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Garden Festivals ‘Bloom’ in Ireland. Here’s four to watch out for

June 10, 2015

Garden Festivals are Blooming

Ireland’s premier garden festival in Phoenix Park may have just finished but the garden festival season is still very much in full swing.

Four garden festivals taking place in Kilkenny, Dublin, Carlow and Claregalway during the next few weeks have caught my eye for various reasons, and each will be carrying a different theme. Before I give you the lowdown, here’s a short roundup of two of the designer gardens that caught my attention in Bloom in the Park this year.

Bank Holiday Bloom 2015 might have been one of the wettest and coldest I’ve been to, but the cooler weather did allow Mr G and I the opportunity to get up close and personal with several of the gardens on display. It’s been interesting observing how each year more edible plants have crept into the designs and this year was no exception.

The Irish Country Living garden designed by Fiann Ó Nualláin and Lisa Kelly was created almost entirely from reclaimed wood and metal and awash with edible plants to entice both us and our pollinating friends. There were several inspirations in there from the wooden door ‘shed’ to the corrugated raised beds and I enjoyed seeing the sea-kale in a garden environment having just sown a tray full in the polytunnel at home. This garden encapsulated a lot of the features its sponsoring magazine represents and I’m sure was a favourite of many.

From opulence to poverty, in contrast the GOAL garden was unlike all the others. Entitled ‘What you call a slum, I call home’, this garden designed by Joan Mallon reflected some of the many ways GOAL are working with people living in informal urban settlements (or slums) to help improve their health, livelihood opportunities, and general quality of life. It demonstrated how techniques like micro-gardening, bag gardening, recycling and rain-water harvesting can help families make the most of the uncompromising living environments.

I was at Bloom this year on the invitation of Jim Carroll of to chat with Jim and Ainé Lawlor about the Joy of Veg, a topic I could natter away about for hours! I’ll post a link to the podcast as soon as it becomes available.

Garden Festivals Bloom in Ireland. Rothe House Garden Day in KilkennyRothe House Garden Day

Saturday, 13th June

If Rothe House in Kilkenny has missed your radar then next time you’re visiting I’d urge you to take a look inside. It was built between 1594 and 1610 and consists of 3 houses built one behind the other. Behind the third house are the gardens which contained an orchard, herb and vegetable gardens, a pigeon-house, a well, and a summer-house at the far end. It’s a hidden gem in the middle of Kilkenny city and one not to be missed.

This Saturday a garden day will be taking place at Rothe House and there you’ll find a mixture of speakers and workshops, garden plant sale and craft fair. I’ll be talking from 11 am to 12 noon about growing vegetables in containers. It’s free entry into the garden day and the talks can be attended for just €5 pp each.

Dublin Garden Festival

19th to 21st June

Garden Festivals Bloom in Ireland 2015With Diarmuid Gavin as headline speaker, The Dublin Garden Festival will feature horticultural displays, urban gardens, birds of prey, a Mad Hatters Tea Party, a petting zoo, craft demonstrations, Irish artisan food, live entertainment and much more.

If you’re a floral photographer this might be the garden festival for you as the whole of Christ Church Cathedral and grounds will be adorned with floral installations and props that sound enchanting for the ‘Open your Imagination’ theme. Hundreds of flowers will be used to create a display of contemporary and traditional floral designs, under the lead of artistic director and award-winning floral artist, Christopher White.

I’m looking forward to seeing some of the exhibitors, who we’re being promised will share with us new innovative solutions for the urban garden and home; aquaponics, rooftop potato planters and the Grow Dome Project to name but a few.

Carlow Garden Festival

25th June to 3rd July

Garden Festivals 'Bloom' in IrelandI really enjoyed working on a Green and Vibrant project last year, helping to publicise our local garden Festival here in Carlow and this year’s line up of gardeners is sounding just as exciting.

Monty Don will be opening the nine-day festival and there will be heaps of trails and lectures suitable for all levels of gardening expertise and interest.

I was delighted to hear that Clonegal Community Garden will be joining the garden trail this year, a group I had the pleasure of working with during a short gardening course in 2013. For more information and details of the Carlow Garden Festival’s 2015 programme, take a look at Carlow Tourism’s website.

