Large garden in Ranelagh, Dublin 6

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This garden is only a stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of Ranelagh's main drag, yet is spacious, open and airy. The house was being substantially restored and extended, and a small guest house and sheds were built in the garden. During the work the garden (which was just grass and weedy trees) was used as a building site, so we were starting from a very blank slate. There was no formal  'design'. Instead, the garden was a collaboration between the architect (Rachel Chidlow from Paul Keogh Architects), the client and us, and was marked out on the ground with bags of flour and spools of string: there were no drawings - just a few rough sketches. The client had worked with us on previous gardens and knew our style. 

The garden is split into a few different areas: a wide sunny patio for table and chairs, right off the house, punctuated by olive trees and herbs; a large formal lawn, surrounded by shrubs, trees and perennials, and divided from the patio by a wide herbaceous bed; a smaller, more intimate garden around the guest house; and a meandering, Robinsonian wild garden at the rear, all paths and naturalistic planting. All the planting was carried out by us.

The state of the garden during house construction

Early days. The view from the house to the guest house: new walls were built, as well as the guest house and sheds, so the soil is in a very bad way.

Looking at the house from the garden

View towards the house from the guest house.

Levellling taking place in the garden

The ground has been decompacted by a digger and topsoil has been spread. The pile of stones, salvaged in the levelling process,is later used for edging the paths at the back of the garden.

Informal paths being laid out with hardcore

The informal network of paths at the rear of the garden are constructed with a base of compacted hardcore.

Preparing a base of 'rootzone' (sand and soil mix) for getting the lawn level, fertile and well-drained

Laying a layer of 'rootzone' over the area where the lawn is to be laid. 'Rootzone' is a sand and soil mix which aids drainage and makes it much easier to lay a level lawn over damp or heavy soil. The layer should be from 1-3 cms deep and will give the lawn a smoother finish. (Available from us in 1 ton bulk bags).

Nicolae laying the lawn from roll-out turf

Laying the last piece of grass sod.

Lawn is laid, preparing for planting

A view from an upstairs window. Multi-stem Amelanchiers are in the foreground.

Latyng out plants in the back 'wild' section

Setting out plants in the 'wild garden' at the rear of the garden. Groundcover plants include Luzula sylvatica, Chionochloa rubra, Molinia, Digitalis, Primula; shrubs include Vaccinium, Hydrangea, Hoheria sexstylosa, Osmanthus spp, Myrtus ugni, Luma apiculata; bamboos include Phyllostachys bisettii, Semiarundinaria fastuosa.

A small bed on the terrace mulched with gravel and planted with olive and herbs

A multi-stemmed Olive tree is underplanted with herbs such as Thyme, Oregano and Prostrate rosemary, and mulched with gravel.

About eight months after planting in late summer

Six or seven months later the garden already looks like it has been there a long time as plants start to fill in.

Multi-stemmed cherry, and paving stones set into the grass

Bamboos, Acacia boormanii and other plants dotted through the entrance to small guest house 

Bamboo dotted in the gravel with one of our favourite ground cover plants at their base: Gallium odoratum. Note how the lower branches and shoots of the bamboo have ben trimmed off.

Beginning of groundcover scheme in the 'wild' area, bordered by salvaged pieces of granite

In early summer of the second year, when plants are starting to fill in.

Back garden in Ranelagh

This garden has a couple of buildings in it, including a guest house and an artists' studio. The main lawn is surrounded by deep beds, planted with trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials. A path, set into the lawn, leads from the house to the guest house. Little paths, edged with rough granite which was excavated during the building process, aim to create  islands of naturalised plants incuding Primula, Luzula and rare and interesting trees and shrubs.