Book: Garden Artistry by Helen Dillon
Genre: Gardening book
Publication date: 1995
Summary: Helen Dillon writes gardening columns, articles, and books. Her garden in Dublin, Ireland, is open to the public: Welcome to the Dillon Garden. This book, from 1995, describes the experiences and plants in her garden that she started in 1972. The book is loosely organized. For example, the largest section, called The Plants, is alphabetical, but some subsections are on particular types of plants like Hellebores and others a bit more poetic like Some Plants Hard to Come By. There are photos of beautiful flowers throughout.
Thoughts: We’ll be visiting this garden during our trip to Ireland this summer. This book let me “visit” it in 1995. I can hardly wait to see what has changed in 17 years!
My favorite aspects of this book were the ones that reminded me that we weren’t in Missouri anymore. For example, Missouri gardeners seldom mention the fairies, like this conundrum involving the green primrose, Primula vulgaris ‘Viridis’:
Obtaining this primrose poses a unique problem for the collector: They say the fairies will get you if you buy it; but it is equally bad luck to be given it. I gather the only safe way to get your hands on it is to steal it. pp. 35, 37
I was often reminded that every environment has it challenges for the gardener, but the challenges in Dublin are vastly different from the large temperature range and clay soil that I deal with in St. Louis County. These differences make the Dublin garden seem quite exotic to me. I couldn’t fathom some of the terms she used for dirt. What does “leafy, gritty soil” look like? Whatever it is, it’s perfect for growing Corydalis flexuosa, a very blue flower that I’ve never heard of before.
I love the way she deals with aggressive plants, a problem that all gardeners encounter at one time or another.
The end of the line for certain plants is the drive, where they are given their last chance to behave themselves. The two-foot-high Rubus illecebrosus (Zone 5) is such a one, with white flowers and pinnate prickly leaves. The lean cuisine on the drive certainly curbs its invasive temperament. p. 40.
Appeal: This is a lovely book for gardeners or even those who just wish they were. Although there are certainly some practical tips, it feels most like taking a walk in a beautiful garden with the accomplished gardener–a pleasure in any country.
Challenges: This is book 3 of 4 for my Ireland Reading Challenge. We’re building a great list of books with reviews at that site if you would like to take a little bookish trip to the green isle.
Do you garden? What are the challenges peculiar to your region? Personally, I think I prefer clay soils to cantankerous fairies.