Open gardens well worth a visit
AUGUST, the traditional holiday month is upon us. At this time every year, although I would advocate it at any time, I champion the pursuit of garden and park visiting.
Ireland is rich and blessed in both the plants we are able to grow and in the many world class gardens and parks that display these plants and our great gardening heritage. From the castles, abbeys, demesne, country houses, city and town public parks to the hand written sign by the roadside proclaiming ‘ garden open today 12 till 6’ I think we should support them all. Some may be historically more important than others but all add to the diversity and lineage of our gardens.
Like it or not many of our most impressive gardens are thanks to our privileged, wealthy, landed ancestors who no doubt planted their gardens and park lands not with ‘ hoi polloi’ in mind but for their own gratification and status. But we have however been left country wide, many now state owned, with gardens full of mature specimens of native and exotic trees and shrubs from all four corners of the world.
These gardens were planted at a time when for the general populace gardening was a food source rather than an amenity but in our changed society I think it is important that we as gardeners ‘pick up the mantle’ and in our own smaller plots continue to plant for future generations.
When considering open gardens the first stopping point must be the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin. Founded in 1795 it is home to 20,000 plant species and is the centre of horticultural education in the country. Set over 20 acres along the Tolka river it is always a wonder and a pleasure to visit. The hothouses and greenhouses are unequalled anywhere else in the country and always a favourite with children. The fact entrance is free is both as it should be and an added bonus. There is a sister garden also part of the Botanic Gardens in Kilmacurragh in County Wicklow that is less structured in layout but equally worth a visit and also free.
Having arrived in County Wicklow, the garden of Ireland for good reason, you are spoilt for choice. Powerscourt garden, considered the third best garden in the world by National Geographic, in the most magnificent setting, the romantic Mount Usher with 5000 species on display and a fantastic numbered tree walk, considered the best garden in Ireland by Gardeners World magazine and Killruddery garden all under the drop of a blanket.
Altamont in Carlow; Garnish Island gardens, Cork; Kylemore Abbey, Galway; Mount Congreve Waterford; Blarney Castle Cork; Malahide Castle, Dublin; Mount Stewart County Down; JFK arboretum, Wexford; Phoenix Park, St. Stephen’s Green; Herbert Park. I don’t want to create a list but if I did the list would go on and on. You get the general idea though and those gardens and parks mentioned here are just some of the very well known ones, there are hundreds of others all worthy of visiting in every county across the country.
These gardens are great sources of ideas and inspiration even if the scale of them is somewhat grander than your own humble patch. Go armed with a note book and smart phone, always check opening times and never take slips and cuttings.
The Palm House at the National Botanic Gardens