RHSI Partner Garden – Collon House

Nestled less than an hour away from the bustling heart of Dublin City Centre, home to John Bentley-Dunn and Michael McMahon, Collon House beckons with its rich history, captivating charm, and meticulously curated gardens. This hidden gem offers a rare opportunity to step back in time and experience the elegance of early Georgian living, all within a stone’s throw of modern amenities.
From the moment John warmly welcomed me through its gates, I was transported to a world where Georgian elegance mingles with flourishing gardens, creating an experience that’s truly captivating.

Collon House, a living testament to centuries gone by, was constructed in 1740 in the distinctive Irish Long House style. Once the residence of Anthony Foster, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, it carries the echoes of significant figures and events from Irish history. The most renowned resident, John “Speaker” Foster, was not only the last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons before its dissolution by the Act of Union in 1800 but also ascended to peerage in the United Kingdom. With its period antiques and paintings, the house exudes an air of grace and refinement, transporting visitors to a bygone era.

The gardens at Collon House are an intricate tapestry of horticulture and design. Enclosed by mature trees and shrubs, the gardens have been lovingly restored with period-appropriate plantings, a testament to the dedication of the current stewards. John’s passion for horticulture is evident in every inch of Collon House’s gardens.

As you approach the main entrance, your eyes will be drawn to the sunken box parterre, adorned with topiaries and a meticulously laid out 18th-century design—a true masterpiece. In the ornamental garden, box-edged herbaceous borders come alive with a riot of colours. From the elegance of white phlox and delphiniums to the vibrant hues of penstemon, dahlias, and asters, each plant contributes to a symphony of natural beauty. As the seasons shift, the garden undergoes a transformation, with each bloom taking centre stage in its own time.

A Greek-style summer house, nestled at the garden’s end, offers a tranquil vantage point. Amidst the old roses, wisteria, and clematis, it’s an ideal spot to pause and reflect on the harmonious interplay of colours and textures.

Collon House’s gardens cater to a diverse array of plant enthusiasts. The enclosed centre courtyard provides a haven for hostas, offering them respite from the sun’s warmth. Meanwhile, hydrangeas thrive in the shade of the gabled house, adding touches of elegance to every corner. The yew walks and formal box garden are adjoined beautifully by flower and shrub borders. The garden is punctuated with classical statuary, pots, quirky pieces of architectural salvage; gravel beds are dotted with little stone plinths and cheeky Greek gods peep out from under tree canopies.

Guided Tours and Culinary Delights
John and Michael are delighted to offer RHSI members (groups of 6 or more) half price entry to see the gardens but the experience at Collon House goes beyond the visual and botanical.

For those who wish to dive deeper into Collon House’s history and horticulture, guided tours of both the house and garden are available by appointment, providing an opportunity to uncover the hidden stories and intricacies that make this place truly special. John and Michael’s dedication to restoration and preservation shines through as you explore architectural features and beautifully furnished rooms.

And let’s not forget about the culinary offerings! A tour of the house and garden, followed by tea, coffee, and cake, is an invitation to indulge in both history and gastronomy. Larger groups can savour delightful lunches, and for those seeking a more refined evening, a five-course dinner awaits—a feast for all the senses.

Collon House’s commitment to restoration and conservation has not gone unnoticed. The prestigious An Taisce award, bestowed upon this historical gem, acknowledges the meticulous restoration of architectural elements, the elegant interiors, and the enchanting gardens. It’s a testament to John and Michael’s dedication and their desire to share this hidden treasure with the world.

My recent visit to Collon House was a journey through time, a celebration of history, and an immersion into the world of horticulture. From the gracious rooms that transport you to the past to the meticulously curated gardens that delight the senses, every corner of Collon House is a treasure waiting to be discovered. If you’re seeking an escape from the ordinary, a visit to Collon House is an opportunity to experience history, horticulture, and hospitality converging in perfect harmony.

Exploring Horticultural Education and Training: Nurturing Green Expertise

The world of horticulture is a realm of natural beauty, sustainability, and hands-on creativity. Whether you’re a budding enthusiast, a professional aiming to deepen your expertise, or someone simply captivated by the art of cultivating plants, Ireland’s esteemed institutions offer a diverse range of educational pathways to help you blossom in the field of horticulture. Let’s delve into the educational offerings from some of our premier institutions – Teagasc, UCD, TU Dublin, CAFRE, Hunting Brook, and Dalkey Garden School – and uncover the captivating opportunities they present.

