Three Wishes

Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ was a chance seedling in the garden of Wendy Smith in Victoria, Australia. As she is an enthusiastic salvia grower there were several candidates which might have been the parents but a Salvia buchananii x Salvia splendens cross seems the most likely, the first contributing the deep magenta colour and the latter the dramatic calyxes.

Salvia 'Wendy's Wishes'2
Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ 

 

Salvia specialist Sue Templeton recognised that it was an outstanding plant and suggested to Wendy that she have the plant patented, a process which was handled for her by Plants Management Australia, a licensing and marketing company which manages the protection and introduction of new plant varieties across the globe. This arrangement ensured that a portion of the proceeds of each sale returned to Wendy Smith and she arranged that it be donated to the Australian Make-a-Wish Foundation, an organisation which makes wishes come true for children with life-threatening, chronic illnesses.

Gardeners worldwide fell in love with Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ and the reaction to its philanthropic aspect inspired Plants Management Australia to repeat it with two subsequent cultivars.

A sport with bright coral-coloured flowers arose on a plant of Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ in one of Plant Grower’s Australia’s nurseries. They wished to continue the contributions to Make-a-Wish Australia but also added to the publicity – and very significantly to the income – by auctioning the rights to name this new plant. Paul and Lyn Shegog, from Tasmania, won the auction and named the plant in memory of their teenage children Emma and Brett who had died from an incurable genetic condition – Salvia ‘Ember’s Wish’.

 

Salvia 'Ember Wishes'
Salvia ‘Ember’s Wish’ 

The third in the series came as a result of the deliberate breeding efforts of John Fisher who lives in Orange, New South Wales, Australia. He sought to produce salvias in new colours and used ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ as one of his parent plants. He was also enthusiastic about the support which Plants Management Australia gave to the Make-a-Wish Foundation; named the plant Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ and contributed a portion of the proceeds from sales to the foundation also.

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Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ 

 

While we can enjoy these salvias in our gardens it adds to the pleasure that they also support a very worthy cause.

Paddy Tobin

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

 

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Much More than Sketches!

There is so much more than botanical sketchbooks in this volume that the title does it an injustice. This is one of those treasure troves of a book where every page brings a new delight, new fascination and new interest – Botanical Sketchbooks by Helen and William Bynum

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Image courtesy of Thames & Hudson

Quite simply, the book is a collection of pages from the botanical sketchbooks of a myriad of botanical artists showing, in the main, those early drawings, early recordings which all artists do in preparation for a complete work later on in the better conditions of their studio. Even at this level it is fascinating to see how the various artists worked with pencil or ink sketches and added notes for colour and reminders of where and when a plant was seen and, with some, entries more akin to diary notes and all are fascinating.

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Image courtesy of Thames & Hudson

It is the range of artists, the breadth of plants from those local to us to the most exotic imaginable, the worldwide countries included from South Africa to South America, Australia to China and, it seems, everywhere any anywhere in between. The collection is truly eclectic and each entry seems to open a window into a person, a plant, a time and a place all fascinating and beautiful. This book went far, far, far beyond my expectations and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I am not an artist and one need not be to enjoy this book as its contents range so well beyond botanical art that it will have a general appeal to anybody with an interest in gardening. I recommend it highly.

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Image courtesy of Thames & Hudson

The authors, Helen and William Bynum, historians of science and medicine, present over 80 artists from around the world from the 15th to the 20th century organised into four main sections, each with its own set of sub-sections, which serve to group the artists in a manner more accessible to the reader. Each entry is relatively short with copious space given to the illustrations which are the heart of the book and these are the raw, immediate and spontaneous notes and sketches of the artists which, of course, are all material we would never see but that the authors sourced them from various repositories and libraries – the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew being a major source of their material.

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Image courtesy of Thames  Hudson

There is an endless stream of interesting people, places and plants which will fascinate the reader and open the door to other times and ways. Pierre Joseph Redoute left his home in Belgium at the age of thirteen and spent the next ten years of his life as an itinerant artist! John Doody was transported to Australia following his conviction for forgery but was immediately taken on by Captain William Paterson to record the natural history of the Norfolk Islands. Ferdinand Bauer seems to have been the first to “paint by numbers” as he developed a colour chart which he brought with him and used it to record the colour of plants in the field and could then refer to it on return to his studio where he had notes on how to recreate that colour accurately. Francis Bauer was the first resident botanical artist at Kew Gardens with a salary of £300 per annum and had the title “Botanick painter to His Majesty”. William Hood Fitch was brought to Kew by William Hooker and, along with his work at Kew, contributed almost 3,000 illustrations to Curtis’s Botanical Magazine and has a total of 12,000 of his images published.

