Irelands secret garden and how its botanical treasures inspired my silk scarf design

Welcomed by the wonderful sprawling Japanese Cedar on the front lawn, its spaghetti junction of branches are a playground paradise for my daughter. Famous for its conifers, rare trees and shrubs, Kilmacurragh Arboretum is a tree lover’s paradise and where I love to visit at this time of the year. 

For many years the house and its estate were neglected leaving the unique Queen Anne style house to crumble and gardens to fall into disarray. Now thankfully the 52 acre arboretum thrive under the new management of the Botanical Gardens Trust. 

Flourishing in the mild climate of County Wicklow, where rainfall is noticeably more prolific and soils more acidic, the conditions make it the perfect location for growing many unique trees and exotic plants. Its wild walled gardens, flowering bulbs, aisles of Rhododendrons and magnificent Magnolias paint a spectacular kaleidoscope of colour and pattern. For me it is just bursting with inspiration and with my camera at the ready, my fingers snap wildly at the vistas bursting with sensational flowers, blooms, trees and wildlife. 

Designated chief gardener Seamus O’Brien has an unsurpassable knowledge of trees and plants. His many trips abroad has started a wave of conservation at Kilmacurragh, with extensive new planting, as part of a scheme to introduce plants from South America, the Himalayas and China. Some are so rare that they may be the only one of their kind in Europe or even the Northern Hemisphere.

The gardeners have also recently planted an avenue of monkey puzzle trees which is where I found the inspiration for this scarf. With bark like the leathery skin of an elephant and leaves that look like the scales of a venomous reptile, its long spiny tails spiral into a magnificent pattern.


I remember as a child I would visit relatives in their country house in the outskirts of Dublin. They had the most wonderful gardens, filled with flower beds of peony roses and bright yellow daffodils that lined the whole drive up the the main gate. What stays in my memory were two enormously majestic monkey puzzle trees that stood in front lawn. Unusual to me as a child as their branches were riddled with monkeys tail.  This photo of the puzzler in its infancy made for a great photo and I adore this dramatic repeat print in vivid Jewel like purple that it creates. 

Debbie Millington