Teagasc: Cultivating Practical Excellence

Teagasc, known as the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, stands as a pillar of practical wisdom in horticulture education. With a myriad of full-time and part-time courses, Teagasc focuses on providing hands-on experience that translates directly into real-world skills. From certificates to diplomas, their industry-focused programs imbue students with a deep understanding of the agricultural landscape, making them poised for rewarding careers in horticulture.

UCD: Nurturing Knowledge in Nature

University College Dublin (UCD) boasts an esteemed School of Agriculture and Food Science, offering a variety of bachelor’s and master’s programs tailored to the diverse branches of horticulture. These programs marry academic rigor with practical application, leveraging UCD’s reputable research and connections in the industry. UCD’s horticulture courses not only provide a thorough education but also open doors to a vast network of experts, enhancing students’ potential for success.

TU Dublin: Blooming Expertise with Diversity

TU Dublin, situated within the School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology, presents an impressive range of horticultural offerings. From the comprehensive BSc (Hons) in Horticulture to specialized single-module certificates, TU Dublin embraces both full-time and part-time learners. Their practical approach encourages students to immerse themselves in real-world projects, fostering not only knowledge but also essential problem-solving skills.

CAFRE: Flexibility and Innovation in Learning

The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) brings flexibility to the forefront of horticulture education. Offering a mix of full-time, part-time, and even distance learning options, CAFRE’s programs cater to various learning preferences. With a strong emphasis on applied skills and industry relevance, CAFRE equips students with tools to excel in the dynamic world of horticulture.

Hunting Brook Gardens: Designing Dreams with Foliage and Colour

For those enchanted by the aesthetics of horticulture, Hunting Brook Gardens’ Courses including the Planting Persons, holds a special allure. Founded by Jimi Blake, a seasoned horticulturalist and visionary, the school offers workshops and courses that delve into the art of garden design and creative planting. Participants benefit from Blake’s unique insights, honing their eye for design and colour composition.

Dalkey Garden School: Growing with Passion

Dalkey Garden School invites enthusiasts of all levels to nurture their passion for plants and gardens. Through a series of workshops and classes, participants can choose their areas of interest and embark on a journey of skill-building and discovery. With its accessible approach, Dalkey Garden School enables individuals to unlock the secrets of successful gardening, fostering a community of like-minded plant lovers.

Cultivating Green Futures Through Education

In the vibrant tapestry of horticulture education, these institutions stand as pillars of knowledge, passion, and practicality. Whether your heart lies in cultivating the land, designing breathtaking landscapes, or simply nurturing plants in your own backyard, Ireland’s educational offerings cater to a diverse array of aspirations. From the foundational wisdom of Teagasc to the artistic flair of Hunting Brook, each institution brings its own unique flavor to the horticulture journey. So, whether you’re sowing the seeds of a new career or nurturing a lifelong hobby, the world of horticulture education is here to help you flourish.

RHSI Partner Garden – Medina in Howth, Co Dublin

Nestled along the picturesque coastline of Howth, Co. Dublin, lies a hidden gem that is a true testament to the magic of gardening. Karl Flynn and Marcella Dunne’s Medina Garden is a tropical oasis that captivates the senses and transports visitors into a world of lush foliage, exotic blooms, and architectural marvels. With its unique blend of palms, tree ferns, bamboo, and other remarkable plants, this private coastal garden is a must-visit for any garden enthusiast seeking inspiration and serenity.

Just a stone’s throw away from Howth Summit, the Medina Garden stands as a testament to nature’s resilience and the unwavering dedication of its caretakers. Despite its exposed location, the garden finds refuge behind deep, towering hedges, which act as nature’s sentinels, protecting the delicate flora from the coastal winds. This haven for rare and unusual trees and shrubs truly thrives in the cozy microclimate that has been carefully crafted by Karl and Marcella.

Upon entering the Medina Garden, visitors are greeted by a symphony of greens, punctuated by bursts of vibrant colours and textures. The one-third acre garden is thoughtfully divided into various compartments, each showcasing a unique aspect of Karl’s horticultural mastery.

