The Festival of Gardens and Nature

Saturday 20th – Sunday 21st April 2024


Stradbally, Co. Laois

The Festival of Gardens and Nature is a completely new gardening event founded by Catherine FitzGerald and Minnie Preston

Think Electric picnic meets Gardeners World!

“We aim to look closely at our relationship with gardens and nature, explore changing perspectives and to share knowledge and expertise. In a time when our gardens and landscapes are more precious than ever before, join us for a fruitful weekend of exchanging ideas.” Catherine FitzGerald, Co-founder

The festival brings together a hugely diverse group of speakers from the worlds of contemporary garden design, horticulture, historic gardens and nature conservation.

Subjects include: meadows, the creation of natural swimming ponds, sustainable floral design, biodynamic vegetable growing, the healing affect of horticulture, the power of scent, and the joy of colour in the garden.

The emphasis will be the importance of gardening with nature rather than against it.

The programme will include informal conversations as well as more structured talks accompanied by images and a useful “Gardener’s Question Time” style panel will answer audience’s gardening dilemmas on Sunday morning. The event aims to be as entertaining and relaxed as it will be informative and inspiring.

There will be guided garden tours and floristry & foraging workshops.

Carefully curated stalls will be selling plants and tempting quality garden related goods – from pots to gardening apparel, books and tools to the newly launched C.Atherley sweet geranium products from Cath Kidston. There will be artisanal food trucks, quality organic coffee and sweet treats.

This intimate immersive event will take place in the beautiful gardens of Ballintubbert House which has a rich history of literary and creative previous owners – it is the birthplace of poet Cecil Day Lewis and was the home of the actor John Hurt.

Come to Ballintubbert and be part of a vibrant weekend of learning, exchanging ideas and meeting new people who share a passion.

List of Speakers:

Neil Porteous – Historic gardens consultant and plantsman – currently working at several OPW and National Trust sites including Castlewellan Forest Park and Glenarm Castle gardens (winner of Historic Gardens 2023). Well known for his work over many years as the ground breaking Head Gardener at Mount Stuart. Has a brilliant monthly newsletter.

Jonny Bruce – is a gardener and writer who trained at Great Dixter before spending four formative years at the organic nursery at de Hessenhof in the Netherlands. He is responsible for the gardens at Prospect Cottage Dungeness Kent the coastal home of film maker and queer activist Derek Jarman. He also works as a freelance gardener and design consultant and is in the process of setting up an organic plant nursery.

Catherine FitzGerald – Lutyens & FitzGerald Landscape Design. (Award winning gardens at Hillsborough Castle Co Down – and at Glenarm which has won 2023 Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award). Lives between Uk and Ireland and is developing gardens at family home Glin Castle, Co. Limerick.

Cath Kidston – Inspired by childhood memories of the delicious scent of geraniums & pelargoniums, Cath will talk about the scented garden.

Shane Connolly – is a renowned floral designer and ambassador for sustainable floristry. His clients include major institutions including many of the UK museums, and the Royal Family – he designed the flowers for the Coronation and the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales. He is the author of 5 books and teaches his approach to flower design all over the world with its roots and ethos firmly in sustainability.

Fionnuala Fallon – Cut flower grower & florist “The Irish Flower Farmer” and Irish Times Gardening correspondent

John Little – Maverick city & brownfield site gardener and owner of the Grass Roof Company, wildlife homing advocator

Colm O’Driscoll – ex head gardener at Airfield, now Head of Gardens at Lismore Castle.

Sadie Chowen – Owner of the Burren Perfumery will talk with Cath Kidston on the Scented Garden

David Pagan Butler – immensely knowledgeable creator of natural organic swimming pools and their eco-systems and planting- which he advocates through his YouTube channel.

Dominic West – inspired by David Pagan Butler, actor Dominic West built an organic pool at his home.
David Maxwell – BBC Ulster radio Gardener’s Corner host. David will be hosting a Question Time panel on Sunday morning with a

selected 3 or 4 of our speakers
Tom Petherick – hugely knowledgable biodynamic vegetable gardener and consultant to Ballymaloe Organic Garden

Rory O’Connell – Chef, cookery writer and Co-founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School with his sister Darina Allen, chef and cookery writer. With a special interest in growing vegetables and herbs organically and cooking with them.

Arthur Shackleton – In a career spanning over 40 years, he has designed and nurtured many of the botanical gems of Ireland, including one of the gardens Ballintubbert House itself.

Edward Shackleton – Son of Arthur Shackleton, Edward has followed in the family footsteps and works as head of horticulture at Tom Stuart Smith’s exciting, pioneering design office, famous for rewilding at Knepp Castle, one of the first to do this.

Kitty Scully – From TV’s “Home Grown” Kitty is a knowledgable enthusiast of organic and sustainable gardening, particularly in the kitchen garden.

Seamus O’Brien – head gardener at Kilmacurragh – National Botanic Gardens of Ireland – speaker, author and authority on the travels of Joseph Dalton Hooker and Augustine Henry – and modern day plant hunter. He is preparing a new talk on Meadows for the festival.

TJ Maher – Artist, gardener, author of ‘Grounded in the Garden.’ Owner of the the hidden jewel of Irish gardens – Patthana Garden in Co. Wicklow.

Darach Lupton – Head curator at the Botanical Gardens Glasnevin, talking on the evolution of plants from 500 million years ago to today.

Amelia Raben – Owner of a cut flower business in Kildare, Amelia’s Garden Flowers, Amelia will be doing a cut flower workshop

Kate Gatacre – Dynamic head gardener of organic veg at Linley Hall in Shropshire, suppliers to leading London restaurants such as St John’s and Rochelle canteen by Margot Henderson, will be sharing her thoughts and methods with Rory O’Connell.

Manchaěn Magan – Author, travel writer, documentary maker and nature observer

Johnny Flynn – Singer & actor; performing from his new album “Lost in the Cedar Wood”, with chat between the songs


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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