One of the wettest and most benign places to garden on earth, Ireland (Éire) is cradled by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, so in its gardens you will often find surprisingly tropical-style planting. Many of Ireland and Northern Ireland's famous gardens surround historic castles but there are also wonderful contemporary gardens as well as many private garden open during the spring and summer months.
Garden Travel Guide to Ireland (Éire)
– written by Chantelle Leenstra, Garden Atelier, and Catherine Stewart, GardenWriter
NOTE: Although Northern Ireland is separate to Ireland and part of the UK, it is included in this guide as, from a garden tourist’s perspective, Ireland and Northern Ireland would be considered together for travel purposes.
Why Ireland is a wonderful place to visit gardens
Older Irish gardens often contain many historic and horticultural treasures, as the country has a rich history and was also a hotbed for planthunters in the day. There’s follies and fancies a plenty, stately homes of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, glens and gullies that sew themselves so well into the surrounding environment that you can barely detect that they’ve been designed by a person, productive edible gardens and contemporary gardens trumpeting Ireland’s horticultural savvy with joy and dynamism.
You’ll also find several privately owned castle gardens in Ireland which have survived the changing times and indeed are flourishing thanks to embracing a healthy commercial spirit; sometimes mashing together several ideas to attract a broader range of visitors. Luckily at many of these places such as Birr Castle Gardens and Science Centre which is still run by the Earl of Rosse (aka the Parsons family), this has been carried out with care so as to not undermine the spirit of the gardens.
Climate of Ireland
If you’ve never been to Ireland before, you’re probably envisaging gardens growing somehow, despite the extreme weather right? Well, not quite! Despite being at the same latitude as the pine forests of Siberia and prairies of Canada, Ireland has a mild, moist climate capable of hosting plants from regions as diverse as the subarctic regions through to the subtropics. A bit like Yunnan in China, Ireland is blessed with an unusual confluence of good fortune that’s practically heaven for plants.
This fortune comes thanks to the Gulf Stream, or North Atlantic Drift; the tail end of which wraps around this lucky country. In several spots, things are practically balmy – such as Garnish Island, Malahide Castle and Dereen, accounting for the flourishing of especially tropical species in these locations. Across Ireland though, tourists are often surprised by the presence of ‘palm’ trees. While these are actually extremely hardy New Zealand cordylines, you do find a range of subtropical species growing in areas of Ireland including Australian tree ferns and Japanese bananas. However cool climate plants such as Rhododendrons are still very much in their element across the country. And even cooler climate plants can flourish in areas such as Burren in County Clare, which is on a 365 square km limestone plateau carpeted with alpine flowers such as gentians, edelweiss and orchids.
Best Gardens to visit in Ireland and Northern Ireland
Best gardens to see in and around Dublin, and eastern Ireland
Dublin and environs
• Dillon Garden – sadly, this garden is permanently CLOSED since September 2016 as it has been sold.
• Iveagh/Everleagh Garden in St Stephen’s Green Park, Harcourt Street, Dublin – a hedgerow maze, lawns, rockeries and rooteries, fountains a cascade and grottos. Now the home of many live concerts and comedy festivals.
• National Botanic Gardens – only 3 km from the centre of Dublin, this sixteen hectare garden contains the National Herbarium, 20 000 plants and historic wrought iron glasshouses. Entry is free and the gardens are open all year round, with a restaurant, exhibition centre and study hub from which courses for children and adults are run.
Gardens to visit in the eastern counties of Ireland
• Altamonte Gardens, Co. Carlow – formal and informal gardens on sixteen hectares with lawns, sculpted yews, arboretum, bog garden, ice age glen and riverside walks. Entry is free.
• Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud, Tully, Co. Kildare – this garden was designed by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru and attracts 150 000 visitors each year. The Japanese theme continues at this home of the Irish National Stud, with regular Ikebana workshops and the like.
• Larchill Arcadian Garden, Kilkock, Co. Kildare – an ornamental farm and landscaped garden constructed in the 1750’s and later falling into a disrepair which was ironically its protector; as by the time the de las Casas family purchased the estate in 1994, they were able to restore this garden to its original, unadulterated glory without the confusion of sorting through past ‘improvements’ that some gardens endure progressively over time. Includes gothic follies, an artificial lake, farmyard, Ireland’s largest collection of rare breed livestock grazing the land, a wildflower meadow, and formal walled gardens.
• Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford – gardens surrounding a 19th century castle designed by Daniel Robertson (who designed the gardens at Powerscourt) and now part of the Irish Agricultural Museum. A lovely established parkland, but gardens-wise some may find this garden less dynamic than other estates.
• JF Kennedy Memorial Park and Arboretum, New Ross, Co. Wexford – 252 hectares encompassing 4500 species of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world, and planted in botanical sequence. There are also 200 forest plots grouped by continent, a lake, and an Ericaceous garden with 500 different rhododendrons, azaleas and heathers, dwarf conifers, ground covers and climbing plants. Another feature is a road providing access and panoramic views at the summit of Slievecoiltia at 271m.
• The Bay Garden, Camolin, Co. Wexford – created by Frances and Iain MacDonald since 1989, this grass and perennial garden is another recommendation of Jane Powers as an example of contemporary Irish garden design rooted in the traditions of late 20th and early 21st century Ireland.