A small Japanese-style garden welcomes guests, inviting them to experience tranquillity and contemplation. Stone lanterns, meticulously raked gravel, and carefully placed rocks create a sense of balance and harmony. This corner of the garden is a testament to the power of minimalism in design, allowing visitors to escape the chaos of the outside world and find solace within nature.

Meandering through the woodland area is like stepping into a fairy tale. Dappled sunlight filters through the canopy, illuminating delicate ferns, wildflowers, and native flora. The woodland section pays homage to the natural beauty of Ireland while seamlessly integrating with the exotic treasures found throughout the garden.

A mesmerizing water feature adds an auditory element to the sensory experience. The sound of trickling water accompanies the visual symphony of greenery, creating a multisensory masterpiece that truly transports visitors.
The garden’s charm is amplified by various patio areas and mixed borders, each housing a remarkable array of plants. The plant selection reads like a botanical encyclopaedia, with Trachycarpus wagnerianus, Dixonia fibrosa, Pseudopanax crassifolius, Aralia chinensis, Cyanthea cooperi, astelias, echiums, cordylines, and acers among the many stars. The meticulous arrangement of these architectural wonders showcases the artistry of the garden’s creators.

Medina Garden’s allure has not gone unnoticed. This paradise by the sea has garnered awards and acclaim, solidifying its status as a horticultural masterpiece. It has been featured on RTE, celebrated in “The Open Gardens of Ireland” book, and showcased in the pages of “The Irish Garden” magazine. These accolades only further validate the passion and effort invested by Karl into crafting their botanical sanctuary.

In the heart of Howth, Co. Dublin, lies a realm of wonder that beckons to be explored. Karl and Marcella’s Medina Garden is a testament to the transformative power of gardening, where vision, dedication, and nature’s beauty unite to create an enchanting experience. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener seeking new ideas or simply someone looking to escape the mundane and immerse yourself in nature’s embrace, a visit to Medina Garden promises a journey that will inspire, captivate, and rejuvenate.

Happy Gardening


RHSI Garden of West Wicklow Tour

Huge thanks to the events team, in particular, Astrid and Emily for organizing a delightful day tour to West Wicklow last week. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and the gardens visited were truly enchanting.

First stop at Ballynure House Gardens was a remarkable experience. We were privileged to wander through the captivating landscapes, courtesy of Mrs. Clare Reid Scott. Learning about the history of the garden and its transformation into a stunning oasis was both inspiring and touching. David Reid Scott’s dedication to restoring the gardens to their former glory was evident in every corner. The plant-filled borders, the picturesque lake, and the carefully curated woodland walks were simply awe-inspiring. It was evident that Ballynure Garden holds a special place in the hearts of those who have nurtured it, and we felt fortunate to share in its beauty, as this garden is not open to the general public.

Lunch at Patthana Gardens was a delightful affair. Simon’s delicious cooking and attention to detail is legendary. Hospitality at its finest! T.J. Maher’s guidance during the tour shed light on the 25-year development of Patthana Gardens. The collection of hardy to tender and exotic plants in the main courtyard was a testament to his passion and dedication. We were especially drawn to the Inner garden, with its borders of herbaceous perennials, tender plants, and rare shrubs and trees, all cared for organically to promote wildlife attraction.

This tour not only allowed us to immerse ourselves in the beauty of West Wicklow but also gave us the opportunity to witness the love and care invested by the gardeners in preserving these natural wonders. It was a day filled with inspiration, relaxation, and appreciation for the artistry of nature.

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Mrs. Clare Reid Scott and head gardener Brian O’Reilly for continuing David Reid Scott’s legacy and ensuring that Ballynure Garden remains a spectacular sight throughout the seasons. Additionally, our heartfelt thanks go to T.J. Maher and Simon Kirby for welcoming us into their award-winning Patthana Gardens and sharing their passion for organic gardening and wildlife conservation.

Once again, thank you, RHSI Events Team, for organizing this wonderful day tour.

RHSI Partner Garden – Ardán Garden in Howth, Co Dublin

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to visit the enchanting Ardán Garden, a hidden gem nestled on the coastal hillside near the summit of Howth in north Dublin. This half-acre garden is a testament to the passion and creativity of its owners, Nuala and Conall, who have masterfully transformed it from a rugged mountainside into a dynamic and ever-evolving botanical wonderland.

