The recent RHSI coach tour to Wales was a delightful journey through some of it’s most enchanting horticultural wonders. Led by Peter Harrison, the trip was a resounding success. The tour included visits to remarkable gardens such as RHS Bridgewater, a stunning blend of history and world-class horticulture designed by landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith. Bodnant Garden, with its century-and-a-half-old history and breathtaking backdrop of the Carneddau mountains, provided a sensory delight. Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens, a historic garden under meticulous restoration, showcased the beauty of Anglesey.  Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery in Cheshire offered a tranquil respite amidst natural beauty and delicious cakes. Thanks to the meticulous planning and organization of Peter Harrison and the events team, this journey was a true celebration of superb gardens



Building a Harmonious Haven

Ireland’s captivating landscapes, marked by rolling emerald fields, meandering streams, and verdant woodlands, serve as a canvas for fostering biodiversity and nurturing a symbiotic relationship between nature and humanity. Creating natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds is an endeavour that not only enhances the environment but also elevates human well-being, offering multifaceted benefits to all.

Why Build Natural Swimming Pools and Wildlife Ponds in Ireland?

Ecological Benefits
Ponds, both natural and those transformed into swimming pools, represent powerful tools for enriching wildlife habitats and promoting biodiversity across the Irish countryside. These freshwater ecosystems serve as sanctuaries for a diverse array of species, making them essential components of our natural environment.

Healthy ponds support the growth of various aquatic plants, insects, and wildlife. Dragonflies, damselflies, bees, hoverflies, amphibians, bats, small mammals, and a plethora of bird species rely on ponds for their survival. The vibrancy of these pond ecosystems contributes significantly to Ireland’s overall biodiversity.

Human Benefits
Constructing natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds not only benefits the environment but also enhances the quality of life for local residents. These aquatic oases offer an enchanting escape, providing individuals with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature. They become serene focal points for relaxation, reflection, and recreation, enriching the aesthetics and overall well-being of the community.

Natural swimming pools serve as sanctuaries of mental respite, offering a refuge from the fast-paced demands of modern life. They provide the perfect setting for gatherings with friends and family or simply unwinding by the water’s edge, fostering a deeper connection with the natural world.

Environmental Benefits
From an environmental perspective, both natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds play a vital role in conserving water resources and safeguarding local ecosystems. By slowing the flow of water across the land, they mitigate soil erosion caused by heavy rainfall. These aquatic features act as reservoirs, releasing water gradually during dry periods, aiding in groundwater recharge and drought mitigation.

Moreover, well-designed ponds, whether transformed into swimming pools or retained as natural habitats, possess the capacity to filter excess nutrients from runoff, improving water quality before it enters nearby watercourses. They function as nature’s sponges, absorbing excess rainwater and averting flooding in low-lying areas.

Planning and Location

The initial step in creating a harmonious haven in Ireland through natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds is to gain a comprehensive understanding of these ecosystems and design principles. Explore available resources to acquire valuable insights into best practices for their construction and management.

Begin the process by surveying your property to identify suitable locations for your aquatic feature. Areas that are naturally wet, contain springs, or can be supplied with clean water are excellent starting points. Consider your long-term plans for the land and implement safety measures to prevent accidents involving children or wildlife.

Designing Your Aquatic Haven
When designing your natural swimming pool or wildlife pond, prioritize sustainability and long-term development. Create a pond with gently sloping edges, as many pond-dwelling species thrive in the shallow waters near the bank.

Rather than a uniform pond, aim for a complex landscape with multiple pools of varying sizes and depths. Incorporate little bays and inlets to enhance habitat diversity around the aquatic feature’s edge. Allow your creativity to flow, considering the potential for multiple uses, from irrigation to aquaculture.

Choosing the Perfect Site
Selecting the right location for your aquatic haven is of paramount importance. It should align with soil type, available water sources, and the type of pond you intend to build. To preserve the integrity of local ecosystems, avoid constructing ponds in areas that could damage existing valuable habitats or rare species.

Whenever possible, build ponds near existing wetlands to improve habitat connectivity while respecting the delicate balance of local ecosystems. Remember that ponds don’t need to hold water year-round; seasonal ponds can be vital habitats for various species.

Planning Your Dig
Prior to excavation, take precautions to avoid disturbing existing habitats or species, especially when using heavy machinery. During the digging process, prevent silt from entering watercourses and keep inlets and outlets small to maintain control over water flow.

It’s often beneficial to allow the pond to naturally evolve after initial excavation. Over time, you can return to modify or extend it, creating new pools and wetland areas or clearing excess vegetation.

Digging Your Aquatic Haven
Several machinery options are available for pond excavation. If you lack experience, consider hiring a licensed operator. Mark essential areas, strip topsoil, and shape the subsoil to achieve your desired pond size and shape.

