Search results for

carlow garden festival


Carlow Garden Festival Opens – We’re in for a treat!

July 26, 2014


Carlow Garden Festival Opens – We’re in for a treat!

Carol & Dee

Carlow Garden Festival has begun and what a fantastic way to open it with none other than the queen of plants-women, Carol Klein. If I gush a bit during this post I hope you’ll forgive me as having spent two days at local garden related events with another nine in store, it’s difficult not to!

Carlow Garden Festival Opens – We’re in for a treat!

Carol’s cat


The ballroom in the Woodford Dolman hotel in Carlow was packed with young and old who’d come to see and hear Carol talk about her cottage garden at Glebe House in Devon and we weren’t disappointed.

Carol is inspirational and so very down to earth and the way she talked us through her slides with her friendly Lancashire lilt clearly showed us all that her enthusiasm of plants and nature isn’t just for the telly.

Carol lives and breathes this lifestyle and her warmth and humour shone through. If anyone there hasn’t been watching Gardeners World up until now, I’m sure they all will be in future. Despite the exhausting schedule she found herself under since arriving in our county, Carol took the time to chat, sign books and autographs, as well as answer any questions thrown at her and have her photo taken with whoever requested one during the evening.

I enjoyed reading Irish Farmerette’s thoughts about the evening too which mirrored my own. It was also good to finally meet up with the younger horticulturists of Waterford IT as well as David Corscaddon of the Beyond The Wild Garden blog who I’m sure will be sharing his experiences of the evening and garden festival soon. Carlow Garden Festival Opens – We’re in for a treat!

Eileen O’Rourke, the extremely hardworking CEO of Carlow Tourism introduced Carol and admitted that even she has now begun incubating plants as a result of being amid so many beautiful gardens in Carlow. It’s hard not to take an interest when surrounded by so much inspiration.

Carlow Garden Festival Opens – We’re in for a treat!

Never mind the stretch limo when there’s a bench

Carlow Garden Festival Opens – We’re in for a treat!

Inspiration Garden at Arboretum

Which leads me to the first of the day time talks of the garden festival that took place at Arboretum Lifestyle and Garden Heaven, where Ireland’s very own Dermot O’Neill gave his tips on successful container gardening before giving a guided walk through the Inspiration Gardens. There’s a reason this garden centre has earned it’s Five Star rating and I’m not only proud to say I spent many weeks there under the guidance of plant experts Eamon Wall and Ger Heary undertaking my horticulture work experience, with over 70 people on their books, Arboretum is one of our largest local employers.

Carlow Garden Festival Opens – We’re in for a treat!

Dermot O’Neill talk at Arboretum during the 2014 Carlow Garden Festival

The garden centre itself is bursting with flowers, plants and trees of such good quality it’s difficult not to spend any money there and hours can be lost winding your way through all the pathways, gazing at the displays, trying to decide what and how to plant up your garden.

Carlow Garden Festival Opens – We’re in for a treat!


Not wanting to overload you with too much information now, I’ll be attending a few more talks and demos over the coming days, starting with Helen Dillon at Huntington Castle which I’m really looking forward to attending (click the link and you’ll see why).

I’ll keep you posted about what you can expect over the next few days if you decide to visit Carlow and its surrounding villages for this or future festivals.

Oh and before I forget to mention it, we still have two more competitions running this week. Take a look at the end of this post linked her for more information on those.

Have you visited any talks or gardens in Carlow? Are you planning to see what we have on offer here this year?


Carlow Garden Festival: What’s On & Win Tickets, Trees & Tools

July 13, 2014
Carlow Garden Festival

16 trails, talks and walks will be taking place at the 2014 Carlow Garden Festival

Carlow Garden Festival ~ Friday, 25th July – Monday, 4th August 2014

Green and VibrantVery soon Carlow will be awash with colour, scent and perfume as gardens all around the County open their gates to the 13th year of the Carlow Garden Festival.

During the 11 day festival that will be celebrating all things green and growing, I’ll be joining forces with Susan FitzGerald of the Vibrant Ireland blog in our new collaboration GREEN and VIBRANT as we share photos, tips and tales from some of the various walks and talks included this year.

