Go visit­ing if you want to be a good gar­dener

Peter Dow­dall sug­gests go­ing to see the O’donoghue’s gar­den in Car­rig­navar for a mas­ter class this weekend

Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - In The Garden -

THE trail of Open Gar­dens for Mary­mount Hospice is in full swing at the mo­ment and this weekend it’s the chance to visit the cre­ation of the man from Mushera moun­tain and his wife who hails from Castle­lyons.

Drom­boy Gar­dens — the home of­mau­rice­andger­tieodonoghue — is in nei­ther town­land, but ac­tu­ally in Car­rig­navar where they set­tled over 40 years ago, roughly mid­way be­tween their two home­places.

No need to ask how long they have been de­vel­op­ing this gar­den be­cause as you will walk through it, you’ll re­alise quite quickly that this mag­nif­i­cent place didn’t hap­pen overnight and has taken all of that 40-plus years to get to where it is now.

This is a gar­den that has evolved as most gar­dens do. One area gets over­crowded and to be ex­tended and the plants moved to new pas­tures — so more of the field gets colonised and hid­den gar­dens within gar­dens hap­pen.

This is one of those rare gar­dens that I could ac­tu­ally lose my­self in for days — it’s a gar­den that gets un­der my skin and I want to learn more, ad­mire more. Why is that? Why do some gar­dens do that when oth­ers, though aes­thet­i­cally beau­ti­ful, some­times leave me cold?

It’s de­signed to my taste, cer­tainly, it flows seam­lessly and in­for­mally from one area to the next, it’s a plant­per­son’s gar­den which also ex­cites me, as you will see spec­i­mens here that you won’t see ev­ery­where.

In par­tic­u­lar, you will see hostas, as Mau­rice and Ger­tie have both de­vel­oped quite the hosta ad­dic­tion. Hav­ing started off dot­ting them around the gar­den, they then de­vel­oped a stand alone hosta area which has de­vel­oped now into sev­eral uniquely hosta ar­eas, and of course, they are once more mixed in through­out the other plant­ing in the gar­den.

They also have a great eye for de­sign and the con­sid­er­a­tion that has been given to the po­si­tion­ing of each fea­ture and each plant, is ev­i­dent through­out.

Ger­tie gives as much con­sid­er­a­tion to the struc­ture, tex­ture and form of fo­liage and grasses as she does to flow­ers and colour. The rea­son it ap­peals to me so much though, has to be more than that, it’s a com­bi­na­tion of all these things yes, but also some­thing else.

Is it the at­mos­phere — or is it some­thing al­to­gether deeper. Walk­ing through this gar­den

I was re­minded of High­grove in the UK. I can’t give much higher praise than that, as HRH’S res­i­dence is one of my most favourite places. It’s not so much that both gar­dens look alike, nor are they sim­i­lar in scale, but this gar­den in Car­rig­navar does re­mind me of that gar­den in the Cotswolds. I shouldn’t have been sur­prised then to learn that it, too, is one of Ger­tie’s favourite gar­dens. Is it some­thing sub­lim­i­nal? I can’t say.

ONE of the unmissable fea­tures is the sculp­ture col­lec­tion. Per­fectly carved and equally per­fectly po­si­tioned these works of art will draw you from area to area and then when you least ex­pect it — one will ap­pear be­neath a choice spec­i­men, or half hid­den by some leaves.

The works re­ally do add to the gar­den and not just be­cause of their beauty but be­cause they were carved by Mau­rice him­self. When I asked him did he do any com­mer­cially, he an­swered no, as it would be too much like pres­sure. In his equally unas­sum­ing man­ner he mut­ters that — “yerra any­one could do it re­ally”.

Of course, any­one couldn’t do it. Give me a lump of stone with a ham­mer and chisel and I’d still be look­ing at it. His sculp­tures are named and when you visit the gar­den you will be given a print­out of the names and de­scrip­tions.

One of the more stand­out ti­tles is The Un­holy Woman of Car­rig­navar, de­scribed as hav­ing the.... “old glint in her eye; the rak­ish look of one ready for a glass of porter and a half set around the kitchen flags.

“She kept san­ity alive in Ir­ish wom­an­hood through the cen­turies, and spat in the eye of those who would do oth­er­wise”.

When this gar­den­ing bug gets you, it be­comes ob­ses­sive all too eas­ily and is es­pe­cially man­i­fest in the search for ob­scure and rare species and va­ri­eties. A gar­den made up ex­clu­sively of soughtafter and hard to get plants doesn’t al­ways work — as the de­sign el­e­ments can suf­fer.

Here, how­ever you will see dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of fa­mil­iar plants, for ex­am­ple Di­cen­tra ‘Valen­tine’ is used in­stead of the straight­for­ward D spectabilis. It’s used per­fectly and the dark cherry red with white flow­ers held on dark, nearly

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