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

 

Rocking on!

We have just returned from a few days on The Burren, that fabulous area of limestone pavement, in County Clare where we enjoyed excellent weather, some wonderful walks, some very special wildflowers and, not to be missed, a visit to Caher Bridge Garden – the garden of Carl Wright.

Carl shouldn’t have made a garden here; any sensible evaluation of the site and the conditions would have told him to move elsewhere but he fell in love with the area and has poured his heart and soul into this garden and the garden has responded in kind. Now, a visit to The Burren would be incomplete without a visit to Caher Bridge Garden.

Oliver Cromwell’s appointee, Edmund Ludlow, is regularly quoted: “It is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him.” He might have added that it would be a crazy place to make a garden!

Carl’s garden is situated on north western corner of The Burren, close to Fanore, an area with extensive stretches of bare limestone pavement so that one is, first of all, amazed that anything will grow there and then amazed at what a fabulous selection of wildflowers not only grow but thrive in the conditions. However, to develop a garden on this extremely shallow soil – as little as a few centimetres in places – and with drainage like a colander was a brave undertaking indeed.

Carl cleared the scrub hazel, built raised beds which he filled with imported soil and also grows a lot of plants in large pots – especially his impressive collection of hostas – and he has made a garden which astonishes me every time I visit for the achievement of making any sort of garden at all, for the fabulous stonework, the ingenious use of the natural layout of the ground and for the selection of choice forms of the plants he grows.

I visit The Burren for the walking and the wildflowers but a visit without calling to Carl’s garden would leave me feeling I had missed the jewel in the crown.

If you are in the area do drop in to see the gardens but, in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this slideshow.

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Paddy Tobin

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

The Breathing Burren – A Review

The Breathing Burren by Gordon D’Arcy

It is wonderful to pick up a book and have the immediate reaction “Oh, this is beautiful” – comfortable in the hand, attractive in size, print and illustration – and there is an immediate longing to read. This is how it was when Gordon D’Arcy’s “The Breathing Burren” arrived from The Collins Press recently and my subsequent slow and savouring read proved that my first impressions were not only accurate but even understated. The author admits to an infatuation with The Burren and I certainly confess to a deep awe in the area so the book had certainly come to a receptive reader.

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Gordon D’Arcy is Belfast born and came to explore The Burren, fell in love with the place and moved there and has been resident for over thirty years. His 1999 The Natural History of The Burren has been an inspiration to many who have come to love this unique environment in Co. Clare. The Burren is a landscape of limestone karst, its clints and grykes housing a summer display of flowers which attract both plant enthusiasts and tourists in great numbers.

The author describes this volume as a “salutation” to The Burren and presents a marvellous miscellany of experiences, recorded in his diaries, from many years of roaming the area so we are presented with a distillation of years of enjoyment and experience. As such, it is a book of highlight, of great experiences and wonderful occasions, a compendium of personal experiences which may not be unique but are certainly memorable – the first flowering of gentian in the spring, the incredible encounters with stoats and otters, the rare migrant seabirds, the dawn chorus of Burren birds and broadened and deepened by his recollections of other enthusiasts with whom he had spent time on The Burren. There are accounts of farming, caving and archaeology, all engaging and informative and all very pleasantly illustrated by the author’s watercolour paintings which are quiet and unobtrusive but a perfect complement to the text.

Beyond the recollection of happy events and encounters there is a final substantial section, “Musings” where the author goes far beyond the simple recollection of happy days poses serious questions which he has considered himself and urges us, the readers, and everybody involved with The Burren – those living there, those responsible for decisions which will affect the area – to think about what the area, its value, its use, its worth, its contribution to our culture and how we might care for it for the future.

It is clear that the author is passionately in love with this wonderful area of our country and this love extends far beyond simply enjoying it – which is about the extent of my interaction with the area – to feeling a responsibility and duty of care for it. When you read this book you will understand why he feels this way and you will find yourself agreeing with him very easily.

This is an outstanding book which goes beyond the usual approach of simple descriptions of the natural phenomena of The Burren and is likely to inspire an even greater appreciation for this treasure which is part of our landscape.

