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garden visits


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



Garden Visit: Delta Centre Sensory Gardens, Carlow

March 25, 2014

I’ve written about the Delta Centre before, having visited the twenty interconnecting but quite different sensory gardens for the Christmas light display. Promising to return in the springtime to see the many, different varieties of daffodils growing there, it only needed a meeting of friends with the suggestion of tea and cake in the friendly on-site café to find me there once more.

The daffodils were a bright and cheery splash of yellow throughout…

Delta Centre Tete a Tete Daffodils

and it was uplifting to watch the bees begin to emerge and feed upon the various yellow blooms…

Mahonia bee

possibly as a result of the shelter they’d found in one of several gorgeous bug hotels.

Bug Hotel in the Delta Centre Gardens, Carlow

We tried not to get wet as the wind whipped the water around us from the magnificent dandelion clock inspired water feature…

Dandelion Clock Water Featureand watched the Koi Carp swimming around the lake and under the bridge towards the sunken boat.

Old Boat in the Delta Centre Sensory Gardens, Carlow

We couldn’t help ourselves and had to stroke several giant sculptures featured in almost all of the gardens.

Delta Centre Sensory Gardens Pea Sculpture

and we gazed in admiration at Mary Reynold’s Celtic lady.

Mary Reynolds Celtic Lady

It was the alpine plants growing in the middle of the waist-high limestone wall that stole the show for me during this springtime visit. If they had been planted in beds on the ground we would have missed their exquisite blooms.

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If you have an opportunity to visit the Delta Centre sensory gardens on Saturday, 29th March, Deborah Begley from Terra Nova Gardens, Dromin, Co Limerick will be giving a light-hearted talk. For more information on the talk or for opening hours for the gardens in general, telephone +353(0)599143527 or email – Admission: adults €5, concessions €4, children free accompanied by an adult.


Multi Sensory Gardens, Darkness & Light

December 18, 2013
Stolen Child Garden by Mary Reynolds

Stolen Child Garden by Mary Reynolds

We usually visit gardens by day but there’s one series of gardens that simply must be seen during the winter darkness and they’re at The Delta Centre in Carlow.

Delta Centre SculptureFrom the 7th to the 22nd December the twenty multi sensory gardens are lit up with sparkling lights, helping to create a magical place that appeals to both young and old alike.

Delta Centre SculptureIf you wish, you can take a map or follow a trail game that can help you find your way along the pathways that weave their way through the themed gardens. Alternatively just meander around and try not to trip up as your eyes dart from the skeleton trees to tall sculptures that entice you to touch and feel their varied textures, however cold your fingertips might feel on a winter’s night.

Whilst the interconnecting multi sensory gardens will fill you with inspiration during the rest of the year, during the cold December evenings they’ll leave you with a sense of wonder that once experienced, will never be forgotten.

Delta Sensory Garden LightsThe Delta Centre provides training and multi sensory services to adults with intellectual disabilities and all funds raised there help to support their services. As such there’s a small admission fee to the gardens of €5 for adults, €4 for concessions with children free and they are open until 7.00 pm for the Christmas light show and Craft Fair.

Delta Centre TreesWhen you’ve finished wandering around outside and can’t wait any longer to warm up, you can pop into the very reasonably priced Christmas craft shop that’s bursting with garlands and decorations before heading into the café for hot drinks and sticky cakes to round off your evening.

Delta Centre Christmas Decorations

I last visited the multi sensory gardens in December 2008 with two young girls aged five and eight – five years later their memories are of fairy like enchantment.

This time around my visit was with two groups of community gardening adults who have informed me that not only did they thoroughly enjoy the experience, they can’t wait to go back for a daylight trip to see the spring daffodil display.

For more information about the Delta Sensory Garden light show, check out their website here and apologies for the photo quality which really don’t do it justice!


Mount Congreve ~ Fabulous Autumn Inspiration

September 27, 2013

Mount Congreve, described as one of the great gardens of the world, is only 45 minutes from our home yet it’s taken until now for me to spend more than twenty minutes there.

Mount ConvgreveWhy? It was a privately owned garden that until recently has only been open to the public on Thursdays and occasional weekends which has made it quite tricky to get to.

