Label that Memory

While cutting down a now large clump of crocosmias I came on a label in the centre which read, “Crocosmia Bristol/Severn Sunrise/Sunset.” Check the name. From Anna Nolan. Sept. 02″ .

Crocosmia'Severn Sunrise'
Crocosmia’Severn Sunrise’

I know now that this is Crocosmia ‘Severn Sunrise’ and I have enjoyed it in the garden for the years since I received it as a gift from Anna when we visited her garden in September 2002. It is odd the memories which we attach to gardens but most engrained in my mind are the directions we used to get to her. We travelled up the N11 – long before the new layout there at present – and, after passing St. Brendan’s Hospital in Loughlinstown, would keep our eyes peeled for a pair of service stations, one at either side of the road. When we passed the one on the left we knew it was time to move to the right hand lane and do a U-turn to move to the opposite carriageway. Such a move nowadays would probably bring Dublin traffic to a standstill for hours. We then passed the other service station and took the next left and though we knew the address, 12 Shanganagh Vale, it was always the planting which guided us to the house. There was no doubt but that you were arriving at the home of an enthusiastic gardener as Anna’s plantings extended out on to the pathway outside her home

Front garden - you knew straight away that this was the garden of a plant enthusiast.
Front garden – you knew straight away that this was the garden of a plant enthusiast.

Anna always had what we might call tasty plants, something different, new and interesting. She created a beautiful garden but was first and foremost a lady with a passion of plants. She was very active in local gardening societies and had been especially involved in the Dublin branch of the Alpine Garden Society from its very beginnings. Shirley Lanigan in her “Irish Gardens” wrote, “This is a perfect, tiny town garden that earns its keep all year round” and it was Carmel Duignan who recalled a French journalist commenting when he visited that the garden was “Tres chic”.

At the back of the house, a beautiful garden
At the back of the house, a beautiful garden
Anna showing the garden
Anna showing the garden
I recall these steps had only recently been built when we visited in September 2002 and Anna was so delighted with them
Tea, cakes, chat and plenty of beautiful plants

It was always a pleasure to visit and her gardening friends remember her with great fondness as, unfortunately, Anna passed away in 2009. So, it is good to have a well inscribed label and a plant in the garden which preserve her memory for us.

As an aside, Anna came to visit our garden with the Irish Garden Plant Society on one occasion. Her husband, Seán, was one of the party but Seán was not particularly interested in gardening, certainly not an enthusiast at any rate and, soon after arriving, someone commented that he was a bit grumpy because he was missing a football game on the television. Seán and I slipped away from the group and I set him up with television, bottle of whiskey and glass and I believe no visitor has ever enjoyed our garden so much.

Some of the plants from Anna’s garden photographed in September, 2002:


And rain never deterred the enthusiastic gardener.
And rain never deterred the enthusiastic gardener.

Paddy Tobin

6 thoughts on “Label that Memory

  1. I have the well-known (and one of the loveliest) snowdrops, ‘S. Arnott’ from Anna Nolan as well. She was so generous with plants. The date is worn off the label, but I think it may have been around 1999 that I got it from her. It is probably the plant that I pass on most to other people.


    1. With hundreds and hundreds of new snowdrops being named and available this is one which simply goes on and on in popularity because it is one of the best, one of the truly legendary great snowdrops. A good one to have to keep Anna in your memory.


  2. Thanks Paddy for those lovely memories of Anna and thanks also to Jane for forwarding on the blog to my daughter Orla .After 6 years plus it is really so nice to know that Anna, through her plants, is remembered by her gardening friends many of whom were also wonderful friends to Anna during her difficult illness and continue to be friends to me. I cannot remember the match you mention Paddy but do remember your excellent hospitality and the good whiskey. That IGPS trip to Waterford was one of what I called my “Mr. Anna Nolan” outings .As it happened our last two breaks together, before Anna’s leukaemia was diagnosed, were to the Czech Rock Garden Conference in Prague in May 2007(where Anna attended all the lectures over three days while I gallivanted around Prague with the other “accompanying spouses”) and to the Burren ( brilliantly led by George Sevastopulo).
    Myself and my family miss Anna hugely-particularly I miss her sense of humour and the “divilment” which she carried with her at all times. Our daughter Orla and husband Mike have brought three lovely little girls into the world since Anna passed on. It is heartbreaking that they never got to meet their Nana Anna and that Anna never had the great joy, which I am experiencing, of getting to now them and watching them grow up. The eldest of them will be five just before Christmas – she is called Anna.
    Sean Nolan 17/11/2015


    1. Sean, How wonderful to hear from you. You will know that Mary and I were sort of long-distance friends of Anna’s, travelling only occasionally from Waterford to visit yet we always received a warm welcome and had great garden and plant chat as she brought us around. I don’t need to tell that Anna was a very special person and everybody enjoyed her company and visiting the garden.

      Very often we write things on the internet with a certain imagined air of anonymity – I certainly didn’t imagine you or any of the family reading my thoughts but I am very happy Jane passed it on. How wonderful that there is a new generation in your life, three delightful girls and an Anna – No favourites now, Sean!

      Best wishes to you, Orla and family and many thanks for writing, something I really appreciate.

      Now, you must admit that there is some good in plants! They do keep great memories alive.


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