• Hunting Brook Gardens, Lamb Hill, Blessington, Co. Wicklow – designed around the remains of a Neolithic settlement complete with standing stones within the Wicklow Mountains, this garden is the work of horticultural hot-stuff Jimi Blake. An internationally renowned plant guru, Blake spends several months of the year travelling the world looking for new plants. The signature plant of the gardens is the birch-like Aralia echinocaulis, which he found in Hubei province in China, but it also features a Salvia Blake found in Australia in 1999 called ‘Jimi’s Good Red’, and Lysimachia barystachys ‘Hunting Brook’ with red stems which he also found in China. NB. Sister June Blake’s renowned garden is minutes away.
• June Blake’s Garden, Tinode, Blessington, Co. Wicklow – a contemporary country garden and another essentially Irish garden recommended by Jane Powers, who commends June Blake for her ‘intelligent dynamism that transcends ordinary gardening’. NB. Brother Jimi Blake’s renowned garden is minutes away.
• Corke Lodge, Bray, Co. Wicklow – architect Alfred Cochrane’s wildly theatrical garden with gothic ruins and shaggy topiary, this house and garden pioneered current trends in historical restoration of country houses.
• Killruddery House and Garden, Bray, Co. Wicklow – a grand living, working house, with gardens and a farm. It has been home to sixteen generations of the Brabazon family, the garden’s creation going back to 1682. Today the grounds host weekend farmers markets, garden talks, a film festival and even the Hell and Back run every year. One of Monty Don’s top 10 favourite gardens in the world.
• Mount Usher Gardens and Arboretum, Ashford, Co. Wicklow – Another of Monty Don’s top 10 favourite gardens like Killruddery, this garden includes 5000 species of plants, beautiful trees, shaded winding paths and a small pet cemetery, all with the powerful presence of the artfully manipulated River Vartry running through the site.
• Powerscourt Estate Garden, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow – Ireland’s most visited garden, Powerscourt is 18ha of grandeur including an Italian garden, Japanese garden, pet cemetery and statuary, as well as Ireland’s highest waterfall. Just 35 mins from Dublin. Aspects of the original design date back to the 1740’s when architect Richard Cassels (of Leinster House fame) designed a series of terraces and a circular pool to set off the entrance to the Palladian mansion he created for Viscount Powerscourt. The garden entrance is now through the house, which has been transformed into a shopping complex and garden centre with Avoca’s Terrace Restaurant.
• Victoria’s Way, Roundwood, Co. Wicklow – a unique nine hectare sculpture park created by owner Victor Langheld, who designs each piece before commissioning its creation in India. The tallest sculpture is almost 5m tall, and each sculpture is made of either black granite or bronze.
• Loughcrew Estate Gardens, Oldcastle, Co. Meath – 2.5 hectares of 17th and 18th century gardens, encompassing St Oliver Plunkett’s family church and tower house, Ann Meldon Hugh sculptures, expansive lawns, an adventure centre, coffee shop, and organised walks.
• Dunmore Country School, Co. Laois – a kitchen garden on a half acre block based on the traditional French ‘potager’ or country garden. Creators Isabelle and Tanguy de Toulgoët moved to Co Laois in 1995 and have since been producing almost all the vegetables and herbs they need each year onsite, where they also run regular horticulture courses. This is one of the gardens recommended by Irish garden powerhouse Jane Powers, for de Toulgoët’s ‘partly biodynamic, wholly organic and utterly French’ gardening style which she finds madly interesting.
Gardens to visit in the southern counties of Ireland
• Mount Congreve, Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford – 28 hectares of intensively planted woodland and a 1.6ha walled garden. Over two thousand rhododendrons, six hundred camellias, six hundred conifers, three hundred Acer cultivars and two hundred and fifty climbers.
• Kilfane Glen and Waterfall, Stoneen, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny – an upper garden surrounding the house (closed to the public) but where visitors can admire contemporary artworks commissioned by the Kilfane Trust, a woodland path and a romantic lower garden with a very sweet cottage orné with thatched roof, waterfall, hermit’s cave and meadow.
• Rothe House and Garden, Parliament Street, Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny – this charming late 16th century garden was once the home of a wealthy merchant. The garden has been recreated from archeological evidence unearthed during 2008 showing the original garden layout and the seeds and pollen of plants that grew in the garden. Open daily.
• Annes Grove Garden, Castletownroche (near Mallow) Co. Cork – set in a wooded limestone gorge, this quintessentially Irish, early 20th century garden has a great atmosphere of gothic romance. There are rhododendrons, a river garden, walled garden, wildflower meadow and lily pond, all with the River Awberg running through the gardens. Described as a ‘wild romantic glen’ and the only garden to be mentioned in Arthur Young’s Tour in Ireland published in 1776. NOTE: Annes Grove Gardens is currently closed (late 2016) due to storm damage and expected to reopen in late spring 2017.
• Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens, Shangarry, Co. Cork – a productive garden created on the bones of an early nineteenth century garden, this is the creation of Irish celebrity chef Darina Allen. Supplying ingredients for the cooking school, the grounds include a herb garden, fruit garden with peach, apricot and olive trees, a potager, a yew maze, water garden, arboretum, tree house and shell grotto. Guided garden tours available.
• Bantry House and Garden, Bantry, Co. Cork – like Powerscourt, Mount Stewart and Kilruddery, Bantry House with all its drama and gorgeous views gives us a glimpse into the lifestyles of the Anglo-Irish wealthy ruling class of yesteryear. This garden can get misty – very atmospheric.
