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”)

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

Advertisements

The Bay Garden – Always a Delight

Domesticity of scale adds to the winning charm of The Bay Garden in Ferns, Co. Wexford, the garden of Iain and Frances McDonald.  Although a reasonably large garden by today’s norms it is experienced in a series of relatively small stages so that the visitor takes in the garden at a gradual and comfortable pace and never feels overwhelmed by largesse or grandeur. Despite the extensive work which was involved in developing this garden and the fabulous selection of interesting plants used to furnish it there is an encouraging feeling that the visitor might achieve a similar effect on the home patch. The Bay is an impressive garden yet remains one which is encouraging rather than daunting.

The yellow front door which a neighbour told Iain and Frances they were never to change. The addition of the wisteria matches it perfectly
The yellow front door which a neighbour told Iain and Frances they were never to change. The addition of the wisteria matches it perfectly

On a visit with a group of friends last week I was followed as I headed off on my usual route around the garden only for one of my companions to comment, “Oh, we are doing the garden the wrong way round today.” The normal route around the garden is to enter to the back of the house and move through the various rooms to end up in the woodland garden. However, the woodland garden is the section which always attracts me and it is where I always go first. In the month of June it has the most perfect picture postcard scene imaginable in any garden where hosts of primulas in a range of colours are set in front of a garden house. It is as perfect a composition as I can imagine and I simply adore it. There is much of interest at any time of the year but the highlight is certainly the show of primulas.

At the end of the woodland garden in June
At the end of the woodland garden in June
Such a perfect planting with a wonderful selection of primulas
Such a perfect planting with a wonderful selection of primulas

In contrast, the grass garden does not set my heart on fire but this is a general attitude of mine that I simply do not like these grass plantings. Having said that, there are views within this garden that I adore – the combination of rhus in its autumn colours among grasses is simply divine while a view over the planting which leads the eye to the surrounding countryside is a design feature which Iain and Frances have developed to perfection.

The Grass Garden with views to the surrounding countryside
The Grass Garden with views to the surrounding countryside
Wonderfully dramatic planting in the Grass Garden
Wonderfully dramatic planting in the Grass Garden

Frances’ “Funereal Borders” with her selection of very dark flowers have been an amusement for many years, great fun to see what she has added this year. I think she has passed the funeral stage somewhat and I’m not sure whether we are celebrating cremation, a drop down to hell or a celebration of the life hereafter for the colours in this section of the garden are brighter, richer, with more happiness and generally more autumnal than previously and all in our group were delighted with them.

Hydrangeas are adding a further level of interest to the garden, another layer to an already rich planting
Hydrangeas are adding a further level of interest to the garden, another layer to an already rich planting

DSC_0071

DSC_0077

The Rose Garden is not what it was. Box blight has ravaged the previously beautifully formal and neatly clipped hedges. It is so hard to leave go of a design and planting which was so successful but I’m sure this area will be resurrected in the very near future to shine again.

I’m not sure what Iain and Frances call the area with the formal pool and Loggia; I think of it as an Italianate area and while I adore aspects of its design there are others which I am not too keen on. It gives a wonderful change of atmosphere as one walks around as it is a space with a different feeling to the rest of the garden. It introduces a touch of formality in a country garden which I think could be incongruous but that it is kept separate by hedging so, overall, it is a clever introduction of a different design element. The hard landscape work has been improved greatly in the last few years; the hedges have matured and are maintained to perfection. What irritates me is the planting to either side of the pond. I feel it is an area where a lot less planting would give a far better effect and that the present planting is a distraction from the overall design and layout of this area. Indeed, if Iain extended his present hydrangea flair to this area, removed all other plants except the hedging and used a mass planting of one cultivar of hydrangea, I feel it would be fabulous. A mass of ‘Annabelle’ or ‘Limelight’ or ‘Vanille Fraise’ at either side set off by the hedges would be simple and impressive.

The formal pool and loggia
The formal pool and loggia

The small area to the front of the house is called “The Cottage Garden” and I think the description could be extended to the garden to the side of the house also. This is a delightfully comfortable area with a very relaxed atmosphere. It is so very pleasant to walk here and enjoy the plants. The pink-berried sorbus which Iain raised from seed is one which I like to see on each visit. The Cornus kousa was just showing colour in its fruit last week and a very dark-flowered sedum caught everybody’s eye. The very tall Dahlia ‘Admiral Rawlings’ impressed us all with its fabulously rich colour and imposing size.

The area to the side of the house, informal in layout and rich in plant interest.
The area to the side of the house, informal in layout and rich in plant interest.

Coffee and chat round off any garden visit very well and a selection of plants for sale present the opportunity to take a keepsake home with you and so our visit was complete. There will be other days and other seasons as this garden looks well all year round.

Finally, some plants which caught my eye on our visit – only a very few as there were so many.

An interesting range of hydrangeas has been added to the garden. Here are just a few...
An interesting range of hydrangeas has been added to the garden. Here are just a few…
What a blue!
What a blue!
Hydrangea aspera, a divine colour
Hydrangea aspera, a divine colour
This impressive stand of Lilium lancifolium caught everybody's attention. It grows easily from the bulbils produced along the stem. We have some of its offspring at home and they are doing very well.
This impressive stand of Lilium lancifolium caught everybody’s attention. It grows easily from the bulbils produced along the stem. We have some of its offspring at home and they are doing very well.
This colour of this monarda was such a delight
This colour of this monarda was such a delight
Those autumnal colours!
Those autumnal colours!

DSC_0090

DSC_0089

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook