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garden visit


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 🙂



Kilgraney Herb Gardens – Beautiful and healing in many ways…

August 6, 2011

Healing and Herbs at Kilgraney House

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!

Kilgraney Herb Gardens

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….

Healing and herbs at Kilgraney House

The Cosmic Herb Circle

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.

Healing and Herbs at Kilgraney House

Monastic Herb Cloister

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.

A garden humming with busy insects and full of beautiful 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.

Even the trees embrace here

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.