I was lead astray, mislead, lead up the new garden path and totally befuddled at June Blake’s garden last week. June has a new entrance route to the garden now, veering to the right of the house, through the yard and left, past the fabulous new café which is absolutely beautifully laid out and furnished and which also accommodates Dara’s Back Avenue Books.
The approach to the garden…
However, this meant that I entered the garden from another direction and it all felt strange and, somehow, wrong to me. It’s amazing how one sets a rhythm and routine on someone else’s garden – that there is a right and proper way to enter and a best route around. I am a creature of routine, I suppose, and like to do what I have always done. I have always entered via the small patio on the gable end of the house, under that iconic evergreen tree and, in my mind, this is how it should be properly done!
Anyway, one way or another, the garden was gorgeous even though I think we were maybe a week or so before the big show and I imagine it is just fabulous at the moment and on into August. The first of the dahlias were into flower – I think they will be the star performers of this horribly hot and dry year and their Mexican genes will show to the best. Over the last number of years June has been raising lots and lots of dahlias from seed and these, being single-flowered, have a simple elegance to them that is absent from the many double cultivars we grow. The cultivars may be more showy but a bed of single-flowered dahlias has a lightness and delicacy about it that they don’t.
June’s garden has developed hugely over the last number of years and I like it more and more each time I visit. As June has expanded the garden to include more and more of the surrounding area the grid of raised beds, built from granite stone, continue to anchor the garden to the house and give it a certain formality at its core while allowing the outer areas to be softer in approach and blend into the surrounding countryside.
Above all, June is the lady of colour and I don’t think there is any other gardener in the country who manages colour combinations as skillfully and as lusciously as she does. It is a skill which has been neglected somewhat in gardening in recent years where they emphasis has swung towards gardens as collections of interesting plants and away from the practice of selecting plants to provide a particular effect. Gertrude Jekyll was the queen of colour in the garden and Helen Dillon’s garden in Sandford Road was one of the greatest examples of that art in practice and now June continues that long tradition in wonderful fashion.
It is peculiar that I comment on this aspect of June’s garden for I would have difficulty combining a shirt and a tie but I am often stopped in my tracks in a garden and realise I am looking at something special. It generally takes a sit down and a time to look and take it in for me to “get” what it is that makes a border work beautifully as a unit rather than as a collection of individual plants. The central grid of beds in June’s garden has many vistas, of different colour effects, which deserve this time to appreciate them.