Soil Conference and Galway Garden Festival

4th to 6th July

During the 4th and 5th July Claregalway Castle are hosting a two-day garden festival that will be followed on Monday, 6th July by a soil conference where we hope to learn from a panel of international, national and local experts as they discuss the state of our soils and the best way to enhance and enrich this vital resource.

The keynote speakers are Dr. Elizabeth Stockdale – a renowned soil scientist from Newcastle University UK and Iain Tolhurst – author and experienced organic grower; many other experienced speakers will join in panel discussions and practical projects will be represented in a display of posters. The cost of the conference is €40 for the day and you can book through National Organic Training Skillnet.

Garden Festivals Bloom in Ireland

For more information about Galway Garden Festival where you’ll find a list of all the guest speakers as well as the programme which includes medieval armoured combat, fire dance, archery display and several other events, take a look at their website. I found it a particularly nice touch that all the gate profits from the festival will be donated to The Simon Community, CBM Ireland and Claregalway Day Care Centre. It’s open daily from 11am to 6pm and Festival Admission is € 8.00 pp per day, Children FREE.

Do you find garden festivals inspire you and give you the opportunity to buy a few bits and pieces at them, or do you tend to head along for the days out and just soak up the atmosphere?


Community Gardens

Community Gardens Connecting in Galway

February 26, 2015
Community Gardens Connecting in Galway

Leighlin Parish Community Garden, County Carlow – Photo credit: Philippa Jennings

When people connect great things can happen and community gardens are no exception. On the 8th March community gardeners from Ireland and Northern Ireland will be meeting in County Galway to help and support one another to gain more from this form of group gardening. The following gives an insight into the network as well as Doorus Community Orchard, the location of our March networking event.

Community Gardens in Ireland

Many of you will be aware that I’m one of the coordinators of the Community Gardens Ireland (CGI) that was established in 2011, primarily to support community gardens in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but also allotments and Community Supported Agriculture schemes.

Generally CGI offers a virtual network of support with its Facebook Group. However, we also run a Twitter feed as well as a Facebook Page and Group for anyone who doesn’t want to register for the forum and we aim to meet up in person every three or four months in various locations around the country.

Apart from getting a glimpse at other community gardens when we get together in various locations, the networking events also give us an opportunity to meet fellow community gardeners who we’ve struck up friendships with online, as well as swap ideas, pick up tips and learn from one another or any of the expert speakers invited to join us.

Doorus Orchard Community Garden, Kinvara, Co Galway

The next Community Garden Network get together will be taking place in Doorus Orchard Community Garden in Kinvara, County Galway on 8th March from 10am until 4.30pm and anyone involved or interested in community gardening is welcome.

The events are free though if you’ve some spare cash we ask for donations to cover costs as we are a voluntary group with very limited funding and we ask people to bring their own lunch and a bit extra to share. We always try to include an educational element into the networking events and our Galway meet up is no exception.

Community Gardens Connecting in Galway

Community Gardens are great places to educate people about pollinators

Lynn O’Keeffe is hosting us at Doorus Community Orchard and she will be showing us around the walled garden, as well as explaining how the community gardeners there propagate and plan the perennial flowers and vegetables in the garden to attract pollinators.

This is something I’ve a keen interest in having recently joined the Association of Beekeepers as well as signed up to be a Bumblebee Monitor for the Biodiversity Centre (more details here if you’d like to volunteer too). I’m very much looking forward to learning more about planting for pollinators from Lynn.

A bit about Doorus Orchard

Community Garden NetworkThe walled garden that’s attached to Doorus House Youth Hostel dates back to 1866 but became overgrown over the years until it was rescued and replanted thanks to Heritage Council of Ireland funding. The money enabled the community gardeners to plant the land with over 50 heritage apple trees obtained from Irish Seed Savers, as well as many other types of fruit. All of the trees in the orchard were sponsored by local families, which encourages community involvement and they hold regular work and open days there. It’s open all year and anyone is invited to call in and see what’s they’re up to.

If you’re not able to join us for the network meeting, you can find out more about the project here.

Community Garden Network at the Electric Picnic

Community Garden Network at the Electric Picnic

Community Gardens Ireland

Since 2011 the network have met in several locations around the country, including Derry, Dublin, Leitrim, Athlone, Waterford and Cork. We’ve also exhibited two postcard gardens at Bloom Garden Festival in Dublin, and taken a stand at the Electric Picnic in Stradbally, County Kildare. We’ll no doubt be looking for volunteers to step up and help us promote the CGI this year too at various events.

