Looking for inspiration for my garden for 2021...

Olive Ryan is stock piling her bulbs and visiting gardens to get inspiration for her garden next year. 
Looking for inspiration for my garden for 2021...

A wooden gate leads into the newer part of the garden at Coolaught, with a specimen Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ to greet you.

AS my quest for inspiration continues, a recent trip east to Wexford took me to see some great gardens.

The Wexford Garden trail comprises 16 gardens located throughout the county and I went to Clonroche to visit Coolaught gardens and garden center and Beechdale garden centre.

At this time of the year, I love visiting garden centres as the purchasing and accruing of spring flowering bulbs begins in earnest. My tendency is to stockpile lots of bulbs until one big planting event happens before Christmas.

Getting in early to buy bulbs is essential as a lot of the good cultivars of different types of bulbs sell out early. Garden centres are well stocked right now so it is a good time to go shopping.

Coolaught Gardens comprises 2.5 acres of gardens at the heart of rolling agricultural land. It is packed full of familiar favourites as well as lots of more unusual plants from all over the world.

The owners, Caroline and Harry Deacon, are avid plant collectors and have been travelling the world collecting plants from many different climes for many years. The main criteria for gaining a place in the garden is that they have to like some aspect of the plant, be it habit, flower or foliage — plants are collected for their love of them not just to have them.

The garden has been developed in two stages, with the older part nearer the house incorporating some old apple trees and the additional 1.5 acres which is maturing well planted at a later stage.

The garden is a great mix of trees, shrubs, herbaceous, annual self seeders, grasses, shade lovers and bulbs. The trees give a great feeling of establishment and have plenty of room to grow to their full potential, giving height and a feeling of maturity to large beds which have shrubs and herbaceous beneath, providing interest throughout the year.

 Borders at Coolaught providing late summer colour.
Borders at Coolaught providing late summer colour.

Mown grass paths meander throughout the garden with new plants to discover at every turn. A mixture of ornamental grasses like stipa, miscanthus, calamagrostis and hakonechloa all help to provide colour, interest and movement in late summer and into the autumn.

Late summer flowering herbaceous plants like red hot pokers, eupatorium, rudbeckia, sunflowers, anemone, aster, lobelia, crocosmia and roscoea all combine to give great colour among the beds. Self seeders like foxgloves, evening primrose, verbena and mexican fleebane have made themselves very much at home in this garden and it is the richer for them.

Some good plant combinations for tricky spots like dense shade and dry corners can be noted as you walk around.

A specimen wedding cake tree greets you as you enter the newer part of the garden, with a backdrop of a curved copper beech hedge to enhance the white foliage of the dogwood. There are some more exotic plants closer to the house, creating a hot and tropical effect, cannas, tetrapanax, begonias and red hot pokers combine to create an explosion of colour and texture.

Hydrangeas have to be one of the best plants in an Irish garden and this one was no exception, with mopheads and paniculate types providing colour and texture throughout the garden. Lots of azaleas and rhododenderons would indicate that a visit earlier in the year might also be advisable.

Late summer colour around the house at Coolaught gardens.
Late summer colour around the house at Coolaught gardens.

In addition to the gardens, there is a garden centre adjacent to the farmyard which boasts a fine selection of trees, shrubs, herbaceous, grasses and spring flowering bulbs. It is a great bonus visiting a garden which is also home to a garden centre as inevitably many of the plants growing in the gardens can be purchased at the end of the visit.

A great day out in a wonderful countryside setting, just what we need these days.

Beechdale Garden Centre, also located close to Clonroche, is home to a large indoor display area with quite a selection of spring flowering bulbs, garden furniture, pots, and tropical plants, and then outdoors there is a large selection of all types of plants to choose from. The Wildflower Cafe provides refreshment and is a popular lunching spot.

A final visit to The Bay Garden in Camolin had to be made on this trip to Wexford. The garden is closed now as the house and gardens are for sale.

This garden has provided lots of pleasurable trips to many people over the years and it is sad to see its gates close. The Barn garden was looking particularly lovely on my visit a few weeks ago, with grasses, perennials and a well-placed shrub like Rhus (staghorn) indicating the changing seasons.

Wishing Iain and Frances MacDonald all the best for their future and many thanks for all of the joy and inspiration over the years.

Salvia Uliginosa, or bog sage.
Salvia Uliginosa, or bog sage.

Plant of the week

Salvias are a wonderful late summer flowering saviour in the garden and they loved the recent late sunshine and dry weather.

The only drawback is that many of them do require protection from frost during winter and would ideally need to be brought into the glasshouse. Alternatively, cuttings can be taken now and kept under cover until spring.

There are lots of lovely varieties and one that came to my attention recently is Salvia Uliginosa, or bog sage. It is a tall plant getting to about two metres in height. It has the most beautiful clear blue flowers from late summer into the autumn.

It likes a moist soil and full sun preferably and the bees adore it. To describe it as being an ‘airy’ plant suited to the back of the border is fitting.

You can read Olive Ryan's gardening column in The Echo every Saturday.

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