Irish Gardens to visit this summer
At this time of the year many are looking at their most florierous and leafy best
Jimi Blake’s garden, Hunting Brook in west Wicklow.
Mount Stewart, Strangford Lough, Co Down.
The Perry family’s Glebe Gardens, in Baltimore, West Cork.
We’re lucky to live in a country that’s rich in beautiful gardens, created by generations of passionate plantspeople. This is the time of year when many of them are looking at their most floriferous and leafy best, so why not pack a picnic, and a-garden-visiting-go. Which should make your shortlist? To help you to decide, I’ve asked a few of Ireland’s best-known gardeners to name some of their enduring favourites.
Author Seamus O’Brien is head gardener of the historic 52-acre Kilmacurragh National Botanic Gardens in east County Wicklow (botanicgardens.ie) where he’s overseeing its restoration and ongoing development. His favourite Irish garden?
“For me, Mount Stewart [which is situated on the shores of Strangford Lough in County Down] is a garden that has everything; it oozes old world charm and atmosphere, always looks good, and is filled with gorgeous plant combinations, some of which came to the garden as a result of its creator, the late Edith, Lady Londonderry’s sponsorship of great plant-hunters such as George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward. Today, Mount Stewart’s garden is expertly maintained by a great team that’s headed up by Neil Porteous, a world-class gardener who has put his heart and soul into its restoration and is full of exciting plans for its future”. (nationaltrust.org.uk)
Now owned by the National Trust, the house and gardens, which have both undergone extensive restoration in recent years, have recently been reunited with their historic demesne, restoring the latter to its original size of 1,000 acres.
One of Porteous’s own favourite Irish gardens is Derreen [on the Beara Peninsula in Co Kerry] which he first visited in in 1993. “I’ve loved it ever since (gokerry.ie). Thomas Pakenham’s Tullynally in County Meath is another personal favourite, for the reason that Thomas has personalised the garden so much with his quirky enthusiasms (tullynallycastle.ie). Finally, I’d choose Glenveagh in Co Donegal because of its sheer magic, both in terms of its setting and its semi-natural planting. (glenveaghnationalpark.ie).”
Well-known Dublin-based gardener, author and broadcaster, Helen Dillon’s own town garden has long been a horticultural mecca for gardeners worldwide. Among the Irish gardens she admires is Hunting Brook in West Wicklow. “I just love the way that Jimi Blake [its owner and creator] is forever experimenting and replanting; the result is a garden that’s sparkling, brave and very exciting (huntingbrook.com).
Kity Scully is a garden writer, broadcaster and the joint head gardener of Airfield Gardens in Dublin, now reopened to the public after a multi-million euro redevelopment (airfield.ie). Glebe Gardens, in Baltimore, West Cork, is on her list of favourite Irish gardens. “For me, this pretty and productive garden packs so much into a coastal oasis without digging, or wasting anything, while its owners, the Perry family, serve up some of the finest garden fresh produce in Ireland in their café.” (glebegardens.com).
Oliver Schurmann is one of Ireland’s most respected garden designers and the co-owner (with his wife Liat,) of the Dublin -based Mount Venus Nursery (mountvenusnursery.com).
Top of his list is Killruddery, near Bray, in Co Wicklow. “It impresses me hugely, being so expertly designed in terms of its planting, its careful use of local materials, even its setting, that it’s survived the passing centuries almost unscathed. I also admire the thoughtful and sympathetic way in which Killruddery’s owners, the Brabazon family, and its head gardener, Daragh Farren, are sustaining and protecting the garden for future generations to enjoy. . . (kilruddery.com).”
Frances MacDonald is the co-owner and creator (with husband Iain) of The Bay Garden in County Wexford, as well as a garden writer, and garden tour guide (baygarden.com). Amongst her favourite Irish gardens is Carmel Duignan’s garden in Shankill, Co Dublin: “It’s a wonderful example of a small garden that always looks good, no matter what time of year. There’s a great art to that (dublingardens.com). Another favourite is Altamont in County Carlow, a large and wonderfully atmospheric country garden that’s a joy to visit at all times of the year, and which is beautifully maintained by its brilliant head gardener Paul Cutler. Managed by OPW and open to the public at no charge, it’s a fantastic facility”. (heritageireland.ie)
My own recommendations? Following the sale of her townhouse, this summer is your very last opportunity to visit Helen Dillon’s remarkable one-acre town garden, a place that has inspired and informed a generation of Irish gardeners (see thedillongarden.com). June Blake, whose three-acre west Wicklow garden combines artful design with painterly planting, is another brilliantly creative Irish gardener with a razor-sharp eye for detail and an artist’s deep appreciation of colour texture and form (see juneblake.ie)