If you’d like to learn more about the community garden network, click on any of the links above or leave a comment below. We’d love to meet you at one of the networking events or hear from you.

Please help us to spread the word about the network – the more we can connect, the more we can help one another.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – Helen Keller



Building Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

September 7, 2014

Carlow coverIf you’re a regular reader you may have noticed that building resilient and supportive communities is a running theme on this blog.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

This not only applies to the community garden projects I’m involved with, but extends to our community at large. When Susan and I worked with Carlow Tourism on a Green and Vibrant project recently, arranging a #TasteCarlow bloggers tour with the aim of sharing some of the positive aspects of my home county, it was with that in mind. (Here’s Irish Farmerette’s experience of the tour.)

We’re blessed in Carlow to have a strong and active network of groups and the commitment to work with and not against one another is palpable. Take some of the small business’ and destinations we came across on our bloggers tour for example:

#TasteCarlow Tour

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of CarlowBianka from Carlow Tours, our chauffeur and guide for the bloggers day, is flying one of many flags for Carlow. She’s not only created a small business for herself, but in doing so, Carlow Tours are attracting visitors to the county which helps other business’ to thrive.

Bianca’s enthusiasm and passion for Carlow is infectious as she shares myths and tales of our local history and heritage, ensuring that ancestors communities aren’t forgotten either.

Duckett’s Grove

Thanks to Carlow Council, like other old houses and estates Duckett’s Grove have opened the gardens, buildings, stables and outbuildings to crafters, tea rooms and a visitor centre. Owners of country houses are realising that we enjoy poking around different shops and buildings along with taking tours and tea in their gardens and houses, giving them the wherewithal to keep the premises open and also providing small business’ with a home and an opportunity to delight us with their wares. It’s a collaboration that seems to be working well for everyone.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of CarlowCarlow Farmers Market

Carlow Farmers Market, like many others around the country, support and promote each other. Our local market traders meet every Saturday in the Potato Mart in the centre of Carlow town, selling locally grown, produced and packaged food. The growers and retailers encourage and fly another Carlow flag for good, tasty, often organic, wholesome food. They also provided a tasty picnic for the bloggers on our tour, giving the group the opportunity to sample of some of the tasty treats on offer in Carlow, from bread, cheese, fruit and meat to pickles, crackers, juices and beer.

Taste of Carlow Food & Craft Fair

The Taste of Carlow Food and Craft Festival is a two-day event, the first taking place in August, the second in December. Here, traders around the county and beyond are encouraged to take a space and show us what they can offer. From the Carlow Farmers Market regulars to toy sellers, food stands, eco trails, artists, bungee trampoliners, facepainters, crafters and more, they encourage the community to visit, meet, play, shop and spend.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

Malone’s Fruit Farm

Given my love of fresh food I’m almost ashamed to reveal that I’ve never called into Malone Fruit Farm shop having driven past it countless times, but that’s set to change. From when you first walk through the doorway, the little shop is a delightful emporium of food, crafts, locally grown, locally made, artisan, free range, frozen, fresh… I could go on and on, it really is a treasure and if you’ve ever dreamed about owning a farm shop, Malone’s is one you’ll definitely want to visit to get a feel for the best they have to offer.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

Huntington Castle

The owners of Huntington Castle have opened their home and gardens to encourage visitors to look around, drink tea and eat cake. For years the house was a the central point of the community, employing locals, acting as a garrison then in later years, opening up to a global community as the foundation centre for the Fellowship of Isis. Nowadays they offer their home and gardens up for people to visit and tour, as accommodation, as a venue, either for private events or more public ones such as vintage fairs, where stallholders can sell their goods to interested shoppers.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

The Step House Hotel

The Step House Hotel, our last venue on the tour where we literally experienced another Taste of Carlow thanks to the tasting menu put together by Chef Alan Foley. Alan takes pride in sourcing as much of their food for his kitchen from local growers and producers as he can. The Step House also share their tips and suggestions on where to head to when visiting Carlow on their website and blog.

