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Carlow Garden Festival


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!

Lifestyle, Travel

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?