Posts tagged ‘dillon garden’

January 24, 2014

Getting in touch with your inner designer!

by Ciaran Burke

Carefully placed objects can enhance the garden experience

It is brown, barely visible, one has to look closely and bend down to examine the small flowers, thin and sinuous, like a dark rodent tail, almost hidden by the foliage. I think it is fabulous, Asarum probiscidum. The green flowers of Primula ‘Francisca’, ruffled and clustered on short stalks, pretty, not showy. Snowdrops, Galanthus sp., imagine a garden with fifty different kinds, a gardener proud of the collection. This is the world of the plant enthusiast. We plant people can be terribly nerdish, true anoraks walking around a garden on a wet February afternoon, bending to admire the subtle differences between one snowdrop and another. We “ooh: and “aah” at the green markings, only visible when viewed from beneath the white skirt of petals. Perhaps we are a bit odd.

Living in Ireland, we have the opportunity to grow a wide range of plants. The winter air is warmed, most years, by the Gulf Stream. Our island is spared from the harshest cold by our enclosure of ocean. The rain that we all complain so much about, waters our plants. Our gardens do not really stop during the year, even in the depths of winter there are plants in growth, flowers blooming, there are fruits and foliage to admire.
Not everyone can get as excited as me about the mouse-like blooms of Asarum probiscidum, many will think snow drop fanciers are a little bit mad and very sad. That is okay. A garden is more than a collection of plants. It is not just a cabinet to display the prizes of the collector: the freaks, the beautiful, the rare and expensive.

Gardens can fulfill various functions and fancies. It can be a picture of beauty, a lively composition of colour, an outdoor room to entertain and live. It is also a sanctuary for the mind, a rest for the tired body, a rejuvenator of the spirit. Gardens can provide vegetables for the kitchen pot, fruits for the dining room table. Gardens are places to interact, with nature and each other.

Experience is essential, it makes us what we are, gives us life. The space around our homes is not just a picture, framed by the windowpane, viewed from a patio door, glanced at while putting out the bin.
Raindrops held like jewels hanging from a flower, the smell of fresh cut grass, the aroma of a crushed lavender sprig. The quiet calm of an autumn morning, the golden glow of a summer’s evening doused in sweet scents, the murky winter morning shrouded in fog, coated in frost; moments of magic, unique and sometimes fleeting. The view, the smell, the feel, they create atmosphere; we live the experience and cherish the memory.

Strolling through a beautiful garden we admire many things; the flowers, the colours, perhaps the perfume on the air. A path might lead us to a destination, but it also might guide our sight. We might be blissfully unaware that our gaze moved slowly along the airy flower heads of lady’s mantle that complemented the other yellow blooms. A golden foliaged conifer; its placement provided the structural form and resting place for the eye as the path curved way from view, invited us to explore.

Sitting on a stone bench, the air is quiet except for the rustle of leaves and the hum from insects. Comfortable and secure, restful and serene we take for granted the beauty of the scene, the experience of escape. The placement of the seat in this garden room is no accident. The height of the enclosure, the light that enters, the amount of space and uncluttered feel are elements that make this place so perfect.
If the hedges were any higher, our seat would be darker. If the opening to the path was narrower we might feel imprisoned. The hedge is high enough to make us feel private, low enough to allow us to see the sky, a protective boundary to keep the world out but not to incarcerate. Here in the haven, the degree of our enclosure, how the hedge surrounds the space and leaves a gap for entrance and exit, is a comforting hug not a tight grasp.
Beneath our feet is gravel, light, grey and rounded, a similar colour to the stone bench on which we sit. Harmony of the materials and their colour rests our senses, provides comfort. The colours around us are predominantly green, the soothing shade that relaxes our eyes. But if is not dull, not boring. Some soft pastel shades, a billowing catmint, a tall purple verbena and arching Dierama waves its angel fishing rod flowers above the stones in the slight breeze. The green leaves are not all identical; there are soft ferns in the shade and wide hosta leaves and shapely lady’s mantels topped with frothy soft yellow flowers. A quiet combination of foliage that arouses an interest but does not impose, and colour blends that recede to a respectful distance; soothing and pacifying.

