Huntingbrook, Jimi Blake’s garden in Co. Wicklow, has taken a leap forward this year with the redevelopment of a large area of the gardens. That area to the right as one walked into the garden, a quite high bank until this year, has been lowered, new soil added and the whole area replanted. Now, rather than being an area one simply walks past it has become one to enter and, which I found wonderful, an area with a view over much of the rest of the garden.
As is Jimi’s practice, the garden is always a garden of change; the planting ever-changing as Jimi follows another deep love and infatuation with a new range of plants. This has always made a visit to Huntingbrook very interesting but I have also found a certain unrest with it. Perhaps I view the development of a garden as an evolving process rather than one which is constantly changing; that what is retained is greater than what is changed; that there is a building on the experiment of one year rather than each year being another completely new experiment. I suppose it is part and parcel of a garden open to the public that there must be continuous change, that it must be always novel, interesting and entertaining. It is a show garden, I suppose.
A woodland garden is something we can only inherit. Few of us will live long enough to plant a woodland and enjoy it in its maturity. Jimi is developing a mature woodland, mainly of conifers, and has introduced interesting ground level planting and more choice shrubs and trees over the last number of years. He has done this without jarring with what was there already – an achievement only brought about after great thought, consideration and selection of plants – and this area of the garden will become better and better as years go on. I think it will be my favourite part of the garden as the years pass.
A long flight of steps leads from the woodland valley floor to the, suddenly, open skies of Co. Wicklow and a meadow of grass and wildflowers. Making this walk on a beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies enhances the experience wonderfully.
Huntingbrook has always been an enjoyable visit and I feel that it is better now than in any previous year. It is, I feel, becoming more and more a garden than a collection of plants. What was always enjoyable and attractive in the garden is still there but, I feel, has now been enhanced with developments in organisation and design. Jimi and his garden are enjoying halcyon days and they are very well deserved.
A selection of views around the garden but better to come and visit yourself and enjoy the garden.