Mount Congreve Gardens, in Waterford, will open for the 2015 season on Thursday 12th of March but I took the opportunity to have a walk around the gardens during the last week.
My first impression, as I remember the scenes of devastation we witnessed in the gardens following the storms at this time last year, is the amount of work the gardeners have done in the last 12 months. It can only have been an enormously upsetting occasion for those who have worked for years in the garden to see the huge number of mature trees which were knocked over by the gales and the amount of underplanting – rhododendrons and camellias etc – which were flattened by their falling. The work over the last year has simply been trojan in its scale and the gardens are looking marvellous.
Along with the essential work of clearing up after this storm a great deal of work has been done in renewing large areas of older planting. Old rhododendrons and old camellias have been pruned back hard – indeed, to such an extent that the amateur gardener would believe they had been too harshly treated but they are all sprouted anew with great vigour and this work has allow light into areas which had become overshadowed with the passing of years.
The necessary clearing after such a disaster also led to some wonderful vistas being opened. One of the walks from the Temple leads to a small rise and two old cherry trees which grew there were blown over. It is always sad to see such mature specimens being lost but their departure opened up a vista which has probably not been seen in twenty five years or more. Now, one can look along and over the canopy of, perhaps, a 150 metres planting of Magnolia campbellii, running along the terrace to the back of the house. Looking at it last year I though it was the most beautiful and marvellous garden vista I had ever seen – and it will be in flower again shortly, so the treat awaits again.
At present, the first of the magnolias are coming into flower along with the earlier rhododendrons and camellias. Some are in absolute magnificent full bloom and are a sight to behold and the flowering will improve as the season progresses. Here and there through the garden there are specimen trees which are given more space than the general planting – most of the garden is planted as a woodland garden, a very natural style where neighbouring trees must jostle for their space and for light but a few have been allowed a little more room, mainly venerable oak or sweet chestnut trees and these are underplanted with crocus or wood anemones which give great splashes of colour in the early garden.
Mount Congreve Garden is a place that merits being visited many times during the year as the display of plants in flower develops as the season progresses. The first big display will be from the huge plantings of Magnolia campbellii and will continue with a whole range of other magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, maples etc etc – and this truly is a garden where the “etc” can be applied liberally as it was Ambrose Congreve’s style to plant everything in big numbers, never a single plant when you could plant fifty.
June will bring the glory of the paeonias, roses and catmint display in the walled garden and July/August/September will bring the delightful colour of the Pleasure Gardens with the abundance of dahlias, asters, eucomis, gingers etc.
It is a year round garden, a delight to visit at any time of the year so make your plans and come along.