Why visits to Cork’s ‘open garden’ are inspirational

So what do you want to do when you take a break from your garden?

I have great respect for anyone brave enough to open their garden to the public, to bring their soul out and show their craft and hidden gems.

It’s fantastic that six such generous gardeners are sharing their horticultural exploits for Marymount Hospice with us this summer.

The Garden at Seanabea Cottage in Cloyne opens on July 24th in aid of Marymount Hospice

The Friends Of Marymount Open Gardens Summer 2022 fundraising program begins on June 19 when Nora Roche opens her garden in Mallow.

The Open Gardens series will run on various dates from then until the last on July 24th when John Terry and Hilary Nason open their beautiful garden at Seanabea Cottage in Cloyne.

Visiting open gardens like this one is a great way to get inspiration for your own garden, and while you may never aspire to open a garden to the public, there is still something to take home from each.

It can be as simple as a combination of plants or you can see something different like different textures in the gardens or design elements, features like statues, ponds or the simple placement of a pot or large urn.

Also, give the garden owners more than a thought as they put in the work out there, hours, days and weeks of preparation will have gone into each garden to ensure they are at their best for the “opening” date show page.

That ‘it just happened’ look wasn’t ‘just happened’. A lot of thought and maybe blood, sweat and tears went into this casual perfection.

Sleepless nights before the open house are the order of the day. I well remember one lady, who is to remain nameless, despairing in the days leading up to the opening that the roses and lawn should be at their best for the coming Saturday when her wonderful garden was open.

I knew her garden and was well aware that it was already stunning and required no such panic.

However, the panic reached a new level when she spotted brown footprints going through the lawn about three days earlier. Someone had sprayed weed killer and apparently got something on their shoes and shortly afterwards walked across the lawn.

You can imagine the dismay and said offending footprints were lifted from the lawn and replaced with lawns cut with forensic precision, all of which were completed within hours of opening.

Not every garden owner will and should not be as meticulous and perfectionist as every garden is individual and reflects everything about the person tending it. So expect to see a mix of casual, informal, pristine, and nonchalant gardens on your open garden tours over the next two months.

You will see gardens that are all about the plants and more about the overall design and layout.

Each garden gives you a glimpse into the soul of the person who created it.

They can tell so much about the people in their gardens, what plants they like, whether the lawn makes a perfect putting green or if it’s a rather unkempt area left to bees and other pollinating insects to feed and call Hometown.

The garden of Maurice and Gertie O'Donoghue at Carrignavar, Co Cork, during an earlier one
Maurice and Gertie O’Donoghue’s garden at Carrignavar, Co Cork, during a previous ‘open garden’. Image: Dan Linehan

This will no doubt reflect the person whose garden it is, just as the mix of garden styles will reflect the gardener’s personality. Regardless of the style and type of garden, one thing will be universal and that is the generosity of everyone who agrees to open their plots to such a valuable charity.

The Garden at Seanabea Cottage
The Garden at Seanabea Cottage

Just as open gardens are a great opportunity to draw inspiration from the garden, so can you meet the head gardener. I know most, but not all, of those involved, and they are all more than happy to share their inspiration and knowledge with visitors. Be it how the garden was laid out or where they got certain plants from.

You see, we’re a pretty quiet and friendly bunch, we gardeners, let’s get that out of the ground! Once you enter the enchanted wonderland of an alien garden, your greatest challenge is to keep track of time. Because as with everything you do in the garden, as soon as you begin to enter a parallel universe, the clocks shine, and while you only made a brief visit, upon exiting, the small hand on the clock has moved several full circles times.

Visit www.marymount.ie/open-gardens-summer-2022 for more information

Have a gardening question for Peter Dowdall? Email gardenquestions@examiner.ie


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