Six great European gardens to discover on holidays

This week in the garden: Irish gardeners share their top places to visit on holidays

Heading off abroad on holidays this summer and hoping to include a visit to one of Europe’s great gardens? I asked some of the country’s most seasoned garden lovers to nominate their favourites and this is what they had to say.

Mark Grehan, garden and floral designer and proprietor of The Garden, one of Ireland's most highly-regarded garden and florist shops in Dublin's Powerscourt Centre: "The Lost Gardens of Heligan [near Mevagissey in Cornwall] are one of my favourite places to visit. I love the giant tree ferns and the way you quickly get so completely lost in your own imagination when you're there, almost as if you've been transported to some other world. A visit to Heligan also really makes me think outside the box in terms of garden design and how/what you can create within a space. It's very special."

Owned by the Tremayne family for more than 400 years and painstakingly restored over the last number of decades, the Lost Gardens of Heligan are located in Pentewan, Cornwall and are accessible by car as well as by bike (Route 3 of the Cornish Way) and local bus services, see

Frances MacDonald, owner of the Bay Garden in Co Wexford, garden writer, and garden guide with The Travel Department: "It would have to be the magical gardens of Isola Madre, the largest of the Borromean islands of Lake Maggiore in Italy. A plantsperson's paradise, it's home to the most amazing collection including camellias, hibiscus, lemons, limes, coleus and a rare Kashmir Cypress (Cuppressus cashmiriana) believed to be the biggest in Europe, which was brought down by a tornado in 2006 but then rescued at vast expense and with great skill. I've been there 12 times and every visit has been special." Isola Madre is reachable by boat from Stresa, an hour's journey from Milan, see


Angela Jupe, well-known landscape architect and owner of Bellefield Gardens in Co Offaly: "It's something a toss-up between Ninfa and La Mortola but if I had to plump for one, I think it would be the latter. Designed by the English entrepreneur, gardener and philanthropist Sir Thomas Hanbury in the 19th century and marvellously situated with views out over the Mediterranean, La Mortola is probably the most romantic, most atmospheric garden that I've ever visited . Everything about it really appeals to the senses, which in the end is what all great gardening is about . . ." Located near Ventimiglia in northern Italy and managed by the University of Genoa, La Mortola is accessible by car, train and bus/taxi, see

Jimi Blake, plantsperson, upcoming author and owner of Hunting Brook gardens in west Wicklow: "RHS Wisley is the one that I want to visit this summer.  With its talented curator Matthew Pottage in charge, it's become one of the most exciting and progressive gardens in the world – I can't wait to see all the new projects and changes that he's instigated over the last number of years including, of course, Wisley's new book shop." RHS Garden Wisley is located near Cobham, Surrey in the UK and is accessible by car or public transport, see

Tig Mays, garden designer and co-proprietor with his wife Anthea Howbert of the Howbert & Mays chain of garden centres in Dublin and Meath: "Our trip to the experimental gardens of Weihenstephan, Bavaria, which is managed by the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences [the German university specialising in green engineering] will always stay in our minds. We just happened to stumble across it but were both so impressed by everything we saw there, especially its amazing trial gardens which change every couple of years; it reminded us a huge amount of Longwood Gardens, the botanical gardens in the US where Anthea and I first met." Located in Freising, Bavaria, in Germany, the gardens of Weihenstephan are easily accessible by road and rail, see

Helen Dillon, plantsperson, author, broadcaster and owner of the Dillon Garden in Monkstown, Co Dublin: "Although it's some years since I last visited it, the artist Claude Monet's garden Giverny is a classic. As someone who is rather fed-up with the fashionable prairie-style, I just love its planting as well as its use of vivid colour. The older you get, the more dazzling you garden should be in this regard!" Located near the town of Vernon 75km outside Paris, Giverny is easily accessible by car or by train via the main Paris/Rouen/Le Havre line, see

Listen to this

California-based gardener, writer, photographer and broadcaster Jennifer Jewell's award-winning, wide-ranging weekly podcast Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden, in which she converses with a fascinatingly diverse range of contributors on all things gardening, environmental and botanical. Recent guests include Irish gardener and author Mary Reynolds, US artist and floral designer Louesa Roebuck of Foraged Flora and Australian gardener and writer Georgina Reid of The Planthunter, see

Visit this

Privately-owned by the Devonshire family and located in Lismore, Co Waterford, parts of Lismore Castle' s wonderful historic gardens date back to the 17th century. Described as "a mix of ornamental borders and productive areas", the castle gardens are home to colourful flower borders, ancient yew tree avenues, hand-scythed wildflower meadows and sculptures by leading artists including Anthony Gormley and Eilis O'Connell, see for opening hours.

This Week in the Garden

Protect carrots, parsley, parsnip, celery, celeriac, dill, ornamental carrot, orlaya and ammi against damage from carrot fly by using a physical protective barrier such as Bionet ( or a nematode control such Nemasys Natural Fruit & Veg Protection ( You can also minimise the risk of damage by only thinning, weeding or hoeing near plants in the cooler hours of the day (the carrot fly is attracted by scent and removing and bagging all thinning immediately).

Many kinds of tall-growing perennials, biennials and annuals need some form of support at this time of year to prevent them from being damaged by strong winds or heavy rain – a prime example is dahlias – so take some time to stake or create support for their fast-growing shoots. Some gardeners prefer to use bamboos to stake individual stems while others use a cat’s cradle of dark green garden string woven between wooden canes or lengths of rebar. You can also use purpose-made plant supports or plant hoops, which are available widely from good Irish garden centres, while pea netting suspended between canes can provide excellent support. Whatever method you choose, the aim should be to make it as visually unobtrusive as possible. Just as importantly, it should be safe so always cover the sharp ends of sticks or bamboos with something like a bottle-cork, a small upturned pot or a purpose-made rubber cane topper to prevent accidental eye injuries.

Dates for your diary

Sunday, July 14th, Hunting Brook Gardens, the Lamb Hill, Tinode (near Blessington), Co Wicklow: Special Events Sunday (11am-5.30pm) with a variety of free events over the course of the day including Colour, Form and Texture (12pm and 2pm), a walk and talk with owner Jimi Blake and (3.15pm), an introduction to Jimi's one-year Plantsperson Course, plus plant sales and delicious home baked cakes. Admission €6 (adults), free admission for children. See

Also on July 14th (from 2pm) at Chanel Lodge, Coolock Village: Heaven Scent Rose & Sweet Pea Show hosted by Dublin 5 Horticultural Society, admission €2.

From Saturday July 27th – Monday August 5th: Carlow Garden Festival with a very wide range of well-known expert speakers and contributors (including Dan Pearson, Alys Fowler, Monty Don, Adam Frost, Neil Portous, Dermot O'Neill, Jekka McVicar, Frances MacDonald, Troy Scott Smith) and a host of events including garden talks, workshops, tours, Q&A sessions, films and long table lunches taking place at different venues over the course of the festival. Pre-booking for many of the events is essential. See for details;.

Sunday, July 28th (10am-5pm), Russborough House & Gardens, Blessington, County Wicklow: RHSI Russborough Garden Show. The theme of this year's show is Sustainability and Biodiversity and the event will include talks by Anna Ní Lamhna, Oliver Schurmannn, Hester Forde, Hazel Proctor, Mick Kelly, Ed Burnham and Anne Swithinbank, with Peter Donegan acting as MC. Also at the event will be free garden design clinics hosted by the GLDA (pre-booking required), specialist plant sales by some of the country's best nurseries, tours of the RHSI-managed walled garden and much more. Admission is €10, RHSI members pay €8 and admission is free for children. Pre-booking is recommended, see for details.