Since the owner of this magnificent estate, the late Mr Ambrose Congreve, passed away there has been a fear that the gardens would close. In July Irish Daily Mail journalist, Tom Doorley described the difficulties the Estate has been under while trying to hand the gardens over to the Office of Public Works as Mr Congreve wished.

Thankfully the glitch has been resolved and the gardens have been open from springtime 2014, but do check the website for more information.


September at Mount CongreveI wont ramble on about the history of the gardens or how Mr Congreve worked on them for almost his entire life until they grew to include over 16 kilometers of pathways and woodland containing “over three thousand different trees and shrubs, more than two thousand Rhododendrons, six hundred Camellias, three hundred Acer cultivars, six hundred conifers, two hundred and fifty climbers and fifteen hundred herbaceous plants” – the Mount Congreve website can do that for you.

Mr Congreve was a passionate gardener who lived for over 104 years before passing away at Chelsea Flower Show in 2011. The remains of both he and Mrs Congreve are buried at the Temple in the Estate.

September at Mount Congreve

For now I’ll leave you with a few images that I took in the walled garden that might give you some idea of the colour you could be experiencing in your gardens during late September if you so wish.

Most of the plants in the gardens are labelled and there’s a free downloadable PDF available on the website giving a synopsis of the plants growing there. I for one will be adding dahlias and asters to my shopping trolley next time I visit our local garden centre.

Blooming Flowers at Mount Congreve during Late September

Salvia Bartolinii, a semi hardy salvia

There hasn’t been any vegetables growing in the walled garden this year unlike a couple of years ago when I paid my earlier brief visit there. It was explained that as the kitchen is no longer operating as it was in the Congreve’s day when they held dinner parties and balls, the House has no need for them. For now the beds have been laid down to green manures until a decision is made about their future.

I’m so looking forward to going back and plans are afoot to return soon with my two community garden groups for their social get together.

Blooming Flowers at Mount Congreve during Late SeptemberThese really are gardens worth visiting if you have a smidgen of interest in nature and the outdoor world. What better way to spend an autumnal day. I’m feeling inspired, are you?


A French Potager Garden in Ireland

July 31, 2013
Tanguy de Toulgoët's Potager Garden in County Laois

Tanguy de Toulgoët’s Potager Garden in County Laois

If you love the pretty cottage garden style of gardening and haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Tanguy de Toulgoët’s home and gardening/cookery/language school at Dunmore Country School in County Laois, I’d highly recommend it.

Tanguy de Toulgoet GardenIt was the first garden of several that the Kilkenny Community Garden Network have noted on their ‘places to visit’ and I’m really looking forward to seeing more gardens with them over the coming months, though this will be a difficult one to beat.

Tanguy’s pretty kitchen garden is open by appointment and situated on an acre site surrounding his home. It’s based on the typical French ‘Potager’ or country garden style where annual, perennial and biennial flowers, herbs, fruit bushes, trees and vegetables mingle and grow alongside one another.

It’s lip bitingly pretty.

Tanguy de Toulgoet Garden

Irish Leek

On first impression the garden looks muddled, particularly if you’re used to very straight and ordered vegetable beds as I am, but when you slow down and really look at it, when you feel the leaves and petals brush upon your skin as you pass them by and stop to watch butterflies chase each other through the stems and branches, it reveals so much more.

If you glance below the Achillea, Rosa and Papaver that immediately catch your eye, you’ll spot regularly spaced ridges that host a variety of healthy vegetables of all descriptions, whilst the valleys in between them are planted with Phacilia, Echinops, Cyanus and other bee attracting plants. Tanguy’s bees aren’t kept in the usual wooden boxes that we’re familiar with, but in hives developed by Abbé Émile Warré offering an economical, bee friendly, natural approach.

Tanguy de Toulgoet GardenTanguy primarily grows food for his family and his bees and his no dig, biodynamic approach to his kitchen garden is extremely productive, providing edibles for almost twelve months of the year.

Tanguy de Toulgoet GardenAs I wandered around the paths with flowers and vegetables of every description catching my eye, from dainty sweet lathyrus to blousy lilium that nestled among the garlic and chard, breathing in the delicious scents that hovered around the entire garden, it made me want to throw away my ‘rule’ books and start again.

