We came to Ireland to see gardens and to experience Irish hospitality and culture.
And today we did all of these things when we visited two of Dublin’s loveliest private gardens, one owned by Mark and Olive Wilkinson and the other by Patricia and Michael Maguire.
We arrived at the Wilkinson’s garden at Tyrrelstown first thing in the morning and met Mark at the front door of his Boston ivy-covered mansion that dates back to the 1900s.
He guided us first into the rose garden at the side of the house where the roses were yet to open but where we found a superb wisteria and pleasant patio spot, which Mark said was one of his favourite places in summer.
From the rose courtyard, we walked around into the main walled garden at the back of the house, which turned out to be a beautiful and complex assortment of connecting garden areas all linked by a perimeter stroll path.
The first thing we saw was a lovely blue border full of bluebells with a variety of blue containers of various shapes and size scattered among them. The adjacent brick wall was also planted with aubrietia and campanula plugging holes.
Here, we enjoyed passing under graceful arches and wandering past exciting plants such as the two superb, full-flowering Chilean fire tree (Embothrium) and magnificent billowing abutilons.
The perennial borders were wide and densely planted and contained a rich selection of choice plants, all very healthy and looking exceptionally beautiful.
The Wilkinson’s garden exudes the spirit of family and friendship with all sorts of inviting sitting and socializing places plus lovely play area for grandchildren including a charming swing strung from the branch of a tree.
Scent from deciduous azaleas filled the air when we were there and we found some exciting examples of trees, such as the wedding cake tree, Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’, so named because of its exquisite layered branching structure, a dove tree a.k.a the handkerchief tree and one of the first Dawn redwood trees planted in Ireland.
In the centre of the garden, Mark has built a gentle water rill and stream that drains into a circular basin that is another place where the grandchildren love to play and hang out in summer.
Along the gently gurgling stream, we found an impressive planting of candelabra primula.
We also enjoyed seeing an orange ball tree, globe buddleia (B. globosa) and a beautiful Judas tree in full bloom.
Mark explained how he is working to establish a meadow garden and is happy to see how well his yellow rattle is doing – a plant he feels is essential for success if you want other meadow wild flowers to establish themselves.
But we were particularly touched by the gentle and gracious welcome we received from Mark and Olive and how relaxed and happy they were to chat with everyone and tell stories and answer questions about the garden and their life on the estate which today includes 60 acres.
After a pleasant pub lunch, we headed to Lambs Cross, the garden of Patricia and Michael Maguire.
We were stopped in our tracks at the front door by an impressive collection of alpine plants, all displayed in a small gravel raised bed. It was an appetizer for what was to come and a clear indication of Patricia’s gifted planting ideas and her love for alpine plants, in particular.
Michael willingly accepts that Patricia is the brains and main driving force behind the planting and that his role is mainly to support and help and take care of clipping hedges and shrubs.
In the main garden, we found a greenhouse containing some super fragrant Nemesia Wisley Vanilla which filled the space with a heavenly scent.
Outside the greenhouse, a small rectangular shaped space, enclosed by neatly clipped box, contained a red-and-black planting scheme, featuring red pelargoniums in black pots, red-leaf cordylines and two small decorative black balls. Pressed against the house were troughs containing osteospermum.
As we strolled into the heart of the garden, we passed a lovely deck perched over a leafy ravine and saw some lovely white-flowering shrubs; viburnum, olearia, and Choiysa Aztec Pearl.
Further on, we found a delightful grouping of Himalayan birch trees with a heron statue in the centre.
The garden has dozens of other treasures – Chatham Island forget-me-nots, which Patricia admits were not easy to establish and could disappear just as quickly as they came, so for now she has her fingers crossed.
The Maguires are the perfect interview for a journalist – full of great information, kind and gracious, always willing to share their great knowledge and expertise with others and always exhibiting a very positive and optimistic mindset.
We were all shocked to learn that the garden will be devastated in the next year when a road-widening scheme will gobble up a large chunk of the bottom of the garden.
But Patricia is philosophical about the loss: “We will just look at how to make a new garden with what we have.”
From the Maguire’s garden, we headed back into Dublin. Some of us went for a walk in the Iveagh Garden and then into St. Stephen’s Green and down Grafton Street and into Temple Bar.
I was thrilled to be able to visit one of my favourite old Dublin pubs, The Long Hall, before walking back into Temple Bar to listen to some lively Irish fiddle music and then along the Liffey and over the Half-Penny bridge.