To begin, this post is way out of date, so if you read this now and have recently visited or are due to visit, please don’t compare the garden to this review as I know that a lot of major landscaping has gone on in the woodland valley and planting in the established areas has been revamped.That being said, I’m sure the vibe and quality of the garden is still exactly the same. I visited in September 2015.
Straight away we were met by a friendly, well-kept Old English Sheepdog, who I believe is called Doris. A good sign. Then there’s the welcoming sign at the entrance, with an honesty box.. I love that shit! It immediately sets the tone of the place as one built on trust and belief in the better aspects of human nature. Immediately the planting was striking, lush, vibrant, textural and sophisticated but not pretentious. With dark Lupinus ‘Masterclass’ nestling side by side with Aralia echinocaulis (for instance). There is so much going on in the planting of this garden, but it is obviously designed with an eye and not just thrown together. Where Great Dixter gives the impression plants are just chucked in, Jimi Blake’s garden at Huntingbrook has a definite artistic flow without being too contrived. Plants are allowed to seed themselves and fill spaces, but at the same time there is some serious quality ‘gardening’ going on which allows for the plants to work to their full potential without being overcome by neighbours. This was evident also in the way that Jimi carefully removed some of the larger lower leaves from an Angelica as it was encroaching on a young, delicately foliaged shrub (whose type I can’t remember). Like his dog, his garden looks well due to the best of care and attention.
Behind the house is the main area, which holds a little succulent garden (I believe now bigger and better) and a fat crescent of perennial style planting, utilising a few key plants and repeating to create something visually sublime. The area had just the day before been cut back a little to allow for the end of season flush, but even so, the space was gorgeous with Astilbe ‘Purplelanze’ just in the budding up stage, its rich burgundy clusters working beautifully well with Stipa type grasses, giant pink fluffy Sanguisorbas, sporadic clouds of Thalictrum with pops of brilliant red from a particularly lovely Potentilla and some species type Dahlias. It was just a lovely place to be. Even on the bit of a gloomy day.
The garden gradually became more wooded the deeper you moved into it. Jimi has made every area a space to play with his love of Botany and plant collecting, with some beautiful examples of the rarer end of the spectrum, or if the plant is not rare, it will be the best form of it! I get the impression that plants that don’t perform and pull their weight are not tolerated unnecessarily. The entrance to the woodland valley was planted with many wonderful and beautiful woodland edge species, obviously a nod toward the eventual development of the whole woodland, which when I visited was allowed to remain natural, cut in half by a small river and carpeted in wood sorrels. Crossing the small valley, the path winds up into the open fields of the rest of Jimi’s garden which he had allowed over to natural meadow, the result of many years of sheep pasture. We were a bit in awe of how lovely it was with minimal fiddling on his behalf.. complete with a standing stone..
All in all Huntingbrook is a fantastic garden, if you like your gardens textural, clever, unpredictable and set in stunning landscape! It’s another one that plays with the natural views of Wicklow mountain falls and rises, creating a space that sings in a powerful, but playful voice.