Tanguy’s approach to his kitchen garden is clearly a healthy one. The recent drought has caused very little damage to his crops despite barely any watering. Tanguy mentioned a French saying “one hoe equals two watering” and an oscillating hoe that he demonstrated is now top of my Christmas list!

Tanguy de Toulgoet GardenUnlike Tanguy who was a child when he began, I was late to discover my real passion for gardening but I’m sure he’ll agree that we never stop learning, that there are many styles and methods, lots that work, some that don’t and that we each have to find the way of working with nature that we’re comfortable with.

Tanguy de Toulgoet GardenHaving spent a short time in a French potager garden in Ireland I’m now hoping Tanguy can offer a gardening course that might help to expand my own knowledge of biodynamic gardening. It would be a pleasure to learn more about my vocation from a teacher who’s such a charming gentleman.

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What does it take for you to get outside?

February 14, 2013

The Lake at Altamont Gardens, Co CarlowHave you summoned up the enthusiasm to start work outside in your garden yet? Our own has been damp, soggy and quite frankly, uninspiring given the lack of sunshine and continuous misty drizzle we’ve been experiencing for days on end. The clouds have barely lifted and I’ll admit it’s been difficult to shake the misty grey cloak that has enveloped us for weeks. My soil is wet, the grass is sodden and the driveway is getting muddier day by day.

Rhododendrons at Altamont Gardens

So what does it take to inspire you, to dig out the gardening gloves and step out of the door when your instincts are to stay warm and dry Inside? Do you need to see the sun or the stretch in the evenings? I wasn’t sure what it was going to take to do it for me this year (and I’m a gardener who loves to be outdoors!) so was relieved to find the magic cure this week.  I’m now bursting to get out, to put on the boots and fix the wheelbarrow wheel. In the end all it took was a blissfully happy meander around the gardens of Altamont Gardens in County Carlow.

Snowdrops (Galanthus)For years Altamont has been a favourite garden destination for us. From walking around with babies in slings and small children in backpacks, to helping them tackle the stepping-stones and more recently, watching our older two run and laugh, clamber and climb on an impromptu sunny afternoon visit.

This was my first visit to the gardens in early spring and my first without children. It was so breathtakingly beautiful with its swathes of white and every shade of green I’ll be heading there again in a couple of weeks to see the daffodils, rhododendrons and crocus in full bloom.
snowdrops at altamontNo matter what the season there’s always something to see at Altamont – from rose lined walks and Yew archways to the lily pad lake and hundred step walk. 

It only took a couple of hours for the mood change to take place, the fog to lift. As a result of the pleasant amble, I can’t wait for a few dry days so that I can pull the weeds, clear the leaves and cover my own soil with organic matter.


I now have a list of new plants I’d like to see growing in our recently created front garden – Mahonia and Ilex, Sarcococca and Hellebore. Oh yes the helleborus! I’ve never considered myself a big fan of them until now… if they’re so intent upon hanging their heads low, not daring to show us their delicate flowers why would I bother adding them to my little space? They aren’t shy at Altamont though. They lift their soft petals giving us a glimpse of what lies within and now I want to fill my beds with them, scatter them around in their greens, yellows and purples, lighten my currently non-existent spring garden with their subtle shades!

Snowdrops & HelleboresThe snowdrops were shown off by the contrasting mulch and interspersed with cyclamen, aconite and an occasional crocus that had popped up in the beds early. Early spring was truly on show in the Altamont garden and if you’re looking for somewhere to visit and find your way near Tullow in county Carlow I’d urge you to take a stroll there.

Snowdrops at Altamont GardensLike many gardens in Ireland, Altamont is free to wander around, with guided tours available for a small fee. There’s a well stocked nursery on site, most of the plants, trees and specimens are labelled enabling you to take notes of anything you’d like to see in your own gardens and toilet facilities are clean. There’s no cafe so bring a flask and a picnic which you can eat at the picnic benches that overlook the fields of cattle and calves, and above all go home inspired with garden design or plant combination ideas… go home bursting with enthusiasm to get outside.