Fun Monday participants or not--Happy St. Patrick's Day!
(Our host for this week's Fun Monday, nikki , is all about choices. We can either share some code words that only closest family members know the meaning of or tell about our worst experience with drinking green beer to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Since I have no stories for either, I thought I'd bend the rules, in proud Fun Monday tradition, and take you on a tour of some of Ireland's most beautiful gardens.)
After many years of trial and error, I've figured out that I enjoy traveling by myself and that I want to learn something new from each trip. For many years I was a serious gardener and planned most vacations around visiting some of the greatest gardens in the U.S. and abroad. Many years ago I experimented with a garden tour organized by the Boston based Horticulture Magazine. Each year the magazine hosts a series of gardening tours in different countries. These tours are perfect for the lone traveler who also enjoys the company of a small group of fellow garden enthusiasts. The tour group is usually a mix of home and professional gardeners. Horticulture Magazine takes care of all the details--a horticultural leader, scheduling the garden visits, lodging, meals, and other related sightseeing and cultural stops.
In 1998 I signed on for the Irish Gardens and Gardeners Tour which included private and public gardens around Dublin and on through the southern part of Ireland. We were lucky to have Nan Sinton, a great horticultural educator and writer AND transplanted Irish woman, for our tour leader.
Our first stop was at the Glasnevin Botanic Gardens just outside Dublin. The above inscription on the wall outside the garden was a fitting sentiment for the beginning of a garden tour, don't you think? The gardens are maintained by the Royal Dublin Society. These glasshouses were first designed by Richard Turner in the mid-1800s.
There were over 20,000 plant and tree species on the beautifully maintained grounds and glasshouses. This was my first time to see gunnera growing with its fantastically huge leaves. It is said that Irish farm women always grew gunnera so that their baby chicks could hide underneath the leaves from hawks. Out on the perfectly manicured lawns we saw a planting known as Victorian carpet bedding. A variety of succulents, selected for their color and form, were planted in a design to mimic classic Victorian carpeting. This planting made my back and fingers sore just to think of the hand weeding involved in maintaining this display.
Helen Dillon's Garden -- (Photo above--Dillon on right, our tour guide Nan Sinton on left) Dillon is an author, broadcaster and garden consultant. I first saw her gardens on public television shows like The Victory Garden. A couple of years ago I also attended one of her lectures on color in the garden. So, it was a treat to get to poke around her garden on the outskirts of Dublin. You can see from this photo that the garden is a quite small urban space. You see the "Lord of the Borders" lying in the middle of his lawn, making sure that the visitors don't trample on Helen's plants.
Each part of the walled garden is planted around a specific color scheme with each mixed border displaying a succession of blooms from March through fall. This is a shot of the blue border in the spring. Can you imagine the mix of plants required to achieve this display? It's as though Helen uses plants as an artist would canvas and paints.
On the left, all the plants and shrubs were a riot of red, making some of the best photos of the day.
At the far end of the lawn Helen concentrated on her yellow mixed border. These photos don't begin to capture the amazing textures and shades of yellow. Finally, to rest your senses you could walk through this green canopy and enjoy the graceful feminine statue of a garden goddess at the end. Maybe that was Helen's little joke? Hinting that she is the garden goddess of Ranelagh, Dublin?
I'm afraid I may be overestimating your interest in Irish gardens. However, if you want to see more, come back tomorrow and we'll head south into Counties Wicklow, Wexford and Kerry for some entirely different gardens.
In the meantime, head over to nikki's to check out how other Fun Monday participants are celebrating St. Paddy's Day.
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.