Unearthing treasures

Charlie Wilkins has a spring in his step as he looks forward to exploring some of the best gardens in the country

Alice Roch-Perks, five, and Harry Roch-Perks, three at the launch of the Waterford Garden Trail Festival 2012 at Dromana House and Gardens. Picture: Patrick Browne.

This hidden area of a really large decorative garden is enclosed by beautifully maintained yew hedge.

Their main enjoyment is offering a glimpse into private, hidden worlds

I defy anyone, even die-hard gardeners, not to be moved by the utterly ravishing newness of spring gardens. All around, I notice and celebrate the miracle of everyday life and the beauty of ornamental and productive gardens. And it is now when the fulsomeness of mid April becomes evident my thoughts once again turn to garden visiting and the chance that I and thousands more will have to buttonhole owners who willingly open their properties in aid of a charity or worthy cause.

Their main enjoyment it has been found, is offering to all who come, an intimate glimpse into private, hidden worlds.

I have before me details of three separate garden trails for the summer season ahead; The Wexford, Waterford, and West Cork Garden Trails. In total over 50 properties will open their gates in aid of chosen charities.

Twenty one properties across the sunny southeast have come together to form Ireland’s largest garden trail. All vary in size, heritage and landscape. Some are unique in being converted farmhouse gardens, others boast Japanese showpieces, walled or woodland properties, while more than a few have won national awards over the past 20 years. The Wexford Garden Trail brochure is available and downloadable at www.visitwexford.ie.

The West Cork Garden Trail this year has a full complement of 15 ‘open gardens’ including Ilnacullen (Garnish Island), two quite distinct sculpture gardens, romantic properties, the Bamboo Park and at least a number of others featured in Shirley Lanigan’s 100 Best Gardens in Ireland.

What I love about this trail is not alone the amount of information given in the snazzy full colour brochure (directions, telephone contact, opening times, websites and Google maps) but little snippets of information about the gardens themselves. Remarks such as; ‘containing a sunken white garden, an Italianate canal and a Japanese garden near to wisteria walk before entering a bog garden and tropical garden’ thrill the reader and promise wonderful days full of exploration and excitement. There are many more examples so send for your copy to Phemie Rose, Kilravock Gardens, Durrus, West Cork enclosing an SAE or log onto http://www.westcorkweek.com/gardentrail.

A total of 15 gardens, comprising 12 privately owned gardens throughout County Waterford (and three garden centres in the area) are taking part in the Waterford Garden Trail. Some of the great local houses taking part include Lismore Castle, Cappoquin House and Garden, Dromana House and Gardens, Tourin Gardens.

The festival also includes a diverse programme of events, including the visit of world renowned botanical artist Patrick O’Hara, hosting a botanical drawing workshop at Lismore Castle; Roy Lancaster who will lecture in Dungarvan Town Theatre and Robin Waistell, (floral artist), who was trained by the great Constance Spry, will undertake flower arranging demonstrations at Tourin House. Well known ecologist Dick Warner will lecture at Salterbridge House & Gardens. Details at www.waterfrordgardentrail.com.

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