Resilient Communities: A Little Taste of Carlow

Resilient Community Building

For all my positivity, I’m a realist too. It has to be acknowledged that as well as supporting one another, groups can get caught up in nitpicky and destructive habits, but where does that lead us? Disjointed, disfunctional, hurt, frightened and fragmented. Yet as these few examples have shown, by simply working together and encouraging one another, we can breed optimism and success. I know which road I prefer to travel along. How about you?

If you’re interested in building committed and sustainable communities and would like to find out more,, We Create Workspace and the P2P Foundation are hosting a series of events this week that bring together cooperative advocates, community activists and commons animators to share perspectives and ideas on the question,

“How can a commons-based collaborative economy strengthen the resilience of our communities?”  

Contact them directly for more information or to book a place.

And if you ever spot Carlow on a signpost or map, on the way to or inbetween somewhere, don’t drive straight past, swing by and look us up, you might find we’re quite a friendly bunch really 🙂


Carlow Autumn Walking Festival

September 2, 2014

I’ve written a few posts about my home county recently and hope it’s peaked your curiosity to come and visit the hills and villages that surround us? We spent a lovely couple of weeks looking around gardens at the Garden Festival which was quickly followed by a staycation where Mr G and I explored the Carlow hills and rivers, opening our minds to its potential as an eco-destination. Then I helped to put a group of bloggers together for the recent Taste of Carlow festival where we met several local food producers and visited a commercial fruit farm. For now I’m continuing on with the outdoor lifestyle theme and sharing the news about the Carlow Autumn Walking Festival that will be taking place here soon.

Carlow Autumn Walking FestivalWe’ve always considered ourselves fairly fit yet like many our age, as lovers of good, wholesome food Mr G and I have an ongoing battle with the bulges (me more so than himself!). As the years have advanced, it seems to have become increasingly more difficult to lose the wobbly bits so I’ve tried different activities to keep the weight in check. From the local fitness classes and swimming pool to running and boot camps, I’ve tried several forms of exercise.

More recently I’ve doned the lycra and have been cycling around the hills with Mr G and my neighbouring friend Michele, whizzing down the hills, through the forestry then slowly panting our way back up again to our homes, red-faced and hot, and not in a ‘hot’ way that lycra sometimes suggests 😉 However, throughout it all, walking has remained the constant. It’s free, it can be done any time and in any place, and walking for pleasure is a wonderfully grounding way of keeping the mind sane in this slightly mad and busy world.

Carlow Autumn Walking Festival 3rd - 5th October 2014I’ve seen similar leaflets in previous years to the one above for the local Autumn Walking Festival but have never picked one up before now. If I had, I’d have seen that walking festivals include something for anyone like me with an interest in outdoor activities, and this year’s Carlow Autumn Walking Festival is no exception.

From beginners to the super fit, 23 walking activities have been planned over the weekend 3rd to 5th October 2014 as well as other complimentary activities. For anyone not living close by, accommodation deals have been negotiated by Carlow Tourism that include packed lunches for walkers. There will also be a traditional Irish music session in O’Sheas pub and hardware store in Borris.

Carlow Autumn Walking Festival


The walks have been categorised to help us choose the best ones for our abilities. They include:

Five category A Yellow walks (including an A++ one that’s for eight hours, 33km and a 734m climb) which are for very experienced walkers. There’s a limit of 15 people allowed on this walk.

Twelve category B Blue walks (including a B+ walk that’s for 5 hours, 15.5km with a 735m climb) for experienced hillwalkers and a maximum limit of 20 people.

Six walks for leisure/regular walkers where there are no limits on numbers.

The walks range from between €10 to €20 which covers the cost of experienced guides (up to four on each walk), maps of each route and sandwiches/refreshments at the end of each route as well as transport to start points in some cases.

I won’t list all the trails, some of which sound quite spectacular and something to strive towards and others that sound just plain exhausting lovely. There’s a link to the online brochure here and you can book online here once you’ve decided if or which walk appeals to you. There are however, a few themed walks that caught my eye that you might be interested in as well as other complementary outdoor activities:

Carlow. There's Gold In Those Hills & MountainsIntroduction to Hillwalking

First of all, Walk 16 has been included in the programme to introduce people to hill walking. This is a great opportunity to gain an insight into the skills required for hill walking and coping with difficult situations, something Scouting Ireland cover very well but for anyone not involved in scouting, a skill you may have missed out on and would like to learn more about.