Albrect Durer’s “The Great Piece of Turf” is one of the few final paintings included in the book and it is truly both beautiful and captivating and is an example of the present day approach in botanical art to present faithfully accurate depictions of plants in a beautiful manner, “finding a balance between the realistic depiction of plants and the artist’s aesthetic vision”.

[Botanical Sketchbooks, Helen and William Bynum, Thames & Hudson, London, 2017, Hardback, 296 pages, £29.95, ISBN: 978-0-500-51881-6]

Available to purchase online at Thames & Hudson  

Paddy Tobin

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

Every Plant has a Story!

Every plant has a story and these add to the interest and enjoyment gardeners get from them. Noel Kingsbury, in his Flora, The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden, has taken a selection of 133 plants, not an encyclopaedic collection but enough to enthuse and encourage the readers to, perhaps, search out such delightful snippets on other plants which interest them.

Garden Flora

I found the introductory chapter somewhat tedious with its explanations of terms used in the book, an outline of the various plant types along with evolutionary history and ecological survival strategies of plants. There were notes on plant longevity, whether annual, biennial or perennial, whether plants were clonal or not, spreading or not, bla, bla, bla, whether they were pioneers or competitors, notes on biodiversity, lists of topics/headings used in the book bla, bla, bla. Why so much time and space was given to such topics when they did not compliment the rest of the book puzzled me. Perhaps it was to give a certain gravitas to what otherwise is a light – and very interesting and entertaining – collection of short essays on garden plants, somewhat in the style of a collection of magazine articles.

The collection of essays explores, though not in a regimented formulaic manner, various interesting areas of each plant: the meaning of the botanical name, the origin of the name, uses of the plant whether culinary or medicinal; its uses in herbalism and its place in superstitions; history of its use in gardens; natural geographical distribution; history of its introduction and notes of cultivars raised and grown in our gardens. Many of these entries are illustrated with historic photographs and paintings which are both especially attractive and interesting in themselves and add greatly to the enjoyment of the book.

Leaving the introduction aside – and one is unlikely to return to it – the remainder of the book is very enjoyable and the reader is likely to dip into it again and again.

[Garden Flora – The Natural and  Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden, Noel Kingsbury, Timber Press, London, 2016, Hardback, 368 pages, £29.99, ISBN: 13:978-1-60469-565-6]

Paddy Tobin

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

 

Dream Gardens

They dream of finding an abandoned house in a wild garden and then plan in great detail what they will do with it. They are Isabel and Julian Bannerman. I have visited one of their gardens, Hanham Court near Bath, which was their home for many years and can say that they made that reality a dream. We visited this year when the garden was open under the National Garden Scheme, our first visit after settling into our hotel in Cirencester for a week of English gardens and could not have asked for a better start to our holiday nor a more wonderful garden in which to spend an afternoon.

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Hanham Court

After reading their book, Landscape of Dreams, I can see that they repeated their dreams very successfully and beautifully in many other locations. Not all were abandoned houses in wild gardens but the gardens certainly benefited from the Bannerman attention. Yes, they dream and they dream big so that some may say their treatment of gardens may be over the top but I can only say that I found them imaginative, flamboyant, exuberant and places of great beauty.

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Hanham Court
Hanham Court (10)
Hanham Court

They dream on a big scale, they plan on a big scale, they build on a big scale and garden on a big scale but they work on houses and grounds which accommodate such grandness and all seems in scale and appropriate. It is a dream world; it can appear crazy at times but it is beautiful.

Most will have heard of their contribution to the Prince of Wales garden at Highgrove, the stumpery being most publicised. We visited Highgrove during our week in England and felt it was one garden which confined their creativity, cramped their style and left their creations rather claustrophobically jammed too close together. However, a commission for the Prince of Wales does open many doors and, while it was not their best work, it may well have been most to their advantage.

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Hanham Court
Hanham Court (1)
Hanham Court
Hanham Court (4)
Hanham Court

There is an account of their work at Highgrove, along with fourteen other gardens, and their garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1994 each well illustrated with photographs and details of the site, their proposed plans, subsequent discussions, the progress of the work and the completed projects. We are introduced to the clients, made privy to the interaction between client and designers and given details of the ups and downs of the projects. Indeed, the book might be described as the designers’ notebook or diary and it is a very enjoyable read.

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The Meadow at Hanham Court
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The Meadow at Hanham Court

The Bannermans do the British garden perfectly with follies of architectural salvage, faux-stone garden features recreated in green English oak, rose-clad buildings and lavish plantings. They create the dream English garden wonderfully and we can enjoy the dream in this dream of a book.

