Imagine walking into someone’s back garden and immediately feeling like you have been transported to a magical place. That’s the feeling I had when I arrived at the home of Helen and Val Dillon in Dublin, Ireland.
Helen Dillon is a world-renowned plantswoman, writer, and lecturer. Over the past forty years, this widely admired garden has built up a collection of rare and unusual plants that are arranged in fun and unique ways.
The focal point (perfect for a deep lot like this one) is a long reflection pond of Irish limestone with a fanciful perennial border that appears to be bursting from both sides. Behind these borders are several outdoor rooms which encourage the visitor to wander and enjoy….which I did!
I was happy to see that this garden, while traditional in some respects also didn’t take itself too seriously. Where groundcover and hardscape met, it would appear that the plants would win each time. It was fun to see plants wedge themselves and thrive in some of the most unlikely places. I also enjoyed the fact that deadheading the textural plants was left to nature (not the pruning shears) so that we could enjoy the late summer transition from green to gold seedheads. Even the furniture and humans sitting in them get to enjoy the company of the plants. The plants really ruled this yard.
Another unexpected finding was what I like to call “the stacking pot trick.” When Helen needed a bit of height in her garden she didn’t always go for the tallest plant. Instead she took gorgeous Agapanthus ‘Storm Cloud’ in black containers and stacked them on another five gallon sized upside down container and presto, she had one seriously tall Agapanthus! She also used these metal plant stakes which I can only describe as “plant girdles” to help the plump plants like Salvias suck in their bellies and stand more upright. Since Helen did such a fantastic job by layering her border with ornamentals, the metal stakes and the black containers basically disappeared from the scene.
If you’re ever visiting Dublin I would highly recommend you make a stop and say hello to Helen!