We amble down the meandering drive, surrounded by mature trees and meadowlands, curious cows observing our passing, a couple of the house dogs trot out aimiably to inspect us, the birdsong is intense… the charm of Country House visiting in Ireland.
We enter the courtyard to pay our fee and it is immediately clear that this is no ordinary garden visit – the hand and eye of an artist is at work, small tableaux abound.
This is Burtown House and Gardens, the home of the late Wendy Walsh, one of Ireland’s best botanical artists, her daughter Lesley Fennell, an artist, and her son James Fennell, a highly regarded photographer; a family home, still in the hands of the family that built it in the early 18th century.
The wonderful herbaceous borders lie at the rear of the house, orchestrated yet exuberant in colour – poppies, nepeta, peonies, geraniums, a feast for the eyes and the dozens of bees.
The current gardens were first laid out by Isabel Shackleton, cousin of the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, but have been greatly enhanced over recent decades by Lesley Fennell and her son James, creating woodland walks, meadows and flower gardens.
The bow-fronted rear of the house was added in the late 18th century, and a tall arched staircase window affords lovely views of the garden beyond…
…one’ s eye drawn through the garden to the meadowland beyond by the “Viewfinder” sculpture by Eileen MacDonagh.
There is much to delight the keen gardener, with all the plant components expected in a country garden – Lupins, Martagon lilies, Digitalis, Papaver ‘Patty’sPlum’, Cirsium rivulare, peonies and roses.
Across the lawn, admiring the planting in the lawn beds, intriguing glimpses of the house can be seen through the canopy of trees, sweetly scented Philadelphus and tall foxgloves.
On through the Yew Garden, the sentries marching across the lawn to a rustic pergola …
… dripping with wisteria and roses.
It is so beautiful, the air heavy with scent, that it is hard to drag oneself away from the hazy froth of white flowers and the bee encrusted roses.
But there is much yet to discover, the Sundial Garden, the Orchard and the lovely Wendy’s Garden, a charming blue and yellow scheme when we visited in June, encircling the Artist’s Studio, jamjars of brushes lined up along the windowledges.
The walled kitchen garden is large and productive and has been in existence for the last 150 years. Gooseberries, artichokes, herbs and salad greens abound, all destined for the House and the Gallery Cafe for visitors.
James Fennell and his assistant were picking asparagus when we arrived.
There are meadows with mown paths leading one on to giant intriguing sculpture.
But, for me, the delight of finding the Stream Garden beyond the Studio was a highlight.
The texture and structure of the planting so considered, that miniature pictures are created along the water’s edge.
This is a garden that rewards exploration; I visited with Eadaoin, whose lovely photography blog is ‘City of Blackbirds,’ and there was much to beguile us both.
It is clearly the garden of an artist, or generations of artists; colour, form and texture, the elements of art, are present throughout the garden.
If you visit Burtown House, take your time, soak up the tranquil atmosphere, the artistry of this very special place.