And their dream goes on since they moved to Trematon Castle in Cornwall and this garden is also described in the book: Landscape of Dreams, The Gardens of Isabel and Julia Bannerman, Pimpernel Press 2016, Large-format Hardback, 297 pages, ,£5, ISBN: 978-1-910258-60-6

Paddy Tobin

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

 

 

30th Anniversary Rectory Garden

The warm sunny afternoon of 9th August saw an impressive turnout of IGPS members and guests to celebrate the 30 year partnership between the rectory garden volunteers and the Ulster Folk and Transport museum. A virtual horticultural who’s who; the guests, many of whom had been involved in the early days of creating the garden, included 1987 IGPS Chair Mary Davies from Dublin, travelling from Donegal, her successor Mary Forrest, who in 1988 planted the garden’s weeping ash, past Northern regional representative Reg Maxwell who served on the first working party with the museum, the first volunteer Katherine Nixon who recalls frequently working on her own, Mike Snowden former head of Rowallane Gardens and past Secretary of the Northern region Catherine Tyrie and her husband, Paul Hackney who had also worked for the museum. The event was well supported by many IGPS members from across the regions.

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IGPS members enjoying  the sunshine at the garden of the Lismacloskey Rectory, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, Belfast. Photos from Barbara Kelso. 
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Lismacloskey Rectory Garden – photo from Barbara Kelso 

Attractions for the day included, flower arranging demonstrations by Cherry Townsend and children’s activities such as making paper flowers and lavender bags. There was a bee-keeping stand, guided garden talks and also a very successful plant sales table. Complimentary refreshments, including a delicious homemade sparkling elderflower cordial, were served and a melody of live traditional Irish music provided a pleasing background to the festivities.

The anniversary marked the conception of the garden, first embarked upon in 1987 when the IGPS was looking for a garden project. By happy coincidence the old rectory from the townland of Lismacloskey, near Toomebridge, County Antrim, had been reconstructed at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra. The Society were asked to design and plant a garden appropriate for that of rural clergyman circa 1900.  Since then the garden has been developed and maintained by a succession of volunteers, mostly, but not always, IGPS members.  The plan of the garden is simple with a central straight path leading from the gate to the front door and two rectangular flower beds in front of the house, which now includes many Irish heritage plants.

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A great attendance on the day and all enjoying the occasion – photo from Barbara Kelso 

In commemoration of the anniversary, IGPS Chairman Billy McCone, assisted by volunteer Lorna Goldstrom planted two heritage plants cultivated by Irish nurseries; Agapanthus ‘Midnight Blue’ bred by Slieve Donard and Escallionia ‘C. F. Ball’ originally grown at Glasnevin but then grown and distributed by Daisy Hill, Newry.

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Helpers on the plant stall – Lorna Goldstrom, Billy McCone and Barbara Kelso
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Garden volunteers Carrie Mercer and Barbara Mayne, organising the refreshments in the beautifully decorated and transformed Potting Shed

Billy thanked all those pioneer gardeners who were present, also including Andrena Duffin and Patrick Quigley who were unable attend, remarking on how much they had done in taking the site from a patch of grass to the garden it is today.  Congratulating the current volunteers – Marion Allen, Lorna Goldstrom, Barbara Mayne, Carrie Mercer, Sharon Morrow, Margaret Newman, Yvonne Penpraze and Maureen Reid on their organisation of the day, Billy also praised the team on the appearance of the garden which he thought magnificent. Thanks were also given to the Folk Museum staff, in particular, Ruth Osborne, retired head groundsman Andy Bingham and Operations Manager David Blemings, for their help, support, drive and enthusiasm over the years.

Billy McCone concluded:

“Not only is the rectory garden a collection of beautiful plants, but it is more than that; it is a safe haven for Irish plants and without the garden, without the volunteers and without the support from the museum we would not have that safe haven.  Increasingly some of the plants left as our legacy, as part of our heritage and plants with our stories are becoming scarcer.  We very much need gardens like the Rectory garden and we very much need the volunteers. So to the volunteers, past volunteers to the staff of the Ulster Folk and Transport museum, thank you for the 30 years and we wish you many, many more.”

 

This report is from Barbara Kelso, a member of the Northern Committee of the IGPS and the photographs are from Stephen Weatherall. 

Enjoy Stephen’s photographs of the occasion in this slideshow:

 

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

 

 

We Boiled a Frog!