[The Breathing Burren, Gordon D’Arcy, The Collins Press, Cork, 2016, Hardback, 304 pages, ISBN: 9781848892682, €24.99 – €17.49 special offer on The Collins Press website at the moment: http://www.collinspress.ie/the-breathing-burren.html]

Paddy Tobin

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

My Favourite Plant

Our local garden club hosted Des Doyle of Lavistown House, near Kilkenny, last evening when he delivered a talk on his favourite plants – a total of forty plants as it turned out! Des showed an admirable reluctance to narrow his selection and I imagine that if time allowed he could have continued to list another forty plants which he loves to grow.

In the course of the talk Des asked us to consider the criteria on which we should select our favourite plant – the most obvious being that it should actually grow for us in the garden! People will have many reasons for their own choices – a favourite colour, a memento of a special day out, a kind gift or a name that coincides with that of a child or grandchild. Immediacy is another influence – what is in flower at the moment is more likely to be favoured that one held in memory or in anticipation.

Some flexibility is called for on occasion: a gardening journalist on a national newspaper once contacted me and asked me to say what my favourite flower was and to write a few lines about it for her. I considered for a day or so and dropped her a line with the information she required. She thanked me but came back the following day and asked if I could make another selection as someone else had also chosen my favourite plant. There is always room for more than one favourite!

Besides the obvious there is one quality which I have found has the greatest influence on my choice of favourites and that is association or connection. Were it an antique or a work of art we might call it provenance – its origins, its history of ownership and how it came into your ownership.

My list of favourites is long; certainly there is a favourite or two for each week of the year but here is a quick selection which has come to mind following Des’ talk last evening.

We started gardening almost forty years ago – marriage, new home and new garden – and our first steps were as often based on best value rather than on best taste. That border which mixed azaleas with dahlias still remains in our minds and we laugh at the incongruity of plants and the clash of colours. However, some memories from those early days are happy ones and are still with us. Two workmates gave us primulas – Primula juliae types – from their mothers’ gardens so we still grow “John Howley’s Mother’s primulas”, all the way from Mooncoin, and “Rosaleen Power’s Mother’s primulas” all the way from Ballyhale. In the great scheme of garden primroses neither of these is special but they have connections to friends, their families and memories of our first steps in gardening. Rosaleen Power’s Mother’s primula, by the way, has crossed with a native primrose, Primula veris, planted nearby to give a pleasant new addition to the garden.

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John Howley’s Mother’s primula – a form of Primula juliae
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Rosaleen Power’s Mother’s primula with the native Primula veris on the right and a seedling between the two in the middle.

This liking for connection in plants lead to my membership of the Irish Garden Plant Society, a group with a particular interest in plant of Irish connection whether raised or found in Ireland or with a connection with an Irish person. One such, which I grow, is Anemone nemerosa ‘Lucy’s Wood’. It is a light blue variation on our native wood anemone and was found by Evelyn Booth, who wrote a flora of Co. Wexford, in the wood of that name near her home in Bunclody. I also have a pink coloured wood anemone which I found on The Burren that I like very much. For the moment, at least, I refer to it as ‘Burren Pink’.

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Anemone nemerosa ‘Lucy’s Wood’ – found by Evelyn Booth near Bunclody, Co. Wexford
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A pink-flowered form of Anemone nemerosa found on The Burren.

Orchids had been absent from my garden for many years; I had always been reluctant to grow them as I imagined them to be difficult to please. A friend in east Cork had the native dactylorhiza growing in abundance in her garden and gave me a few some years back. They are now established in grass in our garden and have increased well but have also prompted me to try others and I now have a selection which is thriving. Another was added last evening when local gardening friends, Noreen and Ollie, arrived to the meeting with a pot containing a nice clump of an orchid I had admired in their garden during last summer – another favourite has been added to the garden!

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A native orchid now settled in grass in the garden.

What is now a particularly fine and beautiful specimen of Cyclamen hederifolium came from Lindy, a friend in Borris. It has especially good foliage and the clearest of white flowers – good white flowers are especially valued in this species. Planted close to it is a small corm of Cyclamen cilicium, a kind and spontaneous gift from a gardener at the Villa Balbianello on Lake Como last autumn. Plants, memories, connections – favourites!

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A particularly fine form of Cyclamen hederifolium
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A small plant of Cyclamen cilicium from Villa Balbianello, Lake Como, Italy.

