Notes from a Head Gardener ~ Hunting Brook Gardens (a surprise multi-generational crowd pleaser)

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It takes a special garden to be a hit with the whole family. Father needs to see a variety of horticultural situations for inspiration to furnish a similar plot, his daughter (this gardener) would like to see innovative planting combinations and unusual plant forms, and his granddaughters require brilliant colour and fairytale wonder. Hunting Brook Gardens in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland exceeds all these criteria. 

Low clouds and persistent drizzle could not dim the glory of Hunting Brook in August. Owner, plant enthusiast and gardening guru Jimi Blake combines perennials with tender plants plus his own selections of Dahlias and Salivas and the effect is a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. 

Jimi Blake is a dreamweaver of colours and textures. I challenge anyone not to be exhilarated by his planting combinations. Delicate dahlias in shades of pale lemon sing against subtle yet electric coloured Salivas……

Succulents sit stoutly next to Calendula and Rudbeckia and not at all incongruously in the rolling, lush green hills of Wicklow. No-one else would dare to even dream it. 

All of this comes before the the main event. Floriferous displays ease into wooded paths which, in turn lead to a valley of epic proportions and it is here that Jimi Blake appears to have the most fun. A hillside of lilies successfully recreates South-West China and a vast table complete with flagon of ale suggests that a family of Hagrids have just upped and left to go about their fairy-forest day.

Scale is manipulated with a lightness of touch that usually only gardens of epic dimensions venture (an idea shamelessly stolen from my 9 year old daughter…… “Mummy, it’s like Chatsworth or Kirstenbosh!” She hit the nail on the head). 

The bravery continues on the far side of the valley with a meandering path cut through a meadow. There was nothing spectacular to see in August but it allowed space to process the drama of the valley and the fireworks of the flower gardens. 

My father found inspiration to take back to his own plot of green Irish land. My daughters found magic amongst the flowers and the valley and I found a garden that blazed with the passion with which it was created. Repeat visiting is imperative because it is an experimental garden that will continually evolve. Hunting Brook is a truly extraordinary garden (and so say ALL of us).

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