The walk covers topics such as first aid, navigation, emergencies, gear requirements, the environment and Mountain Rescue and when to call it. It’s not a formal course and basic walking gear will be required. The cost is €16.00 and includes transport to the start of the walk.

Carlow Autumn Walking FestivalA Walk Through Time

If you’re interested in the historical aspects of Ireland and Carlow in particular, Walk 20, graded B for the more experienced walkers, is a four to five-hour mountain walk that will explore the history and archaeology of the Blackstairs Mountain area.

Artifcats that can be seen include standing stones, ancient rock art, dolmens, old settlements and aircraft crash site! Cost €15 and places limited.

Blackstairs Eco Trails

A Walk on the Wildside with Mary White, environmentalist and walking enthusiast, will include foraging for delicious edible greens and fungi, learning about the native trees and mammals around the area, identifying wild herbs and checking out the flora and fauna of Kilbrannish Woods. This is a two-hour C graded leisurely walk, costing €10.00 which includes a bus to the woods and back with a walking distance of 7.5km.

Carlow Autumn Walking FestivalWalking with Wildway Adventures

Green Walk 11, a two-hour leisurely walk with Una Halpin from Wildway Adventures. The 6km stroll will begin at Clashgranny Lock and take in the trees, plants and insect life along the Barrow Way and through the Borris House Estate, ancestral home of the ancient Kings of Leinster, the MacMurrough Kavanaghs. A bus will take walkers to the start point and the cost is €10.00.


Carlow Autumn Walking FestivalSafari Trail on the River Barrow

Three special canoeing events with local business Go With The Flow River Adventures are being planned for all three days of the festival. Trails have been designed with complete beginners in mind and will be led by qualified instructors who have years of adventure experience. Cost is €35 for adults, under 16’s €25, family of four €99. For more information contact Charlie Horan 0872529700 or email

Bike Rental and Bike Tours

Bike and Hire at Waterside Guest House in Graiguenamanagh offer bike rental and tours in the River Barrow Valley and cater for all ages and abilities including electric bikes, mountain bikes for men and women, tow along and children’s bikes. They can also provide helmets, hi viz jackets and other equipment too. Prices range from €10.00 to €25.00 per day.

If you’re interested in joining any of the walks or activities, it’s advised to book in advance. As mentioned, places are limited on the A and B categorised walks and the deals on the hotels will be snapped up too.

Not quite fit enough….

As much as I’d like to try one or two of the Blue walks, common sense is telling me to choose the Green, C listed walks this year aimed at the more leisurely walkers among us, but make an effort to get fitter and try a harder walk or two next year.

Walking festivals are a great way of meeting people and perhaps for Michele and me, who’ve been talking about taking up hill walking as we gaze over at the mountains every day, the Carlow Walking Festival an introduction to the local walking groups that regularly meet in the Blackstairs and surrounding hills.

Are you a hill walking fan? Are you tempted by any of the activities mentioned?


Please note that this post has been written for a Green and Vibrant project that connects bloggers with destinations. See disclosure policy above though would gladly have written it without being involved!


The 4th Taste of Carlow is coming to town, here’s the lowdown.

August 17, 2014

Taste of Carlow Festival, 31st August 2014Ireland is known for its festivals and Carlow isn’t shy about holding them in its town and surrounding villages. The County is still glowing from the successful 11 day Carlow Garden Festival and with it fresh in mind, are about to have an afternoon of ‘Food, Craft & family festival fun’ with the upcoming Taste of Carlow Festival on Sunday, 31st August. This will be closely followed by several events during Heritage Week, The County Carlow Golf Classic and then the excellent sounding Carlow Autumn Walking Festival, though I might be biased about that one as a walker and not a golfer 😉

The Taste of Carlow is a food and craft fair that will be taking place from noon until 6.00pm on the River Barrow Promenade, Barrow Track and Carlow Town Park. In its 4th year, #TasteCarlow will feature local craft and food producers as well as food demonstrations by Carlow chefs, tasting menus, bungee trampoline, kite flying, face painting, water activities and musical/family entertainment.

For just six hours we’re promised lots of festival fun by the picturesque River Barrow.

