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See a sample issue of The Irish Garden!

June 2013

To see a sample of the current issue of Ireland's best-selling gardening magazine, click the image below.

Accessing from an iPad? This edition is designed for PC and Mac access using Flash, which is not supported by the iPad. To access the iPad edition, search 'The Irish Garden' in the Apple app store.

Mary Davies gets behind high walls

South of the Wicklow Mountains, set in gentle countryside close to the county border, there is a small market town with an intriguing feature at its core. A high, ancient wall of dark grey stone dominates the streetscape, interrupting the row of neat nineteenth-century houses. The top of the wall is battlemented: in the centre double wooden doors, their blue paint faded, fit snugly into a Gothic archway. From across the street, there is a glimpse of more battlements behind, those of a substantial castle.

It was a pleasure to pay a rare visit. Once past the wooden doors, the courtyard behind was lined with more battlemented grey walls, punctuated on each side with similarly elaborate gateways - one leading to an extensive stable block, another to the back of the castle itself and the third with promise of an extensive garden beyond. The same soft blue paint, peeling gently, brightened the woodwork of doors and windows. The only hint of past plantings were ancient herringbone cotoneasters against the walls, their very old main stems holding fast to the stonework and contorted into shapes reminiscent of willow-pattern plates. Moss and the circular leaves of wall pennywort clung to the granite lintel and wooden frame of an old sash window. Small ferns thickly colonised the crenellations high over the main gateway and their tufted silhouettes stood out against the sky.

The castle stood silently at one side. Its high forbidding walls were diversified by shuttered windows of varying sizes and styles - clues to a whole history of changes over some four hundred years. But it was the view through the far gate, past the grey castle walls, that drew the attention most. This gate stood ajar to show green lawns, fields, and smooth distant hills. The passage from urban enclosure, just off a busy street, to an expansive garden and farmland beyond was a sudden one.

The bones of what had once been an elaborate garden still remained. A sundial stood above a shallow terrace, the lawn below accessed by a crooked flight of steps of Wicklow schist. Below the terrace, rose bushes edged the lawn; Irish yews and clumps of pampas grass marked the sides of a central path and another fall in level. A mature weeping ash stood at one side and a great thicket of bamboo provided an exotic air. Two contrasting objects caught the eye. One was a great stone bench, thickly covered with pale lichens and a delicate tracery of mosses, positioned in one corner serenely to catch the morning sun. The other, casually upturned in a corner, was a great iron cauldron; like the castle behind, it would have its own story to tell.





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