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Northwest Gardening: Wisdom from an Irish Garden

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

A trip to Ireland offers one gardener plenty of wisdom, plus take-home ideas to use in her own garden.

narrow pool of water

By Marianne Binetti

When Irish eyes are smiling, it must be because of the beautiful Irish gardens. After recently leading a garden tour, bringing back inspiration and ideas for my own garden was the best souvenir of all from the Emerald Isle—home to saints, scholars, and very wise gardeners.

Design your garden from the inside looking out. The photo above was taken from the living room window of garden writer Helen Dillon. She has been redesigning her famous Dublin garden for more than 40 years with a laserlike focus: create the perfect view from this window. Over the years she has replaced a noisy fountain with a more calming water canal that leads the eye toward the ivy arches and a distant focal point.

  • Take-home idea: It doesn’t matter if you prefer a view of a Japanese maple or a cute garden shed—just pay attention to the window in your home you look out of most often. Winter is the perfect time to scheme and dream about framing a view from the inside, looking out.
blue-gray foliage of euphorbia with gravel mulch

Honey, I shrunk the lawn. Another bit of advice from Dillon was to get rid of the lawn. She replaced the back lawn bordering the water canal with bluestone paving—the better to display her potted plants, many in metal garbage cans that echo the color of the paving. After many years of mowing, the front yard now is a more contemporary design of gravel and low-water-use foliage such euphorbia and birch trees.  

  • Take-home idea: Less lawn not only means less mowing but also a more interesting landscape that demands less water.  


Three red columns

Choose a signature color for your garden. It doesn’t matter if you have a 500-acre estate or a condo balcony—repeating a favorite color can unify a design. Red was the signature color at the Vandeleur walled garden in county Clare. You can’t help but notice the pop of crimson painted on all wooden garden accents, including doorways, benches, and these vertical columns. Perhaps you prefer a more subtle signature color such as blue green or terra cotta orange.

  • Take-home idea: Figure out what color tones speak to you, gather your gumption plus some spray paint, and just go for it.

See more Northwest Gardening Articles.