Wild Garden in Foxrock, Co Dublin

We were asked to completely overhaul this large garden in Foxrock, Co Dublin, at the time when the house was being rebuilt by architects de Blacam and Meagher. The owner had inherited a garden which, although recently and lavishly landscaped, was altogether lacking in character or charm. It was planted with a mish-mash of Italian-grown plants which had no real affinity with the environment or each other. Whatever natural beauty the site had was obscured by these plants, and the layout of the site didn't make the most of it. Our answer was to rid the garden of most of the new planting and to reveal some of the better features: mature birch, cherry and beech. We moved the driveway so that it had a more graceful sweep, kept cars away from the house as much as possible, and aimed to create a sense of discovery - the main lawn now only fully reveals itself from inside the house. We wanted to set this wonderful house in a glorified woodland, and planted native grasses, ferns and bulbs in huge drifts, as well as numerous species of birch, maple, viburnum and rhododendron.

ferns and grassy border.jpg

Bland, incongruous planting such as Photinia, Phormium and Euonymous did nothing to enhance the potential as a romantic woodland garden.

One of the first things we did was plant hundreds of native grasses, bulbs and ferns. We also moved the driveway so that it swept around the property and passes through what is now a gloriously lush woodland.

We planted Luzula sylvatica, Luzula nivea (both sedges) and Carex pendula (in the foreground) as 'liners' - ie smaller plants. These quickly filled in and started to seed themselves about.

As plants fill in, the house can only be glimpsed through one or two deliberate openings in the planting, such as this one where we made an informal woodland path.

The tone for the garden is set outside the gates with a planting of birch, wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides var robbiae) and Aconitum - a wonderful perennial plant for woodland and lightly shaded areas.

In raised planters on the terrace we planted drought tolerant plants and herbs for the kitchen such as chives, golden marjoram and rosemary.

Flagstone path through grass - one of the best and least obtrusive ways to have a defined but informal route through a lawn.

The house glimpsed through woodland.

We chose some unusual and unique pots for the terrace, including terracotta ones with the 'barnacle' finish.

In one border nearest the house we planted showier, more floriferous plants  such as Miscanthus, Nepeta, Scabious and Hemerocallis - still in the same spirit as the rest of the garden, but suitable for a more open and sunny aspect.


Planting around the front door including interesting bamboos and Pseudopanax.