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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 🙂



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?