Carlow Garden Festival has the perfect mix of experts and trailblazers

Fiann Ó Nualláin says the Carlow Garden Festival has something for all interests

Carlow Garden Festival has the perfect mix of experts and trailblazers

THIS year’s Carlow Garden Festival commences on Friday, July 21, and continues over the next 10 days with an array of experts and famous faces to match the great locations and wonderful Carlow gardens.

A mix of free events and entrance fee talks — for the latter pre-booking is vital so I’m giving you a few weeks’ head start here.

So what can you expect? Well more and more these events are populated with big-name English horticultural celebrities to the neglect of our homegrown brilliance but that’s not the case here.

Here we have the perfect mix and in the mix are genuine experts and what the organisers offer as “trailblazers in Irish horticulture”. Our own world-class rose expert Dermot O’Neill will be on hand at Rathvilly Garden Centre on the July 23 at 2.30pm to give a rose grower’s masterclass packed with tips and tricks gleaned over a lifetime of horticultural excellence.

And that’s not a cut and paste from any press release — I’ve worked with the man and you take my word on that. Dermot’s brains can also be picked earlier in the day — 12 noon at Rathwood in Tullow — where he will discuss his favourite plants. Both events are free to attend.

For a good chunk of my adult life I have worked as a dirty knee-ed garden creator and over the past 15 plus years I’ve built show gardens at RHS shows, at Bloom and elsewhere and experienced the type that revels in being a diva — in other words I have little tolerance left for the self-importance, arrogance and pomposity of garden designers but that said, two that I have all the time in the world for are appearing at the festival.

Mary Reynolds and Oliver Schurmann— two real people with real perspectives on plant combinations and harmonising your life and living space with nature.

I am such a fan of Mary that there must be a barring order somewhere. She will be at Shankill Castle, Kilkenny, on July 26 at 11am,

Adm: €10, to impart her wisdom and inspiration and later that day at 3pm she will be at Borris House to give a talk entitled ‘Stepping into our roles as guardians of the earth’. Adm: €7 in aid of Down Syndrome Carlow. If you can only attend one talk treat yourself to one of these.

Oliver is a fellow Bloom recidivist and acclaimed designer — I had known him first from his Mount Venus Nursery days and he gave me some great advice when I was starting out, I can’t remember what it was but I remember the gesture.

Gardening’s rock star Monty Don‘s (left) gig sold out in minutes.
Gardening’s rock star Monty Don‘s (left) gig sold out in minutes.

A man passionate about plants and I highly recommend that you catch him at the Delta Sensory Gardens on July 24 at 12.00pm

or later that day at 3pm at The Meadows, Myshall. Both tours have an admission of €5 and you will remember all the great advice and insights that he will impart, plus those venues will also reward the eye.

Another show gardening neighbour of mine - from an RHS perspective — is James Wong. I will be catching up with him soon so I’ll save the flattery for that article, but do check him out on July 27 with a talk on how to Grow for Flavour at Kilgraney House and Herb Gardens at 2.30pm, Adm: €20 or later that evening at 8pm in the fabulous Visual Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow town where James offers to teach us ‘How to Eat Better’ - Adm: €16.

There are no representatives of the Irish Examiner there this year to give talks and demos. Peter is busy with GroMor and Val and I are too expensive or something — only joking — but if you love a good pundit then do also check out gardening columnist Fionnuala Fallon at the Delta Sensory Gardens, 12 noon, on July 27 to talk about growing cut flowers seasonally and sustainably. Adm: €5.

The whole thing kicks off with Monty Don at Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven at 7pm on the 21st where Monty will talk about the evolution of his Longmeadow garden and take some questions from the audience. Already sold out for a few weeks. The admission was €25.00. Harder to get than a GAA All-Ireland final ticket.

Kilgraney House — one of the venues for the Carlow Garden Festival.
Kilgraney House — one of the venues for the Carlow Garden Festival.

Not to worry, there is also a brilliant first-day event well worth slapping the sunblock on for — Melissa Doran, acclaimed illustrator behind the hugely successful bestseller, Naturama, will lead two free nature drawing walks along the River Barrow — leaving from The Parish Centre, Leighlinbridge, at 2.30 and 4.30pm.

Bring the kids, some sketchpads, and pencils — and enjoy a perfect afternoon for all the family!

That’s the great thing about the festival, it is the array of activities; the family fun and the events for gardeners not just of all ages but of all levels of interest — from novice to anorak – you’ll get your boots filled.

For more info visit

More in this section

News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up