• Blarney Castle and Gardens, Blarney, Co. Cork – includes a poison garden, fern garden with over eighty varieties of fern, ice house, arboretum and pinetum, herbaceous borders, bog garden with large groups of Gunnera manicata (arguably the plant species with the largest leaf in the world) and Irish Garden. Plus of course, that famous stone to kiss for the gift of eloquence!
• Garnish Island Gardens (Inacullin Gardens), Garnish Island, near Glengariff, Co. Cork – described by the Irish Arts Review as ‘one of the most important gardens in Europe’. An island garden accessed by ferry, this is an Italianate Arts and Crafts garden created within a warm, humid microclimate. Within this walled garden there is an Italian tearoom and Grecian temple from which visitors can catch very fine views across the bay and toward the Caha Mountains on the mainland. The gardens include a Martello Tower dating from 1805, a Grecian Temple, clock tower and walled gardens. Take the Garnish Island Ferry from the Main Pier in Glengariff.
• Muckross House, Gardens and Traditional Farms, Killarney, Co. Kerry – 19th century Victorian house on the shores of Muckross Lake, surrounded by Killarney National Park. The extensive formal gardens were prepared for a visit by Queen Victoria in 1861. Later additions by the Bourn Vincent family include a Sunken Garden, Stream Garden, Rock Garden. The three fascinating Traditional Farms give an insight into agricultural practices through the ages.
Gardens to visit in the western counties of Ireland
• Birr Castle Gardens and Science Centre, Birr, Co. Offaly – this garden is home to an abundance of rare plants collected by the Earls of Rosse on their travels around the world over the last 150 years. It contains the world’s tallest box hedges, the world’s oldest suspension bridge, the first Dawn Cypress in Europe, over 2000 species of plants, rivers, a lake and waterfalls, not to mention some truly beautiful trees. Recent plant hunting expeditions by the current Earl and Countess include Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Iran, South Africa, New Zealand, China and Bhutan. Another great Irish garden recommended by June Powers.
• Caher Bridge Garden, Ballyvaughn, Co. Clare – a gorgeous little 1 acre garden nestled around a restored riverside cottage on a site that used to be dense hazel and blackthorn scrub, and the design still blends sensitively into the surrounding environs. Plenty of unusual plants including large collections of snowdrops, daffodils, hostas, daylilies, crocosmia, woodland plants and ferns. Open by appointment only.
• Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Bunratty, Co. Clare – built for the house in 1804, the this beautiful walled Regency garden is protected from westerly winds. Restored by the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Program, the planting reflects the way the garden would have been by the inhabitants.
• Kylemore Abbey Walled Garden, Connemara, Co. Galway – a 3.5 hectare Victorian walled garden built 1867 – 1871, this garden is a popular favourite, with guided tours of the grounds and abbey, a gothic church, children’s play area and dining areas.
• Brigit’s Garden (Gairdin Bhride), Roscahill, Co. Galway – a Celtic-inspired garden built by Jenny Beale and opened in 2004, with four separate seasonal gardens based on the festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasa and also incorporating environmental education. Designed by award-winning landscape designer Mary Reynolds.
• Limericks People’s Park, Pery Square, Limerick City, Co. Limerick – a small but well loved city park with a café, playground, floral borders and statues, and a Sunday market.
• Boyce’s Gardens, Loghill, Co. Limerick – award-winning gardens overlooking the River Shannon. Sunken garden, perennial borders, water garden and rockery, rose garden, edible garden, meditation garden, pergola walk, and artist’s studio. Open daily May-October.
• Knockpatrick Gardens, Foynes, Co. Limerick – 100 year-old, 3 acre garden overlooking the River Shannon, now owned by Tim and Helen O’Brien. Garden rooms include large mature trees, pools and water features, roses, climbers, primula path. Open April to October.
• Terra Nova Gardens, Dromin, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick – a half acre garden or woven pathways, colourful perennials, well-designed spaces and quiet green corners. Open March to mid September by appointment.
Gardens to visit in the northern counties of Ireland
• Salthill Gardens – Mountcharles, Co.Donegal – a contemporary garden 180 metres from the sea, with an intimate atmosphere within 100 year old stone walls as well as lovely meadows. As Jane Powers describes the garden ‘The vernacular earthworks are an important part of this Donegal garden. There is a stone arch built onto the south-facing wall that backs one of the vegetable areas, so that you can sit in the shallow alcove and admire the dark, sumpruous corduroy of the ridges on the other side’.
• Glenveagh Castle Garden – Churchill, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal – a late 19th century castellated mansion built as a hunting lodge with walled garden, Italian terrace and Tuscan garden and a lake. Startlingly beautiful walks can be taken through the remote wilderness of the National Park which juxtaposes nicely with the lushness of the gardens.
• Oakfield Park, Raphoe, Co. Donegal – an 18th century restored deanery around which a 4.5km narrow gauge railway with diesel & steam train conveys passengers daily. The gardens encompass formal gardens, walled gardens, ponds, lakes, a lakeside Nymphaeum, tea rooms, heritage trees, sculptures, woodlands and extensive walks and trails.
