Ireland 2006

Part 2

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

I covered the visits to the private gardens of Carmel Duignan and Noelle Ann Curran in my first report, so this time I'll complete the set by showing you the private gardens of Anna Nolan and Helen Dillon.

Garden of Anna NolanAnna Nolan lives in a quiet leafy suburb of Dublin, on an even quieter cul-de-sac. Whilst all the front gardens looked very well tended, her somewhat more unusual and exotic planting was instantly distinguishable. Anna meet us in front of her house and immediately started to point out some of her favourite plants. The front garden was more than interesting, but it was when we walked around the side of the house that the full skills of Anna and extent of her plant collection became apparent. Garden of Anna Nolan
Beautifully laid out with sweeping curved flower beds and herbaceous borders, packed with all manner of plants, met the eye. The path is at a higher level than the main part of the back garden and has been skillfully constructed so that, as you walk around, you get a wonderful birds-eye view over the design. Then the path takes you gradually down to ground level and the plants.

C. addisonii in the garden of Anna NolanI particularly liked the sitting area in the right-hand corner, very cool and relaxed looking. I will leave a description of the plant collection to the journal, and to someone far more qualified than myself to do credit to it. But even with my untrained eye it was obvious that here was someone who has travelled widely and brought back much.

Anna Nolan and Szczepan MarczynskiIt is perhaps not so noticeable from the pictures here but there was a clematis presence here. And one that many people remarked on was a lovely example of Clematis addisonii.

Anna Nolan has a plant collection that anyone would be proud of. But more than that, she has designed and constructed a garden around it to show off the plants to great effect.


Mackey's Garden CentreWelcome at Mackey's Garden CentreOur last stop of the morning was at Mackey's Garden Centre. Established way back in 1770, it was obvious as we arrived that Mackey's was certainly not stuck in a rut, but had moved with the times, with a modern building and large outside plant area. It was also obvious that we were expected as this very friendly display greeted us as we walked in, along with soft drinks, wine and nibbles.

Mackey's Garden CentreAfter being welcomed by the owners, we were set free to browse and buy. They certainly had a wonderful range of both plants and accessories - everything any self-respecting gardener would or even could need, plus a few other things besides. I noticed that a particular hit were the gardening"wellies" - wellington boots in a wide range of colours and patterns, including shocking pink with blue flowers. Obviously no gardener should be without a pair!

I should also mention that Mackey's does have a very good rage of plants, as you can see from this picture depicting just a small part of their outside area.

In spite of the lure of lunch, it took a long time to get everyone back on the coaches, such was the desire to make the very most of this shopping opportunity. We thank Mackey's very much for their friendliness and hospitality.

Helen Dillon's gardenMany would say that the best was left until last this day, for Helen Dillon's garden was the last we visited. It was a beautiful warm and sunny afternoon (too sunny for the photographers amongst us, but then you can't please everyone all of the time!), as we walked up the imposing steps and into the house. As we walked through to the rear drawing room, glasses of wine and soft drinks were offered.

The Canal - Helen Dillon's garden
Helen Dillon welcomed us and told us a little about their house and her garden, which we could tantalizingly see out of the windows. Then it was time to descend the steps into this oasis of plant paradise.

Helen Dillon and her garden have featured on television and in gardening magazines many times. In it's latest re-incarnation it has a canal running down the middle, from the house to about half way. On either side are borders with one of the most diverse selections of plants and planting that I've come across.

It is when you start to consider the plants one by one that you realize just how much thought and knowledge has gone into the planting. I certainly got the impression that the position of every plant had been carefully considered to achieve the desired effect. And the diversity of plants was quite astounding.

Helen Dillon's gardenIt is said to be one of the most photographed gardens and I have to admit that, as someone more often seen behind a camera, I could easily see why. It is a photographers dream - from almost anywhere in the garden and in almost every direction there is a shot waiting to be taken. I have only one regret. The sun was shining so brightly that it really was very difficult to do it justice.

View in Helen Dillon's gardenWe were left to wander the garden as we wanted, which is the way to appreciate a garden such as this. It comprises a number of "rooms", each with a different theme, so there is something to appeal to everybody. And Helen was always at hand to answer questions or identify some of the more unusual plants.

Robin in Helen Dillon's gardenIn spite of being in Dublin city, it is obviously nature-friendly and appreciated by feathered friends as well as the two-legged ones. This robin had no fear of us as we walked around, he was enjoying snacking on what he could find between these lovely old bricks.

C. 'Venosa Violacea' in Helen Dillon's gardenThere may not have been a huge collection of clematis here, but those that were (and there were more than at first glance, you just had to look for them, they blended in so well) were always stunning, like this C. 'Venosa Violacea'. It's a very good clematis anyway, but here it was trained to compliment the clothed arches of ivy.Left to right - Fiona Woolfenden, Dr. Mary Toomey, Szczepan Marczynski and Helen Dillon

It was not hard to see why Helen Dillon and her husband, Val, are so acclaimed in the horticultural world. They have created (and continue to create) a magnificent garden, highly photogenic, with a stunningly varied collection of perfectly positioned and perfectly grown plants.

GlendaloughI will finish this report with our visit to Glendalough. After two days of lectures, presentations and workshops, interesting though they were, it was good to get out into the fresh air and the countryside.

Glendalough is a valley in the Wicklow National Park with a lake at either end. An area of outstanding beauty, it contains a number of important archaeological sites, in particular those of Celtic origin. We assembled and our guide, Mia Craig, gave us a potted history of the area before leading us through the gateway, past St. Kevin's Kitchen (below right, taken at a distance) to the Round Tower.

St. Kevin's Kitchen, Glendalough
Round Tower, GlendaloughA beautiful and imposing structure, there has been much debate as to the purpose of these towers (there are others in Ireland though none, I believe, quite as fine as in Glendalough) but no one really knows. One key feature is the entrance door, which is set 4 or 5 metres (12 - 15 feet) above ground level. It is surrounded by some very fine carved Celtic stone crosses.

We were scheduled to spend most of the morning here and this meant we had time to take the well-marked walk to the upper lake. A very pleasant stroll, it was well worth it as the view across the lake to the hills of Wicklow is truly breath-taking. The water was very calm and tempted many of the photographers amongst us. My result is below.

Glendalough - Upper Lake

With this I will finish the second of my informal reports on our Conference and Meeting in Dublin, Ireland. Click here for the first report and here for the third of my reports. But for now:-

Sampling Guiness at the Dublin Guiness Brewery!

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does not represent the official view of the International Clematis Society.