Helen and Val Dillon hosted a group from the Irish Garden Plant Society in their new garden in Monkstown yesterday afternoon. It was my first visit to the new garden so there was huge curiosity to see what it was like, what Helen had done, how the garden was laid out, what plants she had brought from her old garden and what had she introduced.
Both house and garden fit with that nowadays term “downsizing”, a beautifully re-designed and extended bungalow within high granite walls giving excellent privacy and a wonderfully protected garden, laid out for ease of maintenance and large enough for the plant lover to enjoy without excessive effort. The garden encircles the house with cut stone edged beds to the front and at both gables; a narrow passageway at the rear of the house leading to an almost enclosed courtyard; there is a large glasshouse and an aviary at one end and on the other, in view from the patio area, an especially beautiful wooden glasshouse on a raised section of the garden with the functional garden shed and compost bins to the corner. There is no grass! As a design it is clean, simple, practical, functional and the perfect play area for the plant lover – all fun, less work!
A pictorial walk around the garden
I imagine it must have been quite a wrench to leave behind the long-established garden in Ranelagh and begin again from scratch. It had been planned and planted over many years and tweaked and polished to produce a garden which became one of our iconic Irish gardens. In some manner I feel that over the years it moved into national ownership and it became the special garden that we all had to visit at least once in every season and, of course, we commented on and gave our opinion on each and every little change for we had become possessive about it – it was our garden too!
Many will recall the furore of opinion when the fabulous central lawn was removed. It had been Val’s pride and joy (and back-break and heartbreak) to maintain with so many visitors. The canal and limestone pavement which replaced it were beautiful, more functional, less work to maintain and perfectly sensible but those who loved Val’s green sward and the fabulous picture it made when viewed from the house missed it and were not reluctant to say so.
In a sense, Helen and Val created a garden for us all and in doing so it became less and less theirs but there comes a time in life, a retirement I suppose, when our priorities change and we give time to ourselves and to our families and to pursuing our passions in life without answering to others. So, Helen and Val now garden for themselves, for their own enjoyment, fun and pleasure and I wish them many years of happiness for they certainly have given many years of happiness to others.
Helen was always renowned for the interesting plants she grew. I hope you enjoy this selection from her garden.