Gardens to grow on you
Irish gardens are among the best in the world. Our famous soft climate, with its mild winters and indecisive summers, allows us to grow plants from all over the globe. South African daisies, Australian tree ferns, Himalayan primulas, spiny agaves from central and south America are as at home here as our own native European plants. Jane Powers writes
Yet our gardens, compared with those on the other, less-climatically-favoured island across the water, are under-visited (and under-marketed - but that's another matter). For the plant-lover,
however, this means that you'll often have an entire garden to yourself -
and you couldn't be in a better place on a lazy late-summer afternoon.
Before you go, remember: don't pick the flowers, leave the dog at home, and keep the kids on a tight leash.
Lakeview, Co Cavan
If you've never seen Daphne and Jonathan Shackleton's Lakeview, overlooking Mullagh Lake in Co Cavan, go now, because next year it will be closed, except to groups of 10 or more people.
The one-acre walled enclosure is a delight, with everything you could hope for in an old-fashioned garden - and it's all organic. A double herbaceous border, a cottage-style area, and soft fruit and vegetables have all been artfully arranged by Daphne, a botanical painter and garden consultant. Late perennials such as eupatorium, inula and aster make sure that the season ends with a noisy bash.
Lakeview Gardens, Mullagh, Co Cavan; 046-9242480; www.lakeviewgardens.net Open Aug: Fri-Sun and bank holidays, 2-6pm. Sept: by appointment only
Admission adults: €6, children: €3, seniors and students: €5
Plants for sale yes
Teas at St Killian's Heritage Centre, five minutes' drive. Converted loft at Lakeview available for picnics
Glebe, Co Cork
In late summer, Jean and Peter Perry's west Cork Glebe Gardens is home to one of the most gloriously abundant vegetable potagers you will ever see. Courgettes, squash and pumpkins leave their rightful beds, setting off on various expeditions of their own; beans and sweet pea reach skywards; and every inch of horizontal space is filled with good things to eat and see.
The flower garden, dancing with annuals and tall perennials, has mind-freeing views over Church Strand Bay; a woodland walk winds around the perimeter; and a saunter through the meadow leads to a horse-shoe-shaped turf amphitheatre - perfect for impromptu bouts of declaiming on the joys of garden visiting.
Glebe Gardens, Baltimore, Co Cork
Tel: 028-20232; www.glebegardens.com
Open 10am-6pm daily until end Sept
Admission €4 (under-16s free)
Plants for sale Yes (and at Deelish Garden Centre, 15 minutes' drive, signposted)
Teas Yes, and delicious food served all day in the garden café
Mount Stewart, Co Down
The idiosyncratic formal garden at Mount Stewart in Co Down was largely created in the 1920s by Edith, Lady Londonderry.
The series of "garden rooms" include an "Italian" garden (with barberry, heather and hebe instead of box hedging - which she hated), a Spanish garden with tall, skinny arches of clipped Leyland cypress, and the wonderfully kitsch "Shamrock Garden". The latter includes a Red Hand of Ulster picked out in crimson begonias, and a topiarised yew harp.
The garden is remarkable also for its subtropical planting. Bananas, cannas, tree ferns and the broad-leaved Cordyline indivisa thrive in this sheltered spot on the Ards Peninsula.
Mount Stewart, Portaferry Road, Newtownards, BT22 2AD, Co Down
Tel: 048-4278-8387; www.nationaltrust.org.uk (click on "places to visit")
Open Until end Sept, 10am-8pm daily; October, 10am-6pm daily
Admission to gardens only (house is extra) adults: £4.40 (€6.40), children: £2.30 (€3.30), family: £11.10 (€16.10)
Plants for sale Yes, small selection of herbaceous material
Teas Yes, and meals served in The Bay restaurant
Kylemore, Co Galway
Less than 10 years ago, all that remained of Mitchell Henry's Victorian walled garden at Kylemore in deep Connemara was the half-mile-long wall and some islands of cultivation in the midst of an encroaching sea of wilderness.
Gruelling years of restoration have returned it to a high-Victorian set piece, with two glasshouses, herbaceous and shrub borders (laid out in period-correct style), a rockery and fernery, and elaborately curved beds of colourful annuals.
A massive, three-acre kitchen garden is dramatically backed by a great hump of a mountain known as the Diamond.
Kylemore Abbey Garden, Connemara, Co Galway
Tel: 095-41146; www.kylemoreabbey.com
Open 10am-5pm daily, until end Oct (last shuttle bus from visitor centre to garden at 4.30pm).
Admission €11, includes admission to house, garden and gothic chapel
Teas Yes, in self-service restaurant
The Bay, Co Wexford
Frances and Iain MacDonald's Co Wexford garden must be visited, if only for Frances's intriguingly-named "Funereal Border", where sombre, dark-leaved and dusky-flowered plants make a melancholy picture. Across the way in the "Hot Border", the brash-coloured dahlias, marigolds and heleniums thumb their irreverent noses at such lugubriousness. A serpentine path moves almost invisibly through Iain's "Barn Garden", winding through a lake of late perennials mingled with grasses.
The Bay, Camolin, Co Wexford
Tel: 054-83349; www.thebaygarden.com
Open Aug, Fri and Sun, 2-5pm; Sept: Sun only, 2-5pm.
Admission €3 in aid of the Sonas Housing Association
Plants for sale: Yes (and also at the nearby Camolin Potting Shed)
Teas Yes, and home-made biscuits
Hunting Brook, Co Wicklow
Jimi Blake and his big sister, June Blake, make a formidable west Wicklow gardening team. His garden at Hunting Brook (a mile up the road from her nursery at Tinode), is still in its raw adolescence, but it's worth visiting just to see the brio with which he mixes perennials, grasses and curious shrubs (some grown from seed which he collected in China).
June's nursery is a small, but choice operation, filled with her personal favourites - mainly elegantly simple perennials. She has dahlias to die for, and her display beds are a treat, too. A visit to one sibling would not be complete without a trip to the other.
Hunting Brook, Lamb Hill, Blessington, Co Wicklow
Tel: 087-2856601; www.huntingbrook.com
Open noon-5.30pm, Thurs-Sun until end Sept
Plants for sale at June Blake's nursery, Tinode, Blessington; 087-2770399
Teas Yes, at Grangecon Organic Café, Blessington Village, four miles away.