• Donegal Garden Trail – features over 25 private gardens open by appointment, as well as a selection of regularly open gardens during the spring-autumn season
Best Gardens to see in Northern Ireland
• Mount Stewart, Co. Down, Northern Ireland – a grand, playful and witty garden imbued with a strong sense of its charismatic owner, Lady Edith Londonderry who took full advantage of the unusually mild climate of Strangford Lough to experiment to her heart’s content from 1921 onward. There are formal areas, wooded areas and lakeside paths lined with Rhododendrons, Irises and Gunneras. The walled garden includes a sunken garden based on a Gertrude Jekyll plan, shamrock garden, Italian garden, Spanish garden and Mairi garden. There are also 30m high Tasmanian Gums and endlessly climbing roses. One of Europe’s best, Mt Stewart also happens to be one of GardenDrum editor Catherine Stewart’s favourite gardens in the world. Allow a day to make your way around the garden.
• Rowallane Garden, Saintfield, Co. Down – an informal plantsman’s garden featuring a walled garden, summer wildflower meadow filled with rare orchids, and pleasure grounds full of many rare and exotic specimens sent back from China and the Far East by plant hunters Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward. The design of the garden incorporates the natural landscape, effectively blurring the boundary between garden and nature and includes locally-bred cultivars of Viburnum, Hypericum and Chaenomeles. This garden also includes shrub roses, fuschias, Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia), and the national collection of large-flowered penstemons. The rock garden features a large outcrop of local rocks, as well as primulas, heather and dwarf shrubs. The rhododendrons and azaleas are also spectacular from mid-fall to late summer.
• Castle Ward Garden, Strangford, Downpatrick, Co. Down – set around an extraordinary building that mashes classical and gothic architecture, the Sunken Garden is in Victorian style with formal garden beds.
• Seaforde Garden, Co. Down – historical 18th century walled garden, restored during the 1970s. Hornbeam maze, National collection of Eucryphias, drifts of spring bulbs, tropical butterfly house. Open Monday-Saturday, Easter to end September.
• Botanic Gardens, Belfast – established in 1828. Large rose garden, elegant curvilinear iron Palm House, Tropical Ravine (currently under restoration)
• Glenmount, Dundonald (Belfast) – garden of Nick Burrows – a young, quirky and idiosyncratic garden around a 230 year-old farmhouse. Open May-September by appointment.
• Ballyrobert Gardens, Ballyclare, Co Antrim – a RHS Partner Garden open daily March-October (except Sundays). Extensive plant collection, nursery, 6 acres of gardens carefully designed to blend into the surrounding countryside.
• Richardson’s Walled Garden, Greenmount Campus, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Antrim. Dating from the 1820s, this garden is part of the Horticulture Development Centrewhich has over 18 hectares of landscaped grounds
• Glenarm Castle Walled Garden, Glenarm, Ballymena, Co Antrim. Open daily from St Patrick’s Day on 17 March to mid-October. Glenarm has one of Ireland’s oldest walled gardens. Spring bulbs, summer perennial borders, fountains and sculpture.
• Benvardin Walled Garden, Dervock, Ballymoney, Co Antrim. 2 acre historical walled garden with kitchen garden, parterres, rose garden, orchard, vinery and hothouses. Open June-August (except Mondays)
• Kilcoan Gardens, Islandmagee, Larne – open April-September, Wednesday-Sunday. Cottage garden, orchard, perennial beds, meadows, old rose collection, willow arch and prairie border.
• Downhill Garden and Mussenden Temple, Downhill Demesne, Co. Derry – walled garden, forest trails and a stone temple built on the Bishop’s estate in 1785, right on the edge of a clifftop – a magical setting for a very beautiful building.
• Florence Court Kitchen Garden, Enniskillen – 1930s style kitchen garden surrounding a Georgian-period home, maintained by the National Trust. Home of the ‘Florence Court Yew’, reputed to be the parent stock of all Ireland’s fastigiate yew trees. The nearby Crom Estate has two yews grown together (one male, one female) dating from the 17th century that forms one of Britain’s 50 Greatest Trees.
• Ulster Garden Scheme – private gardens open during the May-August season. Some are open on selected dates, others by private appointment.
• The Argory garden, Moy, Dungannon, Co. Armagh – 320 acre park-like estate surrounding an 1820s Irish gentry home. Spring bulbs, riverside walks, lime allée, courtyards.
Ireland and Northern Ireland Garden Festivals and Garden Shows
• 23rd Annual Sieve Bloom Walking Festival, 29 April – 1 May 2017. A sociable walking weekend with 6-13km walks exploring the flora and fauna of the Midlands with local guides, candlelit dinners, traditional Irish music and a walkers BBQ at the end on Saturday. Suitable for families.
• Allianz Garden Show Ireland, early May. Located at Antrim Castle Gardens in Northern Ireland, this show includes a professional garden design competition with 20 entrants, garden talks including an appearance usually on the Saturday night by patron Monty Don, tea dances and jazz, exhibitors, a scarecrow avenue and edible gardens created by primary school children. A shuttle bus departs from Antrim town centre.
• Antrim Garden trail, Northern Ireland, during May. Around 7 selected gardens are open during the festival
• Bloom in the Park, early June (June Bank Holiday Weekend). This event was originally launched in 2007 by Irish government agency Bord Bia as a promotional vehicle for horticulture. Based on RHS Chelsea Flower Show and RHS Hampton Court Palace show formats, the fair stretches across 70 hectares in the heart of Phoenix Park in Dublin. Ireland’s largest horticulture, food and family festival, this aims to be more than a traditional garden show, bringing together world class Irish food, drink and horticulture industry. One can find Ireland’s top chefs and cooks giving food demonstrations, over 120 different Irish food and drink producers at stalls, full size garden designs displayed, sculptures, botanical art, craft displays, open farmyards and children’s entertainment.
