A New Eden; One Man's Dream Has Brought a Taste of Paradise to a Corner of Ireland

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), August 17, 2017 | Go to article overview

A New Eden; One Man's Dream Has Brought a Taste of Paradise to a Corner of Ireland


Byline: With Diarmuid Gavin

There's a new Eden just down the road from me - Jimi Blake's Hunting Brook in County Wicklow. The beauty of his hillside plot, his collection of plants, along with his fame as a passionate gardening communicator, meant Monty Don and the Gardeners' World crew visited recently. Rather embarrassingly Monty got there before me.

So last weekend I made the pilgrimage and while dodging a tropical-type downpour I drank in Jimi's magnificent creation. There's so much to talk about. But what really struck me was the number of tender specimens he's planted amongst 'normal' perennials to give a tropical and jungle feel.

In cold areas - and the Wicklow hills can pack a windy chill - these plants need to be moved indoors for winters, so that's most parts of the UK. But since we have the climate in summer, it's fun to mix up the usual with some striking species.

As well as using tender exotics, Jimi adds in some bright bursts of colour with neon pink and yellow Dahlia 'Bright Eyes', orange cosmos, rich scarlet Monarda and a sprinkling of red salvias to create a joyful tapestry of textures, shapes and colours.

He also uses tender exotics to great effect by planting table-height troughs on his veranda and cramming them with cacti and succulents - it's fun, different and because it doesn't need much watering, it is low maintenance as well.

Aeoniums are evergreen succulents that come from the Canary Islands and Madeira. They will only survive outdoors in very mild coastal areas in the UK - for example, they flourish in great numbers in Tresco Abbey Gardens in the Scilly Isles.

However, for most of us, they need to be brought indoors over winter.

That's not just because they are susceptible to frost - sitting outdoors in puddles of rain will rot them too.

The smaller ones look wonderful planted in pots but, for maximum drama, plant the larger ones amongst your borders.

Aeonium arboreum, the tree houseleek, forms a shrub two feet high. …

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