Taste of Carlow Food & Craft Fair, Here's the LowdownWe’ll be able to see, smell and taste artisan food displays with cheeses, juices, jams, chutneys, crepes, beverages, home baking, fresh meat, organic fruit and vegetables, organic home-made burgers and chips, ice cream and mouth-watering chocolates. Cheese making demonstrations will be delivered by Tom Burgess of Coolattin Cheddar and the Carlow Bee Keepers Association will give an insight into the fascinating world of honey (I’m looking forward to that one!).

The 4th Taste of Carlow

Alan Foley

Alan Foley, winner of the Bridgestone 2013 Chef of the Year and Head Chef at the Step House Hotel, Fiona Dillon author of Food from an Irish garden and Dympna Maher of Healing Herbs will provide insights into the delights of good cooking and healthy foods.

Paul Stock from the newly opened SMOQUE Restaurant and Tapas will offer mouth-watering Tapas Carlow Style and Imelda Byrne from the ICA Bootcamp will also be in attendance.

Carlow enjoys an abundance of original, hand-made crafts that includes woodturning, pottery, ceramics, knitwear, art, embroidery, enamels and jewellery and a Taste of Carlow is a great opportunity to meet local artists and craftspeople. Whether you’re there to browse in a riverside atmosphere or buy a gift, the craft fair promises to be something to enjoy.

Children will be entertainment throughout the day with face painting and musical entertainment as well as bouncy castle, bungee trampoline and a craft area. While here make sure and visit Carlow Town Park, immediately adjacent, a wonderful amenity for all the family which features a safe and secure children’s playground that I spent many hours in with our own children when they were smallies.

There will also be river demonstrations by Carlow Sub Aqua and Carlow Rowing Club and Civil Defence and a foraging talk by Mary White.

So if you’re not at the Electric Picnic and are looking for an afternoon out in the south-east, Taste of Carlow promises to be a fun afternoon and with no admission fees and free parking, a good opportunity to take a picnic to the park or simply browse the many stalls there for some treats or gifts.

Maybe we’ll see you there!

Taste of Carlow Festival, 31st August 2014

Please note that this post has been written for a Green and Vibrant project that connects bloggers with destinations. See disclosure policy above.


Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here’s a few ideas.

August 1, 2014
Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.

A riot of colour greets visitors at Altamont Gardens

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.

Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.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.

Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.

Huntington Castle, Clonegal

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.


Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.

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.

Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.

Inula Helenium (Elecampane)

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?

Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.

Echinacea (Coneflower) in bloom in Altamont Gardens

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.

Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.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.

Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.

Herbs drying slowly

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.

Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.

Ross & Maria at Kilgraney House

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 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. 

Fancy visiting a garden this weekend? Here's a few ideas.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 🙂


Workplace Gardens From Greenside Up

March 27, 2014
Salad Leaves

If you’re a workplace that would like to add value to your organisation, we are pleased to be able to offer a garden package that will provide your staff with an alternative to sports and social clubs.

Workplace community gardens come in all shapes and sizes and are social levelers. They attract a diverse range of people who like to meet, learn, share and grow food and flowers.

If space is an issue, we’ll do our best to connect you to a local community garden or can help you find a location to build one.

Dee Sewell is experienced in giving workplace talks and demonstrations. Clients include the Environmental Protection Agency and The Irish Stock Exchange as well as food festivals and gardening groups such Savour Kilkenny, Carlow Food Festival and Flower and Garden Clubs.

Benefits of Workplace Gardens

They offer companies the opportunity to carry out their corporate social responsibility in a way that will benefit staff and the local community. It’s been shown that the benefits of a good CSR package will¹:

  • Make it easier to recruit employees due to the company’s good reputation.
  • Reduce recruitment and advertising costs and disruption. Employees are more likely to stay with a company for longer if it has a good corporate responsibility package.
  • Help to motivate staff.
  • Generate positive press coverage as well as encourage a good relationship with local community and agencies.

Benefits For Employers:

  • A report written by Ulrika A Stigsdotter shows that a Workplace Community Garden may help to reduce stress and therefore lower absenteeism. Workplace stress can account for 40% of all absenteeism² .
  • Growing food in Community Gardens gives people a sense of well-being and feeling good. A study by The University of Bristol in the UK shows that soil boosts serotonin levels ³ – one of our happy hormones. Research also indicated that bacteria in soil may help to trigger immune cells that can help to lift depression. Happy staff are productive staff.
  • Growing food in a workplace community garden is an excellent way of counterbalancing the indoor, sedentary lifestyles that are prevalent in an increasingly technology driven modern world.

