Garden commemorating 1916 left abandoned and overgrown
Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner Mary Reynolds created design
The small garden known as ‘Buncloch’ or Foundation Stone in Farmleigh. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
A 1916-inspired garden at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park has been abandoned and left overgrown despite a significant State investment in commemorating the centenary of the Rising.
Located close to a lake on the estate, the garden was created by landscape gardener Mary Reynolds to mark Ireland’s presidency in 2004 of the EU.
Ms Reynolds, a Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner, yesterday expressed her disappointment that the garden was not being maintained and that the sign explaining the design, and including a copy of the Proclamation, had been removed.
“It was a really beautiful concept and I was very proud of the design,” she said. The OPW was under pressure, she said. “Their budgets are spread very thin. My heart goes out to people who have to do the jobs of three people.”
A number of EU Council meetings were held at Farmleigh during the presidency and the design represented the ripple effect on the population of decisions made by leaders.
The garden consists of nine small circular grass ripples, 20 metres in diameter, spreading out from the centrepiece, a Wicklow granite bowl, filled with water, the ripple effect of change from the centre. The planets are represented by nine lichen-covered granite boulders placed the way they were aligned on Easter Monday 1916.
Ms Reynolds said she had been a little concerned that the ripples had sunk but added that it would only require more soil to build them up again. She said the garden was located in an area that not many people visited. She believed most of the maintenance was probably done closer to the main house.
But an OPW spokeswoman said “the area is maintained to the high standards adopted throughout Farmleigh”. She said the original sign was the property of the artist and was removed when it became unsightly but that the OPW would be in contact with Ms Reynolds about a new sign “which should be erected shortly”.
Acting Minister of State for the OPW Simon Harris was unaware of the garden’s existence until yesterday. A spokeswoman said it was the start of the maintenance season and cutting of the grass at the garden would be done today.
The bowl is very popular with children throwing sticks into it, she added.
Ms Reynolds recalled that at the time: “I was taken aside and told it [the design] was too political for Farmleigh.” She believed, however, that 1916 was a foundation stone of the State and Farmleigh was a seat of government. “I stood my ground and fair play to them they accepted it and didn’t baulk at it.”
She added that it was “hilarious that the politicians who thought it too political at the time were embracing it a few years later”.