If you’d like to keep up to date with what’s happening throughout the festival, just enter the #CarlowGardenFest  into any of your social media channels and all of our (or anyone else’s if they’ve tagged them) posts and images about the festival will come up for you. If you’re attending any of the events at the festival and would like to share them with us all, use that hashtag with your posts and we’ll be able to find and share your updates too. We may even find you there 🙂

Have a Go at Winning Three Prizes to Celebrate Carlow Garden Festival 2014

To celebrate this wonderful event in Ireland’s gardening calendar and in my home town, we have three prizes to offer you. Carlow Garden Festival PrizesPrize #1 First of all and with thanks to Carlow Tourism,  if you’d like to win two tickets to the opening night of the Garden Festival on Friday, 25th July where Carol Klein of Gardeners World will be sharing her secrets on creating a cottage garden, just leave a comment in the comment box at the end of the post that include the words Carlow Garden Festival. The winner’s name will be randomly drawn on the evening of Saturday, 19th July. These tickets are worth €24.50 each and if you’re not a gardener yourself, perhaps you have a friend or family member who’d love to win them. 

Prize #2 Secondly, if you’d like to win a gardening tool set carefully chosen by Eamon Wall, Garden Centre Manager of the Arboretum Lifestyle and Garden Centre who kindly donated the hand fork, trowel and secateurs, take a look at the Vibrant Ireland blog for more details. This is a lovely tool set that would suit someone starting out or a gardener who’s looking to replace or add to their gardening kit. All you have to do is leave a comment on Susan’s blog before 6pm on Friday, 1st August.

Prize #3 Lastly, you could win a miniature family Coronet apple tree, ideal for small or patio gardens, also donated by the Arboretum Lifestyle & Garden Centre. To be in with a chance to win this prize, share a photo of your own from your garden or any of the Carlow garden trail gardens or Carlow Garden Festival events you attend and include the hashtag #CarlowGardenFest.

You can share your photo(s) before 9pm Saturday, 2nd August via your Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts. Just remember to include #CarlowGardenFest so that we can find them and to ensure you will be entered into the draw. You can also post your photos to either the Vibrant Ireland Facebook page, or to the Greensideup Facebook page. You may enter on all three social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as many times as you like and each platform’s post will be counted as a separate entry. The winner can collect their tree at Duckett’s Grove at the Teddy’s Picnic  (a great opportunity to try out some of Madeleine’s wonderful cake while you’re there) or at the Arboretum.

See below for terms and conditions.

Carlow Garden Festival

Carlow Garden Festival 25th July to 4th August 2014

June Blake

Carlow Garden Festival is a wonderful opportunity for budding and experienced gardeners or nature lovers to get practical advice from a range of informative workshops while visiting the many beautiful gardens in the county.

Gardens will be in full bloom and with the majority of gardening work completed, it’s the ideal time to relax, admire the work of others and make gardening plans for the coming months and year ahead. I won’t say too much more about it as both the Vibrant Ireland blog and The Sodshow have full details, but here’s a programme of events for you to have a peek at and see what takes your fancy…

Carlow Garden Festival 25th July to 4th August 2014

Over 16 tours, talks and walks catering for all ages and budgets

Carlow Garden Trail

If you’re in or close by to Carlow, we have a fabulous Garden Trail that’s worth a look at with 18 different gardening attractions as well as two feature gardens in the surrounding counties of Kildare and Wexford. The trail includes old gardens that have been lovingly restored and maintained throughout the years, and smaller gardens which are maturing beautifully with time, where visitors can enjoy guided tours, usually with the owner or head gardener. Award winning garden centres and forest parks complement a visit here. Accommodation

Kilgraney Country House & Herb Gardens

A cottage garden at Kilgraney House

Looking to stay? From the award-winning Step House hotel and Kilgraney Country House Herb Gardens to local B&Bs and town centre hotels, there are lots to offer in Carlow catering for all budgets. There are also some great value accommodation breaks along with details of the festival programme which can be found at or alternatively ring Carlow Tourism on 059-9130411 for further details.

Public Transport Carlow is on the direct train line from Heusten Station in Dublin and is on a national coach stop off point too. If a group of you are tempted to travel this way to save on your carbon  footprint and are wondering how you’ll get from garden to garden, Bianka MacDonald runs Carlow Tours, a personalised day trip service and is well worth a call.

