Ireland’s Most Romantic Garden

There is a lot to live up to – it’s in Monty Don’s Top 10 Gardens; Gardener’s World Magazine  voted it “Best” and “Most Romantic” garden in Ireland.

Will the garden live up to the hype?

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I hadn’t visited it for some years ….. but, I needn’t have worried.

Mount Usher’s special atmosphere envelops you imperceptibly and draws you in, to while away the hours in idle reflection by its riverbanks or admiring the towering collection of trees.

Time doesn’t seem to matter.

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The River Vartry

Water is of course a wonderful asset in a garden.

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What is particularly clever here is the contrast – at first , its stillness and reflective qualities.

Move upstream and you have the rushy sound as it spills over the weirs.

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Along the riverbank, subtle plantings are reflected in the tranquil waters.

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In the company of Sean Heffernan, Head Gardener here for the last 8 years, one shares his enthusiasm for Mount Usher’s remarkable collection of trees.

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Liriodendron tulipfera – the oldest specimen in Ireland

One notices the detail, like the fish-tail leaves on the Camellia x williamsii “C.F.Coates”

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As well as the statuesque :

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The Cathedral-like Eucalyptus Grove

There is a booklet guiding you through this arboreal wonderland, but just wander along its meandering paths and marvel as it unfolds.

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Since becoming Head Gardener, Sean has regenerated the garden and opened up views, so that the visitor is constantly delighted by subtle glimpses of layered planting, the old millstream or a striking tree.

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Subtle touches are just as important as the broad canvas in a really good garden.

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When asked to define Mount Usher’s special quality, Sean puts it down to its “naturalistic planting – it’s easy on the eye”.

The planting is described as “Robinsonian”, after the Irish gardener who blazed a trail in 19thC and early 20thC England, advocating a more natural way of planting in the Victorian era of  tightly controlled bedding schemes and “Italianate” gardens.

Of course many garden visitors expect the requisite Herbaceous Border and this one, best encountered through the beech hedge at the end of your visit, doesn’t disappoint.

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The air is heavy with the scent of lilies …

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.. and a haze of bees and butterflies.

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The planting is effusive.

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A wonderfully colourful contrast to the subtle greens and russets of the woodland walk.

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In late summer, key plants are Eupatoriums, Cleomes, Cosmos and Japanese Anemones.

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Cleome hassleriana

Each season has something to offer – the mass of spring-flowering bulbs, followed by the vibrant colours of the azaleas and rhododendrons; and then the late-summer flowering of the Eucryphias (the National Collection is here).

Autumn is particularly lovely with the striking foliage of Liquidambers and Maples.

This is a garden to be explored softly. It is not a manicured showpiece.

It is so much more.

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Follow the meandering paths, pause awhile by the river and daydream.

Let Mount Usher’s tranquillity restore your spirit.

(All photography mine; feel free to use any of Jardin’s images but please credit and link back)

21 thoughts on “Ireland’s Most Romantic Garden

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