As I arrived at the garden, I was immediately captivated by its picturesque location on the hill of Howth.  Nuala and Conall have ingeniously designed the garden to harmonize with its surroundings, using the natural contours of the land to create a harmonious blend of nature and artistry.

Walking through the garden, I was awestruck by the diverse range of planting areas. The large densely planted herbaceous areas were bursting with a kaleidoscope of colors and fragrances. It felt like wandering through a vibrant tapestry of flowers and foliage, each element carefully curated to complement the other.

One of the highlights was the immaculate white garden, a serene and ethereal space adorned with an array of white blooms. The interplay of light and shadow here was simply mesmerizing, and it offered a tranquil respite from the bustling world outside.

Moving forward, I found myself in the exotic garden, a whimsical escape featuring a beautiful pond and a carefully cultivated bog garden. This unique section showcased an eclectic collection of rare and exotic plants from around the world. It was a testament to Nuala and Conall’s horticultural expertise and their passion for botanical diversity.

What impressed me even more was the commitment to sustainability and organic gardening practices at Ardán. The garden is tended without the use of harmful chemicals, fostering a thriving ecosystem that supports a wide variety of plant and animal life. The fact that Ardán is part of the UNESCO Dublin Bay Biosphere demonstrates the owners’ dedication to preserving the natural heritage of the area.

As I continued my journey through Ardán, I stumbled upon a charming vegetable garden, bursting with fresh produce. The thought of being able to enjoy the fruits of this garden’s labor in their delicious meals made me appreciate the connection between humans and the land even more.

Amidst the vibrant greenery, I discovered a small woodland area where one could sit and find solace away from the heat of the sun. It was a delightful spot to contemplate and be in harmony with nature.

Adding an extra layer of modernity to the garden were Conall’s stunning sculptures. His artistic creations seamlessly blended with the surrounding landscape, injecting a contemporary flair that added to the garden’s allure.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Ardán Garden was its ever-evolving nature. Nuala and Conall’s commitment to innovation and continuous improvement were evident in every corner of the garden. With each visit, one could expect to encounter new surprises and witness the garden’s growth and transformation.

My visit to Ardán Garden was an truly unforgettable experience. This coastal haven, lovingly nurtured by the green thumbs of Nuala and Conall, offers an enriching and inspiring escape from the chaos of daily life. Ardán is a living testament to the beauty and resilience of nature, a haven of organic harmony, and a place where art and botany unite in perfect harmony. If you find yourself in Howth, Co Dublin, I highly recommend setting aside some time to immerse yourself in the wonders of Ardán Garden.  Click here for directions and opening information

Happy Gardening


Airfield Estate Gardens

Ardan Garden

Ballintubbert Gardens and House

Ballycommane Garden

Ballyedmond Castle Garden

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballyrobert Gardens

Bantry House and Garden

Belvedere House Gardens & Park

Benvarden Garden

Birr Castle Demesne

Blarney Castle and Gardens

Burtown House and Gardens

Caher Bridge Garden

Colclough Walled Garden

Collon House

Coolaught Walled Garden

Coolwater Garden

Dawros Gallery & Garden

Dower House

Drimbawn Garden

Dromana House and Gardens

Festina Lente

Fota House – Victorian Working Garden

Gash Gardens

Glenarm Castle Walled Garden

Glenavon Japanese Garden

Hester Forde Garden – ‘Coosheen Garden’

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Hunting Brook Gardens

Irish National Stud and Gardens – The Japanese Gardens and St. Fiachra’s Garden

Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum and Gardens

June Blake’s Garden

Kilfane Glen and Waterfall

Kilgar Gardens

Killruddery House and Gardens

Killyreagh Garden

Kilmokea Country Manor and Gardens

Kilravock Garden

Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden

Lodge Park Walled Garden

Loughcrew Gardens


Mount Congreve Gardens

Mount Stewart House and Gardens

Mount Usher Gardens

Oakfield Park

Old Deanery Garden

Patthana Garden

Rothe House Museum and Garden

Rowallane Garden

Salthill Garden

Seaforde Gardens

Seanabea Cottage


Strokestown Park Gardens

Tourin House & Gardens

Tullynally Castle Gardens

Tyrrelstown House Garden

Woodville Walled Garden

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