Terms & Conditions for the competitions: 

Pompom DahliaAnyone is eligible to enter all three of giveaways. All three winners will be chosen at random and you could potentially win one or three prizes! These prizes are not exchangeable for any monetary value.The Carol Klein tickets may be be collected at the door on the night of the event. The tools can be posted anywhere in ROI, but not further, sorry.  The Coronet Patio Apple Tree winner will have to collect their tree at The Teddy Bear Picnic at Duckett’s Grove on the 2nd August, or at the Arboretum Garden Centre, Leighlinbridge, County Carlow by 31st August 2014. You retain all rights to your photographs, knowing that we may also share them, fully credited to you, on social media and perhaps on a blog post on, or

Best of luck and if you’re visiting any of the gardens during the festival and you spot Susan or me there, please come and say hello, we’d love to see you 🙂

Competition Winner

The winner of the Carol Klein tickets has now been drawn and was randomly chosen by using the number generator. On this occasion, No 13 was the lucky number. Congratulations Denise Delaney, I’ve emailed details to you and thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment. Hopefully we’ll see you at #CarlowGardenFest


Vegetable Garden

Have we been selling the idea of gardening all wrong?

December 31, 2020

Are we selling the idea of gardening all wrong?

Have we been selling the idea of gardening all wrong?

I published my last article back in May when we were beginning to come out of our first COVID-19 lock-in, a surreal time for many. Back then we were hoping the global pandemic would be over in a few months. Our own youngsters were wistfully dreaming about the festivals and concerts due to take place during the autumn. A winter lock-in seemed inconceivable if we continued to be ‘good’ and mindful of one another. 

Have we been selling the idea of gardening all wrong?Instead, as we stand on the threshold of a New Year, we’re heading into our third ‘wave’ and another full Level 5 lock-in as cases continue to rise at alarming rates. Even with the promise of vaccines in sight, we’ve still a long way to go before life returns to anything resembling our old ‘normal’. For some, that might never happen given the trauma this pandemic has caused due to loss.

As we take a minute to reflect back over the past months before thinking of the future, one thing has become clear. Gardening and nature proved to be far more important to our health and well being than many had ever considered. 

When the pressures of long commutes were eased due to workplaces closing or relocating to home offices, we were able to spend more time outside during the glorious few weeks of an early summer. For those of us lucky enough to have garden spaces, or somewhere outdoors to stretch our legs within our allowed kilometre range, we were able to appreciate the positive benefits that nature provides. Our hearts went out to those unable to share these simple outdoor pleasures and some thought seriously about moving out of their urban apartments to seek greener pastures.



We no longer felt that gardening was a chore that had to be undertaken in the few, precious hours of our time off during evenings or weekends. We were able to enjoy the simple pleasures of working with our hands outdoors, or simply sit in the soft summer breeze, noticing dew drops on the grass or the way the sun lit up the leaves on silvery branches.

We were afforded the time to embrace the biophilia effect and it helped us all

According to biologist Edward O. Wilson’s hypothesis, ‘we are innately and emotionally attracted to other living organisms’ and when we love, or are attracted to others, our oxytocin  hormone is released, filling us with a sense of well being, relaxation and happiness.

Cooking and eating can have a similar effect, releasing endorphins that make us feel good. This has got me wondering over the years, have we been talking about gardening in the entirely wrong way when discussing our green fingered pleasures? Has the way we explain the needs of a garden been putting people off experiencing this magical healing for themselves? Are we self sabotaging our trade?

Have you noticed how celebratory chefs and cooks talk about food, unconsciously or not, beguiling us to want to try out new recipes or ingredients as we allow our imaginations to wander? Sometimes it's good just to be seduced by the particular cheeses spread out in front of you on a cheese counter. - Nigella Lawson

Perhaps we should be placing more emphasis on the outcomes of gardening rather than how we get there…

Rather than saying “let’s go out and plant a wildflower meadow because it’s good for biodiversity lets try rephrasing to “Sometimes it’s good just to be seduced by the particular wildflowers spread out in front of you on a lawn.”  Once it’s there the wildlife will follow.

