Visiting gardens is just about my favourite thing to do. As soon as the weather warms up you’ll find me exploring a few ones, especially in county Wicklow. This county is chock-full of gorgeous gardens and it’s fairly accessible with transport from Dublin. I’ve made a good dent on my bucket list and while I ticked most of the big ones in this beautiful county, I had yet to visit any private gardens. Today, I’m sharing not one but two of these here.
Located just outside Blessington in West Wicklow, June Blake’s Garden and Hunting Brook Garden are only a couple of miles apart. They are owned by two siblings, but they couldn’t be any more different.
When you get to June Blake’s Garden, you first go through a grand avenue shaded by big majestic trees which opens to an open field view. Follow along the road until you reach the parking lot. You’ll see first June Blake’s stables which house two rooms that you can rent for the night.
How wonderful would it be to wake up here one morning?
As you make your way towards the garden, you’ll pass by the tea-room where you can pay the entrance charge. There’s a small menu of soups, cakes and scones. On the dresser, you’ll find a small selection of gifts to buy such as gardening books and prints.
June Blake’s Garden is small, it spreads over 3 acres but it’s jam-packed with flowers, dry grass and other plant delights. In the middle of it stands a charming little stone cottage. There’s also a reflective rectangle pool and lots of benches where you can sit and relax.
Inspect any plant borders and you get the feeling that June has made the best use of every inch of the garden’s soil. At first glance, the space looks a bit wild in a romantic English garden kind of way when they are left to do their own thing. But give it a second look and you’ll see that this is not the result of nature’s chance but of someone who knows how to work with nature’s timing and complimentary tones. The colours bounce off each other and different stalk heights fill the space in an eye-pleasing way. June Blake is the unequivocal maestro of this vibrant symphony.
I visited in the late Summer and the garden was dotted with beautiful autumnal jewel tones. Oranges, burgundy, marigold and purple. The star of the show might have just been the dahlia for me, they come in so many interesting shapes, from a star-like flower to a full jolly pompom. I was so happy to catch them in season. This flower is just so nostalgic to me. They remind me of my childhood Summers spent in my parents’ garden. I would admire my 80 year old neighbour’s garden through the fence. She was mad for dahlias and let me tell you, when her garden was filled with a thousand of them, it was a joyful sight!
I’d be curious to come back to June Blake’s garden at different times of the year and see how it wears the different seasons. Tulip season is said to be a stunner!
I did several laps of the garden with my camera in hand, high on all the smells and the constant buzzing of the bees. It was the perfect opportunity to crack out my 50mm lens! I then quickly stopped by the tea room to savour a wholesome vegetable soup with a slice of gluten-free rye bread.
Following that, I headed to Hunting Brook Gardens which is located a couple of miles away. It is owned by June Blake’s brother, Jimi and it is abundant with plants and flowers. Indeed, Jimi Blake owns one of Ireland’s largest private plant collections. He brings a lot of plants from his travels which you can follow on his Instagram. And if you like the look of his work, you might be interested to know that he’s releasing a gardening book ‘A Beautiful Obsession‘ in September.
Just as I entered the garden, I was greeted by Jimi’s dog, Doris, who requested a back scratch. Of course, I happily complied and as I let my eyes wander around me, I realised that this garden has a very different atmosphere. It has a certain jungle quality to it, it feels leafier and experimental with a soupçon of mystique. The focal point is a timber house which is Jimi’s home but it is also the space where he teaches his gardening classes. On the porch, you’ll find the plant sale section.
What’s extraordinary about this garden is the surprising mix of exotic plants and perennials. Banana leaves growing next to a purple baby breath? Totally normal in Hunting Brook Gardens!
I was in total awe with the plant border next to the garden entrance, where succulents and cactuses seem to be thriving. It’s not something you would often see outdoors in Ireland as they are generally confined to green houses.
At the back of the garden, there’s a path that will lead you to a magical little woodland nestled in a small valley. Through it flows a rocky mountain stream, Hunting Brook, that gave the gardens their name. The trail loops back through a meadow which offers stunning views over the Wicklow Mountains and the countryside’s patchwork of fields.
June Blake’s Garden – website
Hunting Brook Garden – website
Lamb Hill, Tinode, Blessington
11am-5.30pm, Wed-Sun (From April to late September)
On Sundays, there’s a guided tour of June Blake’s garden at 2.30pm
You can book group tours at both of the gardens
General €6 / Children Free
65 (‘June Blake’s Garden’ stop / ‘Kilbride Antique Shop’ for Hunting Brook Garden)