Nestled along the picturesque coastline of Howth, Co. Dublin, lies a hidden gem that is a true testament to the magic of gardening. Karl Flynn and Marcella Dunne’s Medina Garden is a tropical oasis that captivates the senses and transports visitors into a world of lush foliage, exotic blooms, and architectural marvels. With its unique blend of palms, tree ferns, bamboo, and other remarkable plants, this private coastal garden is a must-visit for any garden enthusiast seeking inspiration and serenity.
Just a stone’s throw away from Howth Summit, the Medina Garden stands as a testament to nature’s resilience and the unwavering dedication of its caretakers. Despite its exposed location, the garden finds refuge behind deep, towering hedges, which act as nature’s sentinels, protecting the delicate flora from the coastal winds. This haven for rare and unusual trees and shrubs truly thrives in the cozy microclimate that has been carefully crafted by Karl and Marcella.
Gardening has many challenges, is fraught with risk and regularly brings disappointment. One must be an optimist. When you garden on a grand scale the increased risks are myriad. Regulation is one, and this has been a tough week. Ouch! “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” Luckily for me I had to go back just a few days into the past to find some balm. A wonderful Saturday spent on the legendary peninsula of Howth provided solace.
My first stop was 'Medina’, home to Karl Flynn and Marcella Dunne. When I began to import Tree Ferns in the mid -1990’s they were among my first customers. In June 2006, I met them in the Bianconi Inn in Killorglin and told them I had bought a garden nearby. Their reaction when they visited Kells Bay was priceless. They literally pitched their tent outside the house they liked it so much. Karl took lots of atmospheric, wonderfully lit, early morning misty plant photographs which he kindly sent on.
Karl’s attention to detail is exemplary. He has assisted me at Bloom and at RHS Chelsea and the displays have benefited greatly from his masterful maintenance. He gardens on about 1/3 of an acre, and every square inch is meticulously cared for. We began at the front with quality plants everywhere among the hidden walkways. There is a very large Dicksonia antarctica with large trunked Trachycarpus fortunei. A fine specimen of Dicksonia fibrosa stood proudly among Brassaiopsis mitis, Astelia nervosa, various Hostas and Polylepsis australis. The impressive palm tree Trachycarpus wagnerianus annd Fasicularia sp. Added additional interest to this cornucopia.
Passing through a wonderful botanical iron gate, we reached the back garden. It slopes upwards away from the house adding deceptive depth. His pool, with water lily in perfect flower drew us toward the small Japanese garden, lots of choice ground ferns, including a very healthy clump of Blechnum penna-marina and the Japanese native deciduous fern, Athyrium otophorum var. okanum. We meandered across the lawn, through hidden paths, admiring among others, Lomatia ferruigina, a big Schefflera taiwaniana and a most impressively trunked Cyathea australis which has been wonderfully cared for since it was delivered by a younger Billy many moons ago. Tetrapanax papyrifera ‘Rex’ lots of Echium pininana and Echium fastuosum, Cordyline australis Aralia chinensis, large Eucalyptus Pseudpanax various species, Eucriphia in flower and one of my favourite trees, Arbutus x andrachnoides are all thriving in this beautiful space.
Evidence of Karl’s obsession is his gardener's shed, which as you see from the photos is itself a work of art. To sum up this special garden, it is a plants person's paradise, every nook and cranny filled with rare and unusual plants to soothe the soul.
Medina Garden is an RHSI partner garden and is open by appointment from May to September. Carpe Diem! I’m lucky enough to have visited every couple of years for a few decades and to observe its evolution has been a privilege.
Billy Alexander, Kells Bay House & Gardens
Kells, Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry, V23 EP48
Website development: Neal Walsh Web Solutions