Benefits For Employees:

  • Spending time outside in Corporate Community Gardens offer staff the opportunity to absorb sunshine and fresh air, increasing their vitamin D levels which are essential for strong bone growth and good health.
  • Growing food in workplace gardens slows people down for a short while and offers them the opportunity to connect with nature in their increasingly busy lifestyles.
  • Growing food changes the way people eat. It encourages them to eat more vegetables and seek healthier food choices, ultimately leading to better weight management. They also learn about green awareness in the form of composting and waste, recycling and water conservation, all skills that will benefit the environment.

If you’d like to find out more about the Greenside Up Workplace Community Garden package contact Dee Sewell now.

Or take a look at our brochure

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Social Community Garden Portfolio

October 22, 2012

If you are looking for advice about creating or working in a social community garden you’re in the right place. As voluntary founder and vice chair of Community Gardens Ireland, Dee Sewell of Greenside Up is a keen advocate.

From Mayo to Galway, Laois to Waterford, Dee has shared her knowledge about the  many benefits to both communities and people of this sociable form of gardening. As a qualified transformative community education tutor, and social and therapeutic horticulturalist, Dee offers several services from design to hobby gardening courses, or accredited tuition as a Kilkenny Carlow Education Training Board tutor.

Dee is also a Master Composter with Stop Food Waste, a Voice Ireland Recycling Ambassador and currently works with Carlow Development Partnership on various social inclusion (SICAP) horticulture projects within the county.

Dee was a finalist in the 2013 Green Leader Award category of the Irish Green Awards as a result of her commitment to community change through food and environmental awareness.


An Gairdin Beo, Carlow Town

Dee was on the catalyzing committee at the beginning of the An Gairdin Beo project to develop this two acre garden in the centre of town. She has provided short compost and gardening workshops in it to The Plots Allotment Group, members of Carlow Integration Forum as well as children with Tusla Child and Family Agency.

Bagenalstown FRC Community Garden, Co Carlow

Dee worked with the Family Resource Centre from the very beginning – helping with the design, advising on the setting up and then running hobby courses and gardening with after schools children, funded both privately and through Carlow Kilkenny Education Training Board.

Ballyfoyle Community Garden, Co Kilkenny

This garden started as a hobby gardening course funded by Kilkenny Education Training Board. As a result of all they’d learnt and discussions on what they could do, the group went on to develop the community garden.

Ballan Community Garden

Dee was funded by Carlow Education Training Board to run a six-week course for the Ballon gardeners that included a mixture of theory and demonstration to help them develop their garden.

Borris & Hacketstown Focus Groups

Working with Carlow Development Partnership, during 2018 & 2019 garden workshops were provided to groups in the rural villages, engaging people from all walks of life, joining them on their journey of growth.

Advice & Consultation

Callan Community Garden, Co Kilkenny

Funded by Kilkenny Leader Project as part of their Community Food Initiative from November 2012 through to November 2014. Dee began mentoring and tutoring the (Callan) Droichead Family Resource Centre group with their garden, taking the group from seed to sale at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival.

If you’re interested in finding out how a community can pull together with the garden as a focus point, here’s a blog post sharing Callan’s story.

Carlow Older Persons Forum Garden

Carlow Older Persons Forum

During 2019, Dee began working with Carlow Older Persons Forum providing concept drawings for a new garden design. Funded by County Carlow Development Partnership, a series of workshops took place throughout the summer months, encouraging new members to grow food and flowers, and join the community in the new premises.

Growing Vegetables in Containers

Castle Activation Unit, Carlow

Castle Activation Unit is a day centre for adults with psychiatric disabilities and in the secure garden Dee has worked with the group to create a container garden within their community garden. For the past four years, during the warmer months, Dee has worked with the staff and patients to provide a gentle form of horticultural therapy, and in doing so, they have created a very special type of community garden.

Clonegal Community Garden

Clonegal Community Garden, Co Carlow

Created in 2013, Clonegal community garden is situated in the centre of the award-winning village. Dee created a tailored hands-on series of six-week workshops to accommodate both experienced and beginner gardeners with the aim of increasing their knowledge and encouraging new members to join in the community garden activities.

