Ireland (Eire)
The Emerald Isle has a unique botanical climate that allows subarctic and subtropical plants to thrive. As a result, Irish gardens showcase planting combinations that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. This tour features 14 of the country’s most intriguing gardens ranging from grand estates like Mount Usher to private contemporary gardens like Hunting Brook.

Gardens of Ireland with Carolyn Mullet


At-A-Glance Itinerary

June 11, Sunday – Arrive in Dublin at Dublin Airport
June 12, Monday – Mount Usher, Hunting Brook, June Blake’s Garden
June 13, Tuesday – Mount Venus Nursery, Corke Lodge
June 14, Wednesday– Powerscourt, Burtown House & Gardens
June 15, Thursday – Ilnacullin (Garinish Island), Derreen Garden
June 16, Friday – Bantry House, Ballymaloe Cookery School, Lakemount
June 17, Saturday –Mount Congreve, Private Garden, Farewell Dinner
June 18, Sunday – Depart or continue travels on your own

CarexTours strives to operate according to our published itinerary. However, in the event of unforeseen circumstances beyond our control or opportunities that would enhance the itinerary, adjustments may be necessary.



Day 1, June 11, Sunday – ARRIVE IN IRELAND

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Dublin Airport and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Monday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.



There’s no better way to begin a tour than with a garden that’s home to 4000 – yes, four thousand – plant varieties. Designed in a naturalistic style, Mount Usher was laid out according to the the principles of William Robinson, the Irish-born gardener, writer, and publisher who advocated wild gardening in the late 19th century. We won’t find many straight lines at Mount Usher. Instead we’ll see clusters of luscious plantings – many from the Southern Hemisphere – along the ambling Vartry River which is at the heart of this romantic garden.

Next we’ll visit Hunting Brook, a 15 year old garden which began its life as homage to Oehme, van Sweden, the landscape architects who popularized huge sweeps of ornamental grasses and perennials in the late 20th century. However, Jimi Blake, the owner who’s an internationally renowned plantsman and collector, has since moved on. The garden now features cactus, tropicals, evergreens, frequently-changing perennials, and woodland gems. The 20-acre garden is 900 feet above sea level and the landscape slopes down to Hunting Brook, from which it takes its name. We’ll work our way past thousands of plants and up the hill to a great expanse of meadow and The Wicklow Mountains in the distance. Hunting Brook is a garden that will inspire us to greater adventure in our own gardens back home.

June Blake (Jimi’s sister) started her career as a jewelry designer and a sheep farmer. Much later that she turned her three-acre property into a plant nursery and made a garden here that truly reflects an inventive and artistic spirit. The structure is quite formal but exuberant billows of plants soften the hardscape to create what garden writer Jane Powers calls “a piece of poetry.” The garden is also a great lesson in re-purposing materials found on site. Paths and walls were constructed from materials on the property; the paving at the front door was once used as the floor in a cattle shed; and steel beams used to outline some paths were salvaged from a hayshed.



Travelers can learn a lot about a country’s gardening culture by visiting a local nursery. So we’ll begin the day with a stop at Mount Venus Nursery which specializes in unusual perennials and grasses. Here we will see the best, new cultivars of familiar plants and experience for ourselves why Liat and Oliver Schurmann’s nursery is beloved by dedicated gardeners and professional designers throughout Ireland. Beyond growing plants, this talented couple designs private gardens and have received multiple gold medals for their show gardens at Irish and English flower shows.

It seems entirely possible that the term “green gardens” was coined to describe the garden we’ll see on our visit to Corke Lodge. A parterre of boxwood, swathes of tree ferns, stands of dark green laurels, and a leafy green canopy overhead. It was created by furniture designer and architect Alfred Cochrane who inherited the property in 1980. He left in place a number of huge specimen trees but renovated the rest of the garden with an eye towards Italy. The resulting woodland garden is classically formal and now looks like it’s been there forever.


