I met Sean Heffernan, the head Gardner who took me through this 22 acre, RobinsonianWildGarden filled with fascinating foliage, giant trees, and natural green paths that beckon you to explore this lush landscape. Planting began here in 1868 by Edward Walpole, the garden’s founder, and has been developed over the years expanding the plant species and using organic methods for control. No fertilisers are employed.
As you enter the garden proper, the VartryRiver divides you from the Home of Mrs Madeleine Jay, who preserved the garden up to 2007when it was taken over by the family business, Avoca. As Sean pointed out, “there was a tuck woollen mill first, then a corn mill driven by a water wheel and in more recent time, the house where Mrs Jay lived until she passed away in January 2016”. Here were trees like the Chillian Barberry, Chinese Coffin Juniper, Corkscrew Hazel, New Zealand Red Beech to mention a few.
A huge Japanese Umbrella Pine that I mistook for a form of Monkey Puzzle (I am not a Botanist!!) took over the skyline as we approached the “Croquet Lawn” , a green open space surrounded by beautiful shrubs and trees. Sean again, “this garden, John, is an arboretum with trees from all over the world”. To my left there was a huge Eucalyptus Tree towering skywards. Sean explained, “that’s a Widow Maker you know”. Why I asked. “They drop their huge branches for no visible reason and you just hear a pop sound. If you’re under it….well”. This particular tree is the tallest of its species in Ireland and has an “Irish champion tree” title because of this.