Burtown House – a garden gem in Kildare

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.

Burtown House and garden

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.

Burtown House and gardens

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.

Burtown House June 14 283

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.

Burtown House June 14 274

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…

Burtown House

…one’ s eye drawn through the garden to the meadowland beyond by the “Viewfinder” sculpture by Eileen MacDonagh.

"Viewfinder" Eileen MacDonagh, Burtown House

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.

Burtown House

Burtown House

On through the Yew Garden, the sentries marching across the lawn to a rustic pergola …

Burtown House, the Yew garden

… dripping with wisteria and roses.

Wisteria, Burtown House

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.

Burtown House and Gardens

Burtown House

Burtown House

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.

Wendy's garden, Burtown House

Wendy's garden, Burtown House

June 2014 106

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.

The kitchen garden, Burtown House

James Fennell and his assistant were picking asparagus when we arrived.

The walled kitchen garden, Burtown House

Cutting asparagus, Burtown House

There are meadows with mown paths leading one on to giant intriguing sculpture.

Sculpture meadow, Burtown House

But, for me, the delight of finding the Stream Garden beyond the Studio was a highlight.

The stream garden, Burtown House

The texture and structure of the planting so considered, that miniature pictures are created along the water’s edge.

The Stream garden, Burtown House

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.

Burtown House

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.

Burtown House and gardens

If you visit Burtown House, take your time, soak up the tranquil atmosphere, the artistry of this very special place.

Burtown House and Gardens.

22 thoughts on “Burtown House – a garden gem in Kildare

  1. The munching cow in your first image seems to say, “Hey, you lookin’ at meeeeee?”

    And yes, this garden is definitely the result of an artistic eye (generations of artists, as you mention). Your photos made me feel as if I was part of the experience.


  2. Reblogged this on Rhymes with Linnaeus and commented:
    Spring and fall are natural high points of colour and interest in Southern Ontario backyards but this Irish garden, beautifully photographed by a Dublin-based pro garden designer proves that mid-summer can be equally spectacular. I think I’ll have to get a pergola.


  3. Pingback: The Sculpture at Burtown House | Jardin

  4. Pingback: Burtown House ~ Co. Kildare | City of Blackbirds

  5. Pingback: Five favourite gardens near Dublin. | Jardin

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