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.
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.
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.
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.
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!