• Midlands Home and Garden Festival, July 2017. The largest garden festival in the midlands, this is located at the house lawn at Belvedere House in Co. Westmeath. There will be over 300 exhibitors with garden and home equipment, Dutch flower sellers, a continental food market, organic food village, dog agility and bee keeping displays, free seminars and fairy village for children.
• Wicklow Garden Festival, April-September. Every summer, over 30 public and private gardens in county Wicklow (and neighbouring counties) open their doors to visitors. This celebration of Wicklow’s gardens includes guided tours, gardening workshops, arts and crafts and poetry reading.
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Almost off the radar in terms of heritage listings at state or national level, yet uppermost in local communities’ minds and affections and emblems of regional pride as meeting places, beauty spots and centres for social or important gatherings, local public parks across NSW are one of its glories. A handful of the hundreds spring […]
I have long been fascinated by the work of the late British garden designer Christopher Lloyd. So it was with great anticipation that I recently visited his Great Dixter garden in Sussex to the south of London. And I must say I was not disappointed by the extravagant use of interesting plant material throughout the landscape […]
A few years ago, whilst researching Polyscias (commonly called Aralia) cultivars for a magazine article, I came across mention of their discovery and introduction by William Guilfoyle during his voyage on the HMS Challenger in 1868. I was surprised to learn this was the same W R Guilfoyle (1840 – 1912) who later became the […]
Wordsworth is of course familiar to all as one of the greatest of English poets, founder of the Romantic movement and Poet Laureate. What is less well known is that he was also a brilliant landscape gardener and his home Rydal Mount is testament to this genius.
I am about to jump on a plane and head off to France to lead a tour of gardens and châteaux of Normandy and the Loire Valley and if you haven’t booked it’s a bit late now! But the idea of travelling across the world to see gardens and gardening that I may well have […]
The first plants that Rudyard Kipling ever knew were exotic ones. He was born in India in 1865 and spent his first years surrounded by palms, mango and banana trees, and lush growth everywhere he looked. But all that changed very dramatically! When Rudyard was five years old, his parents took him to England.
We’ve long harboured a desire to live in a beautiful house and garden in Tasmania. It seemed like a dream – not something that would actually ever happen – but recently several things changed in our lives and we realised a big move could be a reality.
It was May and I was travelling through Italy enjoying a feast of gardens from Sorrento in the south to Lake Como on the north. That’s late spring in the Northern Hemisphere, but the weather was still chilly and, surprisingly for that time of the year in the Mediterranean, it was also wet. But rain […]
“I am the magic ingredient” is written on the back of the chef’s T shirt in the open plan kitchen at Xudum Lodge in the Okavango Delta. Beyond the kitchen, across an expanse of water, is an island where two elephants are tucking into a tree they have just pushed over.
The list of 1001 Gardens to See Before You Die includes the Giverny garden of Claude Monet and it is truly one for the bucket list. For gardeners who love a profusion of flowers, visiting artist Claude Monet’s garden outside Paris is like stepping straight into one of his own paintings. Although when I went […]
It’s been a very, very wet and grey winter in the UK and we felt the need for some warmth and light, so in the first half of February we stole a couple of weeks in Costa Rica, in Central America. It is a country I have always wanted to visit, not just for its […]
Whilst travelling in South America, we came across this intriguing plant by the name of Llareta – the Spanish name for the Yareta – Azorella compacta. It was highly conspicuous on the rocky and seemingly infertile mountainsides in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Only growing at high altitudes between 3200 m and 4500 m., the plants […]
We recently returned from an eight-week odyssey to South America – it was one of those ‘bucket list’ things that had been gestating for quite a while. Once the ‘retired’ flag went up, we were off. It’s a sign of satisfaction putting that ‘R’ word in occupation on immigration forms! Concentrating mainly on the west […]
Coloured foliage can certainly make a statement but like anything in the garden that isn’t green it can be overdone. Too many gold leaves can be glaring in strong sun light and could even create the look of a bed full of sick underfed plants. Variegated foliage overused can create a hectic look that has […]
Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, USA is a sheer delight to visit. It’s one of those places that’s so good that it’s hard to pick a highlight. However, one of my favourite displays was the water lily feature. Once you’ve wound your way through the amazing conservatory and caught your breath again (yes, it’s that good), […]
As I mentioned in my last post there were only two gardens that I really wanted to visit in Morocco, Jardin Majorelle and Hotel La Mamounia, both of which are located in Marrakech. Due to a bout of traveller’s tummy I nearly missed them both which would have been a great disappointment. However, after 36hrs […]
The ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, buried when Mt Vesuvius erupted in AD79, clearly made an impression on 19-year-old American J Paul Getty, soon to become an oil tycoon, when he visited Italy in 1912. Almost 60 years later he built a museum at Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles to display his collection of antiquities – […]
“Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.” A quote by Captain James Cook in reference to him digging for potatoes in his garden? Perhaps unlikely, but the great explorer may have had a greener upbringing than […]
Once again the USA, New Zealand, France, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the UK and Malaysia were all represented this year at the prestigious Gardening World Cup held annually in Nagasaki, Japan. It’s a careful selection of the world’s best and most ‘out of the box’ designers, coming together to show what magic they can […]
The state of Pennsylvania in the USA is a treasure trove for horticulturists. With 30 public gardens within about an hour of the capital Philadelphia, it’s hard to know which one to visit first. Its claim of “more gardens than anywhere on the continent” seemed pretty apt as I travelled around enjoying the lush beauty […]
Like any good narrative, the best walks also have a certain rhythm and structure. There’s a gradual introduction, rising to a climax, followed by a resolution. This is obvious when hiking in mountains or high country, where you ascend to a breathtaking lookout at the summit, before descending back to more gentle landscapes. For this […]
A few months ago I took one of my regular trips down to Melbourne to visit a close girlfriend who lives there. Over the three days I was there, I was struck by how green Melbourne was. Not that it has more parkland that I remembered or that it was mindblowingly sustainable – but that […]
July in New York City. Extreme heat and humidity, heavy traffic, surging crowds. What to do? Where to go? Art galleries seemed a good choice, being air-conditioned. But I could only take so many! So I headed out, and around. First, to Central Park. Spacious, green and shady. And hot, hot, hot.
