Rare & Special gardening adventures

Hi there! Welcome to my blog. I had the great fortune of spending an entire weekend with a very dear friend, who happens to be as passionate about plants and gardening as I am. What an adventure we had! The end goal was to attend the Rare and Special Plant Fair, in County Cork, but I have to say that the adventures along the way were even more special than the actual fair itself (and the fair was very good!).

First of all, everyone needs to have a ‘Susan’ in their lives. She is simply one of those very good friends – someone who ‘gets me’. We have gone on a few gardening adventures at this stage, and each one brings laughter, smiles, discussions, and me taking notes, because Susan knows so much about so many different plants! When thinking about our trip, a line from The Sound of Music movie comes to mind: ‘these are a few of my favorite things’: spending time with a good friend, garden tours, buying plants, and good food!

Our first stop was to Rare Plants Ireland, in County Dublin, as I wanted another ‘Strong Annabelle’ (mine was called Incrediball, but they are the same), and the very nice proprietor, Finlay Colley, had one set aside for me. This nursery is well worth a visit, in it’s beautiful setting.

We stopped for lunch at one of my favorite places: Avoca (in Rathcoole), as we made our way down the country. Just in case you don’t know, you can be guaranteed of delicious food at any one of the Avoca locations. Their shop is fun to browse, and some locations also have plants for sale. It is always a treat for me, as there are none near where I live. From here, we set out for Altamont Gardens, in County Carlow. I have been wanting to go here for many years, and somehow it just never happened. We decided that this was an opportune time to make it happen.

Before we actually explored Altamont gardens, though, we spent some time in their nursery. A very long time, actually! Every plant that was in flower in the gardens, was available to buy in the shop. It is fantastic marketing – seeing plants in all their glory is definitely the best time to buy them. I had a list of plants that I’ve been thinking of buying, and came away with those and a few others! But I’ll save that for another blog post. Eventually, we did make it to the gardens. The mature gardens at Altamont are simply beautiful. We strolled along the paths taking it all in. The scents all around us were so fabulous! I’m sure I looked quite funny, but I kept ‘sniffing’ the air as it was simply wonderful! We were so lucky with the weather as it was a mild, dry and sunny day – perfect for meandering through the lovely scenery. While pictures are nice, it is always so much better in person.

We did eventually make our way to County Cork. Thankfully, while at Rare Plants Ireland, the owner, Finlay, gave us a heads-up that we should arrive to the Rare and Special Plant Fair 30 minutes before it begins, to get the best selection. We’re so glad he mentioned that! Arriving 30 minutes early got us parked up close and within the first 30+ people on line. We noted the long line of cars waiting to get in, as we were leaving, and were happy to have gone early. The fair itself is in a big open space, with many vendors. You really needed to know what you wanted here, as there were a lot of people and not a lot of space when you were in each vendor’s stall. There was quite a buzz about the place, and so many plants! Two vendors that I usually buy from are Camolin Potting Shed, and Leamore Nursery and they did not disappoint. I managed to find plants here that were on my list! 🙂

The last garden that we visited was Annes Grove Gardens, near Castletownroche, County Cork. These gardens were in the Annesley family since the 1600s. In 2015 they were gifted to the Irish state and entered the care of the Office of Public Works. They have only been opened recently to the public, and while extensive work has already been done, there is still much more planned. Due to ongoing works, you can only view the gardens on a guided tour, which we took part in. We learned interesting information about the gardens and the Annesley family (the name Annes Grove is for Annesley, explaining why there isn’t an apostrophe). It is rhododendron season, and there were many beautiful colors to see. There were also some white crabapple trees that were outstanding. I would definitely say it is well worth a visit. We hope that the OPW, who also run Altamont gardens, will bring the two houses on both estates to a state where they can be toured and appreciated.

I’ve only touched upon these beautiful places to visit. I hope you will venture to see them yourselves. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with Susan, doing what we love to do!

I hope you enjoy the pictures from my adventures!

In Peace,

collage of pictures of Susan and Dana

It is so much fun to be with someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Life is for enjoying. Do note, though, how we managed to match our outfits perfectly with our surroundings! 🙂

Altamont gardens

Here are some of the beautiful views at Altamont. I loved the sculpted yew trees!

the lake at Altamont

My favorite aspect of this walk was actually the smells and sounds of spring. The rich scents were glorious to enjoy as we made our way along the paths, with the delight of birdsong! The sights weren’t too shabby, either! (Altamont gardens)

Yews and lake at Altamont

There were so many beautiful sights. I tried to balance enjoying the moment with capturing the moment with my camera. (Altamont Gardens)

A bridge between two White crab apple trees

This is one of the first images that grabbed our attention at Annes Grove Gardens. The two white crabapple trees are truly outstanding among the woodlands. The waterway was actually created so that the family could enjoy the sound of the river (!).

The chorus girls, rhododendron

Look at those colors! This fantastic group of rhododendron and bluebells in Annes Grove are referred to as the ‘Chorus Girls’. A very fun name for some vibrant (and boisterous, perhaps?) colors! It certainly brightens up the evergreen background.

Some of the rhododendron at Annes Grove Gardens

Rhododendron are spectacular plants that can grow quite tall. Traditionally, they prefer acidic soil, although some new varieties (Easy-dendron) can grow in any type of soil. I purchased one of these types at Altamont garden – stay tuned for that update! This collage of rhododendron are from Annes Grove. The white ones were definitely my favorite. We were told by our guide that the soil in this area is actually not acidic, but that because of all of the pine trees, the rhododendron do well here. Interesting fact!

The man made pond at Annes Grove

These are some views from the pond / river garden, which as I mentioned, was man-made.

Formal gardens at Annes Grove

I love walled gardens, and this was no exception. There were little nooks and crannies that will hopefully be more open to explore as renovations are completed.

A Fuchsia Gooseberry plant, a black peony and a wedding cake tree

These images are of a black peony (top right), a ‘wedding cake’ tree (Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’), and a very interesting Fuchsia gooseberry shrub (Fuchsiaflower Gooseberry) – all from Annes Grove Garden.

This wild garlic and bluebells among some beautiful trees is from Annes Grove Gardens – an end to a wonderful weekend. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour, and that you will be able to visit the gardens yourself at some stage. As always, thank you for stopping by! 🙂

4 thoughts on “Rare & Special gardening adventures

  1. That was a very pleasant jaunt! You remind me that Altamont is only an hour away and I haven’t visited in a while so must go again soon and, I agree, Robert’s plant sales are excellent, always a very good selection. You were ahead of us in Fota, it would seem but I didn’t spot you…another time.

    • We were at Avoca when Susan realized that Altamont was just an hour away. For the delight that it is, an hour is well worth the drive (at least for special occasions)! I was a tiny bit disappointed to not meet Robert, as he wasn’t working that day. He seems to be a super nice person with the plant knowledge to match. I’m so sorry I missed you in Fota, Paddy! Next time, indeed! 🙂

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