Make Room for Sculpture in Your Garden – Matthew O’Connell of Doolin Garden and Nursery

Doolin Garden and Nursery sit on a half acre site surrounding a house built in 1995. The house was designed by Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell of Grafton Architects and won an Architectural Association of Ireland award in 1995. Their brief had been to design a simple contemporary two storey house based on vernacular architecture and, up to a point, the house dictated the design of the garden.

Lonely Man
Lonely Man

I have been gardening since I was six years old but have no formal training in horticulture; my training was in Art and Design. Since my retirement the garden, and particularly the nursery, have grown. Basically I grow everything outdoors from scratch. There is little or no shelter as the site is close to the sea. This means all my plants for sale (about 250 varieties) are totally hardy and have all survived 17C below.

The Catcher
The Catcher

The garden is designed to look very simple but, moving around it, you begin to find “hidden” pathways leading to other sections or mini gardens. The main thrust is two long grass runways which meet at a focal point. These are traversed by stone and gravel pathways which lead in and out of other areas. To a certain extent, you could call them show gardens as most of the plants you see are for sale in my nursery. It’s good to be able to see mature plants of what you are buying. Like the house, the garden is fairly contemporary though there are some hidden traditional sections, such as a circular area enclosed by box hedged and planted with white lilies and roses planted over four arches. Favourite plants are Astrantias, Heucheras, Lysimachias, Euphorbias, Perovskia, Geraniums, Scabiosas, Sisyrinchiums, Daisies and now Roses (the latter I think is an age thing).

Saw Fish
Saw Fish

I have always liked sculptures in gardens – they seem to do something that a plant cannot. Since I don’t have the resources to buy any more sculptures, I decided to put on a sculpture exhibition last August (2014). This was a group show of 25 pieces. It had a very good response, sold well and gave me lots of pleasure for the month. In a sense, I borrowed them for a month.

Egyptian Man
Egyptian Man

Following this, I decided to put on a winter exhibition which runs from now until the end of January. This is a one man show by an Ennis Artist Jerry Cahir. There are 34 pieces which can be seen throughout the garden, some of which are semi hidden but this of course is part of the adventure of sculpture in any garden. Jerry’s work is made from recycled materials such as stones, wood and rusted steel objects which Jerry collects all along the way and then reinvents them. He works under the Japanese ethos Wabi Sabi. Wabi connotes rustic simplicity, freshness and quietness. Sabi is beauty and serenity that comes with age. These are made for the outdoors but can of course be used indoors also. Prices range from 170-550 Euro.

Gráinne Mhaol
Gráinne Mhaol

The Garden Exhibition runs daily from 10am-4pm (closed Mondays, 24th, 25th & 26th December)

Doolin Garden & Nursery, Ballyvoe, Doolin, Co Clare.


Facebook: Doolin Garden and Nursery


Tel: 0879147725

Matthew O’Connell, December 2014


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s