Change, especially when incrementally small and over a long period, is often imperceptible and we occasionally need someone to ring the alarm bells and alert us to dangers. Charles Handy, the business/management guru of the 1980s, in his book The Age of Unreason told the parable of a frog being put in a pot of cold water which was heated so gradually that the frog became accustomed to each increase in temperature until the water reached boiling point and the frog died. He used the story to highlight that people very often do not realise their world is changing and that unless they react and take charge the consequences may be drastic.

Pádraig Fogarty in his recently published book, Whitted Away, Ireland’s Vanishing Nature, is the one ringing the alarm bells on behalf of the Irish natural and environmental heritage: “A growing mountain of scientific research is demonstrating that we are in the midst of an ecological catastrophe, principally from the twin evils of climate change and biodiversity loss” and he contends that our view of Ireland as a green country is misinformed – and as one reads the book one cannot but sadly agree.  

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Many of our historic traditional fisheries have simply disappeared. Who has even heard of the pilchard fisheries at Baltimore which once employed 2,000 people on a seasonal basis? Herring have all but disappeared from the north Irish Sea and the Donegal cod fisheries are a thing of the past yet regularly we will hear statements about our “sustainable” fish stocks meaning that present fishing levels will not deplete fish stocks further but such statements disguise or ignore the fact that present stocks are only a miniscule fraction of what they were previously. Other countries have managed to revive fish stocks so with good management it is possible that Irish stocks could recover also.

While one might expect our national parks to lead the way in good environmental management this is not the case. Rhododendron ponticum continues to be a major problem in the Killarney National Park. Wicklow Mountains National Park is the largest expanse of ground over 300 metres in the country and while we may admire its beauty we seldom stop and think how unnatural an environment it is. The mountains were once covered in trees and it is unnatural that they have now become a monoculture of heather. Present policies are to maintain it in this manner, preserving a landscape which has already been damaged and continues to be damaged by overstocking of sheep with numbers driven ever upward by per-head state subsidies. Yes, the state pays people to put sheep on the mountains knowing they will ruin it – sheepwrecked! Even in 1928 J. W. Synge wrote of Connemara National Park, “The absence of trees is a sad feature of a Connemara landscape. Seen from a distance the very bareness of mountain slopes makes them look savage and, indeed, almost repellent in a hard light.” However, the author – he really does come up with gems of optimism – describes it as “not a paradise lost but a paradise waiting to happen”.  Glenveagh National Park continues to have difficulties with the reintroduction of the Golden Eagle, has no management plan and illegal turf extraction seems to be allowed to continue unchecked within the park boundaries. On the other hand, The Burren National Park is very much a success story, a wonderful example of farming for conservation and the only one which could be described as well managed.

The decline or loss of some species will always lead to headline news – the red squirrel or the corncrake, for example – but the author says the list of lost plants and animals runs to 115 while, perhaps more alarmingly, there is a general decline in the numbers of all wildlife with the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London reporting that there has been a 58% fall in population of all species between 1970 and 2012. Alongside this unnatural loss of numbers there are several sanctioned culls of wild animals. Badgers are culled to prevent the spread tuberculosis in cattle – approximately 7,000 each year, though 80% – 90% of the culled badgers have subsequently been found to be free of TB. Pike are culled are culled to allow other fish species build up numbers; there is a bounty on foxes; deer are culled and there is a call for a cull of seals.

Ireland’s food products are  promoted as being “green”, that they come from a green land, are produced by “green” farming yet 47% of our rivers, 57% of our lakes ad 55% of our estuaries do not meet the requirements of good ecological status and over half of this pollution is attributed to agriculture. It is interesting that the body which promotes the green image of Ireland, An Bord Bia, received government funding of €32.2 million in 2014 while the body entrusted to actually make the country green, National Parks and Wildlife Service, received €14.3 million that same year. There seems to be a disparity between promoting the message and actually creating the reality of a green Ireland. It would seem that the billions of euro paid to Irish farmers to protect the environment have not been well spent. The blame does not lie with the farmer – certainly, not entirely with them – as many farmers, many passionate environmentalists themselves, view the approach of the Department of Agriculture as poorly thought out and, regularly, detrimental to the environment. They will be required to clear corners of scrub, to drain low-lying wet patches so as to bring all land into production though they see that by so doing they are removing a diversity of habitat which would have accommodated a diversity of wildlife.

There have been a number of success stories: Lough Boora Parkland in Co. Offaly was once a Bord na Mona worked bog but has now been allowed to return to nature. A survey in May 2012 by the National Biodiversity Data Centre identified and counted 946 different species – more than were counted on The Burren in a similar exercise in the following year. There are other Bold na Mona bogs which could be similarly allowed to return to nature – it could be the largest habitat restoration ever seen.

