Kennedy is our hand picked host for our Ireland tours...following is
his recap of the tour along with two pictures sent in to us by Pat,
our guide on the tour. We will put up others as they arrive...
avid gardeners - from the Maritimes, the Prairies and the West Coast -
formed an extremely companionable group for last August's 2003 Gardens
of Ireland tour. Included were a mother and her daughter, an aunt and
her niece, and a marvelous older couple one of whom had spent her
girlhood in Dublin. As with the previous year, we were lucky to again
have local tour guide par excellence Pat McColgan and coach driver
Dermot Geary - two characters of classic Irish wit and charm.
our first four nights we were headquartered at the Hilton Dublin hotel
on the Grand Canal in Dublin. First morning out, we began with a coach
tour of Dublin, taking in many of the city's great landmarks - Saint
Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Merrion Square, Trinity College
and all the rest. Then we proceeded to the National Botanic Gardens,
spread over 49 acres and containing more than 20,000 plant species.
Our guided tour focused on the spectacular glass houses containing
cacti, orchids, succulents and numerous tropicals, including an
astonishingly large Amazon water lily, and on the many choice tree
specimens in the arboretum.
lunch we journeyed out to Trim in County Meath to visit Butterstream
Garden, hailed by House and Garden magazine as "the most imaginative
garden in Ireland." Jim Reynolds, its owner and creator, personally
toured us around, engaging us with humourous tales while showing us
the thirteen different compartments that compose his sprawling
masterpiece of canals, pools, topiary, herbaceous borders and colour-themed
second day offered another two highly refined private gardens. The
morning was spent at the brilliant walled city garden of Helen and Val
Dillon. Despite a busy schedule, Helen accompanied us through the
garden, discussing its design and identifying many of its rare and
exotic specimens. Val took several of us into the heart of the garden
- the composting area - where he showed us his shredder and we all
compared notes on the beauty of shredding.
south through the rolling hills of County Wicklow, we stopped for
lunch at the National Garden Exhibition Centre in Kilquade. Here
nineteen separate display gardens, each with clearly-labeled plants,
offer a range of design concepts from traditional to contemporary.
afternoon was highlighted by a visit to the Bay Garden in County
Wexford. This is the creation of Frances and Ian MacDonald who have
transformed a derelict farm yard into a place of extraordinary beauty.
Like Butterstream, the garden has a series of distinct compartments -
a rose garden, pool garden, a funereal border of sombre colours, a hot
coloured border and more. I particularly loved the silver and grey
foliage border in front of an old brick stable whose doors have been
painted a vivid deep blue.
Wednesday morning we were treated to two exquisite smaller city
gardens in Dublin, each designed by an accomplished plants person.
First we met Carmel Duignan who welcomed us graciously and showed us
around her marvelous compositions of mixed borders, trees and shrubs,
including many unusual varieties grown from seed.
charming, Anna Nolan's suburban garden is likewise home to an
intriguing display of unusual species, including many miniatures such
as her barely-visible dwarf Gunnera. Like Carmel, Anna was most
gracious in explaining her approach to garden design and methods of
heads by then swimming with plant names and gorgeous gardens, we had
"free time" on Wednesday afternoon and went our separate ways to
explore Dublin's attractions. Many of the group ended up in the Abbey
Theatre that evening for a production of Oliver Goldsmith's 'She
Stoops to Conquer'.
Thursday morning we packed our bags and boarded the coach for the trip
south to Cork City. The heat wave that was at this time wreaking so
much havoc in continental Europe was also pushing temperatures in
Ireland well above average. During the trip south we hit patches of
hot sticky roadway where the tar was melting from the sun's heat. The
good news for us was that we enjoyed brilliantly blue skies and clear
sunny days throughout the tour.
stopped en route at the magnificent Rock of Cashel, Ireland's premiere
ecclesiastical ruin. A bit farther south, the haunting ruins of
Bridgetown Abbey, nestled in a lovely rural valley where the Aubeg and
Blackwater rivers conjoin, offered us another glimpse of mediaeval
ecclesiastical Ireland minus the swarms of tourists at Cashel.
evening we checked into Jury's Cork Hotel, a venerable old
establishment on the banks of the River Lee.
we explored the charming town of Cobh with its historic harbour and
hilltop cathedral, and then Fota House and Grounds on Fota Island. The
garden and arboretum here are of international importance because of
the wide range and diversity of plants, including many southern
hemisphere exotics, that flourish in the garden's Gulf Stream
microclimate. Again we were fortunate to be guided around the estate
by head gardener David O Regan who set more than a couple of hearts
throbbing amongst our group.
morning we visited two lovely Cork City gardens - Ann Moloney's
beautifully designed 2-acre formal garden and Catherine McHale's
joyfully exuberant small city garden. Next came one of the tour's
unsurpassed highlights - a visit to Lakemount Gardens in the hills
above Cork with its creator Brian Cross. An accomplished painter,
Brian has created what is described as "one of Ireland's foremost
gardens." And indeed it is. Artistic in its arrangements, lush in its
growth, inspiring in its beauty, this is a truly marvelous garden. We
pulled ourselves away only with the greatest reluctance.
our way home we visited Blarney Castle, but I don't believe any of our
stalwarts kissed the Blarney Stone. There appeared to be no
appreciable diminishment of eloquence as we chatted in the coach on
the way home.
final day (oh, woe!) Was taken up with a journey to the lovely hills
of County Kerry where we visited Muckross House and Garden near
Killarney. The gem of the 10,000 hectare Killarney National Park, the
Muckross estate is one of Ireland's most popular attractions. And with
good reason. Completed in 1843, the house itself is marvelous,
containing a stunning collection of original antique furnishings,
draperies and artifacts, and situated on the impossibly picturesque
shores of Muckross Lake. The 20 hectares of garden are informal in
layout with expansive lawns and woodlands that blend perfectly into
the surrounding vistas of lake and mountain.
a farewell dinner that evening, at which we celebrated the grand time
we'd had together, we bid each other farewell and went our separate
ways with the memory of gorgeous Irish gardens and landscapes vivid in
Donna's Note - please be sure to visit our
for the upcoming tours!