Daring to be Old-fashioned

Colclough Walled Garden (24)

The sight of those regimented, regular and geometric lines of red bedding salvias immediately brought me back to a day in my student life. It was 1970, in a student residence in Dublin, where “chores” were part of the daily routine. These chores included general house work and occasional work on the grounds. The orchard had ornamental beds planted with red salvias and I was given the job of hoeing them on that particular day. I cannot recall why but I know this work was extra to the normal routine and was given by way of a punishment and that I undertook it in bad spirits and in vile humour. It gradually dawned on me that the hoe was an excellent tool for cutting the roots from a plant, a sort of inverse decapitation, and without incriminating myself too much, it seems those salvias went into terminal decline in the heat of the following day – when I was long gone!

Colclough Walled Garden (28)

The practice of bedding plant displays has all but vanished from our gardens. It may still be seen occasionally in park plantings but, by and large, it has gone out of fashion and is now generally looked on as somewhat fuddy duddy, something of a bygone era and now considered an affront to the eye, an irritant to the retina.

Colclough Walled Garden (1)

However, once in a while, such a planting makes sense, and though it may come as an initial shock it can be appreciated when it is explained its background revealed. Colclough Walled Garden, near Tintern Abbey in the south western corner of Co. Wexford, is presently laid out in a geometric design of bedding plants with large diamonds in Ageratum, marigolds and salvias giving a striking display. My first reaction on entering the walled garden was of surprise, shock and amazement that such an old-fashioned style should be used in what is a very recently restored garden.

Colclough Walled Garden (18)

We were very fortunate to have timed our visit to coincide with a guided tour of the garden and the outstandingly excellent talk from one of the gardeners gave a wonderful insight into the history of the garden, the story of the restoration and the reason for this year’s planting design. Research has shown the layout and design of the garden beds in the late 19th century and the gardeners have recreated this design. The guided walk of the garden added hugely to our enjoyment of our visit and I highly recommend you check on the timing of talks so you can also enjoy them.

For a restoration project which began only seven years ago the rate of progress is hugely impressive and has been done with the involvement and support of the local community – fruit trees bear the names of contributors and even individual timbers of the fabulously restored glasshouse were sponsored by local people and businesses. It struck me as a wonderful way to involve the local community

Our guide said that the present geometric display is unlikely to be repeated next year – it was a time-consuming and expensive project – so it might be worthwhile visiting while it is there.

Some other views of the garden:

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And there are very pleasant and beautiful walks around the area:

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Paddy Tobin

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10 thoughts on “Daring to be Old-fashioned

  1. An interesting, and maybe necessary, experiment with bedding plants but happy that it will not be repeated. I love this garden and it is a great triumph for all those involved! I am wondering whether there is a plan for these regimented beds? Looking forward to visiting again over the next couple of months.

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  2. Thank you for your comment, Angela.

    Above all, it strikes me that this garden project was a wonderful achievement for those involved. Many similar projects fail to make such progress. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit, especially the tour by one of the gardeners. Also, a walk around the surrounding countryside is a beautiful way to spend an hour or two. Paddy

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  3. As one who also in his time has had to hoe regimented lines of salvias I cannot possibly condone such underhand, underhoeing, behaviour. Our Taoiseach might even extend the word thuggery to cover it! What did the salvias do to deserve being cut off in their prime? I remember being amazed at the colour and the fact that none of my charges died under my inexpert care!
    However I have to confess wreaking a lot of damage to an overgrown sunken garden. Our mentor was of the impression that everything should be cleared and I am certain many fine plants disappeared with the couch grass and goose grass and briars. But we were young and energetic and quite strong and also truly uninformed horticulturally and so our enthusiasm mastered our gardening instincts!
    But I did enjoy the blog and will try to take in that garden before it vanishes.

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    • It was a pleasant day out; the Abbey, Tintern, is very interesting and the environs are very peaceful and ideal for a walk – down to Saltmills to the seaside and back; pub at Saltmills – what more would one want!

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  4. Things are great in the FOTA Frameyard. It’s looking wonderful at this time of year. If you like any of our posts feel free to re-post them on the IGPS site. Enjoying your posts and learning a lot from them. Thanks.

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