Take a walk on the wild side at this cool castle

In her weekly column 'In The Garden' Olive Ryan pays a visit to Lismore Castle Gardens
Take a walk on the wild side at this cool castle

The lower garden at Lismore Castle Garden.

LISMORE Castle Gardens has been a well known visitor attraction for many years. Its rejuvenation in recent years has provided lots of inspiring plant combinations and planting schemes, particularly in the upper garden.

Chestnut fencing has been installed in many areas, retaining beds and borders which are bursting with plants, and providing ideas about how plants can be combined together to create different effects.

The garden is seven acres and is divided into two distinct areas, the upper garden adjacent to the part of the castle that is now the Lismore Art Gallery and the lower part of the garden adjacent to the river.

The upper part of the garden is used for growing fruit, vegetables and ornamental plantings of herbaceous, trees, shrubs and hedging as well as wildflower areas.

The lower part of the garden has lots of large trees and shrubs and plenty of spring interest with some herbaceous elements more recently introduced providing summer interest now also.

There is inspiration at every turn in this garden when it comes to plants and plant combinations. The repetition of plants throughout a planting scheme is apparent and helps to bring schemes together and create some continuity throughout.

 Colourful plant combinations in pots at Lismore Castle Garden
Colourful plant combinations in pots at Lismore Castle Garden

Different plants fulfill this function in different parts of the garden. Stipa, with its distinctive tall and arching flowers, emerging like oats from the plants centre, are used throughout mixed borders in the upper garden.

Pennisetum macrourum is a grass that has an upright habit and is used among plants in the borders forming the spine of the upper garden.

Fennel has large frothy umbel flowers which fill borders along the main spine also. They help to punctuate and give a feeling of unity, continuity and repetition which is pleasing to the senses.

There are many self-seeders that add to the rhythm and distinctive natural feel to the garden, among them spring-flowering honesty, the seed heads of which remain. The very sweet daisy flower of Erigeron karvinskianus appearing along walls and steps wherever its seeds can gain some purchase on the soil, the very exotic-looking echiums with their tall spires, and teasel with its distinctive seed heads, which the birds love to feed on over the winter.

The great news is that many of the plants are for sale and if they are not some seeds may be purchased in the cafe located within the art gallery at the heart of the garden.

Some of the seeds on sale were Datisca cannabina, or cretan hemp, which is a good foliage perennial for the back of the border, and dahlia merckii, a single flowering pink dahlia similar to cosmos, a reliable plant with a delicate appearance. Bupleureum rotundifolium is an attractive annual, popular with flower arrangers as it has acid green flowers that used to occur commonly in cornfields as a weed but is now rarely seen.

Lepechinia hastata is a salvia like plant with grey green foliage and purple tubular flowers throughout the summer months. Albuca shawii is a bulbous summer flowering perennial native to south Africa

Linaria puruprea ‘Canon Went’ is a delightful toadflax bearing delicate pink spires throughout the summer. Great ideas for some different plants to add to the borders next year.

 Anemones providing delightful pops of colour in the lower garden at Lismore Castle Gardens
Anemones providing delightful pops of colour in the lower garden at Lismore Castle Gardens

There were some wonderful pots on display throughout the garden also, with combinations of late-flowering plants like salvia and dahlia combined with succulents like aeoniums to wonderful effect. Salvia and dahlia can both be a bit tender so taking a few cuttings now while some healthy plant material is still available is a good idea. These cuttings will need to be overwintered indoors ready for planting out next spring.

Meadows have become a big part of the gardens at Lismore and there is a beautifully managed wildflower meadow beneath the orchard in the upper part of the garden. The head gardener Darren Topps has introduced the traditional use of scythes to maintain meadow areas, with the removal of organic matter (the grass clippings), preventing the build up of fertility being one of the key elements to success. Indeed, there were some very attractive old style hay stacks in evidence in the orchard on a recent visit, emphasizing the importance of getting back to traditional practices for maintaining a balance in nature and in our gardens.

A wonderful space to relax and enjoy a picnic on a warm afternoon as we make the most of the end of summer. There is even the possibility of getting a picnic made up for you using seasonal produce from the garden.

Check out the website, www.lismoregardens.com for more details. Opening times have been split into two slots, 11am-2pm and 2pm-5pm and numbers are limited so booking is advisable.

If you decide to visit at the weekend, the Lismore Farmers and Craft market takes place on Sundays between 9am until 4pm, which is located on the Castle Avenue.

What better way to get inspired this autumn and begin planning for next year’s exploits in the garden? Happy Garden Visiting.

Althaea cannabina, or the palm leaf marsh mallow
Althaea cannabina, or the palm leaf marsh mallow

Plant of the week

This week, a beautiful and delicate pink-flowering mallow was spotted among the borders at Lismore. The plant in question was Althaea cannabina, or the palm leaf marsh mallow. It has an upright growth habit getting quite tall at about two metres in height.

It flowers from midsummer right into the autumn, producing fragile pink single flowers.

This plant prefers full sun and will tolerate a little shade and a well drained soil. It gives a lovely airy and delicate feel to the border as its foliage is equally as delicate as the flower.

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