Snowdrops have been a particular interest of mine for several years and snowdrops of Irish origin especially so. Few are as treasured as Galanthus ‘Lady Moore’. It was kindly given to me by Miss Rita Rutherfoord and she, in the company of her mother, had received it from Lady Moore herself during the Second World War as they attended a Sale of Work at the Mansion House in Dublin to support the families of those actively involved in the war. It has a wonderful connection with the original grower and was a very kind gift. Galanthus elwesii ‘Keith Lamb’ is a diminutive snowdrop from the garden of the late Dr. Lamb at Clara in Co. Offaly. Again, it was a kind gift and will be treasured for its connection. Harold McBride is a keen breeder of snowdrops, among other choice plants, and his ‘Waverley Little Egret’ is a little beauty he passed on to me in recent years. Good fortune smiled on me when a friend suggested I visit an old garden as he thought there were some interesting snowdrops there. As it turned out, those he considered interesting were relatively common but I came on a small population of yellow-marked Galanthus plicatus. There were three different forms and one is especially good, quite distinct, and waiting to be named.

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Galanthus ‘Lady Moore’, a treasured snowdrop
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Galanthus elwesii ‘Keith Lamb’
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Harold McBride’s Galanthus ‘Waverley Little Egret’
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Found in an old garden, a yellow-marked Galanthus plicatus which is presently under the unflattering name “PT01” Friends have suggested “Pacman” as a possible name because of the shape of the marking but I feel something more Irish or to connect with its origins would be more appropriate.

Finally, for this list could go on and on, I have a beautiful form of Trillium chloropetalum which grows especially well and looks quite fabulous in flower each year. It came from a great and most generous friend, Bob Gordon, in Northern Ireland whom many in Irish gardening circles will know well. This is only one of Bob’s many gifts in our garden for I “blame” him for the large number of snowdrop varieties which we grow.

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Trillium chloropetalum from Bob Gordon
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Trillium chloropetalum from Bob Gordon, an outstanding plant

Plants have a value far beyond their oftentimes fleeting beauty. They recall the kindness and generosity of friends; they connect us with other times and people long gone. This makes them especially treasured and certainly among our favourites.

Paddy Tobin

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

Just for interest – those other two yellow-marked snowdrop finds.

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On the Edge!

The Burren is a plant lover’s paradise, an area of outstanding scenic beauty and so a joy to all who visit. When the opportunity arises we jump at the chance to visit, enjoy the long walks and search out the many wildflowers which we could see nowhere else in the country – indeed, one might more readily expect to see some of the plants here on The Alps or the Arctic tundra rather than in other areas of Ireland.

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A roadside area of grassland south of Fanone on The Burren, Co. Clare, an area rich in plants
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A stretch of limestone pavement which may appear an inhospitable place for plants but is actually teeming with interesting species.

After driving from Waterford recently we were walking along the coastline south of Fanore by half past eleven among Sea Thrift, Sea Campion, Thyme, Rock Samphire, Kidney Vetch, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Hemp Agrimony, Lousewort, Common Dog-Violet, Bloody Crane’s Bill, Mountain Everlasting, Common Milkwort, Heath Spotted-Orchid and many others and all with wonderful views of seaside, cliffs, spreading limestone pavements and in perfect weather. The selection of plants which are literally at one’s feet within a few steps of parking the car is quite astonishing and a perfect treat.

A small selection of plants in this area: Clockwise from top left: Common Milkwort, Spring Gentian, Bloody Cranesbill, Lousewort and Sea Thrift with Bird’s Foot Trefoil 

Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. erictorum Heath Spotted-Orchid is a feature plant of this area

We drove to the car park at Fanore Strand – a fabulous location for Sheep’s Bit Scabious later in the season – and then headed off on The Fanore Loop Walk which quickly takes one off the coast and uphill on a minor road for about two miles where it meets with one of The Burrens “Green Roads” which leads north across the limestone hillside before descending to the Caher River Valley, and the road leads back to Fanore. The walk is estimated to take two and a half to three hours but generally takes us longer as I stop every few steps to photographs flowers. Well, this is understandable when one comes across delicious groups of the Spring Gentian, Mountain Avens, Water Avens and a super abundance of the Early Purple Orchid many of which are pink and we have found the occasional white one.

Along the Green Road on the Fanore Loop Walk with limestone pavement to either side, clint and gryke, and views to the sea and the Arran Islands. 

