IGPS Members Visit Mount Congreve

There are  times in life when it is not inappropriate to be boastful – well, at least, to express one’s pride in a very clear and positive manner. Such an occasion fell to me on Saturday morning last when I greeted a group of fellow IGPS members to the wonderful gardens of Mount Congreve in Waterford.

I was able to boast – very truthfully you must realise – that they were visiting one of the great gardens of the world; one created by one of the great gardeners of the world, Mr. Ambrose Congreve. The 70+ acres of woodland gardens are an incomparable achievement not to be seen anywhere else in the world. Here, the visitor can see Magnolia campbelli in their hundreds – something not to be seen anywhere else in the world –   along with many hundreds of other magnolias. There are also 2,000+ different rhododendrons, several hundred different camellias and maples as well as innumerable individual specimens of the choicest trees one could imagine.

The gardens are only a few miles from my home and, through the kindness of those at the gardens, I have the enviable good fortune to be allowed visit whenever I wish and, so, can enjoy them in quieter moments and quieter  months when the gardens are not open. Despite visiting the gardens for surely over thirty years I still find plants which I hadn’t noticed previously.

Of course, the very best way to walk the gardens is in the company of Michael White, the Curator at the gardens, and the person who has the deepest knowledge of the gardens and the strongest links with the creator of the gardens, Mr. Ambrose Congreve, as he worked hand in hand  with him over many years. Michael’s knowledge of the gardens and its plants is simply encyclopedic. I often comment to friends that while I might be able to tell them the name of a particular rhododendron, for example, Michael would outline its parentage going back several generations and all the personalities associated with each step of its breeding. So, a walk with him on Saturday was a special treat and many of those in the group expressed their delight at the experience.

Some photographs of our group at Mount Congreve last Saturday:

Our group strolling through the Pleasure Garden where dahlias and asters are fabulous at the moment.
Our group strolling through the Pleasure Garden where dahlias and asters are fabulous at the moment.
A pause for a comment from our guide on the day, Michael White.
A pause for a comment from our guide on the day, Michael White. I believe he is standing under Magnolia ‘Star Wars’
Michael striding along to the next point of interest. The members of the group still gaping in awe at the beauty around them. (LOL)
Michael striding along to the next point of interest. The members of the group still gaping in awe at the beauty around them. (LOL)
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Just visible at the left of the photograph is the stump of what was a very large and old fern-leafed beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’ which, unfortunately, had to be felled earlier this year as it was diseased and presented a danger to visitors. However, as Michael White pointed out, this has opened a view to an excellent specimen of Magnolia officinalis which had been hidden for many years.

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Michael White explaining the method of pruning used on very old camellias. It can appear that it is quite ruthless but it is perfectly effective and rejuvenates the garden very effectively.
Looking down on the Pagoda
Looking down on the Pagoda
The view from below with the pagoda in what was once the quarry which supplied stone for wall building, steps and laying pathways around the garden.
The view from below with the pagoda in what was once the quarry which supplied stone for wall building, steps and laying pathways around the garden.
At The Temple, the final resting place of Mr. Ambrose Congreve and his wife, Marjorie. It is also a place with wonderful views onto the River Suir
At The Temple, the final resting place of Mr. Ambrose Congreve and his wife, Marjorie. It is also a place with wonderful views onto the River Suir

The gardens are closing shortly for this season so hurry along to visit. Also, make a point of visiting early next year, as soon as the gardens open so as to see the expanse of Magnolia campbellii while they are in flower. This is a sight which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.

A magnificent view along one planting of Magnolia campbellii in the gardens. This photograph was taken in March of this year.
A magnificent view along one planting of Magnolia campbellii in the gardens. This photograph was taken in March of this year. In a similar fashion to the photograph, above where the loss of a beech tree allowed a view to a significant magnolia, the storms of 2014 knocked down two old cherry trees which stood just where I stood to take this photograph and revealed this vista which had not been seen for years.

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

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