Stealing ideas when visiting grand gardens

Find inspiration for your garden by visiting other gardens, says Olive Ryan
Stealing ideas when visiting grand gardens

A bug hotelthat Olive Ryan encountered on her recentvisit to Rosslare Harbour Village Park

As our summer continues to provide plenty of interest and colour, it is a great time to visit different gardens as a means of inspiration.

Plant colour and texture combinations, what to plant in different planting locations (shady planting, full sun, north-facing aspects, seaside locations, sheltered sites), hard landscaping features, and elements included in the garden to encourage and enhance biodiversity... all can be stimulated by visits to gardens designed and created by others.

No matter how big or small a garden is, or what style it adopts, there are always ideas and creativity to be gained from a visit. It may be just a small element like a sculpture or a pot display that sparks the imagination and gets a plan going for how we will adapt the idea for our own gardens and to suit our own spaces.

A recent trip to the sunny south-east took me to Rosslare to visit a community garden that features on the Wexford Garden Trail. It is about 4.5 acres in total and is made up of a series of linear spaces interconnected with well defined paths just waiting to be explored.

The first encounter with the garden is a well signposted and planted area adjacent to St Martins Road in Rosslare Harbour Village. This sensory garden area provides a reminder of lives lost on Tuskar Rock lighthouse, brave lives lost on the lifeboat in the area, and victims of the Aer Lingus Viscount disaster.

The next area encountered is Kirwan’s garden. This was originally planted with Scots pines which were used as a shelter belt from the westerly winds when the railway cottages were built here in the early 1900s. There is not much remaining of the pines now, but in the 1980s a local man, Seamus Kirwan, began to maintain and develop this area as a biodiversity sanctuary.

The area is teaming with wildlife — birds, butterflies, bees and insects of all description are very much at home in this area. Lots of hydrangea are under planted in this woodland, providing lots of colour in quite a dark area.

There are lots of ideas and inspiration to be gleaned from the gardens, with wildlife boards with information about birds and insects in residence. Different habitats are found throughout the meandering walk, from open, sunny spots to dark, sheltered and very shaded areas, creating a lot of diversity.

There are bee hives on site and plenty of apple trees in what is called the ‘Landfill Garden’. This makes up about two acres of the park and was originally a local dump, which closed in the late 1960s and was sealed with topsoil. After more than 50 years, nature has reclaimed the ground and provided a thick covering of brambles and furze bushes on the higher ground, surrounded by wetter ground which is fed by underground springs, and so demanded that plants tolerant of poor drainage be introduced.

Willow, alder and bulrush are some of the plants the local environment group planted here to enhance biodiversity. 

A very successful circular willow enclosure with two entry points provides shelter and seclusion within and also is a very good idea as a feature for a garden that may suffer excessive winds.

This was the overwhelming feeling while walking through these gardens, that there were lots of little ideas that could be adapted for our own gardens.

It was not surprising to discover the local Men’s Shed were also involved in the gardens, creating unique and novel seating, with shared tables, bug hotels, bird houses, bat boxes, fairy doors... and most impressive of all was the hobbit house, which we stumbled upon, and on opening the door discovered that it was indeed a book exchange.

It was a delight to explore these gardens, and amazing to see what can be achieved on a community level with voluntary work.

These gardens provide a wonderful space for biodiversity to thrive and enjoy, and also space for people of all ages to move through and observe the richness of life at all levels when nature provides, and particularly when a community and nature work together.

I wish continued success to this exemplary project that we can all learn and be inspired from. For further details, check out and enjoy some garden visits this summer.


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