With, clockwise from top left:  Early Purple Orchids – three different colour forms shown here – Water Avens, Mountain Avens and Spring Gentians and all in great numbers and easy to find 

Back on the Caher Valley road we made our way back towards Fanore but, as the road passes Carl Wright’s Caher Bridge Garden, we dropped if for a visit. It was not part of our plan as we were to be back in Limerick for dinner but when we saw Carl we couldn’t miss the opportunity for a chat and walk around. As ever, it was a delight to visit with many interesting plants and the whole garden a fabulous creation made on The Burren limestone pavement.  We eventually got to that dinner, well over an hour late, and were the last to leave the restaurant late that night. A lovely end to a wonderful day!

Caher Bridge Gardens, Carl Wright’s creation on The Burren.

On the following day we drove to Doolin and parked the car there – I recommend parking on Fisher Street as it is very convenient to the Cliffs of Moher walkway and also to the bus stop for, The Paddy Wagon, to take us to the Visitors’ Centre at the Cliffs of Moher. This is a twenty minute or so drive at 6 Euro per person which I thought was good value for the convenience it provided – linear walks can be a nuisance as there is always the difficulty of returning to the car. The Cliffs of Moher hardly need my recommendation as they are so well known and so justifiably highly regarded and live up to the hype and praise they receive as they are jaw-droppingly impressive and beautiful.

As a cliff-top walk it was no surprise to see Sea Thrift and Sea Campion in profusion but it was spectacular to see them in such number and making such a pretty addition to the views.  Along the way there were also generous patches of orchids and even an early Sheep’s Bit Scabious.  It is quite a competition for one’s senses on this walk with the challenge of fabulous views and interesting flowers. The stretch of the walk nearer to Fanore featured Sea Mayweed, Common Scurvy Grass, Tormentil and the ever attractive Ragged Robin. It is an easy, interesting and very pleasant walk.

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Sea Thrift providing a beautiful foreground to the view of the Cliffs of Moher

Along the Cliffs of Moher

If you haven’t been to The Burren and wonder where to start you could do as we did on our first visit and join Tony Kirby of Heart of The Burren Walks for a guided walk. Our first visit to The Burren was a weekend special organised by The Old Ground Hotel in Ennis – a fabulous hotel, by the way – when Tony came and gave an introductory talk on the Friday evening and collected us in a minibus on Saturday morning, with packed lunch provided by the hotel. We had our walks, a picnic, and were brought back to the hotel for dinner. This was repeated on the Sunday.  We have repeated this arrangement several times since with The Old Ground Hotel for accommodation but making our own arrangements for the walks. Tony has a very helpful handbook guide to The Burren with information on a range of walks which is an excellent resource.

So, put on your walking boots and enjoy the experience.

Paddy Tobin

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

On the Rocks!

Caher Bridge Garden is most certainly on the rocks! It is located on The Burren, a vast area of exposed expanses of limestone pavement, one of the  most beautiful places in the country and an area which hosts an intriguing and exquisite selection of wild flowers. Here we will find plants which we might more normally expect to encounter on The Alps or within the Arctic Circle. Even a walk along many roads here will present an astonishing selection of orchids while in some areas they can be found in great numbers which will astound and delight the visitor.

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An example of Carl’s expert stonework: A Moongate reflecting the arch of the bridge over the Caher River which flows through the garden.

It is an old adage of garden design that one should take account of the spirit of the place – the “genius loci” – when planning one’s garden so that what develops “fits in” with its location. This all sounds remarkably easy, and for most of us it is, but when one’s surroundings are so dramatically peculiar and outstandingly beautiful the challenge could very well be daunting and even off-putting. However, Carl Wright has embraced the challenge of his surroundings with enthusiasm because, quite simply, he truly loves the place.

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A gentle planting reflecting the natural vegetation of the area

Some people might comment that their garden is on limestone but for Carl his garden is limestone with the limestone pavement of The Burren literally the surface on which he has to work. This might sound an impossible task, to garden on bare rock, but The Burren is very deceptive in this manner and the often heard quotation from Edward Ludlow, one of Oliver Cromwell’s general’s was very misplaced. He said, “After two days march, without anything remarkable but bad quarters, we entered into the barony of Boireann, of which it is said, that it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him.”  However, in fairness, he continued, though it is not often added to the quotation, “and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing.”

