The Compleat Garden

“I can’t believe this is our garden,” I keep saying to myself and to anyone around. The space is still us though: slightly overgrown original shrubs and trees and a look of wildness at the edges, but with a shape that is clearly thought out, edges marked, spaces delineated.

Before / After:

The hard graft was done by a lovely Polish man (let me know if you want his number!), who did the paving and put down the new grass and bark mulch. Darek also had some good ideas for details of the design. Because we waited until we were going to be home for the few weeks following the new grass, he worked all day in pouring Irish rain to finish it. Of course, we’ve done some of the work too. I weeded and mulched, with manure and homemade compost, all the beds that were to be covered with bark chips. We’ve painted and drilled, hanging my metal butterflies and line of birds and hearts, both from artisans at the Filberg Festival in Comox on Vancouver Island. After all the stone cutting and tracking of muck around the place, the two of us scrubbed the decks by hand as our water pressure is not strong enough for a power cleaner. Fortunately the results were worth the back-breaking, and the days were warm enough that soaking feet weren’t a problem.

We added:

  • Tandur yellow limestone paving: hard wearing for the Irish climate, with warm colours including terracotta that picked up hues of the bricks in our home, plus the bricks that line some of the garden beds. We made two new paths across the front and back gardens, covered an existing path to our back shed, and filled in another crazily paved area on the edge of the deck. Final touch was to line the very narrow driveway so we don’t step out onto grass getting out of the car.
  • a circular patio of the same limestone for our fire pit – because they were out of three metre sets when we needed one, we went with a 2 1/2 metre and added a ring of bricks around the outside.
  • solar fairy lights and garden lights, from Aldi, and a solar globe light from Lidl, that looks like the moon is hanging out in our tree. The chunky glass candle holder that casts beautiful patterns of light around it is also from Lidl.
  • a retractable double clothesline – this handy little gadget not only increases our drying line length, but means we don’t have to be looking out at a line all the time (not yet installed when the ‘after’ photo taken).
  • plant pots of various sizes and shapes (read about them here).
  • a hanging basket and window boxes to the front of the house.
  • a wooden panel to section off the end of our driveway, which we painted Fleetwood’s Powerscourt, matching the pillars and trim of our front wall, and window ledges. This is to create a slightly more private sitting area that catches the evening sun. Our front door is Fleetwood’s Deep Mulberry.


There are still finishing touches: I am going to move some of my plants around, and I want to add ferns to our shady wall. The mirror has still to be hung, and the doors in the back garden to be painted but I’m working on that now. Like everything around here, our new garden is a work in progress, a moveable feast that we’ll keep a little wild around the edges.

And finally, a few last few bits of information (and some links) on all the fun we had re-imagining our space:

In the interest of research, we watched the series Super Garden on RTE, which was a competition for six trainee garden designers to win a spot in Bloom, an annual Irish garden festival in the Phoenix Park. We visited a local allotment from a tip off about their ground covering, and the National Garden Centre in Kilquade, Co Wicklow, (blog post here about that) again specifically to look at ground work, but for any other ideas we could glean as well. Friends kindly showed us recent work done in their back garden, and from that we sourced our materials and the man to do the work.

Other gardens I saw this summer were Kilruddery House and Gardens, the walled gardens in Belvedere House, Farmleigh and the Phoenix Park, and Helen Dillon’s Dublin garden (blog here).

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