Day 4, June 14, Wednesday – POWERSCOURT, BURTOWN

The first garden today is Powerscourt, considered by many to be the grandest garden in Ireland. The house dates back to the mid-1700’s. It was designed for the 1st Viscount Powerscourt and includes a 13th century castle. The 62-acre garden began life as a formal landscape to complement the mansion, with a pond, a walled garden, a number of trees, a fishpond and a grotto. In the mid 1800’s, the 6th and 7th Viscounts added Italianate elements: statuary, gates, urns, stone terraces, marble replicas of classical figures, a huge mosaic made from black and white beach pebbles, a gothic boathouse and a Triton fountain. Throughout the landscape, we’ll see many specimen trees, a Japanese Garden, a Pet Cemetery, a rhododendron walk, and herbaceous borders. Those who are interested in a walk deep into the Deer Park can see the tallest waterfall in Britain and Ireland, an impressive flourish for this grand garden.

Burtown House and Gardens has been in the same family since the early part of the 18th century. The garden was laid out by Isabel Shackleton, cousin of the Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, but it came into its own after the property was inherited by three amazing artists. The late Wendy Walsh was one of Ireland’s renowned botanical artists and many of her rare plants were moved to the garden as her daughter, artist Lesley Fennell and her son James, a renowned photographer, began expanding the plantings. The design style is part Victorian, part Arts & Crafts, and features large herbaceous borders in blazing color, shrubberies, a rock garden, a sundial garden, an old orchard, a walled organic vegetable garden and a large woodland area surrounded on all sides by water. Wildflower meadows are punctuated with sculptures, and woodland and farmland walks abound. Strolls around the garden make it clear that its owners have keen artistic eyes. Burtown has recently added a restaurant where we’ll enjoy lunch.


Day 5, June 15, Thursday – ILNACULLIN, DAREEN

We’ll board a boat for a short ride to an island in West Cork where we’ll see a windswept landscape that’s now a noteworthy garden. Ilnacullin (which in Irish means “island of holly,”) was designed in the early 20th century by architect and landscape designer Harold Peto who turned the rocky soil into a garden paradise. Formal and classical, Peto’s design included exotic plants from afar to blend with the nearby sea and mountains. We’ll stroll around the Italian Garden, note the Japanese touches in the Casita, admire the perfect lawn for croquet and tennis, and examine the plants in the walled garden. There are many rare and notable plants in this garden, including a celery pine, a weeping Huon pine, and the multi-colored Pseudowintera colorata.

One of the most unusual gardens you’ll ever encounter is Derreen, a 60-acre property on the edge of a harbor on the rugged Beara peninsula. It’s romantic, it’s green, it’s magical and spooky. The site was inherited by the 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, who had served as Viceroy of India. He hired workers to drain the boggy soil and plant conifers, shrubs, and a massive grove of tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica, native to Australia and Tasmania. Planted around 1900, they now are over 20 feet high, and form an amazing spectacle of pure green under a canopy of oaks, eucalyptus, rhododendrons and conifers.



Our first garden today is Bantry House which has been aptly called one of the most ostentatious in Ireland. Back in the mid 1800’s, the Earl of Bantry filled sketchbooks with images of grand European estates. He then employed hundreds of workers to terrace the rocky landscape that rises up steeply from Bantry Bay, and he filled them with European statuary. One hundred steps, known as the Stairway to the Sky, ascend to the top of the property, where there’s an intricate box parterre and sweeping views of the bay and mountains. The gardens have recently been renovated, and the Sunken Garden, once home to box and roses, is now filled with airy, contemporary ornamental grasses and perennials. Paths through a woodland are lined with majestic ferns, and the Stream Walk ends at an early 20th century Japanese-style water garden. There’s also a five-acre Walled Garden, formerly a vegetable and fruit garden, but now taken over by self-seeded local plantings, a currently popular trend with gardeners everywhere interested in sustainable practices.

