In the se­cret gar­den

Rowal­lane Gar­den, County Down

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents - So­phie Pavelle is a zo­ol­o­gist and sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tor with a pas­sion for ad­ven­ture.

The Na­tional Trust’s Rowal­lane Gar­den in windswept County Down is the per­fect sum­mer hide­away. Grown from Vic­to­rian be­gin­nings, the gar­dens are a mix­ture of for­mal and in­for­mal spa­ces, giv­ing way to scenic vis­tas and a va­ri­ety of plant and an­i­mal life, best ex­pe­ri­enced with leisurely strolls, wildlife watch­ing and af­ter­noon tea.

The beauty of Rowal­lane is a prod­uct of Rev­erend John Moore and his nephew Hugh Army­tage Moore, whose vi­sion­ary ap­proach to es­capism and con­nect­ing with na­ture turned a 19th-cen­tury gar­den into an out­stand­ing 21stcen­tury spec­ta­cle.


Once used for veg­eta­bles by Rev Moore, the walled gar­den has diver­si­fied into a sea of colour­ful or­na­men­tal plant­ing. June is the per­fect time to revel in its huge mag­no­lia tree, beside var­i­ous hy­drangea, vibur­num, shrub roses and a young pocket hand­ker­chief tree.


Fol­low­ing the Vic­to­rian trend for rock gar­den­ing, the once weath­ered rocky out­crop of Rock Gar­den Wood was care­fully re-imag­ined by Army­tage Moore to be­come a trea­sure of Rowal­lane, de­signed to cel­e­brate ev­ery sea­son. Visit in June and you will see the pale, pink shoots of the com­mon spot­ted or­chid, ready to erupt in July. Look out for the light creams of the but­ter­fly or­chid too, of­ten nes­tled among wild­flow­ers be­neath Rowal­lane’s shrubs and wood­land.


Rowal­lane Gar­den boasts many exotic plant species but per­haps is best­known for its col­lec­tion of rhodo­den­dron – some of which have re­mained since Rev Moore planted them over 100 years ago. These hardy plants are one of the ear­li­est to bloom in the gar­den and can be seen all year round, but it’s in spring and sum­mer that the warm yel­lows, pinks and reds of Rhodo­den­dron tri­flo­rum are at their most spec­tac­u­lar, fill­ing the air with a gor­geous del­i­cate fra­grance. You may also be lucky enough to see the gar­den’s strik­ing Hi­malayan blue pop­pies, which flower from mid-May into early sum­mer.

Rowal­lane’s care­fully se­lected range of plant life, trees and wild­flow­ers sup­port a wealth of life across the gar­dens. Its in­sect-friendly meadow plants – sweet peas, dahlias, laven­der – en­cour­age a healthy pol­li­na­tor pop­u­la­tion for the sum­mer months.


The fiery, flo­ral sum­mer dis­plays are back-dropped with sweep­ing views across County Down’s sur­round­ing land­scape, of­fer­ing lots of op­tions when it comes to ex­plor­ing the gar­dens and choos­ing a pic­nic spot. Fol­low the bending conifer trail to Trio Hill, pass­ing rem­nants of May’s blue­bell car­pet and a se­ries of wood­piles, de­signed for hedge­hogs and other wildlife. It’s the per­fect route for stretch­ing your (and your dog’s) legs, be­fore or af­ter af­ter­noon tea at the Na­tional Trust café.

“No other plant is as un­am­bigu­ously blue,” writes gar­dener Monty Don of the Hi­malayan blue poppy, one of Rowal­lane’s most vi­brant sum­mer flow­ers

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