Geoff and I recently returned from a month in Italy, including two weeks hiking in the Dolomites, the uniquely spectacular mountains along the Austrian border. It was our first time in the Northern Hemisphere and we were both captivated by Italy’s people, food, history and, especially, natural landscapes (albeit re ‘landscape’, our knees were not […]
I have a friend who lives in France and she and her husband owned a beautiful, old, stone house in the Lot in south west France which they have just sold. I visited twice and each time the house, the plants and the countryside left me enchanted. It is, of course, in a very good […]
As a first time visitor to the Chelsea Flower Show in late May, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. So much to see in such a short time. The standard of horticulture, the level of presentation of plants and the sheer variety was even better than I had expected. With so much […]
Twice a year, a unique barge community of barge gardens floating on the Thames is opened to the public to raise money for charity. Known as the Downings Road Moorings or Garden Barge Square, the gardens can be viewed from the shore or river anytime but for a close-up view, you’ll need to visit on […]
There were only two gardens that I wanted to visit when we went to Morocco, Jardin Marjorelle and the gardens of the hotel La Mamounia, both in Marrakesh. I’ll do a separate post about them in the near future but in the meantime I’d like to share some observations about some of the plants and […]
I was very fortunate to visit La Louve in early June this year when taking a Ross Tour to Paris and Provence. How lucky we were with a glorious sunny day and just our group to be guided around this fascinating garden by the owner, Judith Pillsbury. La Louve meaning ‘she wolf’ was created by […]
The reason you haven’t heard from me for a while is that I’ve been travelling around the island of Crete for four weeks! (Well someone has to do it!) and what a fabulous place it was to visit. The scenery was breath taking (particularly at the top of the tallest Mountain on the island, Mt. […]
Flying over the white snowy mountains of the western cape and looking down at one of the 7 new natural wonders of the world – Table Mountain, towering above Cape Town, easily one of the most beautiful cities on earth, you know you are in a special place. I always feel like I have arrived home […]
My partner and I decided to celebrate 35 years together by holidaying in Europe, mainly France. We had always wanted to see and smell the lavender fields of Provence during the heat of summer, so we rented a house in a hamlet near the village of Roussillon. The hamlet was not especially charming, but the […]
Everyone responds to the gardens of Juan Grimm – leading South American designer – and I often wonder at their beauty and the reasons for their success. It is in his plantings and landscaping that we see how he harmonises with nature. In the garden at Melipilla, about an hour south of Santiago in Chile, […]
Louisa Jones fell in love with France and Provence as a student in the late 1960s and lives there to this day. English friends said there were no important gardens in Provence but she soon realised they were thinking of flower gardens and that vernacular gardens which had evolved over millennia were not appreciated.
Many of the gardens designed by Burle Marx have been demolished or languish under neglect but many are lovingly maintained. A few we can visit quite easily, more though are hard to see unless on an organised tour. Of the four I mention here, only the first is freely open to the public. [See also […]
Roberto Burle Marx single-handedly changed the face of tropical garden design while introducing to the world a host of amazing indigenous Brazilian plants hitherto ignored by Brazilians. In the process became an international figure. It’s intriguing to delve into his soul as an artist and plantsman to find out why his impact was so gargantuan.
As someone who came to the study of landscape history from a love of flowers and gardening, I write surprisingly little about horticulture. So, to make amends, this whole post is about some of the plants we saw on our recent trip to the southern Indian state of Kerala.
