Members were treated to a smorgasbord of horticultural delights on their recent visit to Fernhill, a three and a half acre garden nestled in the countryside outside Ballynahinch, Co Down.
Fernhill isn’t exactly new; the old bungalow and three fields were bought by the owners nine years ago but what an exciting development has taken place since then. There has been a stylish updating of the house and driveway, but it was the garden we came to see and what a delight. Thomas number 1 is the horticultural perfectionist, researching every plant and its requirements while Thomas number 2 is the artistic and creative landscaper or, as Thomas 1 remarked, ‘the vocal critic’. Whatever the truth, between them they have created a garden, a landscape that delights, intrigues and satisfies.
The large central bed in front of the house was their first creation and, like many of us in our early gardening days, it grew as new plants were acquired and placed wherever a space could be found for them. At our visit, on the turn of cooler, shorter days the central bed was a riot of yellows, gold, orange and reds, from the various crocosmias, including the brilliant Crocosmia ’Hellfire’, and a stand-out,stunning red Hemerocallis ‘Pirates of Penzance’. A six foot high stand of Lilium henryii with its orange flowers speckled browny-black inside helped provide the juxtaposing of colour and form which would have delighted the late Christopher Lloyd. It certainly delighted us.
Moving round the side of the bungalow one passed the makings of a white bed filled with sturdy white agapanthus and Japanese anemones and a misty view towards the Mourne mountains. The top lawn has various beds which the Thomass’ are trying to allocate to certain genus. There is a raised succulent bed surrounding an elderly beech tree and a long bed of grasses, including Imperata and Pennisetum, some of their colours coordinating with a metal sculpture designed by Thomas2 and made locally. Moving up the side of the poultry run (yes, real live chickens not metal effigies!), there is a double herbaceous border filled with phlox, aconitums, and, in season, peonies. One of the newer beds is a crevasse bed, the rockery on its side as one gardener described it. It is yet to be planted up but there were plenty of suggestions from the alpine enthusiasts in our group. This area of the garden is bounded on two sides by some of the original old buildings, one block is painted in the original farmhouse colours of whitewash and red paint and the other block decorated in a stylish matt black with multi-coloured doors — lime green, fuchsia pink and lemon drops!
Along the back of the property is the remains of an old shelter belt of firs and conifers. They have been trimmed, crowns lifted and woodland planting is taking place with rhododendrons, lots of hostas and some new rare shrubs. The remaining field undergoing development has a large circular pool, there is an area marked out for food production, a beautiful run of five large compost bins ( complete with roofs!) and an area for three bee hives. The hives were painted in a gorgeous array of colours and we wondered did the bees recognise their own coloured hive.
This duo aren’t afraid to dig up, move plants around or, as Thomas 1 remarked ‘if they don’t perform they get sent to the thugs bed’. There is so much to see at Fernhill, this is only a skim over our visit and it definitely leaves one wanting to see how the garden develops in the future.
Text from Doreen Wilson with photographs from Doreen Wilson and Ric Lawrence