Thursday, August 29th, 2013...9:19 am

TheGardenLady’s Ireland Garden Tour


Gorse by l2x

I love having a garden. It is also so nice when passers-by stop to tell me how much they enjoy my garden, too. Besides having my own garden, I also love to visit other gardens as well, to appreciate what other gardeners are doing and get ideas for my own garden.

To visit gardens, I also enjoy organizing tours of gardens for myself and like minded gardening friends. I have done this for about 10 years, both in the states and in Europe. I do it purely as a hobby; so no need to ask to join any tour, it is only for friends.

This year friends asked me to plan a tour of Ireland’s gardens. To see as many of the gardens as possible, I planned trips to both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 18 of us went in May; a bad time for our own gardens, but from all I read about Ireland, May was considered the best time to visit. So I hoped it would be a good time for Irish gardens this year even though Northern Ireland had more snow than usual.

We were lucky. Ireland, which was having a late spring and had had so much rain before we arrived hardly had rain when we visited and there were plenty of flowers in bloom for us to see. We were told when we returned home that we missed half a week of heavy rains where we lived. However, our gardens seemed a little bit ahead of the Irish gardens in that all the roses were in bloom whereas we did not see any roses in Ireland. I knew that the International Rose Festival in Belfast was held in July but I had hoped to see a few roses in bloom.

There were some interesting things about gardens in all of the island, both North and South. For example, gorse is everywhere and we were lucky to see the spring gorse in bloom. (see here and here)

Ireland has many native flowers but we saw mostly reeds, gorse, ramsons (ramps) and cowslips blooming along the byways we passed and in some gardens. The ramps were covered in their dainty flowers, a joy to behold.

In the gardens we saw many of the same flowers that we grow in our gardens plus we saw many subtropical plants that we could not grow in our zone 6 gardens. What amazed us was the size of the plants we saw growing in Ireland compared to the size these plants are in our gardens.

The first big surprise was in the Belfast Botanic Garden where we saw rhododendron trees with trunks. All of us are avid gardeners and garden visitors, yet seeing tree rhododendrons was a first for all of us even though we had visited many gardens in the South of England. (see here)

There were also rhododendrons that were in the shrub form that we have in our area. However, someone told us they had some that they were over 60 ft tall. I have since read that they can grow to be 90 ft. The rhododendrons were in full bloom, many red and yellow,rhododendrons. It was gorgeous. Then we learned that the rhodoendrons have become very invasive and are taking over Ireland. We were almost unbelieving. But then we saw rhododendrons being cut out of forests on some of the huge garden estates.

In fact, we were amazed to see so many of the plants we love and enjoy in our gardens, only in the Irish gardens they looked like the plants were on steroids. I imagine the warmth of the island plus all the rain showers they get helps the plants grow so large. They are growing like they would in a greenhouse. And I was told by most of the gardeners we spoke to that they use animal manures and compost to enrich their soil.



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