Ireland blessed with many great gardens

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Published 13/08/2016 | 00:00

Plant of the week: Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'
Plant of the week: Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'

Sow spring cabbage

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'

For the avid gardener the garden and gardening can take on many guises. It can be inspiring, therapeutic, rewarding, disappointing, a work pleasure or a back breaking pain in the proverbial. Which ever it is on any given day it always leaves us with the same end result, satisfaction. Our gardens are our own space, environment, connection with nature and link to our ancestral roots. For me to have no earth of my own to till is unthinkable.

But as avid gardeners we tend to be just as intrigued and interested with other peoples gardens, whether they are estates and demesnes or humble local gardens opened up once a year for a charity. We like to pull back the net curtains and see what others are up to. The pastime of garden visiting is alive and well.

Ireland is blessed with many great gardens. Great is not used light here, internationally great and horticulturally important. Powerscourt in Wicklow, Garnish Island in Cork, Birr Castle in Offaly and Mount Congreve in Waterford to mention a very very few. These large centuries old gardens give us two things most of us can't achieve in our own gardens, space and maturity. Forty acres and two hundred year old trees? Lucky you. Or maybe not, could we really manage that scale? Maybe these gardens are best treated like grandchildren enjoy them and then give them back. These gardens whether privately or state owned deserve our support by regularly visiting as they house our national botanical heritage for better or for worse. And that is a resource that is extremely valuable and often overlooked.

There are of course also many smaller scale gardens opened particularly for the summer and holiday months. These range from the one open day a year gardens to those year round coffee shop gardens we are all familar with. So many that there is a lifetimes visiting work there. All are playing an important part in our horticultural past and future.And all deserve a visit. Never pass a garden open sign, you don't know what you might be missing.

This happened to me recently while driving the Ring of Kerry, puttering and pottering down a boreen as it were, and I came across Kells Bay gardens. A lovely garden set in a sheltered wooded valley. Not a keep off the grass kind of place which suits my tactile nature very well. Easy to have driven by but I had an afternoon of enjoyment and enlightenment instead. Plus the ubiquitous tea and scone, but it had to be done.

You don't just have to happen upon a place though, planning a forethought is sometimes a good option or only option. I have two to do gardens on my list at present and strangely neither are really plant gardens. The first is Victor's Way sculpture garden in Roundwood Wicklow. It is a garden for over eighteens or even over twenty eights according to some reading up I have done. It appears to be a spiritual garden with scupltures of an Asian influcence. It's a place for reflection and contemplation and maybe not for everyones tastes but I'm intrigued. I'm a bit of a philistine when it comes to the fine arts but sculpture, espcially when you can touch it, interests me. That tactile thing again. I'm not a tree hugger but I do like to lay hands on. I am hoping to be challenged by this garden which is not what you would expect from a garden visit and see if it is transendental or self indulgent. What ever my opinion it looks fascinating.

The other garden definitely needs some forward planning as it is in Scotland and only open one afternoon a year. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation might sound a little pretentious and probably is, My Lovely Garden would be sufficient for me, but photos would suggest that it is worthy of its name. To describe it is difficult and it's best viewed to someway comprehend what I mean. Cosmic gives you a clue. It's is privately owned by American architect Charles Jencks.

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