The book is well written, well organised and deeply engaging. It is one of those books which certainly gives cause for thought and it would be of great benefit to our political decision makers, and to the environment, if they each read it.

This book provides a reality check for all who are interested in the Irish environment – a very startling reality check – but we should, as the author does, not think of the situation as a paradise lost but as a paradise waiting to happen.

[Whittled Away, Ireland’s Vanishing Nature, Pádraig Fogarty, The Collins Press, Cork, 2017, Hardback, 360 pages, €20, ISBN: 978-1-84889-310-8]

The book’s title, by the way, comes from a Irish Government Report of June 1969: “Ireland’s heritage is being steadily whittle away by human exploitation, pollution and other aspects of modern development. This could represent a serious loss to the nation.

Paddy Tobin

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

 

Not as it should be!

It must be comforting to be able to lift one’s head, direct one’s gaze to some beauty in a garden, and ignore the weeds around one’s feet. Some will visit a garden, seek out the good and ignore the bad but I find this difficult to do and can find a garden visit spoiled when I encounter areas of poor gardening.

I visited the gardens at Bantry House last month and felt significant areas of the garden were far below the standard one would hope to find. Mind you, reading the leaflet one receives on admission, the owners do not attempt to hide the fact that there is a huge amount of work yet to be done and my visit certainly not only confirmed that fact but left me feeling very disappointed that some especially significant and integral parts of the garden have been allowed to fall into a state which is very unacceptable.

Bantry House Garden (1)
A sideways glance to the house before turning to the woodland.
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A pretty bridge over the stream in the woodland.

We began our visit at a pretty red bridge over a small stream which ran into the woodland which the leaflet states “needs to be restored and to be made more accessible” – a reasonable assessment – and followed the walk along the stream to the Walled Garden. This “had been partly sold in the 1950s and then abandoned. Consequently, it fell into disrepair and neglect” and so it remains with little more than some hints that it might once have been a garden –  impressive gates, the remains of two ponds and a few trees, a scene to disappoint and sadden the visitor.

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The entrance to the walled garden
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Some signs of planting in the walled garden

The return walk, the “Old Ladies Walk”, leads to the top of The Hundred Steps, one of the main features of the garden and leads past the West Stable en  route which “is much more visible and its state of dereliction quite obvious. It has been made safe in 2011 with the help of the Heritage Council. To restore it is another hope.”  I had wondered if it might have been better to have excluded visitors from these areas of the garden. They were not attractive and seemed unprepared for visitors.

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The West Stable

The “Old Ladies Walk” brought us to the top of The Hundred Steps and one of the most glorious views in any Irish garden. From here one looks down The Hundred Steps to the fountain and parterre, the house and a magnificent view to Bantry Bay beyond. It is truly impressive and demands that one stop and admire it all. However, the walk down the steps brought terrible disappointment. The ornamental pots to each side had not been attended to this year and many sported weeds while the steps themselves seemed also destined to being overtaken by weeds. The terraces to either side of The Hundred Steps appear as though only recently rescued from wilderness. These were originally designed “to be grassed over” a simple treatment which would have complemented the architectural design but over the years Rhododendron ponticum, seedling willow and myrtles took hold. The information leaflet states that some clearing was carried out in 2016 but it was difficult to notice signs of any work in the current year. This feature, The Hundred Steps, is central to the garden design and it is such a pity that it has not received the attention that it deserves.

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View from the top of The Hundred Steps
Bantry House Garden (31)
The view from the top of The Hundred Steps

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The Hundred Steps with views to the terraces – greatly in needs of attention

The parterre is impressive, the clean geometric design in box hedging very appealing and fitting against the façade of the house. It is an area which, obviously, receives more care and attention. It is worthwhile to choose a suitable vantage point and sit to take in the intricacy of design here, the framework provided by the balustrades with ornamental pots on plinths. It is no wonder that it is the most frequently seen photograph from Bantry House garden.

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The Parterre and its surrounds

The Sunken Garden at the gable end of the house did not hold our attention – it needed a lot of tidying up – and we moved to the north terrace on the seaward side of the house where the Round Beds, fourteen in all planted with hemerocallis, run across the front lawns in a single line. It is a simple and effective design, sufficient to entertain but not distract from one’s progress to the view to the sea. The views seaward and back to the house are very pleasant.

The northern terraces with the Circular Beds

In fairness, the owners acknowledge that there is a great deal of work yet to be done and, were it done, this would indeed be a magnificent garden. However, at present, there are many very disappointing areas in the garden.

Paddy Tobin

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