Wednesday 13 December 2017

The secret garden

Marie Staunton visits a woodland wonderland created with vision and love

Marie Staunton

This is a garden created by a gentle person, someone who understands plants and their needs. More importantly, it is one that even the novice gardener can embrace because it's everything we imagine a garden should be.

From the time you enter through the gate, you have a feeling that this is a garden that is loved and nurtured. Every detail, twist and turn has been considered, so that in maturity it becomes a magical place that will transport you back in time.

Barry Murphy is the author of this considered garden, and I say author because it is like a whimsical poem created by a person who knows a thing or two about his craft.

Once a field of Brussels sprouts – hard to believe – it's now a treasure trove of rare and unusual plants, alongside those which are not so rare but beautifully presented in their hundreds.

Therein lies the secret of this garden: the en masse planting is subtle and the garden reveals itself from January right through to late autumn, so there is something new to discover every time you walk out the front door.

Woodland gardens come to life at a time when we need a bit of a boost: colour is such a tonic after the very grey days we have to endure over the winter.

Snowdrops illuminate the garden, but what really makes a woodland garden tick are the surprises that follow in quick succession, including aconites, pachyphragma, trillium, erythronium and, of course, the long cyclamen season, which is ever present as other little jewels come and go.

To be a gardener requires patience and vision formed into a plan, and as Barry and I were talking over a cuppa and very lovely homemade brown bread, I realised that without a plan a garden will never really reach its full potential. You can dabble and dibble, but without an idea of what it will eventually look like it is hard to bring the whole thing together.

So, if I can offer a bit of advice before you start planting up your new garden, it would be to visit as many gardens as you can and decide on a look that suits you and your personality.

Barry's garden is designed in such a way that when the ground cover of the woodland is coming towards the end of the season, your eye is drawn to the vivid blues of the poppy Meconopsis and the arching stems of Solomon's seal which start taking centre stage. And so it goes on until the Alpine garden explodes into colour towards the middle of the summer.

One of my favourite films of the past few years is 'A Good Year' starring Russell Crowe, about a stock broker who inherits a chateau in France and, despite himself, starts to embrace his new, slower-paced life.

There is no doubt that Barry Murphy's garden will do that for you. It will draw you in and wrap you up and make you feel nostalgic for the simpler things in life.

Irish Independent

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