Practice responsible soil management by sorting excavated soil into topsoil and subsoil to prevent nutrient contamination of the water. Dispose of soil responsibly or reuse it elsewhere on your property.

Managing Your Aquatic Haven
Resist the urge to introduce plants or animals to your pond. Nature will rapidly colonize the space, resulting in a vibrant and thriving ecosystem. Keep an eye out for invasive species, including native ones, and take steps to manage their growth as needed.

Ensure appropriate fencing to prevent livestock and wildlife access and to maintain safety. Keep your pond clean and unpolluted by implementing measures to prevent slurry, fertilizers, sprays, silage effluent, or sediment from entering the water.

A Natural Retreat
Creating natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds in Ireland is a profound endeavour that enriches both the environment and the human spirit. These pristine aquatic ecosystems offer multifaceted benefits, fostering biodiversity, enhancing the quality of life for local residents, and contributing to sustainable water management. Approach this project with care, sensitivity to the environment, and a long-term vision, and you will be rewarded with a harmonious haven that embodies the essence of harmony between humans and nature, serving as a testament to our commitment to preserve Ireland’s rich natural heritage.

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.

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.

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


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.

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


My recent visit to Knockrose Garden, nestled on the Dublin/Wicklow border in ‘The Scalp,’ was an enchanting experience that transported me to a bygone era of peace and tranquillity. As I stepped onto the grounds, I instantly felt the frantic pace of the 21st century fade away, replaced by a serene and healing atmosphere that embraced me with open arms.

The traditional farm buildings dating back to 1750 immediately caught my eye, and the historical significance of the ‘Pale Ditch,’ marking the boundary of South County Dublin, and the majestic Scalp woods demarcating the rugged Wicklow Mountains created a sense of connection to the region’s rich past.

The tastefully renovated Calm House and Garden Studio exuded a rustic charm that perfectly complemented the surroundings. The Calm House, available for hire for Micro Wedding Ceremonies and intimate events, exuded an aura of intimacy and warmth, making it an ideal venue for cherished gatherings.

Knockrose Cottage Garden is situated 500 feet above sea level and sheltered by the towering heights of ‘The Scalp.’ The moment I stepped into this oasis of scents and colors, I was enveloped by a joyous sensory experience. The diverse array of flora in full bloom delighted my senses, and I found myself entranced by the vibrant hues and fragrances that filled the air.

A fascinating aspect of Knockrose Garden is its location on a tri-vortex of ley lines. This unique phenomenon seemed to infuse the garden with an energy that offered visitors a feeling of protection and inner peace. I found myself at ease, allowing the stresses of everyday life to melt away, and embracing a more mindful and meditative state.

The Garden Studio, available for rent, provided an inspiring space for creativity and self-expression. Whether it be creating and exhibiting art, sharing knowledge, or simply enjoying a cup of tea after exploring the garden, this cozy sanctuary offered a perfect blend of inspiration and relaxation.

Trish and Tom Farrell have created a haven at Knockrose Garden, where time seems to slow down, and nature’s embrace invites you to reconnect with your inner self. The passion and care they put into preserving the history and beauty of this place are evident in every corner. It’s a destination that not only celebrates the charm of the past but also serves as a sanctuary for those seeking solace and renewal.

My visit to Knockrose Garden was truly unforgettable, and I would highly recommend this hidden gem to anyone yearning for a respite from the bustling world and a chance to immerse themselves in the splendor of nature’s wonders.

Orlaith x

Prepare to immerse yourself in the verdant wonders of County Carlow as the highly anticipated Carlow Garden Festival opens its gates to gardening enthusiasts at the end of July. Organized by Carlow Garden Trail, this esteemed annual festival has earned a reputation as one of Ireland’s premier garden events and will delight visitors from July 29 to August 5.

Marking its twenty-first year, this week-long extravaganza boasts a lineup of eighteen acclaimed gardeners and garden designers hailing from Ireland and the UK. They will offer an enticing array of activities, including specialist talks, captivating garden tours, and informative workshops. Among the esteemed guests are renowned figures such as Nick Bailey, presenter of BBC’s Gardeners’ World, the talented gardener and writer Alasdair Moore, and the esteemed BBC presenter, gardener, and writer Alys Fowler.

The festival will unfold across various stunning locations throughout Carlow, showcasing the region’s natural beauty. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore remarkable gardens such as Huntington Castle in Clonegal, Shankill Castle in Paulstown, and Hardymount Gardens in Tullow, among others.

The Carlow Garden Festival, scheduled from July 29th to August 5th, promises an unforgettable experience for gardening enthusiasts. Delve into a vibrant program of events tailored to delight green thumbs of all levels of expertise.

