Belfast Telegraph

'Lyrical' garden is a fitting tribute to Killyleagh man's late wife

By Linda Stewart

Wild orchids, camomile lawns and Tibetan prayer flags - every corner of Mike Hartwell's garden near Killyleagh offers a surprise.

The winning entry in our Small Country Garden category was created by Mike and his late wife Ruth.

"Ruth really liked the Japanese thing of courtyard gardens and inside spaces becoming outside spaces and this was the nearest we could get to it, putting on the conservatory and surrounding it in plants," Mike said.

"We created a lot of little sunny places to sit."

Our judges, BBC presenter Cherrie McIlwaine and Greenmount horticulture lecturer David Dowd, said the "lyrical" garden borrowed seamlessly from the Co Down landscape in which it sits.

"The garden unfurls imaginatively from space to space – round one corner lies woodland and lily-pond, while round another is a wonderful vista of lake and sky," Cherrie said.

"The planting is soft and fulsome... a wildflower meadow grows on the roof of a summer house and everywhere there are moments of art like the decorative mosaics, reflecting Ruth's skill as an embroiderer.

"This is a garden to lose yourself in and its magical, elemental quality made it the winner."

Runner-up Sean Palmer's Loughinisland garden also borrows beautifully from the landscape, she said.

"Set in drumlin country, the garden is a riot of summer colour with roses, dahlias, phlox, penstemon and japanese anemone all saying summer is here. Inspired by childhood memories of country gardens, Sean and Maura's garden fizzes with summer colour," she said.

Bronze winners Barry and Helen Crawford's Ards Peninsula garden is a sequence of outdoor rooms which have been realised with care, flair and imagination, said Cherrie.

"This is a garden full of imaginative details such as a gate which goes nowhere, an outdoor hearth and mantle by the barbecue area and a pretty pond with a small stone bench which invites you to sit and reflect and enjoy the view," she added.

"This is a garden which invites you to spend time in it."

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