The Dingle – a garden of contrasts
Planted in a steep, dramatic valley that sweeps down to the lakes brimming with fish, the Dingle garden near Welshpool gives delight at every step. A mid-May visit with my husband left us buzzing with ideas about the opportunities for practising photography skills, or retreating there for a few hours to write or paint. It had something to offer people with all kinds of interests, although the steep paths could make it difficult for people with physical disabilities to get around. One theme that stood out for me was how the contrasts in colour, form, aromas and habitats thrilled the senses.
In only 4 ½ acres, The Dingle garden offers cool birch woodland, playful dogwood avenues, fiery Japanese acer groves, bog, lake, and stream. Exquisite herbaceous planting in light and shade further complements these contrasting habitats. Pollen- and nectar-loving insects are just as much at home in the garden as mayflies and damselflies. These diverse habitats support a range of wildlife. The garden caters equally well for its human visitors, with its many hideaways and benches. Children should delight in the twists and turns of the pathways as well as the diminutive playhouse perched on the side of the steepest slope. Some of the most moving touches are the memorial shelters dedicated to people who had once loved the garden.
Colours and textures
The Dingle garden offers a striking interplay of colours and textures. Light and dark shades of green draw attention to hostas in the undergrowth and trees with variegated leaves. Deep red dwarf Japanese acers add drama, even to innocent ferns skimming a stone path. Although the foliage is dramatic in its own right, at the time of our visit in May, we found the garden also festooned with blooms. According to ‘Gardens to visit 2015’, autumn is a particularly good time to visit, although it is difficult to imagine how the garden could look any more spectacular.
At the time of our visit, the flowering shrubs were in full swing. Shocking pink, red and yellow rhododendrons elbowed their way into vision. Magnolias announced themselves more discreetly amongst the borders. We came across unusual leguminous trees such as the redbud Cercis Canadensis with its fascinating pea-like flowers clustered along the branches.
As well as the foliage, tree trunks provided contrasts in texture, ranging from the peeling bark of birches, smooth eucalyptus trunks, and the fascinating Tibetan cherry Prunus serrula with its stripy and shiny reddish brown bark.
The Dingle garden contains some striking architectural plants, the most notable possibly Gunnera manicata, alternatively known as giant rhubarb. We also noticed some more subtle living architecture. The wisteria, for instance, created a feathery and flocculent presence enhanced by the pale green mound of the acer in the foreground. In a secluded corner, we found a weeping beech – purple fountain – trembling slightly in the barely discernible breeze.
Aromas and sounds
Finally, the aromas and sounds made our visit special. The birdsong in the woodland had us gazing up into the branches trying to identify the source. They perhaps were not the most impressive singers, but we did spot a group of long-tailed tits foraging near the picnic table. Our noses led us on convoluted routes to find the source of a certain fragrance. The wisteria filled the air with a heady perfume, and we were surprised to locate a fragrant shrub honeysuckle in the undergrowth giving off the most subtle and elegant scent.
To sum up, The Dingle garden is an ideal place to take a picnic, relax, and wallow in the surroundings. Get over there and be inspired!