Enormous, exotic and native trees, a natural garden walkways lined with shrubbery, a cascading river with fleeting king fishers and the elusive Dipper diving to the river bed to feed. This is “Mount Usher Garden” in Ashford, Co Wicklow. A privately owned paradise garden with some 4,500 shrubs and trees from all over the world.

The garden is set in the heart of the village of Ashford in Co Wicklow. From the road it has a rather unassuming in appearance. On entering the courtyard heading to the entrance to the WalledGardens there are a selection of small country shops, coffee shops and cafes. The center of this oasis is covered naturally with willows and other leafy trees with garden seating and tables scattered informally where you may sit and relax with a nice cuppa to keep you company whilst the kids play hide and seek among the trees.

The “Avoca” Café, serves wonderful coffee, scones and cream cakes and confectionary. They also do breakfast and lunches and have a children’s menu, the perfect stop for a snack on your return from this garden adventure. “The Bakery Food Market” is a deli, with a fine food store attached with fine preserves and cooking condiments on offer.

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.

Straight ahead was “Azalea Walk” which was lined with these colourful flowering plants that must present an increasable display of colour as they bloom for the summer months.

But right now, the crocuses were in bloom providing colourful blankets of white, blue intermingled with bright deep yellow daffodils. The small delicate white flowers of the cherry trees had begun to appear and many of the shrubs were beginning to sprout new leaves as we head full swing into spring.

We crossed the Vartry River on one of the footbridges into the Eucryphia Collection area; Rhododendron, Indian Horse Chestnut, Magnolia, Chilean Beach and Weeping Brewer Spruce to name but a few. Along the Palm Walk we can now see the attractive architecture of the Jay family home as it blending sympathetically into this paradise woodland.

The Island, not sure quite why it was called an island other than it may have been, in the past,  recovered from the VartryRiver. Crisscrossed by small man made streams, small shrubs, ponds with reeds and more exotic trees from around the world; Himalayan Birch, a Chinese species apple Hupeh Crab, Monarch Birch also Japanese, Tanekaha, a primitive tree rarely seen outside New Zealand, Rhododendron, American Sweet Gum.

Following the walk along the river a Large Magnolia delavayii, planted in 1918, a Chinese evergreen with a large cream flower up to 8 inches across which appears in late summer.

The sound of the river cascading over the stone weirs seemed to tie in the nature, the natural surrounds and this abundance of plant species all surviving together in this wonderful garden.

There is a well organised “Tree Trail” to help you explore the garden, where you can, from the trail map, identify individual trees which are all numbered throughout the garden. Perfect, not only for the “big people”, but also for the “kids”. 

I have a date with Mount Usher Gardens in Mid May and I think again in the Autumn.

Office:+353 (0)404 40205
Gardens: Open all year round, daily 10.00am to 5.00pm