Hilltop setting scales the heights
Dizzying vistas with glorious colours shimmering in the distance – it can only be the Large Country Garden category of our competition.
And the winners are Daphne and Andrew McCartney, whose Georgian-style home near Newbuildings perches on a hillside with spectacular views of the winding River Foyle and the Barnsmore Gap.
But when you tear your eyes from the view, the vistas closer to home are almost as impressive – a woodland garden criss-crossed with gravel paths and a rich array of planting on a challenging site.
Judge Trevor Edwards, a garden designer, said the hillside garden fully utilises the sloping west-facing site to create terraced compartments in a variety of themes to complement the house. "An intriguing number of traversing paths draw the visitor on an amazing and thrilling horticultural journey. The use of plants to fit into the changing terrain is exemplary – from a woodland setting one wanders seamlessly into a rock garden environment," he said.
"Rarely have I seen such a happy and healthy collection of trees and plants within such a relaxing garden, in such a setting – the subtle use of the near and distant borrowed landscape is superb."
Fellow judge Averil Milligan, head gardener of Rowallane, said: "The naturalistic planting style, clever placement of plants, artistic detail, views and the atmosphere in this garden is truly outstanding. Hats off to the owners as this is a windy site with little existing soil on high ground and is a true labour of love."
Second place goes to Jim and Hilary Rafferty's garden, created round a millpond in the Antrim Hills at Glenwherry, a garden where Diarmuid Gavin recently recorded as part of a forthcoming series.
"The elevated location of the house affords superb views of the large pond, complete with a jetty and rowing boat, and beyond to the hills of the Co Antrim countryside," Trevor said.
"Rarely does one see such a good example of riparian gardening. From the mill race water is fed to two ponds and returned to the natural river – the river paths and banks of all are filled with a thrilling display of appropriate planting."
And third place is awarded to Mrs Gerry Wilson's beautifully developed mature garden near Lisburn, featuring sweeping vistas of conifers softened by herbaceous plants below.
Trevor said: "A stroll through this plantsman's garden with its island beds and borders is bound to bring a pleasing smile to anyone's face, even if by chance you were to visit on a dull day.
"Everywhere there was evidence of the expertise, experience and skill of the gardener, who has created great harmony by the sympathetic choice of plants."