Collars up, a biting February wind, and a brisk walk around botanical gardens with the reward of sultry temperatures in the glasshouses, always lifts the spirits. The beautiful National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, in Glasnevin, are a mere 3 km from Dublin’s bustling city centre.
Founded in 1795, the lovely gardens have the benefit of the Tolka river flowing through them, creating opportunities for contemplative reflection, or excitement as the water rushes over the weir.
The role of the gardens is “to explore, understand, conserve, and share the importance of plants.We aim to make the National Botanic Gardens a place where leisure, recreation and education are all compatible for the enjoyment of our visitors.” Entrance to the gardens is free which ensures it is well used by locals.
It is a centre for research and conservation; indeed, it was the botanist David Moore who first noted potato blight in Ireland at Glasnevin on 20th August 1845 and predicted that the impact on the potato crop would lead to famine in Ireland – which subsequently reduced its population by almost 25%. He continued to investigate the cause of the blight and correctly identified it as a fungus but narrowly missed finding a remedy.
Development continues each year, including the Viking house and garden, made of oak, ash and hazel, alluding to Dublin’s Hiberno-Norse heritage of the 8th-10th centuries.
But it is to the wonderful glass structures of the 19th century Palm House and its glass companions that the feet turn in winter, to savour the sultry, steamy atmosphere and absorb the colours of the tropics.
For seven years, I lived a stone’s throw from the Botanic Gardens. They were a refuge and a haven from the city. How I still miss them.