Grow: Wade into a sea of vibrant spring flowers
Visit June Blake’s Wicklow garden to see a sea of tulips and other blooms
The ‘smarties bed’ in June Blake’s Co Wicklow garden last year, filled with ‘Burgundy’, ‘Ballerina’, ‘Negrita’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Bastagne Parrot’ tulips. Photograph: Richard Johnston
There are moments, such as in the middle of an ice-cold, stone-hard winter, when it feels as if time has slowed to a frozen standstill in the garden. Then there are moments, such as now, when it seems to accelerate just as the garden hurtles forward into growth, so that one day you’re scouring a seed tray for signs of life and the next it’s full of new seedlings.
Take June Blake’s remarkable garden in west Wicklow where spring made its tardy appearance only about a month ago.
Even then, the first signs of its arrival were modest: a flock of hellebores, a curling ribbon of silver pulmonaria, some low clumps of the dainty spring fumewort (Corydalis George Baker) with its tomato-red, spurred blooms shining out against the bare earth.
In the sloping, meadow that lies high up above the handsome, Victorian farm steward’s arts and crafts cottage that Blake has made her home, keen-eyed visitors might just about have spotted a sprinkling of narcissus and the pale, starry flowers of early species tulips (Tulipa turkestanica) studded through the grass.
If they were especially observant, they would also have noticed something else: the thousands of other tulip bulbs beginning to push their snouts up through the winter-chilled soil, like members of a philharmonic orchestra taking their seats in preparation for giving the performance of their lives.
Fast-forward a month and something miraculous is taking place there , a sort of horticultural alchemy by which those same fleshy bulbs have transformed themselves into a vast, brilliant, silky-petalled ocean of spring flowers in shades of crimson, chocolate, maroon, marigold-orange and amethyst.
A sea of vivid blooms wraps itself around Blake’s house and sweeps down into the edges of the surrounding woodland.
If ever proof were required of the mood-altering, adrenaline-inducing, uplifting power of colour in a garden, then this is it. Not colour used tastefully or even tastelessly, but colour at its best, used artfully, joyously, fiercely.
The deep purple, satin-petalled Triumph tulip, Negrita, for example, grown cheek by jowl with the cardinal red, frilled flowers of Bastogne Parrot. Or placed next to the wasp-waisted, scarlet-and-orange Aladdin and the mandarin-orange flowers of Ballerina.
All of these varieties grow together in what Blake calls “my Smarties bed”, one of several long, deep, rectangular mixed beds that form part of a series of shallow terraces around the house.
Not all Blake’s combinations are quite so exuberant.
In what she calls “the hot bed”, for example, you can see dark-red Jan Reus doing an altogether more moody tango with grape-coloured Havran.
Accompanying these spring-flowering beauties are frothy mounds of blue Forget-me-not, shimmering specimens of the copper-coloured perennial grass Chionochloa rubra, bronze-orange Euphorbia Great Dixter (container-grown, to keep its running roots cunningly restricted), the powder-white flower spikes of False Solomon’s Seal and the emerging lush foliage of many later flowering perennials, including Rodgersia Perthshire Bronze.
The garden’s sloping meadow, meanwhile, is covered in generous sprinkles of Tulip Red Shine, its blood-red petals gleaming through the spring-green grass and intermixed with the tall, starry blue flower-spikes of Camassia leichtlinii, another spring-flowering bulbous plant that thrives in this garden’s rich, damp soil.
Their extravagant, heart-warming beauty aside, there is another reason why you should pay this garden a visit before its spectacular display of tulips begins to slowly fade, before time yet again telescopes, expands, accelerates, catapulting it forward into another season.
Later this month, Blake is hosting a special Tulip Day in support of the relief fund set up to aid her daughter-in-law, Darjaal Goldie Craul, who is battling stage four cancer.
“My son Dara, his wife Darjaal and their children live in America, so when something like this happens, you feel very far away. Having this special day in my garden is our way of letting them know that all of their family and friends here in Ireland are thinking of them.”
TULIP DAY June Blake’s Garden in Tinode, Blessington, Co Wicklow, is open from 11am-5.30pm, Tuesday-Saturday, while her Tulip Day will be held in the gardens on Sunday, 26th April from noon to 6pm. The event includes food and plant sales, music, a garden talk, an adventure sandpit for children, and a raffle where the first prize is a two night-stay in the adjoining, award-winning Cow House.
See juneblake.ie for details. For direct donations to the fund for Darjaal Goldie Craul, go to gofundme.com/darjaalcraul.
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
Pop-Up Springtime Flower Shop, The Cake Cafe, 8 Pleasants Place, Dublin 8.
A a series of collaborations between florist and garden designer Mark Grehan of The Garden flower shop in Powerscourt Townhouse Centre and Michelle Darmody, food writer and proprietor of Cake Café, will include the following workshops:
Dried Herbal Wreaths, Wednesday, April 22nd from 6.30pm with Mark Grehan and Eating Flowers
Thursday, April 23rd, from 6.30pm with Michelle, cost €110 for both or €65 individually, for details see thecakecafe.ie;
Friday April 24th- Sunday May 10th Tulip Festival hosted by Bellefield House, Shinrone, Co Offaly (see angelajupe.ie); Saturday April 25th - Sunday 26th (10am-5pm) , Irish Orchid Society Orchid Fair, see irishorchidsociety.org;
Sunday 26th April, Clare Garden Festival, Ennis Co Clare including talks by Lynne O Keefe Lascar, Carl Wright, Jim Cronin and many others, see claregardenfestival.com