Garden for a Georgian Villa in Dalkey

This large garden surrounds a beautiful Georgian house in Dalkey, Co Dublin, only a couple of hundred yards from the sea. We radically altered it as it as much of its character had been lost through some poor construction, inappropriate materials and ungraceful layout. It is now a leafy, flower-filled retreat, perfectly in keeping with the surrounding architecture. All materials are sourced within Ireland, and wherever possible we used materials from the locality: salvaged granit cobbles for edges; Wicklow granite gravel; salvaged granite paving; walls of local granite and salvaged brick. The main paved areas use wonderful Mayo sandstone, include steps, pond and terraces. This was a project which took at least six months of work. However, the end result is a garden in which the house sits happily, surrounded by gracious, informal planting.




We removed all Indian Sandstone which was out of keeping with the character of the surroundings. The house was being faithfully and lovingly restored and we felt that the same attention to detail should be given to the garden.

A patio had been built in the wrong place to the wrong scale with the wrong materials!

The entire driveway was reconfigured and new retaining walls were built around the house to allow more light into downstairs rooms.

Paving begins using Mayo sandstone: a natural Irish flagstone which has wonderful character and comes in huge flags. Laying it is a skilled job as the stone has uneven surfaces and widths. Some areas (eg around steps and pond edges) we had the stone engineered and bull-nosed.

Planting begins around the pond (note the bags of manure). The steps in the background are made from the engineered / flame-finished Mayo sandstone. This materials ages very gracefully and develops character over time. We plant using a mixture of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees.

Plants already start to fill in - view from upper area towards the pond and orchard. We purchased the summer house in the UK - it is sited to take advantage of evening sun. 

Beds around the parking area are edged with salvaged street cobbles. Gravel is Wicklow granite - one of the most beautiful gravels which changes from silver to ochres. Particularly suited for period properties and used in such places as Powerscourt and Mount Usher. 

Sloping beds planted with Stipa 'Pony Tails', Agapanthus and Euphorbia wulfenii. In the foreground we planted a south-facing dry area with Euphorbia myrsinites, Convolvulus cneorum, Crocosmia 'Lucifer', Astelia 'Westland', white Agapanthus and Convolvulus sabbiatus.

Beds around the lower lawn are planted with perennials and grasses, fronting a line of mature Magnolia grandiflora. Plants include Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant', Stipa 'Pony Tails' and Ox-eye daisy.

Planting has filled in. The fruit trees on the lawn have been pruned after years of neglect. The pond has a simple brass jet which fills the garden with the gentle sound of water.


Planting around the pond includes: Deirama pulcherimum (Angels' fishing rod) and Chionochloa flavicans -one of the best grasses for this climate but sadly under-used. The gorgeous silky flower heads make it dramatic, but it is yet it is also refined and never gets too big.

Agapanthus 'Blue Umbrella' -  a great plant for near the sea.

A small formal area with a circle of Thymus serphyllum around an olive in a pot. Lavender, Erigeron and Knautia are the plants in the foreground. The ground is mulched with a fine granite dust - perfect for a 'dry' garden where excellent drainage and heat-retention is required.

A view of the 'woodland' area under some wonderful mature cedars. This is the site of the old driveway. Planting includes the wonderfully scented Azalea luteum, ferns, Aconitum, Digitalis etc.


Design, project management and planting by Howbert and Mays.