Next we’ll visit Ballymaloe Cooking School which was once the home of William Penn, the founder of the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. This farmland was passed down through generations of Quakers to the present owners, who have been creating new gardens on the site since the 1980’s. In a huge, one-acre organic glasshouse, vegetables of every kind are grown for the farm’s existing restaurant and for students at the cooking school. We’ll have tea here and stroll around 7.5 acres of gardens, a wildlife meadow, and a farm walk. The oldest part of the garden – Lydia’s Garden – features a serene lawn surrounded by mixed borders. There’s also a summer house with a mosaic floor, a classic baroque herb garden with 19th century beech hedges, and a lovely vegetable garden that’s often featured in publications. An ornamental fruit garden designed by Irish Times gardening correspondent Jim Reynolds sports strawberries and apples, and berries galore.

Color, color and more color – in blooms, bark, leaves, and grasses is the outstanding characteristic of the 2.5 acre Lakemount Garden just outside Cork city. It was designed by Brian Cross and his mother Rose Cross, who planted masses of hydrangeas all over the garden in hues of clear blue, purple and lavender, depending on the soil. A conservatory houses an amazing array of tropical plants, and ‘Rosemount’, planted by Rose Cross, is a classic, charming cottage garden. Lakemount is known for its collection of small trees, pruned in a sculptural manner by Brian. The garden is a true plant kaleidoscope.


Day 7, June 17, Saturday – Mount Congreve, Bernard Hickie Garden

Our day starts at Mount Congreve, a plant collector’s dream garden. Mount Congreve is known for its huge massings of plants, acquired over a lifetime by the late Ambrose Congreve, who died just a few years ago at age 104. Congreve’s horticultural mentor was British banker Lionel de Rothschild, who sent him plants in the 1920s and 30s, including an impressive stand of Rhododendron sinogrande, still thriving today. Congreve believed in clustering plants together for effect, and spectacular specimens are everywhere. We’ll take a half-mile stroll along a walk lined on both sides by Hydrangea macrophylla, and admire paths filled with pieris, camellia, mahonia, azaleas, and many others. Mount Congreve is home to more than 2000 varieties of rhododendron; 600 of camellias; and 300 Japanese maples. In Congreve’s Walled Garden, borders are planted to flower by month, and a door in the garden opens onto a pond shaped like the race course at Ascot. In the Woodland, we’ll see a classical temple, a Chinese pagoda, and a waterfall inside a quarry. It’s a spectacular garden, and a testament to Congreve’s plant growing expertise: he won 13 gold medals over the years at the Chelsea Flower Show for his horticultural excellence.

We’ll end our week of garden adventures by visiting a private garden designed by Bernard Hickie, a Dublin-based contemporary landscape designer known for his bold and innovative projects. As he notes on his website,

“Plants fascinate me – form, texture, habit. To combine plants successfully is both tremendously important and immensely satisfying. The joy of seeing these constantly changing creations grow and adapt to their imposed environment is exhilarating.”

Hickie was greatly influenced by his mother, who was a dedicated gardener and landscape photographer, and he traveled with her to most of the great gardens across Ireland. Aside from private residential gardens and large estates, Hickie also designs landscapes for film sets.


Day 8, June 18, Sunday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to the airport at 8:00 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take a taxi on your own from the hotel to the airport.

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"Personalized tour (not too large and not anonymous), personal concern for every tour member, great group spirit, wonderful selection of gardens, good hotels and very good, interesting food, outstanding selection of gardens, personal experiences with gardeners/garden designers. The personal touch."
2015 Tour Participant

“Wonderful tour, wonderful people (well, gardeners make great companions!), wonderful sites.”
2016 Tour Participant

"The tour was nothing short of wonderful."
2015 Tour Participant

“The tour leaders were flexible, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable.”
2016 Tour Participant

“Very thorough, every detail looked after and any issue addressed quickly. A first class experience!”
2016 Tour Participant

Tour price in USD:

Land only:
US$3,950 per person, double occupancy
+US$900 per person, single occupancy

Payment schedule:
A US$1,000.00 deposit is due when you book your tour