If, like me, you’ve had your head down sowing, hoeing, staking and harvesting so far this season, the time has come to raise it up and get out there to visit some of the great gardens that Ireland has to offer.
All gardens evolve through the years and seasons, but vegetable gardens hold their own special charm and it is generally around now that most are at their peak — making it the perfect time to indulge in the practical and productive inspiration of other gardeners’ cultivations and creations.
Kitchen gardens by their nature come and go and change each year so this is why it is so important to visit a few in the coming weeks to collect memories and photos of this season’s bounty and, hopefully, to pick up a few ideas for your own plot next year.
There are so many wonderful private, public and community-managed kitchen gardens in Ireland that are not on my radar, but from my limited experience, here are some of the impressive, pretty and practical plots around.
Glebe Gardens is one of my favourite places to visit as this productive family-run plot packs so much in to a coastal oasis, without digging, without waste and serving up some of the finest fresh produce in Ireland in their café and restaurant.
In its six acres by the sea, Glebe encompasses a formal and informal garden, polytunnels, a productive potager, woodland walk, wild flower meadow, outdoor amphitheater and much more. www.glebegardens.com
Ballymaloe Cookery School, Midleton, County Cork
This garden really is the Queen of Potagers in Ireland and with one acre covered in impressive glasshouses and bursting with every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable — all year round, the gardens truly are awe, if not envy inspiring
A short drive from the Cookery School is Ballymaloe House with its equally impressive Walled Garden, packed full of inspiration and edibles. This weekend Ballymaloe is celebrating its third annual Garden Fete, so what better time to visit the area. http://gardenfestival.ballymaloe.ie/ http://www.cookingisfun.ie/gardens/our-gardens
Colclough Walled Garden, Tintern Abbey, Saltmills, New Ross, Co Wexford
Colclough (pronounced Coke-lee) walled garden is a fabulous example of a garden restoration project in the south-east of Ireland. Only open to the public since May 2012, it is well worth a visit.
The original layout has been reinstated as it was in 1838 using information found in the OSI Historical Map with the restoration work carried out by volunteers and organised by Hook Tourism.
These walls contain a lovely mix of flowers, vegetables, herbs, a memorable scarecrow and a staggering amount of super healthy fruit trees.
When I visited a fortnight ago, baskets of ripe, sweet ‘Beauty of Bath’ apples were gathered and available to buy on a donation basis.
Gardeners and volunteers alike were open and willing to share their knowledge and the story behind the garden, which added to the wholesomeness of the experience.
New Food Garden, Airfield Estate, Dundrum, Dublin 14
Being brought up in a family where ‘self praise is no praise’ was a regular maxim, it is difficult to wax lyrical about a garden that falls under your own charge.
That said, between the ornamental gardens in Airfield Estate managed under the attentive eye of Colm O’Driscoll and the newly designed food gardens where I spend most of my time, there are lots in Airfield to keep green-fingered enthusiasts of all levels engaged.www.airfield.ie
Dunmore Country School
As a native Laois woman I am embarrassed to say I have not yet been to Dunmore Country School ( www.dunmorecountryschool.ie ) in Durrow where Tanguy de Toulgoët combines traditional French garden flair and techniques with organic biodynamic growing.
This garden sounds like a plant and food person’s paradise and is one I hope to visit this year.
For more inspiration on great gardens in Ireland, Jane Powers’ The Irish Garden, with photographs by Jonathon Hession, is a must-have guide to the best in the country.