10 Gardens to Visit in Carlow

Delta Centre, Carlow Town

Delta Centre in Carlow town provides training, residential care, respite, day and multi-sensory services to adults with learning disabilities. Dee has worked with adults at the centre, educating them about vegetable growing, and is now working with clients on a pilot project in a residential house to create an edible garden at the facility.

Bed 4: Others (carrots, beetroot, parsnips, celery and sweetcorn,onions, garlic, shallots )

Derrinturn Community Garden, Co Kildare

Derrinturn were in a stalemate situation. They had a beautiful piece of land but didn’t know how or where to start. Greenside Up provided the design, drawings and instructions that enabled this group to get growing.

Community education – how measurable is it?

Freshford Community Garden, Co Kilkenny

Dee was funded by Kilkenny Leader Partnership to work with a Back to Work Scheme group and develop the garden at the back of the community education building.

Glen na Bearu Community Garden, Bagenalstown

Gleann na Bearu Community Garden

With funding from various sources that include Respond Housing, Carlow Education Training Board, the County Council and Carlow Development Partnership, Dee has provided ongoing tuition since 2013 for the inter-generational gardening project in Gleann na Bearu Community Centre in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow. The garden has been designed with a strong upcycling theme resulting in them being chosen by The Nationalist Newspaper for the county Get Involved Competition, and them winning the Carlow County Council Overall Upcycling Challange for 2017.

Covering everything from growing food, food waste, composting, companion planting, green roof structures, wildflower gardening and beneficial insects, all the knowledge gained is being shared by the Youth Workers to the teenagers in Bagenalstown Youth Project  in the evenings.

October is Reuse Month - What Will You Re-imagine

Goresbridge Community Garden - July 2013

Goresbridge Community Garden, County Kilkenny

Goresbridge was the first community garden Dee worked with and the one that decided the direction of Greenside Up. Supported by Kilkenny Education Training Board and Kilkenny Leader Partnership, Dee helped this garden grow for four years, teaching adults the basics of growing vegetables.

Growing Food in Recycled Containers

Irish Wheelchair Association

Irish Wheelchair Association in Carlow Town have a small garden at their centre containing raised beds and a polytunnel.

I’ve been fortunate to work with different groups there for various time periods during the year and particularly enjoyed working with adults to grow food in recycled containers during 2015.

Kilkenny Allotments & Community Gardens

A new group in 2013, the Kilkenny Allotments and Community Garden project was a collaboration between Kilkenny Vocational school teachers, parents and allotment holders with Dee’s time funded by Kilkenny Education Training Board.

Summer 2012 Leighlin Parish Community Garden

Leighlin Parish Community Garden, Co Carlow

In collaboration with Leighlin Parish, funded by a combination of the Parish and Carlow Education Training Board and with full support and land donated by the parish priest, in 2012 Greenside Up helped this group of community gardeners design, develop, plant and grow their garden.

Millennium Court Community Garden

Millennium Court Community Garden, Co Kilkenny

What started with a hobby gardening course in the autumn of 2011 developed into a Back to Education accredited course in outdoor vegetable crop production funded by Kilkenny Education Training Board in 2012. The original garden was improved upon, added to and a full range of fruit and vegetables sown and grown. Knowledge learnt has been passed to the local children with nature and biodiversity themed summer camps being run by the centre.

Dee Sewell, Greenside Up Portfolio of Gardens

St Francis Farm, Tullow

St Francis Farm in Tullow, County Carlow, a Merchants Quay Ireland Centre, is a drug free residential rehabilitation centre that offers therapy, education and practical skills training in a rural farm setting. Dee has been working with residents weekly since the summer of 2017, creating an edible food garden, offering a hands on form of horticultural therapy.

School of Food, Thomastown, Gardening Course with Dee Sewell

School of Food, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny

A garden created at the School of Food in Thomastown to complement the kitchens and chef training centre. Dee has facilitated several garden courses at the School of Food, as well as accredited QQI Level 3 courses funded by Kilkenny Education Training Board in Outdoor Vegetable Crop Production, Planting and Potting and Horticulture.

Contact Greenside Up

For more information about how Dee Sewell can help you in your social food community garden