Belfast Telegraph

Path leading us to some truly scent-sational gardens

By Linda Stewart

They're the cream of the crop - the stunning local country gardens which have had love and care poured into them.

These are the spectacular spaces shortlisted in the Large Country Garden category of our £4,000 Blooming Marvellous garden competition.

Our judges have been carefully studying the hundreds of photographs sent to us and these are the entries to have really captured their imagination.

For example, finalist Daphne McCartney has spent 20 years designing and developing her's near the village of Newbuildings in the north west.

"I did it area by area according to the soil, slopes and existing native trees," she explained.

"I love colour and scent in the garden and also enjoy having lots of birds, butterflies, bees and the occasional squirrel and hedgehog.

"I enjoy creating vistas to carry one's eye through the garden and have seating at various intervals.

"My garden is on a rocky, windy hillside so it has been a big challenge to create shelter, improve the soil and still keep it natural to blend in with the landscape.

"I think my garden is interesting all the year round as I have a good mixture of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees."

Our next finalists are retired consultant Hilary Rafferty and retired art teacher Jim Rafferty, who have transformed a tract of rough farmland by the Glenwherry River near Ballymena, clearing out the mill race and waterfall, digging two large ponds and planting native trees.

They have now planted more than 150 varieties of rhododendrons, hundreds of candelabra primulas and a collection of alpine plants, along with a new fernery established this spring.

The garden is also attracting a wealth of wildlife, including otters, bats, kingfishers, herons and cuckoos.

Earlier this year they threw open the gates to the public as part of the Ulster Gardens Scheme for the first time, and it proved a massive success, drawing more than 600 visitors.

"If I had to sum up the garden in one word it would be 'water'," Hilary said.

"The heart and soul of the garden is water. The sound of it – the river, the waterfall, the mill race. And the vision of it – calm reflections on the ponds, sparkling sunshine on the river, dark shadows in the mill race."

Our third finalist is Mrs EG Wilson, who has transformed a field near Lisburn into a wonderful garden over the past 50 years.

"The garden is an eclectic mix of conifers, rhododendrons, perennials, shrubs, lawns and pathways," she said.

"Seasonal colour from perennials and bulbs provide contrast throughout the garden over all seasons."

Mr Wilson is keen on herbaceous perennials and has planted a lot of conifers as well as deciduous species. Highlights at the moment include the crocosmia and the anthemis, which are flowering, and the dahlias will soon be in bloom.

"I have a lot of rhododendron but they are all past now," she said.

Our judges will be visiting the three gardens on July 21.

Factfile

Large Country Garden shortlist:

Daphne McCartney, Newbuildings

Jim and Hilary Rafferty, Glenwherry

Mrs EG Wilson, Lisburn

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