It’s just a thought…

Thankfully, when Ireland began to open up again in June, gardening projects were recognised for their usefulness along with feelings of well being and healing, allowing those of us working in the industry to get back outside and share it’s pleasures. Hopefully over the coming months, more will be tempted to feel the softness of cool compost as they sow their first seeds and experience the pleasure of watching their young seedlings stretch out and grow as they nurture them.

A full gardening diary

It’s been a roller coaster year of emotions for us all. As I mentioned in the last blog post, I went from a full diary to an empty one overnight. This unexpectedly turned back to a full calendar of events as social, therapeutic and community gardening projects returned with more vigour than ever before.

Are we selling the idea of gardening all wrongForóige were one of my first clients to encourage members to get their hands dirty with their Just Grow project in County Waterford. Working with children under the new social distancing guidelines, summer camps were held where 11 and 12 year old’s were allowed to see one another again for the first time since March. This was followed by older teen camps in Ferrybank then a new community garden project in a direct provision centre in Tramore. Another community garden was created within Portlaw allotments, where several mum’s and grannies have been able to bring their autistic spectrum children along to join the fun and learning.

When community education opened up with the Kilkenny & Carlow Education Training Boards, adult coordinators were keen to get members back into gardens, with some of my old and new projects opening up at the Irish Wheelchair Association, Merchants Quay Ireland, SOS Kilkenny and Respond Housing. 

Have we been selling the idea of gardening all wrong?Disability groups were one of the last to return to their day centres, giving their carers a break and introducing a social element back into the lives of this often neglected community. Adapting to the new ‘normal’, I worked with Carlow County Development Partnership (CCDP) to provide online classes to two local centres. Interactive, online craft and growing sessions were provided, with up to four pods of people joining each zoom session again, giving people the opportunity to see friends they hadn’t connected with for some time during these practical, nature based sessions. It’s only right to  acknowledge that these classes wouldn’t have been possible without the support and help provided by the local care assistants within the centres. 

Finally, I’ve been able to put my new QQI Level 7 Landscape Design Certificate into practice for a really enjoyable community design project thanks to CCPD support. I was on the verge of quitting the Waterford IT course in April, feeling incredibly stressed by the sudden switch to online learning that none of us had quite mastered. Thankfully I didn’t and apart from everything else, now have a much greater empathy for students and educators having experienced both sides through these strange times.

Are we selling the idea of gardening all wrong?

Who knows what will happen next, how long this virus will stick around or how it will further affect our lives and livelihoods. If anything I’m learning about resilience. We’re immensely looking forward to seeing our UK based parents once more and hoping that everyone will stay healthy in the meantime. We’re treasuring the bonus time we’ve had with our three young adults at home this year. 

Moving forward I’ll be giving some thought about how I mention the jobs we need to do in our gardens, and instead of making them all about work, will be thinking more about the vision and how we get there. If you can help with any of those phrases, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

For now, I’d like to finish up 2020 by wishing wishing each and every one of you a very Happy and safe New Year and thank you for your continued support as I head into my twelfth year with Greenside Up. 

By it’s very nature, let’s look forward to 2021 with hearts full of hope, it’s what keeps most up us gardeners growing.

Dee x





Dear Garden

October 15, 2018

A love letter

The learning never ends

I wrote about my decision to return to adult education a couple of years ago and this May, I finished the Advanced Certificate in Horticulture, achieving the result that I’d set myself. It was hard work, juggling studies and assignments with family life, tutoring privately and with the Education Training Board, working with The GROW Observatory and volunteering with Community Gardens Ireland, especially having set my bar so high, but I enjoyed it all and with each passing month, my confidence grew. Towards the end while I was sitting my exams and feeling the mounting pressure, I realised that I was juggling over 14 different long and short-term projects. The world record for juggling balls is 11 and I knew that with one slip, all of those projects might all come crashing down around me.

And then it was over. My course finished, projects began to end with the onset of summer and I could breathe again. But rather than enjoy the time, I began to worry about how I could share the financial burden that can weigh Mr G down. It was becoming clear that an extra qualification wasn’t going to change our family circumstances in any immediate way, shape or form and volunteering and working mostly part-time simply wasn’t sustainable.

