27 gardens are participating in the West Cork Garden Trail

It is amazing what we can find on our own doorstep when we put our minds to exploring, so says Olive Ryan in her weekly gardening column.
27 gardens are participating in the West Cork Garden Trail

Montbretia and ragworth in full bloom.

AUGUST is traditionally a month when many of us are on holidays and everybody is making the most of the summer before the return to routine in September.

This year is no exception — but the main difference is that most people are holidaying at home in Ireland instead of abroad and so we are getting a chance to discover some of our own hidden gems.

It is amazing what we can find on our own doorstep when we put our minds to exploring!

A recent visit to West Cork revealed an array of colour in the hedgerows to rival a well tended herbaceous border.

Colours abounded in the dykes and ditches with the yellow of ragworth, (yes ragworth!) looking rather ravishing alongside flaming orange montbretia, purple loosestrife, rich pink fuchsia contrasting with the white frothiness of yarrow, alexanders and meadow sweet.

The gorse and heather growing together nearer the coastline, clinging closely to the thin layer of soil and rocks, is creating a carpet of colour any photograph would not do justice to right now.

The melody of colours occurring naturally when plants seed themselves, thrive and multiply in growing conditions that suit their particular needs or that they can adapt to, is indeed inspiring and now is a great time to take it all in.

It has been a good summer for plants this year, with lengthy warm, dry and sunny spells interspersed with some days of decent rainfall.

This has left the countryside in West Cork looking lush and abundant with green growth, and now as the summer develops so too is the colour of the herbaceous layer. The colour will be good for the next few weeks so why not head west for some garden inspiration this summer?

While nature and the hedgerows, dykes and ditches can inspire, there are some beautiful gardens to be visited in this unique micro-climate close to the coastline and with its mild winters and generous amounts of rainfall enabling many exotic and tender species of plants to be grown outdoors all year round.

 An oasis of peace and tranquility at Heron Gallery and Gardens.
An oasis of peace and tranquility at Heron Gallery and Gardens.

There are currently 27 gardens participating in the West Cork Garden Trail and one of these is the Heron Gallery, Cafe and Gardens in Ahakista near Durrus on the Sheeps Head peninsula.

This is an artist’s garden filled with colour, unique ideas and sculptures throughout. A great place to visit if you are looking for some inspiration for your own garden.

Some of the pieces in the garden provide great ideas for upcycling and reusing plastics. Organic vegetables and fruit are grown in raised beds and polytunnels and these supply the wholefood cafe.

A large wildlife pond is located at the rear and this is surrounded by a newly planted orchard of Irish Heritage apples and a wildflower meadow.

A smaller pond closer to the cafe is surrounded by native and cultivated bog plants.

Biodiveristy and working with nature are at the heart of this garden with bug hotels, composting and sustainability an obvious priority.

 Creativity abounds at Heron gallery and gardens.
Creativity abounds at Heron gallery and gardens.

Closer to the cafe and gallery, there are beds full of a mixture of colourful native and cultivated annuals and perennials for all to admire throughout the summer months.

There are also some kunekune pigs in residence in the gardens, called Fuchsia, Faye and Fern. They greet visitors with curiosity from within their pen at the heart of the garden.

This garden sits very well in this most natural of environments, with the rocky outcrops a reminder of the natural topography in this unspoilt oasis.

It is no mean feat to successfully develop a garden in such sensitive surroundings that seamlessly fits in and even enhances such a beautiful location.

The gallery displays and sells the work of the owner, Annabel Langrish, who takes much of her inspiration from nature, wildflowers, the sea, animals and the landscape.

Check out www.annabellangrish.ie for more details of opening times and what’s available accommodation-wise and food-wise at different times of the year.

It has been a difficult summer for plant fairs and growers as rescheduling and cancellations have been a common occurrence for much of the growing year so far.

Presently, the ISNA annual plant fair is scheduled for Sunday, August 16, at Airfield Estate in Dublin. Entry is €6 per adult and €5 per child.

It will provide an opportunity to source some rare, unusual and garden worthy plants for your garden this summer and to support our wonderful growers from all over the country who work so hard to cultivate the plants that we are looking for to fill those gaps.

The gardens at Airfield provide a wonderful backdrop for this event and there are plenty of plant combinations and planting schemes to be admired throughout the gardens, as well as the very productive kitchen gardens which supply the on-site Overends kitchen. Check out www.airfield.ie for more details and regular updates.

Purple loosestrife.
Purple loosestrife.

Plant of the week

Purple loosestrife is creating quite a show throughout West Cork right now. It bears purple flowers on upright spikes.

The latin name is Lythrum salicaria and it grows well in damp soil and can be seen in abundance adjacent to streams, ponds, ditches and dykes where the soil retains moisture well.

A tall perennial, it can get up to 1.5-2m in height. It has a long flowering peroid, beginning in June and flowering right through until September.

A native wildflower throughout Ireland, it is certainly worthy of a spot in a wetter part of the garden. It will self-seed but deadheading before the seeds form will help to keep it in check.

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