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See a sample issue of The Irish Garden!

July 2013

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A little corner in the city

Shirley Lanigan is delighted to discover a changed space

There are certain places that you have memory of that one day change and surprise you. I came across one such place recently. It is a green public space in Dublin and, since I last noticed it, it has changed utterly. It is across the river from Heuston train station, a little park that stands like an island in the road as you pass if you are making your way up the quays toward Collins Barracks, or in the direction of the new Courts at the entrance to the Phoenix Park. I have been passing it all my life, and not really noticing it. It always seemed under a fog of gloom, a grey place lying in the shadow of traffic grimed trees.

Driving past it to get to the Phoenix Park recently, however, I nearly crashed the car. It looked like someone had taken the shadowy old corner away and replaced it with a beautiful, flower-filled park. It was a fairly bright day but that cannot have accounted for the change. A non-entity of a space seemed to have been whipped away and in its place was a delightful little park. The centrepiece is a serpentine pond, home to the statue of Anna Livia, which once lay uncomfortably, and with some notoriety, on a traffic island on O'Connell Street. She looks more contented here, closer to the River Liffey of James Joyce's re-naming as Anna Livia.

Overhead the trees had fresh foliage and underneath there were tidy lawns. People sat on benches or strolled through and there was a feel of life and activity in this little corner of Dublin. I couldn't park the car but the traffic lights turned red and gave me a few extra minutes to admire it. There were borders busy with flowers. This was late April and the displays of creamy white and delft blue hyacinths with deep purple primulas stood out in the bit of sun that shone on them. By now, I have no doubt that they will have been replaced by summer bedding now.

Was all this charm just the effect of the sun shining on something not seen in good light before? I do not think so. The neatly cut and edged lawns behind the old railings, the trees overhead and the cheerful floral displays were not always so eye-catching. I am not saying that the place was previously an eye sore. It was more like a negative space, a bit dull, and invisible like old wallpaper. Tidy but unremarkable. But, even in these money-pinched times, this little park has found its role as a little city feature that we may look forward to passing or to walk through, or sit a while and enjoy a little greenery in the middle of the bustle!






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