On a day when all manner of people turned out to publicly and conspicuously commemorate ANZAC Day, marching, singing, praying, dressing up in uniform, waving flags, wearing medals, beating drums, playing trumpets, bagpipes and horns, then gathering noisily with family and regiment mates in watering-holes from Gallipoli to Goondiwindi to Greymouth, I dug deep to […]
As you all probably know I’m a mad keen plant collector and within the constraints of climate and the size of my garden I want to grow as many different plants as I can manage. Having said this I also wish to make my garden an attractive landscape (at least to my eyes) and not […]
It started in 1965 as an illegal development on protected forest land. Its creator was inspired by Le Corbusier’s use of concrete in the city of Chandigarh, yet what he produced is folk art that stands in extraordinary contrast to Corbusier’s modernist city. For the first ten years of its life, it was entirely secret, its […]
As we can read in this forum or elsewhere, gardening from a distance is far from easy, if not mad; awkward to plan and yet full of surprises. Last week I travelled to Germany for not entirely gardening related reasons but thought I might as well take some rare English bare-rooted fruit trees with me […]
My neighbour, artist Ros Goody, has the best crop of passionfruit ever this year, which is odd as her vine, possibly self-sown, grows under and around a jacaranda. It is very shaded and never watered. It is only fertilised if its roots have roamed into a near by garden bed, although there is plenty of […]
Every year in north western Germany the worlds biggest plant show takes place. Essen, the 9th largest German city, plays host to over 1500 exhibitors from 40 different countries. They are all there to promote new plants as well as horticultural technologies, products and services. Essen 2013 just closed its doors, leaving its 60,000 visitors […]
Having been lucky enough to lead more than a dozen garden tours to various parts of Europe, Japan and Australasia over the last 10 years, I’ve recently returned from a garden tour of New Zealand by cruise ship. It’s my first experience of conducting a garden tour this way but I hope it won’t be […]
No I haven’t been to Madeira. But according to Greg Redwood, one of my colleagues here at Kew, I should go there rather than to (mainland) Portugal. This was in response to me listing the places in Europe Lynda and I had hoped to visit while on this side of the world. Oh, well. Next […]
Last year I overdid it, positively gorged myself, on garden travel. But just after enjoying a wonderful weekend at the Melbourne Garden DesignFest in the middle of November, there was one more tour that couldn’t be missed. For the last couple of years, three friends and I have headed off to Great Barrier Island, just […]
At 10 metres above the ground, maybe 10 metres wide, nearly 5 kilometres long, and packed with trees, shrubs and views of Parisian streets, the Promenade plantée is a trend setter and worth a look next time you are in town. OK, so it’s ranked 180th in Lonely Planet’s list of 1524 things to do […]
During our recent holiday on New Zealand’s North Island, we saw ecosystems that were so different to South Australia’s landscapes that they seemed positively alien. The apparent darkness of a glow worm cave gradually brightening to become a miniature replica of the Milky Way was memorable… but nothing was more eerie than the geothermal areas […]
Having to be on the filming location at 4.00am in the morning is not what I call fun, especially because I am not the most bubbly morning person, not at all! But arriving on site with my (also half asleep and driving!) co-presenter I quickly woke up, as if I had a infusion of Red Bull […]
Hilary and I have just spent two blissful weeks of the second half of October in Myanmar and we are still dreaming about this amazing country. I guess everyone can recall Aung San Suu Kyi, the charismatic and incredibly brave leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, but little else. We were no […]
Having returned from a whirlwind tour of the UK, few places could have left a more lasting impression than the wondrous colourful transition of the leaves and progression into a deep winter’s sleep than that of the trees at Westonbirt Arboretum, on the west coast of England.
I am smugly replete. What an amazing two full-on days of gardens. About 327 gardens all up I think, although maybe that was me feeling a little drunk on the heady elixir of high-quality design. Checking the DesignFest book, I see we made it to 17 of the 26 possible gardens, taking in tiny courtyards, […]
One inner-city garden in New Plymouth, near Mt Taranaki on the west coast of New Zealand’s north isle, defies this English style. Te Kainga Marire is a native garden open to the public by appointment for a modest fee from September to April.
The southwest corner of Western Australia is without doubt one of the world’s greatest spots for wildflowers, with visitors flocking from around the globe to see them. However, I’ve got to say that the picture postcard view of vast expanses of everlasting daisies or kangaroo paws can be rather an elusive one for the uninitiated. […]
I recently popped over to Plant Postings to read about the amazing garden tour of Italy Beth is planning for herself and other bloggers. I just returned from a garden tour to England and eagerly wish I could join Beth’s group. As with most things I do, my tour was a bit unconventional.
Back home again after two weeks in France’s beautiful Loire Valley, its sights and sounds are still singing in my mind. Most of all I remember the ducks quacking gleefully as they zoomed in to land on the still green waters of the River Cher, then the soft splashing as they sailed off to go about […]
When I last visited Singapore two years ago, the Gardens by the Bay which opened in June this year was just a building site but now it has been transformed into a botanical wonderland. It is tempting to think of the Gardens as a type of Disneyland but this would dismiss the serious aspects of […]
The wonderful thing about being a gardener on vacation is that, no matter where you are in the world, you meet people who love plants. The climate may be different, the plants may be different, but that joy of all things green and growing, of creating a beautiful environment, also creates an instant connection we […]
Ask someone to think of a tropical island they’ll usually conjure up images of palm trees, white beaches and crystal clear waters. If you’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in the South Pacific Islands you’ll know that these places actually do exist.
Sometimes it is hard to crystallise your thoughts about an event especially when there is so much visual white noise around. I found that after visiting Chelsea 2012. I have attended three Chelseas now, each separated by a period of 2 years and each time I try to distil the essence of the show in […]
If you had to choose one place in the United States that you felt all Americans should visit, one landscape or landmark representative of the “American ethos”, what would it be? I started pondering that question last week after reading Catherine Stewart’s story about her pilgrimage to Uluru (more familiar to us Americans as Ayers Rock), the giant monolith […]
Over three hundred kilometres north of Adelaide in South Australia looms a mountain range with breathtaking natural beauty on a grand scale. As I sit here penning this blog to the sounds of the bird life around me, with glimpses of red rocky outcrops through the trees, I am ashamed to say that like most […]
Well it seems vegetables are hot. And, if they are colourful and ornamental, well they’re even hotter. If you want to see vegetables used to ornamental perfection, then I recommend a quick trip to France. Failing that, enjoy some photographs instead.