When the optimism fades

My usually optimistic mood began to muddy, and as I sat one day in tears, frustrated by my inability, I was transported back 15 years to our son’s first week in primary school.

After I collected our tired little boy from the gates and drove up the hill towards home, he began to sob “Mummy, why can’t I read and write, you told me when I went to school I’d be able to read and write”. Mortified that my words had caused his anxiety, I stopped to hug and reassure him that it would come, with work and patience.

The memory jolted me out of my desolation and helped me to realise that I too, was suffering from a similar, though self-inflicted, misunderstanding. As soon as I held those precious exam results in my hand, I believed that I would immediately land myself one well paid piece of work that would solve all our problems and stop me chasing my tail. But of course it didn’t and just like our wee little fella way back then, I was physically and emotionally drained.

One of my last assignments was to write a full business plan for Greenside Up and in doing so, I came up with a social enterprise idea that offered a more sustainable way forward. Unfortunately, having put every ounce of energy into it, when the course finished, I buried it  under a pile of papers on the office desk. However, the opportunity to revisit the plan surfaced recently when Carlow County Development Partnership funded a five-week Social Enterprise training workshop for Carlovians. It seemed like a good time to dig out the plan and sign up for another short course.

A love letter

The group’s homework the first day was to write a love letter to our chosen enterprise. It seemed an odd, slightly embarrassing task at the time, particularly as we had to read our letters out loud to the class during week two, but the exercise was part of a design thinking process that would apparently help us, and others, understand why our enterprises are so important. We have to love our ideas if we want others to love them too. Given that gardens are my enterprise, it was clear that I had to fall back in love with my own. Having abandoned it at the beginning of the year, I was forced to step outside so that I could complete this task. As I did, the fog began to clear and a sense of peace descended upon me.

I’ve decided to share my short love letter with you for no other reason than if you too are feeling a little lost, you’ll consider  heading outside for a few hours and seeing if being in a garden or outside surrounded by nature, works a similar kind of magical healing that it did for me.

A love letter to my garden

Dear Garden…

I’ve neglected you of late. I’ve been so caught up with college, work, family, community and global issues that I ignored you as I walked past the thistles and nettles on the way to the chicken coop. For a long while I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work I had to do to bring you back to your glory. It all got too much. As the pressures increased, my mood plunged and darkness threatened, I even stopped visiting the hens, relying on other family members to do it so that I could avoid the twice daily stroll across the tassely lawn. Instead I locked myself behind the door at every available opportunity. My mojo was gone.

Sadly I forgot how healing you can be when I needed you the most.

Thankfully, my dear garden, you are incredibly  forgiving. One clear, bright, day I got up, pulled on some old, painty clothes, grabbed my favourite small trowel that’s now encrusted with dried soil, picked up what was once a bright pink kneeling mat, and plonked myself down in the corner of an overgrown, square-shaped, shrubby ornamental border.

It only took a short while of feeling the sun on my face, listening to the birds singing in the beech and hawthorn trees that were touched with autumnal colours,  that I began to feel my soul relax. As the almost rhythmic sound of my hand tool chopped and dug its way through the creeping buttercups, dandelions and docks, aided by my warming muscles, I began to unwind.

As I begin to see the dark, crumbly, worm laden soil once more, my heart glowed as the simple pleasure of being outside, wrapped up in nature, engulfed me.

While I worked I began to think towards the future.

A love letter to my gardenWhat vibrant flowers would I like to see bloom in the newly created space. Will I choose pastels or summer shades? What healing herbs or tasty pollinator friendly morsels will I provide? Maybe the calm, sleep inducing lavender would sit well under the apple tree, or the citrus scented lemon balm and cleansing sage might nest well in the newly created space by the bench. Perhaps the creeping thyme might be a perfect fit between the paving stones, enabling it’s scent to release when footsteps crushed it. Possibly, I’d finally plant some Dahlia’s, something I’d been promising myself I’d do ever since I saw them in Mount Congreve several years ago.

Just a few hours of hard work and your beauty began to shine through, bringing a smile to everyone who saw the efforts of the work. Even the teens want to sit out there again now you are looking ‘presentable’.

Spending time with you has left me feeling fulfilled and I’m smiling once more. I can’t wait to return and experience this feeling again. I’m at peace, the madness that surrounds a busy life has faded.

