Archives for category: Garden Visits

I was going to write about seeds this week, but Lord knows there is plenty of time for that!. Instead, I’ve decided to write about my little trip to Bellefield last Saturday to the Spring Plant Sale. I say trip, but it was only just a few minutes over an hour’s drive for me to get there.

Baton Rouge

Cornus ‘Baton Rouge’, a purchase from Bellefield Plant Fair

I love little trips like this and, while I enjoy the company of friends on such trips, there’s something very peaceful about going for garden visits on your own. A cup of coffee in a paper cup, an apple, a banana, an orange, a cheese sandwich, directions written in very large print (no GPS gadgets for me! Vive la map!), a camera and appropriate clothes for the weather — that’s all you need to enjoy your little trip. Oh, and most importantly, very strong shopping bags (mine are the ancient Tesco ones that hold absolutely loads) to carry your plants in — you always know the plant sale aficionados because they are carrying empty shopping bags as they come in. Five euro notes and 1 and 2 euro coins come in handy as well.

Upon arrival, do a quick sweep of the plant sellers. Don’t buy anything on your first go round (unless you absolutely cannot resist and there’s only one of what you want). Have a look at it all and don’t be shy to ask prices if they are not marked. Then go back and buy what you like. I’d give the advice not to buy things that you don’t have a place for at home, but I won’t say a word about that because I never heed my own advice. If plants are your true love, then buy anything you like, space be damned.


Hellebore at home

Bellefield has a very nice garden. It’s a funny time of year to go for a garden visit. But if you like snowdrops and early bulbs, hellebores and the like, it’s a great time for you to be out having a look. I’m more of a galantholiker than a galanthophile. Looking at different green markings on the white petals of a snowdrop is akin to trainspotting, if you ask me. But some people go crazy over snowdrops. Daffodils were just coming up; Iris unguicularis was flowering and hellebores as well.

Helleborus foetidus

Stinking hellebore at the Little Garden, grown from seed

Hellebores are lovely. I have one very large specimen of Helleborus foetidus I grew from seed and I have a dusky maroon-coloured one. Both are as sheltered as they can be in my garden. If left out in the wind, they go to tatters. And you have to cut last years’ foliage off in the early spring so that it does’t detract from the flowering.


Lupin wakes up after winter

If I didn’t have my own garden to tend to and another very Big one, I’d be out and about every weekend visiting gardens.

Next time… final touches on vegetable bed? Sowing seeds? Polytunnel ready?


A few weeks ago we went away for a long weekend to County Down to visit the parents of a good friend of mine.  It was a really nice break and I enjoyed it immensely.  It felt like being at my home in America (except there was alcohol involved — hey, it is Ireland after all).

The lovely place where we stayed in Co Down

The lovely place where we stayed in Co Down

But beyond my absolute pleasure at not having to wash dishes or cook for a whole weekend, I got to do one of my favourite things in the world — visit a big garden.  And all the better that it just so happens to be a National Trust garden and one that has loads of mature and fantastic trees.  The phrase ‘pig in shit’ comes to mind; I suppose it’s a bit crude, but it comes the closest to expressing my happiness at being able to visit Rowallane.

The art shot

The art shot

Rowallane was created in the 1860s by a man called Reverand John Moore.  It’s a big demesne-type place located in Saintfield, Co. Down which is about 10km from Belfast.  It’s not as big as a landlord house but is a nice, big substantial house with acres of garden.  There is a lovely and fairly large walled garden around the house and then the landscape beyond is full of mature trees and a rock garden.  The soil must be fairly acidic because Rowallane is known for its rhododendrons and azaleas (not my favourite genus, it must be said, but having seen some different, more unusual species has allowed me to be more open-minded about them).

Rhododendron bud

Rhododendron bud

It is also the holder of the National Collection of Penstemon (which just looked like a pile of mush at this time of year — anyway, I’ve given up on Penstemons after the two cold winters we had.  You can keep your half-hardy perennials, life it too short…).  There is also a nice little collection of lace-cap Hydrangea in the walled garden.  They were still flowering mightily thanks to the microclimate within the walls.

A very cool Rhododendron -- sorry, there was no name tag on it

A very cool Rhododendron — sorry, there was no name tag on it

This time of year (it was just after Halloween actually) was a great time to visit Rowallane (by the way, it’s pronounce ‘Roe Alan’ — I say this because I wasn’t sure myself until I heard my friend say it).  The colour was fabulous.  I’ve mentioned before that there is really no place like the northeastern part of the United States for autumn colour, but I will have to repeat my belief that there is something even richer about the deep, earthy, subtle colours of the autumn leaves in Ireland.

Acer in full colour at Rowallane

Acer in full colour at Rowallane

Rowallane really underscores that belief.

The biggest Handkerchief tree I've ever seen

The biggest Handkerchief tree I’ve ever seen

I have only one complaint about the place — plant labelling.  There were a few name tags but I’d say 75 percent of the time I went looking I couldn’t find a name anywhere.  And I do like my Latin names.  So I must apologise if I can’t name the plants in my photos.  I hope you’ll enjoy them just the same.

Just one example of the hydrangea collection

Just one example of the hydrangea collection

Next time… Pruning living willow structures at the little garden.