Monday, 23 July 2012

The Dillon Garden

Oooh and awe in equal measure
If theres one thing that fills me with dread it's the thought of a coach trip up to Dublin with the purple rinse brigade. Luckily yesterday the oldies stayed home, minding their hips, arthritis and digestive ailments and the bus was packed instead with the able bodied who spent the 2.5 hours in good humour swapping stories and having a bit of craic as we sped our way up the motorway in a warm muggy day that by Ranelagh had broken into sunshine.

Exploring out back
Val and Helen Dillon live on Sandford Terrace in Dublin in a gorgeous old house that is full of beautiful antiques(both were antiques dealers) and some very small dogs. They have been gardening for over 40 years and are still as peppy and enthusiastic about it as if they started yesterday. Val in particular is quite funny and entertaining getting us all to laugh so much at his little opening talk that we went to the garden with aching jaws.I can quite imagine himself and Helen having great battles of wit all day long, neither winning but both scoring points in a very Bogart and Bacall kind of way.Mind you Helen is a force to be reckoned with, she was very warm and welcoming but I'd say she doesn't suffer fools gladly!

View from the drawing room window
From the drawing room window we had this amazing view out over the canal that forms the heart of their stunning back garden. I had seen lots of photos of course but being there and looking out at it from the house you are so struck by the whole glorious vista that it's quite breathtaking. So although I took this photo, and a few others, hand on heart they are a poor copy of the full glory of the garden in real life.

We descended down the steps from the tiny terrace at the back and dove into the garden. Somehow myself and Eileen got chatting to Helen right away about alstromerias (Peruvian Lillie's) which Eileen doesn't like at all! There were a few different types, all putting on huge displays in the borders surrounding the central canal. I love these guys because they are so tropical looking but yet so tough and very reliable, coming back year after year without any minding or fussing over. They make great long lasting cut flowers for the house too. Eileen associates them with cheap bouquets from petrol stations- no romance there then!

Dahlia perfection! it even matched my nail varnish!
On the ground floor, so to speak, a few things struck me. First there was nice room between the plants, no battles for space here as there are in my garden. Secondly f&*k me!! I have never seen such enormous Dahlias, she must be giving them plant steroids! The height of the plants, their incredible lushness and perfect blooms was just mind blowing. I think my Dahlias are great, and trust me they are midgets by comparison!

Check out part of the container army in bins and black pots
Helen has a lot of pots to mind. She deliberately plants up Dahlias in particular in pots to be moved to gaps in the border for instant filling and adding of colour. I do the same thing but I plant mine into the border and out of the pot. Helen leaves hers in pots and is supremely dedicated to their watering. You must be a very experienced gardener to really look after containers properly. It takes too much time and effort for most people to commit to or cope with.I usually try to banish all plants from pots to ground for the summer or use Charlies old trick of burying the plant in the pot in a bed to save on watering.

If one word could describe this garden it would be "lush". Great swathes of flowers, drifts of roses, fine groups of ornamental foliage, nothing looking thin, miserable or lonely for want of plant company. Although looking out from the back window did give the impression that the garden was visible in its entirety paths weaving down the sides and back of the borders hid other gems, with a glasshouse and lean-to adding to the nooks and crannies to be explored.

Stunning romneya(tree poppy) massive gangs of flowers
Val kindly make us all tea and coffee and served delicious biscuits as small groups drifted in in need of refreshment before going onward. One of the little dogs made friends with everyone in the hopes of a biscuit coming their way.

In the little courtyard to the side of the house Helen and Val's niece was in charge of plant sales. I bought three scarlet clove scented dianthus/carnations/pinks depending on your persuasion. Others took the plunge and bought huge potted Agapanthus, one of Helen's own favourite plants.Willy our bus driver was smirking from ear to ear as he saw us return laden down with bags overflowing with all sorts of flowers and foliage, I think he thought we were mad-how right he was!

We took our leave of the very hospitable Dillon's at lunch hour leaving them to prepare for yet more visitors in the afternoon. If you find yourself in Dublin this summer do go visit the garden. It's really well worth it.

Agapanthus, one of the stars of the show
Alstromerias and succulents bloom near the glasshouse

Helen gets Deborah a dahlia cutting-look at the height of the dahlia plant!
Giant agapanthus about to open near the canal
almost fell over when I saw how far along this pumpkin is!
Raised beds and vegetables too-big surprise
Well chosen trees set off the rest of the garden
Beautiful vistas from every angle
a perfect flush of white sweetly scented roses

The Dillon Garden is the website for the garden. Check out photo galleries (far better than my own), opening times, Helen's books and related articles.

No comments:

Post a Comment