You have provided me with a sense of hope. The effort I have put in today will not be seen for months, but then, when the days lengthen and warm once more and the flowers fill the garden with colour, we will all experience a sense of paradise in the garden.

Spending time with you is a healing pastime. It has allowed me to reconnect with the forces that feed you, to feel my own roots and recognise the investment into our future.

I’ve loved spending time with you. I’m reminded of the pleasures you share and I’m looking forward to planning and tackling the vegetable garden over the coming weeks as I make plans for our food garden.

I promise not to neglect you again and not only will I make you a priority once more, I will also share news of your magical healing effects and hope that others will take steps to find you in their own surroundings.

Thank you for your generosity my beautiful garden, you are truly wonderous in your ability to heal. I am blessed to live with you and I love you for all that you provide.

Dee x 

If you’re interested in using social and therapeutic horticulture to benefit community groups when working in the areas of community development, wellness, recovery, social inclusion, training and employment, I’ll be talking on the subject during Mensana, Carlow’s annual Mental Health Festival. Join us in An Gairdin Beo, Carlow Town (next to St Leo’s School) on Friday, 18th October between 10am and 12am where I’ll be sharing case studies, as well as discussing the concept, research and education opportunities. Contact me for more information. Talk sponsored by Carlow County Development Partnership.

Grow Your Own and Gardening Workshops

October 11, 2016

Gardening Workshops – Carlow, Kilkenny and Beyond

Are you a community group, school or organisation that would like to learn more about growing your own herbs or vegetables or getting started in the vegetable garden?

If so Dee Sewell can help.

Dee Sewell is a community educator and qualified horticulturalist who enjoys working with groups to develop their awareness of local food systems, as well as help people who want to garden with a positive environmental ethos.

In the Spring of  2016, Dee held workshops at Greenside Up HQ, near to Old Leighlin in the Carlow hills, as well as continued to tutor in community gardens around Carlow and Kilkenny.

The grow your own and gardening workshops were limited to just eight participants per workshop which resulted in a much more personal learning experience.

Dee can deliver workshops in your garden or premises for various sized groups, and visits can be arranged to the Greenside Up HQ in County Carlow by appointment.

As a qualified tutor with lots of experience working with communities and groups, particularly where social inclusion is paramount, Dee can offer variations of the following gardening workshops tailored to suit your group. Some examples of workshops Dee has delivered include:

Gardening Workshops

  • Planting for Pollinators & Delivering the Pollinator Plan
  • Container Gardening
  • Outdoor Organic Vegetable Crop Production
  • Plant Production from Seed
  • Organic Weed Management
  • Organic Pest and Disease control in the Garden
  • Growing Herbs from Scratch & Creating a Herb Garden
  • Basic Garden Design
  • Composting
  • Growing Irish Food in Irish Soil
  • Harvesting and Preserving
  • Polytunnel Growing
  • Getting the Garden Ready for Winter
  • Spring Garden Preparation
  • Growing Food in Small Spaces
  • Growing Trees from Seed
  • Growing Food in Recycled Containers

Sustainability Courses

  • Water conservation
  • Stop Food Waste
  • Creating Biodiversity in a Garden
  • Healthy Eating without Costing the Earth
  • Upcycling and Using ‘Junk’ in the Garden
  • Creating a Green Roof Structure

Employment Development

Growing food from seed to sale. Dee was funded by Kilkenny Leader Partnership to work with two community garden groups growing food from seed to harvest then cooking, preserving and selling it at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival.

Sensory Garden Design Considerations
Feeling Hot? A Greenside Up Seed Gift Collection Chilli
Calendula Seed Head
Having fun with the colour purple
Climate Change: can we seriously make a difference?
Tomato and Chilli Chutney
How to help bees and pollinators in the garden
Growing food in small spaces

If you’d like more information about how Greenside Up can help you, contact Dee now.

Lifestyle, Travel

Good Moods and Garden Sculpture

September 13, 2016

Good Mood and Garden Sculpture

How many times have you heard how great you’ll feel if you get outside and into nature? I’ve read several papers on the science behind it, have seen the positive and powerful effects that being in a community garden has on people’s good mood, and yet it still takes me by surprise. The power of nature on our mental health was really bought home to me this summer when Mr G and I met up with old friends and headed over to the Wild Atlantic Way for eight nights in our camper vans.

