Garden the Vales
You could spend days wandering around the beautiful gardens of the Munster Vales. From walled vegetable gardens to arboretums, there’s a real variety of types to explore. We’ve picked out a few to keep you busy for now…
When you’re in Limerick, check out Coolwater Gardens. For exquisite water features and a wild garden, you can spend time in their Watergarden, and then explore the ponds and bamboo grove of the West Garden. This is a small, private garden which you need to book in advance, but the unique artistry of this half acre and the abundance of wildlife will definitely give you a taste for garden life.
If you want to bulk up on bulbs and stock up on shrubs, there are some excellent garden centres around Limerick. Rockbarton Garden Centre is family run with a real passion for passing on gardening know how down the generations. If you time it right, you can catch one of their seasonal markets or the annual dog show, or book an experience such as planting seeds for kids or families, flower arranging and wreath making.
You can get some great flower advice at Hennessy Nurseries in Kilfannane and, if roses are your thing, don’t miss the nearby rose specialists Just Roses. They’ll talk you through their 300 varieties and get you kitted out with the famous Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic to make sure your roses are one step ahead. You can also fill up on your perennials and essentials at Ahern Nurseries and Plant Centre.
Over in Tipperary, the highlight is Petrovska Garden, a fabulous seven-acre woodland garden with mountain streams and wooden walkways. Look out for the unique pieces placed throughout by owner Michael – spot the Japanese style planters, a sea addled canon ball, interesting totems and lots of repurposed old gadgets. Stop off at Clonmel Garden Centre to fill up on their grow-your-own range and shop the variety of fire bowls, grills and outdoor furniture to get the party started.
You could spend an entire holiday wandering the gardens of Waterford. First stop is Tourin House & Gardens which sits on 15 acres on the banks of the River Blackwater with great views of the Knockmealdown Mountains. The gardens include the Pleasure Grounds with a selection of mature trees and shrubs; the Walled Garden which was designed to produce fruit, vegetables and flowers for the house; the formal Broad Walk which links the two; and the front gardens and pond area.
You won’t want to miss the magnificent, eye-catching Curraghmore House, home of the Marquis of Waterford. It has 2,500 acres filled with woodland, formal gardens and grazing fields and has one of the the tallest trees in Ireland. A standout feature is the shell house which displays shells from around the world, brought back to Curraghmore House by ship captains at the request of Lady Catherine, the Countess of Tyrone.
Home to the Keane family for almost 300 years, Cappoquin House and Gardens incorporates a stunning home with beautifully laid out shrubs and great views. Perched on rocks overlooking the River Blackwater and surrounded by mature gardens and trees, Dromana House and Gardens is spectacular. There are looped woodland walks and cultivated gardens, and great accommodation to make your visit an overnight stay.
Lismore Castle and Gardens has a series of paths to guide you around trees, shrubs and open lawns, and a walled garden providing a selection of produce for the house. You can pick up a picnic for two from the kitchen and take off on your own adventure or check out the gallery at Lismore Castle Arts. If you time it right, you can coincide with the Lismore Castle Arts Festival for an even bigger bonus.
If camellias, rhododendrons and hydrangea are your thing, make sure you take a trip to Salterbridge House and Gardens. Some fabulous old yews, an oak and an Indian horse chestnut really add to the appeal.
If you’re heading to Cork, start off at the Donneraile Estate and wildlife sanctuary to explore the five themed gardens and its 400 acres of parkland, home to deer, otters, herons and squirrels. Make sure to check out the boxed hedging in the Panterre Garden, the remains of the Orangery which produced award winning flowers, and the Pinery-Vinery which housed grapes and pineapples.
Take some time to get close to a range of protected wildlife on the Corrin Nature Reserve right next to Corrin Forest which has its own butterfly biodiversity garden, a wild flower meadow, ponds, observation decks and a strict no dogs rule so the wildlife can stay chilled. And for more local wildlife, take the Kildorrery Wildlife Trail which will guide you past rivers, parks and flowerbeds to get a look at hedgehogs, red kites and otters.
To see exotic plants from across the world planned and planted by the Annesley family in the 1900s, take a visit to Annes Grove Gardens near Castletownroche; and for a truly inspirational renovation, go see the restored Cahernorry Church & Garden, now home to a local couple who will guide you through the house and exquisite gardens on request. Stop off on the way home at Glenanaar Woods Garden Centre to stock up on all your plants so you can take your garden inspiration with you!