsession”)

 

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The areas around the house, full of colour and interesting plants 

Every garden lies along a continuum between an emphasis on design and an emphasis on plants and Jimi Blake’s garden is somewhere off the scale on the plant side. He has an exuberant love of plants and it perpetually searching for something new and interesting for his garden so that each year brings new delights for the visitor to see. There have been years where sanguisorbas dominated; a year with salvias; dahlias, many grown from seed, took over for a while and this year it seems that the best of many years have been kept, a culmination of some years of trial, testing and selection so that the main beds around the house are now jewel boxes of delight. One plant which caught my eye and which I thought was used particularly well was a red-leaved banana. It grew to only about a metre in height so that the foliage was within the bed, among the flowers, and not the ragged tower of tattered leaves we are so often urged to admire in someone’s garden. This banana actually looked well while I believe it is generally difficult for a banana to look well in an Irish garden.

 

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A selection of blooms from the area near the house

An enormous amount of work has been done in the woodland area of the garden with new paths laid out, surfaced and with handrails on the steeper sections. There has been some clearing which has allowed in wonderful light and there has been extensive new planting which is still very young but is certainly interesting and will be beautiful as the years progress. The banks of the stream in the basin of the valley has also been extensively planted with suitable additions and, as they settle and spread, these will be particularly beautiful in spring.

 

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The woodland area where an enormous amount of work has been done with new path and planting

Well constructed flights of steps make walking the particularly steep areas much more easy and makes the route to the meadow all the more inviting. The transition from woodland to meadow is dramatically one of those darkness to light experiences as one moves from the shadows of the trees to the openness of the Co. Wicklow countryside with beautiful views to the hills beyond the garden.

 

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The Meadow

Although Jimi’s garden would generally be described as a plantsman’s garden it is much more than that with the woodland area being developed very significantly and interestingly and the meadow becoming progressively better with each passing year. It is a delight to visit the garden at present and the future is even more promising.

Paddy Tobin

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The Little Meadow – in pictures.

The hay has been saved and stored for use in the hens’ nestbox over the coming year. The remaining wisps of grass have been tidied up with the lawnmower and this little meadow is now a bare pale patch which might puzzle those who wander along our country road. However, it will green up again very quickly and remain an anonymous patch until spring of next year when its purpose in the garden will be revealed again.

The tall grass and assorted wildflowers have been cut and tossed over several days to allow them to dry.
The tall grass and assorted wildflowers have been cut and tossed over several days to allow them to dry.
All is gathered up ready to be stored
All is gathered up ready to be stored
And, after a tidying up, we have a bare and peculiar looking patch.
And, after a tidying up, we have a bare and peculiar looking patch.

The grass will be cut in the usual manner for the remainder of the autumn and early winter until early February reveals its hidden treasures.

In early February the first of the crocus appear. The first plantings of crocus were of packets where the price had been reduced in the shops as their season passed.
In early February the first of the crocus appear. The first plantings of crocus were of packets where the price had been reduced in the shops as their season passed. It is a cheap way to get bulbs in good numbers and they all have done well in the grass and have increased well over the years. Initially, they were planted one bulb at a time and quite scatterred so they looked somewhat sparse in the first few years.
Snowdrops quickly join the crocus. These are all of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis.
Snowdrops quickly join the crocus. These are all of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis.
Crocus and snowdrops make good companions with blue and white looking especially good together.
Crocus and snowdrops make good companions with blue and white looking especially good together.
As the weeks pass the snowdrops quickly outnumber the crocus
As the weeks pass the snowdrops quickly outnumber the crocus
And my dream of a white meadow begins to take shape.
And my dream of a white meadow begins to take shape. The odd daffodil are of a very old variety which do well in grass
Two years ago I was given access to a long deserted garden and allowed to take lots of snowdrops. After bringing these home I separated them into individual bulbs as I wished to ensure I wasn't introducing weed plants such as ground elder which was present in the old garden. We - for my wife spent many hours with me on the job - planted several thousand snowdrop bulbs in our meadow and dreamed of years to come.
Two years ago I was given access to a long deserted garden and allowed to take lots of snowdrops. After bringing these home I separated them into individual bulbs as I wished to ensure I wasn’t introducing weed plants such as ground elder which was present in the old garden. We – for my wife spent many hours with me on the job – planted several thousand snowdrop bulbs in our meadow and dreamed of years to come.
The following spring we were rewarded with a reasonable start though there were many bulbs which were obviously still to small or had been overcrowded in the clumps in the old garden so the display was not as good as hoped for. Future years will bring improvement.
The following spring we were rewarded with a reasonable start though there were many bulbs which were obviously still to small or had been overcrowded in the clumps in the old garden so the display was not as good as hoped for. Future years will bring improvement.
Bulb lawn (12)
An encouraging beginning and promise of better years to come.
When crocus and snowdrops have gone the show is carried on by the snakeshead frittilary, Frittilaria meleagris, which enjoys the conditions in the grass and, from an initial very small planting, is now self-seeding and the numbers are increasing well
When crocus and snowdrops have gone the show is carried on by the snakeshead frittilary, Frittilaria meleagris, which enjoys the conditions in the grass and, from an initial very small planting, is now self-seeding and the numbers are increasing well
The frittilaries with white flowers give an interesting contrast and stand out well against the grass.
The frittilaries with white flowers give an interesting contrast and stand out well against the grass.
After the bulb season the grass begins to grow and wildflowers appear - a healthy population of daisies and buttercups as you can imagine. I haven't introduced new wildflowers but would like to introduce Yellow Rattle which would serve to weaken the growth of the grass as it is parasitic on grass roots.
After the bulb season the grass begins to grow and wildflowers appear – a healthy population of daisies and buttercups as you can imagine. I haven’t introduced new wildflowers but would like to introduce Yellow Rattle which would serve to weaken the growth of the grass as it is parasitic on grass roots. The native Forget-me-not gives a delightful blue haze after the buttercups fade.
By mid summer all traces of the spring bulbs have passed and few flowers are showing. It is now the time of the grasses to show and blow in the wind. I have one small clump, four flowers this year, of a native orchid which I hope will continue to thrive in coming years.
By mid summer all traces of the spring bulbs have passed and few flowers are showing. It is now the time of the grasses to show and blow in the wind. I have one small clump, four flowers this year, of a native orchid which I hope will continue to thrive in coming years.
The bulb lawn, as we are inclined to call it in the earlier part of the year, has by now become our little meadow though, to be honest, we are not inclined to be so pretentious and refer to it as
The bulb lawn, as we call it in the earlier part of the year, has by now become our little meadow though, to be honest, we are not inclined to be so pretentious and refer to it as “the high grass”.

And, so, the cycle of the year in this little patch of our garden is complete. It is something different from the rest of the garden and a bit of fun and we always think that the display will be better next spring. Anticipation is nearly as good as the enjoyment.

Paddy Tobin

Post Scriptum: One not expected benefit of this area of high grass is the number of frogs which use it as their home. When cutting the grass last week I displaced over twenty frogs and moved them to one of the nearby beds. The high grass also becomes criss-crossed by little pathways during the summer and I imagine our local foxes or badgers come in search of a meal. 

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