We’re going off on a Bloomsday tangent with today’s blog, which will be taking a closer look at all of the gorgeous gardens which bloom all over the Emerald Isle.
As you all know I love a wild nature walk to bring out the very best of Ireland, but these carefully nurtured plots of land open up windows into an almost enchanted existence. With beautifully manicured lawns, serene surroundings, and buds bursting into colour - it’s almost a fairy tale.
So below I’ve listed some of my favourite places and events to stop and smell the roses. Have you ever experienced any of them on your own Irish adventures? Head to the comments to tell us all about it!
Of course, we need to begin with the Bloom Festival – not to be confused with Bloomsday itself. The five-day event takes place in Dublin’s Phoenix Park and was first hosted in 2007. The most recent edition of the festival took place in 2019 and attracted over 120,000 visitors – with gardens and attractions stretching over 70 acres of land.
This spectacular annual event is just for the green-fingered though, with guests being treated to an exciting range of activities, cuisine and displays. Between the exotic show gardens, tasty food, live demonstrations and various other goings-on – there’s something for everyone to enjoy on a family day out.
Sadly, the event hasn’t been able to physically take place since the start of Coronavirus, but you can still get involved remotely this year with Bloom at Home – which features everything from live Q&As to cookery classes!
Garden Show Ireland
Further north there’s another delightful celebration of gardening, with the Allianz Garden Show Ireland which takes place each year in the Antrim Castle Gardens.
Even out-with the three-day festival of food, flowers and fun, the site itself is well worth a visit – home to a rich history of over 400 years! However, when it comes to the Garden Show it’s all about the latest styles and developments in the world of horticulture – featuring everything from meditation gardens to celebrity guests.
With all that fresh air you’re bound to work up an appetite – which is just as well, as there’s a wonderful selection of local cuisine to sample, with cheddar, cupcakes and everything in between on offer to tantalise those taste buds!
National Botanic Garden
Of course, you don’t have to wait for the summer flower festivals to see Ireland in bloom, with plenty of opportunities to surround yourself with the Emerald Isle’s most beautiful blossoms all year round!
For example, the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin are home to around 20,000 living plants – including a rather stunning and historically significant collection of orchids. Even the glasshouses, which house some of the rather more exotic florae, are beautiful to behold. The Palmhouse has stood on this land since 1862 but has undergone many renovations so as to create the optimum environment for its flourishing tenants – most recently reopening in 2004.
Entry to the gardens is free and they provide a welcome oasis of calm amongst the hustle and bustle of Dublin, allowing visitors to appreciate the very best of nature - right on their doorstep!
The gardens of Powerscourt Estate in Co. Wicklow were voted the third best in the world by National Geographic and, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of wandering through the grounds of the beautifully renovated Palladian mansion, you’ll know exactly why.
Somewhere between the manicured lawns of the Italian garden, the calming perfumes of the Japanese garden and the adventurous atmosphere of Tower Valley, you’re sure to fall in love with the gorgeous sights on offer at Powerscourt.
If you find yourself inspired by the beautiful blooms that you see before you, there’s even a garden centre to kick start your own horticultural hobbies. The website even has a (rather extensive) list of what grows when, so you can keep your eyes peeled for your favourite flowers as you roam the grounds.
The Altamont Gardens in Co. Carlow are laid out in the simple yet stunning stylings of William Robinson, an Irish gardener whose practical approach to wild gardening inspired and popularised the quintessential English Cottage garden. The estate brushes the banks of the River Slaney and is surrounded by stunning views of both the Blackstairs and Wicklow Mountains, with the grounds sometimes being referred to as the “the jewel in Ireland's gardening crown”.
Wander through the elegant yews which lead down to a picturesque lake, which is shrouded with rare trees and rhododendrons (the very blossoms that dotted the landscape of Leopold’s proposal to Molly on Howth Head). You’ll find an enchanting blend of familiar florae and those which you’ve never seen before - making this a calming yet exciting stroll for any gardening enthusiast.
Even if you’re not really into planting per se, you can’t fail to find the romance buried in the rich soils, colourful petals, and resting in the shadows of the trees’ striking silhouettes.
Picture Credit - discoverireland.ie
Mount Usher Gardens
Another wonderful example of Robinsonian style can be found in Co. Wicklow, known as the Mount Usher Gardens.
The tranquil grounds have a relaxed informal atmosphere that in no way takes away from the fascinating plant-life which is on display. Both banks of the River Vartry are bursting with colours, as the waters rush through the winding paths and glades of the beautifully landscaped gardens. Each season comes complete with its own sights, scents and experiences – and there’s never a bad day to swing by and soak up the atmosphere of Mount Usher.
There’s even an on-site café with delicious, locally sourced foods, and a shopping courtyard to while away any unwelcome showers from the sky. It will be well worth your while once the clouds clear though, and you’re treated to a glistening enchanted world of colour – you might even get a rainbow!
Garnish Island Gardens
Last but certainly not least on the list is the Garnish Island Gardens in Co. Cork. As the name would suggest, a little bit of seafaring is required to reach this horticultural haven, but it’s a short and pleasant ferry journey that you’ll certainly reap your rewards from!
The sheltered location and warmer currents from the Gulf Stream create a unique climate in this beautiful little pocket off the southwest coast of Ireland, allowing a medley of exotic species to flourish in its soils. You can explore the plants of the planet in just 22 acres, as you wander through the breath-taking Italian Gardens, admire the structures of the Grecian Temple and Martello Tower, recognise the strong oriental influences and even get a feel for South American nature over in the “Happy Valley”.
Each month brings its own adventure for the senses, with vivid colours, tantalising perfumes, mirrored ponds and beautiful viewpoints – a real multicultural gem that is truly Irish at Heart.
Which beautiful blossoms would you most like to see in bloom in Ireland? Let me know in the comments below!