Strokestown Gardens with Garden Landscaper in Dublin Eugene Higgins
Having driven through Strokestown in Longford on many occasions, heading for the West of Ireland, I always asked myself two questions where exactly were the renowned House and Gardens and what lay behind the spectacular gates in the middle of the town. Both dilemmas were solved when I was invited to tour the gardens recently. It turns out that the spectacular gates of Strokestown were in fact the gateway to the renowned gardens and house.
I highly recommend an outing this Summer to see the magnificent gardens and house that have been lovingly restored and open since 1997 when The Walled Gardens were opened to the public after a ten year restoration project. The Gardens had run into serious disrepair since the 1960′s, and had been totally reclaimed by nature, which sometimes can be a good thing. But in this case the remnants of the garden and its rich history were in danger of being lost forever.
So a manager was needed that would find the balance between Mother Nature and the historical gardens, someone who would ensure, that the many exotic fruits plants and stories were not to be lost to time forever. The Guardian chosen was John ODriscoll. John studied horticulture in the National Botanic gardens Glasnevin and then moved to Strokestown Park he has proved so good at his job that in July last year he joined the board of Directors responsible for Strokestown Park
John work and dedication is second to none and deserves recognition from anyone who has interest in Horticulture or Irish History. He is very passionate about his job, and his highly engaging personality, made his tour of the grounds fascinating where we saw the restoration of many of the original features including the Croquet Lawn, Lawn Tennis Court, Summer House and a magnificent ornamental Lilly pond plus the Herbaceous Border which is listed in the Guinness Book Of Records as the longest Herbaceous Border in Britain and Ireland. It truly is breathtaking having been planted in a rainbow colour scheme. Other features in the Garden include a formal Rose Garden, a wonderful Pergola, a Wildflower Garden and a Fernery.
The Glasshouses built in 1780 by James O Donnell are believed to be the oldest restored Glass-houses in Ireland and were home to the Peach House and Vinery. In 2000 John under took a millennium project of the 2 acre Georgian fruit and vegetable garden that included the replanting of the Peach trees. The variety selected is "Peach Peregrine” John describes it as “A white fleshed peach that continues to crop really well each year. In August we harvest them to make delicious Peach Cobbler for our own Cafe"
In its heyday the walled garden was producing grapes and amazingly pineapples plus all the usual soft fruits you would expect. It is located in the main garden where there is a brick lined wall facing south. The original fruit wall had at the base small brick arches that were used as fireplaces. John explained how it worked back in the 1780s so successfully “Flues ran behind the brick so when fires were lit the heat travelled through the specially designed hollow wall keeping the late frosts off the early fruit blossoms. The fire had to be manned through the night as the controlled fires that heated the walls had to be kept to there efficient best to keep the exotic fruits warmed to the temperature they were use to". While it is hoped one day to attempt to restore this system hearing and seeing how it worked in its prime is truly fascinating.
At the most shady part of the garden is a replanted fernery, something that I have craved to plant myself; the ferns are really thriving under a beautiful canopy of Hazel. The Shuttlecock ferns look outstanding and really restore this Victorian garden style to great effect and are extremely beautiful in late Spring early Summer.
Huge credit must be given to the work John and his team have undertaken and the best way to this, is to visit Strokestown Garden, and home and pay homage to there outstanding dedication.