Unusually I’m feeling like quite the social butterfly meeting up with social media friends this month at various summer festivals and events. From wildflower walks in Tipperary to classical guitar concerts as part of the Abhainn Ri week in Callan, it’s been a busy month. Last week was no exception when on Wednesday I was lucky enough to be able to juggle childcare (a rare thing during the summer holidays) and spend three peaceful hours at Kilgraney House and Herb Gardens in County Carlow.
Carlow Garden Festival is celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this year and is an ideal opportunity to visit several gardens around the county, with guest speakers on-hand to offer their expert advice and provide demonstrations.
Dermot O’Neill was this year’s guest at Kilgraney and it was to everyone’s delight that we heard he’s now in remission from his recent encounter with cancer. As Dermot lead us around the Medicinal Herb Gardens, and in particular the new Oncology bed, he told us about his shock discovery on developing this (frightening for most of us) disease and gave us an insight into his treatment. He really is looking much better than he did in his TV series Secret Garden last year and judging by his mostly female audience on Wednesday, has not lost any of his appeal!
There are several beds in the courtyard Herb Gardeens, each containing plants specific to various ailments. The Oncology herb bed was newly created in honour of the co-owner’s mother who passed away earlier this year, containing several herbs that are used to aid the treatment of various cancers – Irish Yew, Opium Poppy, Caster Bean, Feverfew, Elderflower – familiar names to many of us but who’s extracts are often used to treat or aid pain relief. Pebbled pathways lined with granite lead you around the gardens and there are several inspired themes to chose to visit next….
I loved the Cosmic Herb Circle where I discovered that the plants for my own star sign Virgo are Fennel, Savoury, Southernwood and Valerian (all of which are growing in the Greenside Up garden!).
There are tremendous views from this particular garden too looking across the valley to the top of our hill.
The Monastic Herb Cloister opposite contains many herbs that would have been grown in monasteries throughout Ireland, either to eat, heal or brew.
From this area you can either walk up to the Kitchen Garden where all the fruit and vegetables are grown for the Kilgraney kitchens (and purchase plants too from their polytunnel) and then on to the Herbal Tea Walk, or walk across to the Rose and Aromatic Herb Gardens which are in the spa area of the complex, filling the air with their intoxicating scents.
Still there’s more…. Kilgraney is so full of romance that even the trees reach for each other across pathways, their limbs entwining. The orchard trees are laden with fruit and the sound of birdsong and busy bees fill the gardens as you meander along the pathways.
The afternoon finished with us all tucking into some delicious home baked refreshments provided by Kilgraney and then an excellent propagating demonstration held by Dermot where he shared the art of taking cuttings (to a captivated audience) chosen from a large variety of hard and softwood plants.
This wasn’t a free event, although some of the Trail week’s demonstrations are. The cost was €10 but it was money very well spent. To their credit, owners Bryan and Martin donate every cent raised on their annual open day to charity and this year it will be heading to the Friends of Wexford General Hospital.If you’re interested in visiting the herb gardens they’re open from Thursday to Sunday, May to September from 2.00pm to 5.00pm. There’s a small charge of €3.00, groups by prior arrangement and refreshments are available. Alternatively you could always stay in the gorgeous Georgian house and wander around the gardens at your own leisure, perhaps availing of the Aroma spa to perk you up, or settle down to a creatively cooked six course dinner.