On our last day in Dublin before we head into southern Ireland, we went out to see the gardens at Killruddery and Powerscourt. We will be returning to Dublin before we head off to London for the Chelsea Flower Show.
Killruddery House has been the home to the Brabazon family since 1618 and the gardens have been preserved in their original form from the 17th century.
From the entrance, we started by walking towards the house and the sunken garden, but what immediately caught our eye was a border filled with enormous Echium pininana, native to the Canary Islands.
Killruddery House was less interesting to us than the wonderful arboretum of trees on the far side of it, beautifully spaced out so each one was perfectly displayed in its full glory.
One of the prize specimens is a huge strawberry tree, Unedo, that was felled and split in half during a lightning storm but managed to hang on and continue thriving.
But, for me, the collection of purple beech, oak, linden and larch were even more impressive.
In an area called The Rock, we found a lovely woodland garden with a giant rhododendron on the edge and a big drift of fragrant, yellow-flowered Azalea luteum.
Deeper in the woodland, we found clumps of white-flowered libertia and shooting star (Dodecantheon) as well as a a splattering of aquilegia and bluebells.
One area that reminded us of the lovely gardens at Chateau Courances, south of Paris, because of the way hornbeam, beech and lime hedges had been shaped and trimmed to create a maze-like walk with deliberate focus on statuary and a framing of key views.
This area, called The Angles, was a pleasure to wander around and evoked a sense of deep peace and rest because of its soothing green on green properties.
Next to the Angles, we saw long ponds that also reminded us of Courances, which is known as the garden of mirrors because it, too, has long canals and wide basins of water that reflect the sky.
Killruddery is a big garden, a park-like setting that requires you to walk a lot. This is a very good thing. We kept walking into the formal circle of clipped beech inside of which we found a circular lily pond.
Beyond this, we stepped out into the vegetable garden and walled garden project where we found a hen run placed right next to a children’s play area. It made a charming picture – the children playing in the sandpit and the chickens walking in their fenced run.
There were other areas of Killruddery to explore, such as The Wilderness and I never got to do the Monks’ Walk, but we were very satisfied with our visit.
From Killruddery, it was only a short ride to Powerscourt, one of Ireland’s most important gardens and one that likes to point out that it was rated No. 3 in the world by National Geographic magazine.
The garden dates back to 1731 and is a large estate with exquisite open views of the surrounding countryside, including the pointy Sugarloaf hill.
From the house, we walked anti-clockwise around the garden, moving first to Julia’s Memorial, a small rose garden with fountain and busts of illustrious artists of the past, notably Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
From there, we walked into the famous Walled Garden with its wide, densely packed perennial borders, and continued on to the Dolphin Pond that was brought back in the 19th century by the 7th Viscount after a shopping trip in Paris.
Leaves in the ornate iron gates and screens at Powerscourt have been painted gold (or perhaps it is gold leaf) in the style of Versailles, which I thought was a big mistake, since Versailles is known as a particularly ostentatious garden, a very poor reproduction of the garden at Chateau Vaux le Vicomte.
From the Dolphin Pond, we continued down the slope into the Rhododendron Walk, but we were drawn more by the grove of magnificent trees – beech, mainly, but also coastal redwood and drimys, liriodendron and Monterey pine.
Triton Lake is the garden’s main central feature with a fountain in the centre.
But at the side is a lovely sunken Japanese garden and grotto. These look even better from within the garden than they seem when you look down on them from the path above.
The route from here was back up the hill to the house, past the Italian Garden and up elegant stairs that sweep down from the top promenade to two winged white horses that frame the view over Triton Lake.
From Powerscourt, we headed back to Dublin where we were still time to explore the pleasures of the pub scene.