For a lover of gardens, there is nothing like being in one – and especially if this is a private garden – you learn not only about the garden but about the gardeners. I had first set eyes on the enchanting garden of Helen Dillon in 2000. Yes it had been awhile and I was excited to see how it might have changed over the years. How would Helen and Val view it now, would they have made major changes to the layout or were they content with what they had. Yes and no. The bones of the garden were the same – the smaller ‘rooms’ were as I remembered, the sun dial was still there, so were the potager style areas and so was the glass house filled with her special plants, but the biggest surprise was the water feature. This had transformed the whole gardens look and feel now.

Water does that to a garden, even just a little pond or fountain can change the dynamics, but this ‘central canal’ as they call it had made such an impact that it left me breathless. So simple and sleek and pale in comparison to the plants, it was perfection. The borders of plants on either side seemed to dance at the thought of seeing their reflection in the water now.

The contrasting colours, shapes, sizes and heights leave you searching, searching to find that extra surprise that she had hidden from your direct view.

That is what I loved about her garden then as I did now. In a garden the playfulness of the plants must entice you to find them. We all know that a garden is not perfect from spring through fall so Helen’s answer to that is to have a lot of pots full of plants that are ready to be tucked into spots that could use a bit more punch when necessary. Each side has a different colour scheme and continues to draw you towards the back of the garden as you want to see what is under those curving rose arches.

The box is still there and so are the nymphs…as is the little seating area with all her special plants in their containers ready for closer inspection.
She is not afraid to try new things and frankly I think gets a bit bored as we all do, with the same old thing. Her front garden has changed too, become sultry looking with the classic planting of trees and grasses set off by the stone walkways and the simple wooden bench sits waiting for someone to take a moment to just enjoy. Even the trash cans in galvanized metal look funky and trendy planted up.

She is a garden artist and artists go through periods of defeat and delight.

I remember standing in her garden 10 years ago as the clouds up above were getting rather dark and thinking how incredible the colours were in the garden but if you have not seen it since the canal was added, are you ever in for a surprise….they just got better.

If you are making a trip to Dublin, be sure to include this garden in your travels. Helen is part of the Dublin Garden Group, Ireland’s most distinguished private gardens in the greater Dublin area.