Southern Symposium VIII

Southern Symposium VIII at Kells Bay Garden in Co Kerry was an unforgettable gathering of plant enthusiasts and experts, orchestrated by none other than Chelsea Gold winner Billy Alexander. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Dingle Bay, this weekend symposium was a true celebration of the botanical wonders.

The event began with a remarkable tribute to Irish tree guru Thomas Pakenham on the occasion of his 90th birthday, where a Redwood, Sequoia Sempervirens, was planted by the legendary Irish dendrologist himself. Séamus O’Brien, representing the IDS, presented this symbolic tree to Kells Bay, honouring Thomas Pakenham’s lifelong commitment to Irish Trees.

Throughout the whirlwind weekend, attendees were treated to an exhilarating array of talks and explorations by a lineup of distinguished speakers, including Daniel Hinkley, Ken Cox, Bleddyn Wynn-Jones, and Jack Aldridge. The setting couldn’t have been more inspiring, surrounded by the horticulture treasures that adorn Kells Bay Gardens.

Highlights from the symposium included Neil Porteous’s guided stroll through the gardens, the formal opening of the ‘Plant Centre’ by Dan Hinkley, and an unforgettable moment when Thomas Pakenham planted the giant Sequoia sempervirens. Jack Aldridge’s presentation at the marquee after supper added to the weekend’s charm.

Saturday morning took us on an enthralling journey to the mountains of Colombia with Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones, followed by Ken Cox’s riveting tales of Rhododendron adventures in China. Dan Hinkley’s talk, while rooted in his own garden at Windcliff, transported us to distant horticultural wonders.

Sunday brought us to Van Diemen’s Land with Séamus O’Brien, where we braved leeches in our quest for Banksia near the walls of Jerusalem. Dan Hinkley then guided us to the top of Phan Xi Păng, revealing the plant treasures of Vietnam in their native habitats and at his home in Washington State.

Beyond the wealth of knowledge and insights gained, Southern Symposium VIII was a weekend of friendship, fun, and an abundance of plants. It’s a heartfelt thank you to everyone contributed to this remarkable occasion. The symposium left us not only enriched with knowledge but also with a deeper appreciation for the beauty and diversity of the plant world.  Photographs with thanks to Billy Alexander

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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