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Behind the house, as the land rises up the slope, walls and raised beds have been constructed to accommodate Carl’s interesting collection of plants

Carl discovered the truth of this latter comment for, while the bare limestone might lead one to believe little would grow there, his garden, as he found it, was a dense impenetrable copse of hazel which he had to clear by hand before gardening could even begin. It has been the work of many years, undertaken piece by piece, as a little more of the plot was converted to garden and, while most of the hazel has been cleared, discretion proved the best course on some occasions and a few specimens of considerable size have been allowed remain and maintain the spirit of The Burren.

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The rising ground to the rear of the house has  been manipulated cleverly to provide planting areas

Growing on the bare limestone would be an impossible restriction for the keen plantsperson – and Carl is undoubtedly one of those – so he has built many walls and raised beds which have allowed him to hold soil and provide planting locations for his eclectic selection of plants. The soil has had to be brought in from elsewhere though this has brought problems on occasion as some deliveries have brought with them pernicious weeds, builder’s rubble and other undesirable content so that Carl now sieves each delivery before putting it into his raised beds. Working with stone seems not only to be a great love for Carl but is an area where he displays wonderful skill and taste and the quality of wall construction and features is one of the great strengths of the garden.

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These beds hold a collection, several collections, of choice plants which Carl pursues with a single-mindedness and determination and enthusiasm that only a plant lover would understand. There is a significant selection of snowdrops for the early season, an expanding collection of daffodils of Irish origin follow and the number of hostas, many pot-grown, continues to expand. Other special favourites for Carl are Brunneras and ferns and, of late, hawthorns and hydrangeas. I’m sure other plant groups will be introduced as he progress up the hill, clearing further areas of hazel and creating more and more planting situations.

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Almost as though untouched by human hand – the existing hazel trees have been underplanted with an extensive collection of ferns.
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The iconic moongate at Caher Bridge Garden.

While a visit to The Burren is a fabulous experience it is fair to say that a visit to Carl’s garden certainly adds to the experience and I recommend you seek it out should you be in the area. We were on The Burren last week and dropped in for a flying visit but will be back again.

You will find information on Carl’s Facebook page!

Paddy Tobin

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

 

 

 

 

This is The Burren

A beautiful book on a beautiful part of Ireland is simply perfect!

My introduction to The Burren was one of my most enjoyable holidays ever. It was organised by The Old Ground Hotel in Ennis and combined a stay in the hotel with an introductory talk on The Burren by Tony Kirby of Heart of The Burren Walks, followed by a few days of guided walks in his company. It opened up a treasure to me and I still reflect on it with great happiness. We have returned on several occasions since, always staying at The Old Ground because it is nice to sit down for an excellent meal at the end of a long day’s walking. Each visit has been a joy. We go to enjoy the scenery, the completely different and almost crazy environment that is The Burren where flowers which are at home on the Alps, the Mediterranean and the tundra are all found within a stone’s throw. Then, of course, there are the other regular and not to be missed stops – a visit to Carl Wright’s Caher Bridge Garden (Nice photograph of Carl in the book!) and coffee and cake at Catherine O Donoghue’s An Fear Gorta restaurant in Ballyvaughan – though I think I am showing my age somewhat as Catherine has handed over the reins to Jane for quite some time now but, more importantly, the food and the people are wonderful.

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It is no wonder that Karsten Krieger decided to make his home there. He had visited several times – to see what had inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth – and eventually settled there. Landscape photography is Karsten’s passion and he has previously published two books which have featured his work: “The West of Ireland” and “Ireland – A Luminous Beauty” (with others). In this, his latest book, “This is The Burren” he has captured the essence and beauty of this area with wonderful landscape photographs and intimate portraits of plants, animals, insects and people, all of the beauty of The Burren.

The photography is excellent, something which hardly needs to be said given Karsten’s previous volumes of work, and the text is, as one would say, short and sweet, sufficient to weave it all together, fill in the background and give us a brief overview of this wonderful area. It is a quick read but a slow book as the photographs will hold your attention and demand you gaze at them with longing to be there.

The subject matter is wonderful and Karsten has presented it magnificently! You will enjoy it and, if you haven’t been to The Burren, you will be making plans to do so.

[This is The Burren, Karsten Krieger, The Collins Press, Cork, 2015, Hardback, 175 pages, €19.99, ISBN: 978-1748892514] http://www.collinspress.ie/ – available by mail order. 

Paddy Tobin

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