I hadn’t planned on posting a blog about Carlow Garden Festival in the midst of it, but with the bank holiday weekend upon us, I wanted to share my experiences while they’re fresh and in the moment in case you’re looking for something to do over the next few days.
I’ve attended five of the twelve daily events that have taken place so far (there were three yesterday that I missed) and each one of them has been quite unique. With a huge amount of willpower I’ve managed to avoid eating the delicious cakes on offer in all the cafés, though did treat myself to a pretty mug from the charming tea rooms and shop at Huntington Castle, as a treat for being so ‘good’. Friendly faces are becoming familiar as we join the tours each day and learn a bit more about the history of the places we visit, or pick up tips and ideas from the various expert garden talks around our county.
I’ve written about the almost homely opening night with Carol Klein, which was followed by a trip the following day to Arboretum Lifestyle and Garden Heaven to listen to Dermot O’Neill give a talk about container gardening. There was no better a place for it as the garden centre was brimming with colourful plants, trees, containers and inspiration.
On Sunday we walked around the ghostly grounds of Huntingdon Castle where we were introduced to the eerie yew trees, the huge sequoia, the renaissance garden, concrete greenhouse and the wonderful perfumes that wafted around the new rose garden. Then on Tuesday I headed off to Altamont Gardens.
The talk and tour at Altamont was different altogether as Seamus O’Brien, Director of the Irish Botanical Gardens walked us around the many features and lake, offering tips that he usually shares with first year horticultural students which helps them to remember the Latin names of trees.
Seamus talked about his travels around the world looking for plants and gave us an insight into his vast knowledge of the flora and fauna at Altamont. This was one of several free events that are included in the festival programme and I think each and every one of us there felt quite privileged to be in Seamus’ company.
Altamont Gardens is such a well-kept secret many local people haven’t heard of its hidden charms, but word is beginning to filter out as the OPW takes it under its wing.
Is it a good or bad thing that such a beautiful garden remains so undiscovered?
There’s something for everyone at Altamont throughout the year from the snowdrops and hellebore in springtime to the ice age boulders, the Slaney river walk, rose promenade, peacocks and 100 steps. There’s also a well stocked garden centre and somewhere to sit and drink tea and munch on home-baked cakes, thanks to a newly opened café run by the nearby Forge Restaurant.
And then on to Kilgraney House and Herb Gardens on Wednesday.
l must admit to a soft spot for Martin and Bryan’s gorgeous home and business. It was the first garden I visited on a Carlow Garden festival Trail several years ago and I’ve been back for a visit every year since. I wrote a post in 2011 that describes the monastic, celestial and medicinal herb gardens and felt blessed to be offered the opportunity to run a season of garden courses in their kitchen garden a couple of years back.
This year’s talk was perhaps my favourite there to date as it was so relevant to the gardens.
Ross Hennessy of Bareroot Botanicals talked to the large crowd about sowing seeds and taking cuttings of herbs (now is the time to take cuttings of rosemary) while his partner Maria Kesso of Iona Herbal showed us how to make Calendula cream and an herbal cough mixture. I, for one, am dying to give the recipes a go and took copious notes and judging by the interest and questions from the audience, suspect I won’t be alone.
Ross and Maria were so free with their knowledge I shared several tweets under the hashtag #CarlowGardenFest that you might like to look up if you’re on twitter. If going the more natural route for treatments and medications appeals to you then blueherbal.ie is the place to look for a full list of practitioners in Ireland. This is an area I’m definitely interested in finding out more about, since the Kilgraney talks.
Unfortunately a broken down car means that I may not get to any more garden festival events over the bank holiday weekend, but if you’d like to attend any of the remaining talks taking place at Newtownberry House and Gardens, Huntingdon Castle, Leighlinbridge Village, Duckett’s Grove or Rathvilly Garden Centre, take a hop over to the Vibrant Ireland blog where Susan has full details. If you’re living further afield and can’t make it, I hope you have a lovely weekend 🙂