Taking two teenage girls away in a medium wheelbase converted Transit could have been a recipe for disaster, and it wasn’t without its moments, yet it worked. Three nights at Eagle Point near Bantry, three at Pure Camping on Loop Head then two at Lakeside, Mountshannon were exactly what we all needed.

Blessed with fantastic weather which enabled us to sit outside until midnight and master the art of cooking pizza on a BBQ, we were able to chat and laugh and catch up while we watched the Perseid meteor shower from wobbly camper chairs. Thanks to a lucky break in the weather, we were also able to see the dramatic landscapes of Beara Peninsula, swim in the crystal clear waters at the Bridges of Ross and kayak in Lough Derg, all of which could have gone horribly wrong if the unpredictable Irish weather had filled the skies with drizzle and cloud.

Yet it was the couple of hours spent at The Ewe Experience Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Glengarriff, West Cork where I witnessed a teenage transformation. Our 15-year-old didn’t want to walk around a garden that we’d found details of on a rack in the campsite office and she certainly didn’t want to look at sculptures made of recycled stuff. She was very happy to share her displeasure with anyone within a couple of metres, be it with cutting looks, snappy comebacks or simply body language that oozed angst. We knew we had a long drive ahead of us as we moved to the next site so didn’t give her the option of staying behind in the van. We paid the inexpensive fee to enter the garden and hoped for the best.

Good Mood and Garden Sculpture

It’s difficult to know how to begin to describe the enchanting sculpture trail that enfolded before us. The Ewe garden is a nature trail lined with art, sculpture, games, facts as well as lots of quiet, contemplative thought. It’s a place of wonder and discovery and two hours isn’t enough to stop and read, see and do everything in it. Privately owned yet publicly shared, artist Sheena and her writer husband Kurt have filled the twisty, hilly woodland that the river and waterfall run through, with pieces that will inspire, bring a smile and transform you. I can testify that our grouchy teen came out the other side a beautiful, happy human being once more who wanted to talk about the pieces that caught her eye. She also had my camera so all the photos shared below are from her viewpoint, almost all of which are different from the ones I took on my phone.

Coincidentally, before we set off for Clare, Mr G had begun creating his own piece of recycled sculpture for the Global Green Community Garden at Electric Picnic that I was coordinating for organisers Cultivate. Ian was like a child in a toy shop the afternoon we visited ReCreate to pick out materials for the sculpture and only had the finishing touches to add when we returned from our holiday.

Good Moods and Garden Sculpture

Ian Sewell

The concept of the piece was something like “Adam and Eve, the first community gardeners were lured out of the garden by the golden ‘apple’ and all the shiny bling that technology brings with it, yet there’s still hope, a child’s hand reaches out of the top clutching a dove of peace”

The artistic flair that Ian has shared with us is relatively new, but judging by the amount of people who photographed the piece at the Music and Arts Festival, his skills didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. I’m looking forward to more of his creations and perhaps this is the beginning of a sculpture garden in County Carlow, unless you’ve any other ideas what to do with a 12 foot golden mannequin concept tree…?


Two Beautiful Garden Ideas in County Carlow

August 18, 2015

Newtownbarry Gardens through the tea room

Garden Inspiration

Country house gardens are excellent sources of inspiration. If you spot a flower or shrub that you don’t know the name of, or see a planting combination that you’d like to replicate, just take a photo and show it to a horticulturist at a garden centre and they’ll point you in the direction of the plant. Many gardens such as Altamont in County Carlow have labelled their plants and this one in particular has its own garden centre on site too, selling plants the gardeners have grown from seed or cuttings found in the garden.

Having just created a new flower border in own garden where I can’t wait to get cracking on the planting design, I’ll be heading back to some of Carlow’s gardens for some more gardening inspiration throughout the seasons. If you’re in the area here’s two of several country house gardens that can be found on the Carlow Garden Trail, all of which are worth spending a few hours in. 