Garden path

Garden path

Leaving the serenity of the secluded seat we walk to the open borders. We are invigorated by the frenzy of colour that fills each facing bed separated by the fine lawn. Burning bright Crocosmia masoniorum blazes with bright orange Helenium autumnale and golden Rudbeckia. The sight is lively and inspiring.


We take for granted the depth of the borders, how each one mirrors the other in size and shape. They are deep enough to accommodate the tall plants, separated by a lawn of good proportion so that we can admire their show along their entire lengths; excellent proportion. The balance either side is subtle, almost imperceptible, yet if it is not right we notice.
The path between the borders leads us to a water feature, this garden room enclosed by the plain backdrop of soft textured yew hedges. The borders appear longer than they actually are. The designer has played with the perspective, the line are not quite parallel. The colours are chosen and graded, hot colours as we enter gradually cool; the reds and oranges mellow to yellow, mauves cool to soft shades of pastel pink and wispy hues of palest blue. The colour gradient emphasizes the fact that the hot reds jump into out vision while soft pastels move away, drifting to the distance. The result, the border seems longer that it is.

The water feature at the end is carefully constructed. It is a focal point on which our eyes will rest, for a moment. Not too big to be an exclamation. Not too flamboyant so as to out do the borders but punctuation in the long space.
From the centre of the round pool, water bubbles from the centre of a rock, tumbles peacefully over the sides and returns to the pool creating a lively ripple. This carefully placed pond and well designed fountain retains the atmosphere of the lively but controlled herbaceous border, the central stone is similar in tone to the surrounding paving, harmony of style and colour.

Plants can be used as ornament to decorate a space or to create the design. They can add texture, colour, form, fragrance and interest throughout the year. How they are combined, where they are placed and how they are used with other features with in our garden; if done so with thought and careful consideration, this will create a more beautiful garden. There is a little bit of a garden designer in every gardener; we must not ignore this creative part of our persona. Instead if we develop our hidden designer, express our creativity, enhance our awareness of colours, forms, balance and harmony, we can transform a collection of plants into a part of something even more beautiful.That strange dark mouse plant, that collection of bright snowdrops and the green ruffled primrose can be details in a composition of garden beauty, components of a greater garden heaven.

June 6, 2011

THE FINAL DAY AT BLOOM 2011 -TOLLING BELL AND MADNESS BEGINS

by Ciaran Burke

Philip Bankhead of Penninsula Primulas picking the right plant

4 pm. A bell rings, sounding like a the teacher ringing the end of lunch time, but it is the start of the exhibitors displays sell off in the floral marquee. The thronging crowds are in a frenzy. Plants are being pointed at, pulled at, stand owners prodded. Rare delights are removed and sold, special deals offered, and gladly accepted. I had to keep a keen eye on our stand, “Is this pot for sale?”, “are you giving away anything” our plants and pots from our garden are endangered! But it is all good natured and fun.

Boyne Garden Centre Sell-off

Hanna helped Philip Bankhead of Pennisula Primulas. This is an annual arrangement ever since the first Bloom when Philip innocently said “help yourself’ t and his invitation to the public to pick their desired primulas and queue to pay for them was misunderstood. Now Hanna marshals the crowds with Finnish organisation and a teacher’s command. An orderly queue is formed around his stand as customers choose their plants, Philip packs them,  all are paid for; everybody’s happy. Around every nursery stand their is a type of bedlam, as foxgloves fly and lupins leap into grateful arms. Japanese maples move through the air, concealing people in a cloud of purple foliage that waves from side to side through the floral marquee. Smiles are on the faces of happy plant buyers.

Finlay Colley of Rare Plants Ireland in action

Bloom is as much about people as it is about plants, gardens and food. Each year we see the familiar faces, Koraley Northen photographing plants, people and gardens, Gerry Daly of The Irish Garden mingling and talking, giving lectures and talking on the radio. Orla Woods of Kilmurry Nursery, she performs her duties as Nursery Pavilion Organiser with good humour and efficiency and works the whole weekend selling plants on her nursery and making sure everyone is happy. This year we also had teams of Bloom Ambassadors referred to as “bloomers” milling around and helping the public with directions for toilets, restaurants, and anything else they need to know about Bloom. This year’s record attendance figures made sure they were kept busy all the time.

