Ireland 2006

Part 1

This is the first of my informal reports on the Meeting and Conference of the International Clematis Society in Ireland in June/July 2006. To read the second report click here. To read the third of my reports, please click here.

Ireland has a reputation for wet weather but a very warm welcome. Well, the latter is most certainly true. As for the weather, we did remarkably well and there were only a couple of days when umbrellas were necessary, and then only briefly.

Nearly 100 attendees representing 14 countries gathered at Dublin City University for Clematis 2006, our Conference in Dublin, Ireland in June/July 2006, hosted by the Ranunculaceae Society. This is the first of my informal reports on the meeting, focussing primarily on the visits and events. There will be a full report of the Conference in Clematis International 2007.

The programme of events included private garden visits, public garden visits, visits of famous sights in and around Dublin and some social events, a complete spread of activities with something to please everyone. In this series of personal reports I will "mix and match" activities, there is no significance in the order in which I choose my subjects.

DCU CampusOur base for the week was Dublin City University, located a few miles (15 to 20 minutes by bus) from the centre of Dublin.

DCU Accommodation Block
A smart and modern complex of buildings, it offered us excellent accommodation in the block shown on your right. Students these days have quite a pleasant life, in seems. Accommodation units comprised a well-fitted kitchen, an adjoining lounge/sitting area, and 5 twin bedroom units, each with en suite facilities.

DCU Lecture Theatre
And the other facilities were up to this standard as well, with a comfortable and well equipped lecture theatre, and good catering. A very pleasant environment for our base.

Our first day of visits was to four private gardens, each very different and each a treasure in itself. In this report I'll cover those of Carmel Duignan and Noelle Ann Curran.

Carmel Duignan's gardenCarmel's garden is very deceptive. When you first walk around the side of the house to view the back garden, you're really not quite sure what is there. Beyond a small paved area, there are steps up to the rest of the long narrow area, with a central grassed part bordered with beds of flowers and shrubs. It looks pleasant enough.

Carmel Duignan's garden
C. tibetana subsp. vernayi 'Glasnevin Dusk'
But it is only when you start to investigate just exactly what is growing here that you realize just how much time, thought and effort has gone into the planting. It is very densely populated with all sorts of treasures, far too many to mention them all here, though I couldn't resist the picture to your right of C. tibetana subsp. vernayi 'Glasnevin Dusk'.

Carmel Duignan's gardenIn fact the garden is larger than you first think, with some interesting paths behind some of the beds, exposing further planting areas. I particularly liked some of the combination planting, an example of which you can see to your left.

Jan Lindmark and Carmel DuignanAnd ever at hand was Carmel, shown here talking with Jan Lindmark, whether to confirm the name of a particular plant, answer questions or discuss her ideas behind her most interesting garden.

Our time with Carmel passed far too quickly. We thank her for sharing her passion and her garden with us.

Garden of Noelle Ann CurranThe garden of Noelle Ann Curran, which we visited in the afternoon, was very different in many ways, but also had a number of similarities. Though bigger and somewhat more formally laid out, it too had many hidden treasures.

Girl on Swing Statue
Many people remarked on the beautiful statue of the girl on a swing. From a distance and in silhouette, it was difficult to tell whether it was a statue or a real person, so lifelike was it.

It's all done by mirrors!
But it was the use of mirrors which I found most exciting. There were a number of examples around the garden, often only detected when you found yourself looking at your own reflection. But for me, by far the best was the stone bridge in one corner with the stream that wandered into the distance - until you looked very closely and saw that under the bridge was a cleverly positioned mirror, adding a depth to the area.
Jennifer Harmer, Mary Toomey and Noelle Ann Curran
It is a very interesting garden, very well thought out, beautifully presented and with some very clever features. The vote of thanks given by Jennifer Harmer was very well deserved and echoed by all present.

Barry ToomeyNora Glynn (in centre of group)On Sunday, whilst many of our group travelled across the sea to Anglesey and Crûg Farm Nursery, Barry Toomey and Nora Glynn took those wanted with a walking tour of Dublin.

We all met up at Trinity College in the centre of Dublin where we were split into two groups and headed off for three hours of fascinating dialogue about Dublin and Irish history and politics. Both Nora and Barry seem to have encyclopaedic knowledge and no question ever seemed too difficult for either (I know from experience of our guide and was reliably informed the same by members of the other group).

Trinity CollegeTrinity CollegeTrinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth 1. It has had a fascinating history, far too long a story to be told here but one that I would strongly recommend any one visiting Dublin to discover. Whilst you may not be lucky enough to have Barry or Nora as your guide, a very good alternative is to join one of the tours given by students of Trinity.

Trinity is home to the famous Book of Kells, a richly decorated manuscript believed to date back to the 800's. However it has various other attractions as well, notably the Graduates Memorial Building pictured above and home to two more famous of the many Trinity College Societies, the Campanile, a bell tower built in 1853 and pictured on your right, the Long Library and this bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro, entitled "Sphere with Sphere", set outside the Berkeley Library and pictured below.
Bronze Globe, Trinity College, Dublin
Oscar Wilde Statue, DublinTrinity has also had a number of famous students, as this statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square commemorates. And of course, two other famous students were Mary and Barry Toomey!

The GPO, DublinAfter a wander around Trinity, it was over O'Connell Bridge to O'Connell Street and the GPO (General Post Office). Much more than just a post office, this became a major place in Irish history when, in 1916, it was seized by members of the Irish Volunteers and Patrick Pearse stood on its steps and read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Pubs in Temple Bar, DublinFrom here, we walked west, through the Temple Bar area. I have to admit, this picture was taken on a visit we made a couple of days before the conference started, when the weather was much sunnier. With two pubs in the foreground, it demonstrates admirably the "spirit" of Temple Bar.

We covered a lot of ground in our three hours. Dublin has many different sides to it as a city, and our tour showed us many of them. In spite of intermittent drizzle, we were enjoyed ever step.

To finish my first report, I leave you with a picture of one of a series of sculptures that currently line the central reservation of O'Connell Street and O'Connell Bridge. Made by Barry Flanagan, they are all of hares in various poses and have been loaned to Dublin City. They are quite spectacular, but then so is Dublin. But to carry on, please click here for the second report and here for the third of my reports.

Barry Flanagan Hare Sculpture

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All information contained at this site is personal to Ken Woolfenden and
does not represent the official view of the International Clematis Society.