Firstly, Newtownbarry House and Gardens that’s within walking distance of Bunclody village centre on the Wexford/Carlow border, handy if you’re staying in one of the hotels or bed and breakfasts close by. Secondly Borris House and Gardens, with its gate house almost directly opposite the award-winning Step House Hotel in Borris village.

2 Beautiful Garden Ideas in County Carlow

Newtownbarry House and Gardens

In years gone by owners of the big houses in Ireland would have swapped trees and plants following their tours of Europe and beyond. Newtownbarry House and Gardens is a good example of this as it has a large collection of trees that border the lawns of the old house. However, what Newtownbarry has that many others don’t is a sunken garden that Seamus O’Brien, curator of the National Botanic Gardens, described at the recent Carlow Garden Festival as “the best in Ireland”.

As you walk out through the tea room and up the steps into the rose garden on the left, you’ll pass a shrubbery that will give lots of garden inspiration as Berberis and Hypericum sit next to Magnolia and Geranium. Pass the Magnolia tree and onto the woodland pathway, and you’ll soon come across another unexpected entrance. Lift your head and look up and you’ll be greeted by a riot of colour as Lavender, Crocosmia, and Lilies compete with apple and plum trees and a myriad of other plants in the glorious walled garden, all of which are flanked by neatly clipped box hedging.

Continue along the path, down the steps and the sunken garden will unfold before you, a place where Hydrangea frame a stone archway, Lily pads cover the pond and Inula sit next to Artichokes, attracting more pollinators to this beautiful garden. 

If the gardens aren’t enough to keep you there, Newtownbarry house has a tea room, craft area and art gallery. If you’d like to find out more, including opening hours and prices, take a look at the Newtownbarry website.

2 Beautiful Garden Ideas in County Carlow

Borris House and Gardens

Borris House has only recently joined the Carlow garden trail and I was delighted to find it had done so having never had the opportunity to venture through the gates.

Being the home of Leinster kings and 16 generations of McMorrough Kavanagh’s, the house itself sits majestically at the foothills of The Blackstairs Mountains. Just the views that surround it are enough to make you want to breath in the fresh air deeply as you gaze out towards the tree line that follows the River Barrow. Designed in the style of Capability Brown, unlike Newtownbarry, bar a couple of exceptions Borris House gardens isn’t full of floral delights, it’s home to majestic trees. Amongst many others there are three varieties of Cedar – the Lebanese, Deodar and Atlas Blue, as well as a Tulip Tree, Fern Leaf Beech and Tree of Heaven.

Lace Garden

In contrast to the many shades of green, if you’re looking for some floral garden inspiration in Borris House gardens, the newly developed white Lace Garden is worth keeping an eye on as it grows and develops. The gardener explained that it’s just one of four she’s found in Europe that’s designed to resemble the soft patterns that form an intricate piece of lace, something that Borris was once known for. Surrounded on all sides by espaliered Hornbeam or granite walls, the garden has many varieties of white plants, from Cornflower and Lavender to Cosmos and Roses, all of which sit beautifully next to the renovated, original laundry room, giving visitors an even greater feeling of being transported back through the ages.

2 Beautiful Garden Ideas in County Carlow

As well as the gardens, Borris House is open for tours at designated times. For information on opening hours and fees for you can find out more on their website here.

Carlow Garden Festival runs for ten days every year, late July to early August where gardening experts can help you identify plants as you stroll around the gardens with them, so if you haven’t found them already, you might like to plan to visit next year. During the festival you’ll have the opportunity to visit 11 or more gorgeous gardens in the area, no better inspiration to help you design your own beautiful garden than that!


11 Gardens to Visit in County Carlow

July 24, 2015
10 Gardens to Visit in Carlow

Altamont Gardens, Tullow

Carlow Garden Festival

It’s hard to believe that it’s twelve months since I last wrote about Carlow Garden Festival. Ever since then I’ve been meaning to share details with you of all the beautiful gardens we’re lucky to have on our doorstep, yet here we are again with another festival about to begin. So whether you’re passing through the second smallest county in Ireland, or better still staying for a few days, the ten-day garden festival held in County Carlow every summer is an opportunity to see the best of Carlow’s gardens up close and personal. All of the following gardens attract celebrities for walks and talks during the garden festival, but most are open throughout the year. Read on for more information.

Continue Reading…