The golden rules of garden design, courtesy of this secret garden in Kildare

Award-winning garden designer Mark Grehan of The Garden at Powerscourt Townhouse Centre takes us on an exclusive guided tour of a serene secret garden in the Kildare countryside.

You've probably walked up the front steps into Powerscourt Townhouse on South William Street in Dublin and wondered if you've entered into Narnia. Mark's Grehan's The Garden is like a little floral forest, littering the floors and tables are whimsical bouquets of vivid colour, contrasting against the selection of textured potted plants and the high-ceilings of the Georgian building.

Mark is also a talented garden designer. Here, we visit one of his more secluded garden projects in Kildare, which has become one of his favourites and find out his golden rules of garden design.



The Garden

THE SITE A large Kildare garden with a shady front area and sunny rear space, leading to a lake and the countryside beyond.

THE BRIEF The owner wanted a garden which looked natural and not too formal, with a continuous show of colour and interest.

THE DESIGN A huge part of the garden's design was the borrowed landscape. For instance, the row of beech actually belongs to the neighbouring property. The garden seamlessly melds into the surrounding landscape, with breathtaking views across a lake into meadows and deciduous woodland beyond.

THE PLANTS Mark worked with the existing plants and trees, and took out some old trees and shrubs to open the views. The beds were designed to flow organically and lend an air of informality to the garden.



Mark's golden garden rules...

Plant in layers for all-year-round interest, and mix textures.

Use your eye to arrange plantings as though composing a bouquet for the house.

Don't be put off by dry-shade plants - Epimedium, some dry-loving ferns and Sanguisorba officinalis work well in dry shade.

If your neighbour has good trees and large shrubs, "borrow" their garden by planting so as to make the boundaries invisible.

Create plenty of spots for sitting in the shade or the sunshine to contemplate the garden by placing seating around the space - no matter how small the spot, you can usually fit a chair or two.

Take out lower branches of trees and shrubs to expose interesting or smart coloured bark.


Create a vertical element to the garden by using sculptural pieces of wood, steel or statuary.

Words Vandra Costello Photography Éadaoin Ryan

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