Robert Miller, chairperson of the Carlow Garden Trail, unveiled this year’s program, emphasizing the increasingly vital role gardening has played in our lives, particularly during the pandemic. Gardening is renowned for its ability to reduce stress, enhance mental well-being, strengthen our immune systems, build physical resilience, and improve memory.

Miller expressed his excitement about the festival, stating, “Visitors to this year’s event will have the opportunity to gain practical information and invaluable advice from renowned gardening and horticultural experts, many of whom are visiting from the UK and would otherwise be accessible only through a TV screen. From beginners to seasoned enthusiasts, there is something for everyone, blending traditional gardening values with a focus on biodiversity to create an ideal garden space.”

Adding to the festivities, attendees can indulge in two evenings of delectable long-table suppers, delightful afternoon teas, and tantalizing evening meals along the picturesque Carlow Garden Trail, providing the perfect culinary complement to the horticultural delights on offer at the Carlow Garden Festival.

Book your tickets here

Container gardening has become a popular choice for modern urban dwellers and individuals seeking a connection with nature. While annuals have traditionally dominated container gardening, there is a growing trend towards incorporating perennials, which offer long-term beauty, ecological benefits, and sustainability. In this post, we will explore the art of designing, creating, and using perennials in modern containers while incorporating ecological practices to enhance both the aesthetics and the environmental impact of our gardens.

Designing a container garden with perennials involves blending aesthetics and functionality. Here are some key considerations:
Choose the Right Perennials: Opt for perennials that are well-suited for containers, such as compact varieties or those with shallow root systems. Select plants with contrasting colours, textures, and heights to create visual interest.
Thriller, Filler, Spiller Concept: Employ the popular “thriller, filler, spiller” approach to design container arrangements. Place a tall and visually striking perennial as the centrepiece (thriller), surround it with medium-sized complementary plants (fillers), and let trailing varieties cascade over the edges (spillers).
Consider Seasonal Interest: Select perennials that offer interest throughout the year, including blooming flowers, attractive foliage, or vibrant autumn colours. This ensures your container garden remains visually appealing across the seasons.

To promote sustainability and minimize environmental impact, consider the following practices when creating your perennial container garden
Recycled Containers: Repurpose old containers or choose eco-friendly alternatives such as planters made from recycled materials or biodegradable pots.
Sustainable Soil Mix: Create a well-draining and nutrient-rich soil mix using organic compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. Avoid using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, opting instead for organic and natural alternatives.
Water-wise Techniques: Implement water-conserving strategies like using self-watering containers, adding mulch to reduce evaporation, and installing drip irrigation systems. Collect rainwater for watering your plants, reducing the strain on local water resources.

Perennials offer numerous ecological advantages, including promoting biodiversity, attracting pollinators, and contributing to a healthier ecosystem. Where possible select native perennial species that are adapted for our climate and soil conditions. Native plants have co-evolved with local wildlife, making them excellent choices for supporting biodiversity.Include perennial flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Plants like lavender, coneflowers, and salvia are known for their nectar-rich blooms, providing sustenance for beneficial insects.

To ensure the longevity and vitality of your perennial container garden regularly trim back any dead or damaged foliage and remove spent flowers to encourage new growth. Divide overcrowded perennials when necessary, promoting healthier root systems and preventing disease.
Adjust your watering, fertilizing, and sunlight exposure according to the specific needs of each perennial species and some plants may require winter protection, such as moving containers to sheltered.

Here are some suggested designs

Vibrant Summer Palette
Thriller: Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ (Tall, fiery-red flowers on arching stems)
Filler: Echinacea purpurea (Purple coneflower) and Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ (Yellow daisy-like flowers)
Spiller: Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (Trailing succulent with golden foliage)

Serene Woodland Charm
Thriller: Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ (Deep purple foliage)
Filler: Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower) and Astilbe ‘Sprite’ (Soft pink plumes)
Spiller: Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’ (Low-growing ground cover with chocolate-colored foliage)

Delicate Cottage Garden Blooms
Thriller: Digitalis purpurea ‘Camelot Rose’ (Tall spikes of rose-pink foxglove flowers)
Filler: Aquilegia vulgaris (Columbine) and Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Firewitch’ (Fragrant pink flowers)
Spiller: Fragaria ‘Lipstick’ (Trailing strawberry with pink flowers and edible fruits)

Mediterranean Inspired
Thriller: Agave parryi (Dwarf agave with spiky rosettes)
Filler: Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ (English lavender) and Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’ (Prostrate rosemary)
Spiller: Thymus serpyllum (Creeping thyme with small purple flowers)

Remember to adapt these schemes according to the specific light conditions and climate of your location. Experiment with different combinations and personalize your container garden to reflect your unique style and preferences.

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

Colclough Walled Garden

Collon House

Coolaught Walled Garden

Coolwater Garden

Dawros Gallery & Garden

Dower House

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’

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 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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