Koraley Northen - ever present, always photographing

We have had great neighbours around our stand; Jimi Blake from Huntingbrook our breakfast companion and plant spotter and tipster, Finlay Colley of Rare Plants Ireland who stocks a most temting range of trees and shrubs, we could not resist. Then we had Oliver Schurmann of Mount Venus flying around on his bicycle before the show opened, zooming between his show garden and nursery stand. Now that the show is over, the stand removed and packed in the car, our heads still whirring from the past five days, we are tired but happy. It has been a great show, thanks must go to Gary Graham and Carol Marks at Bord Nia for all their hard work through the year that makes the event happen.We have attended Bloom since its inception and each year it keeps getting bigger and better, looking forward now to next year.

Bloom Ambassadors to the rescue

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June 8, 2010

Photos from Dillon Garden- 8th June

by Ciaran Burke

I actually felt a bit funny walking around the garden at first, then I realised what was wrong. No camera! No, I did not forget it. When working with a tour I don’t have time to set up my tripod etc. All my photos from this trip will be taken with my iPhone. It will be weird to be looking at the gardens with two eyes instead of through the camera lense.

Photos from top; Crataegus laciniata in flower; raised vegetable bed; Digitalis purpurea ‘Alba’ (White foxgloves); Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’; Dicksonia antartica (tree ferns) in galvanized steel bins in the front garden with the infloresences of Beschorneria yuccioides; road sign on Sandford Road points the way for garden enthusiasts; Acer griseum (paper bark maple).

June 8, 2010

Dublin airport direct to Dillon Garden

by Ciaran Burke

So far it has been dry. We met all the group at Dublin airport and then went straight to the Dillon Garden in Ranelagh. Val Dillon welcomed and entertained us with his humourous stories and then he put the kettle on for tea and coffee. We all went to the garden.

In the garden Helen Dillon greeted us warmly and we all wandered through the garden. Helen enthusiastically identified plants and answered questions. She also had some sad and bad news to share. Reginald, their daschound, a familiar character to visitors in the past has passed away. The other misfortune concerns the hens, all were killed a few weeks ago by a fox.

The garden looks immaculate as ever. Helen explained that she is growing plants such as Dahlia and Canna in pots and when they are in flower, she is using them to fill gaps in the borders.

Crambe maritima attracted a lot of interest with the visitors. Many admiring it’s numerous flowers and sniffing it’s sweet honey scent. It is also grown as a vegetable. When grown for eating it is covered in spring to exclude light and the new growths harvested. I have it in the garden at home but have never eaten it, i will try it next year. Helen says it is as good as asparagus.

The large spherical infloresences of Allium ‘Globe Master’ were stunning and I think everyone remarked on how good they looked. Helen says that they are expensive to buy, but are worth the investment. A. ‘Purple Sensation’ is finished flowering while these are continuing to flower. She showed us the as yet unopened buds under the open flowers to prove her point.

After one and a half hours, reluctantly the group left the garden to get back on the bus to bring us to the Trinity Capital Hotel in Pearse Street, close to Trinity College. Hanna and I were joined by some tired and hungry tour members at a Moroccan restaurant called Dada in the evening.

Most of the group are probably already asleep in their beds after a long day of travelling, I am sure all are looking forward to visiting Carmel Duignan’s garden in Shankill on the morning. Lunch on the Mill at Avoca follows and then we are off to Mount Usher. A great day of gardens ahead, I hope the rain stays away.

Photos below: from top-
Dillon Garden from steps at back of house; Val Dillon tells us his entertaining stories; the empty hen house; Crambe maratima (Seakale) flowers; Allium ‘Globe Master’ (those finished flowering in the foreground are A. ‘Purple Sensation’); some of the group enjoying the garden, viewed from drawing room window.

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