Part of my trip to Central and South America a few weeks ago involved a quick trip to Costa Rica. We (a group who were attending the Heliconia Society International conference, being held in Panama) were to visit the OTS Wilson Botanic Garden, which was established some fifty years ago on a small piece of […]
What is it about a rock in the middle of a desert landscape that can create such a siren call? For years I’ve thought “I just have to go there”. I haven’t and I’m not sure why. But last week I finally got to see and touch the famous rock that is Australia’s heart – Uluru […]
A few days ago I was on Grand Cayman Island, on my way to Panama for the Heliconia Society International Conference and my daughter took me to visit this garden. It is just beautiful, a credit to the Caymanese. It has been established for many years, and is also a refuge for the native blue […]
Trebah Garden is in the far west corner of Cornwall, half an hour or so by hedge-row lined roads from Falmouth (i.e. a couple of miles). ‘Trebah’ means house by the bay and indeed the family home looks over the garden down to a gorgeous bay.
The British really do take their love of gardening with them when they move to other parts of the world. I’ve just come back from a short stay in the Haut-Languedoc region of southern France. It turned out that our self-catering apartment was half of a house, and that in the other half lived the […]
What do 10,000 horticulturists and a heatwave have in common? They can all be found in Columbus, Ohio each July. The OFA Short Course expo is considered the melting pot of the American horticultural industry. For the past 84 years the biggest plant show in the USA has drawn a vast collection of suppliers, producers, breeders, […]
I had promised Catherine a story about my incredible visit to the Peony Festival at Luoyang in central China in April this year. It’s a bit late, as I have been travelling since then but here it is at last! Each Spring, a Festival to showcase the unofficial national flower of China, the treepeony is held […]
Some things you see when you’re travelling are amusing or thought provoking, and it’s nice to have a blog like this to share them. I’m very lucky to lead a garden tour to Europe each year, taking in the Chelsea Flower Show and visiting great and small gardens in different countries. On a loose theme […]
Having heard so much about Floriade in the Netherlands, I was keen to experience this world famous European garden event held every ten years and looking forward to two days soaking up the atmosphere in Venlo, a magnet for horticulturists and gardeners alike. Admittedly, I was anticipating a flower-fest of grand proportions with a strong eco […]
I’ve returned from my visit to Ionia, or at least the island of Chios, home of Homer and Mastic and once part of that Ancient Greek empire on the Aegean Sea. I learned many things including why the island has few trees. You will read about the pine forests (Pinus brutia) being susceptible to fire. That’s half the story. […]
The International Garden Festival at Chateau de Chaumont in France's Loire valley should be on the 'bucket list'…
Forget the dogs now it's all about dragons. Most of them have been slain but like Jurassic Park they rise again…
Just back from a week looking at gardens in Tasmania, I am trying to decipher my scribbled notes. But maybe I don’t need the notes to tell you about it. Because certain aspects of the landscape there – designed and natural – come straight to mind. These are, in order, water, rock, plants.
There are some 675 million hectares of forest in Africa, now. This forest (only one tenth of it primary natural forest these days) is being removed at the rate of 3.4 million hectares per year – for firewood, timber, unsustainable food and medicinal harvesting, and urban expansion.
Well at last I’m really ‘talking plants’. As regular readers know, Talking Plants (http://talkingplants.blogspot.com) is a blog devoted to plants and gardens, with an eye for the quirky or scientific, or both. Its first home was the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia, but early this year Talking Plants migrated with my wife Lynda (who adds […]
When I came across that familiar name in the obituary pages of the paper, Loulou de la Falaise I knew who she was. It’s not the sort of name that you could forget easily! It was quite a brief entry. It mentioned that in the 1960s she was a wild child and fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar and […]
When: June 19, 2020 to July 02, 2020
Highlights: Revel in the mid-year summer bloom at Imperial Russia’s most magnificent palaces, estates and gardens in a journey through Moscow...
When: October 05, 2020 to October 20, 2020
Highlights: Delight in autumn’s colourful panorama of traditional Japanese gardens and contemporary designs with horticulturist Helen Young and Japanophile John McBride...
When: June 03, 2020 to June 23, 2020
Countries: Belgium and the Rhine Valley
Highlights: This tour led by horticulturalist Sandra McMahon is a feast of splendid classic & contemporary private gardens, great museums and...
When: April 27, 2020 to May 19, 2020
Highlights: Join Deryn Thorpe, award-winning print and radio garden journalist, and artist David Henderson on this exquisite tour exploring northern and...
When: September 12, 2019 to September 20, 2019
Countries: Australia - South Australia
Highlights: From the Barossa Valley to McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills, explore the rich springtime offerings of South Australia’s gardens...
When: November 04, 2019 to November 20, 2019
Highlights: Japanese Gardens, Art and Architecture with Genevieve Jacobs A journey from Tokyo to Kyoto Discover the timeless beauty of Japanese...
When: September 14, 2019 to September 25, 2019
Countries: Australia - Western Australia
Highlights: **1 DOUBLE ROOM REMAINING ** Join Steve Wood and Sabrina Hahn to visit some of WA's best gardens, wineries...
When: November 16, 2019 to November 26, 2019
Countries: Australia, Tasmania
Highlights: ** Waitlisted - Book NOW for departure in 2020 ** Led by Deryn Thorpe, this tour explores the gardens, agricultural...
When: Available on demand/by appointment
Countries: France - Paris and the Ile de France
Highlights: Andre Le Nôtre, was the visionary landscape designer who created the legendary gardens at Versailles for Louis XIV. His classical...