Caher Bridge Garden is most certainly on the rocks! It is located on The Burren, a vast area of exposed expanses of limestone pavement, one of the most beautiful places in the country and an area which hosts an intriguing and exquisite selection of wild flowers. Here we will find plants which we might more normally expect to encounter on The Alps or within the Arctic Circle. Even a walk along many roads here will present an astonishing selection of orchids while in some areas they can be found in great numbers which will astound and delight the visitor.
It is an old adage of garden design that one should take account of the spirit of the place – the “genius loci” – when planning one’s garden so that what develops “fits in” with its location. This all sounds remarkably easy, and for most of us it is, but when one’s surroundings are so dramatically peculiar and outstandingly beautiful the challenge could very well be daunting and even off-putting. However, Carl Wright has embraced the challenge of his surroundings with enthusiasm because, quite simply, he truly loves the place.
Some people might comment that their garden is on limestone but for Carl his garden is limestone with the limestone pavement of The Burren literally the surface on which he has to work. This might sound an impossible task, to garden on bare rock, but The Burren is very deceptive in this manner and the often heard quotation from Edward Ludlow, one of Oliver Cromwell’s general’s was very misplaced. He said, “After two days march, without anything remarkable but bad quarters, we entered into the barony of Boireann, of which it is said, that it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him.” However, in fairness, he continued, though it is not often added to the quotation, “and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing.”
Carl discovered the truth of this latter comment for, while the bare limestone might lead one to believe little would grow there, his garden, as he found it, was a dense impenetrable copse of hazel which he had to clear by hand before gardening could even begin. It has been the work of many years, undertaken piece by piece, as a little more of the plot was converted to garden and, while most of the hazel has been cleared, discretion proved the best course on some occasions and a few specimens of considerable size have been allowed remain and maintain the spirit of The Burren.
Growing on the bare limestone would be an impossible restriction for the keen plantsperson – and Carl is undoubtedly one of those – so he has built many walls and raised beds which have allowed him to hold soil and provide planting locations for his eclectic selection of plants. The soil has had to be brought in from elsewhere though this has brought problems on occasion as some deliveries have brought with them pernicious weeds, builder’s rubble and other undesirable content so that Carl now sieves each delivery before putting it into his raised beds. Working with stone seems not only to be a great love for Carl but is an area where he displays wonderful skill and taste and the quality of wall construction and features is one of the great strengths of the garden.
These beds hold a collection, several collections, of choice plants which Carl pursues with a single-mindedness and determination and enthusiasm that only a plant lover would understand. There is a significant selection of snowdrops for the early season, an expanding collection of daffodils of Irish origin follow and the number of hostas, many pot-grown, continues to expand. Other special favourites for Carl are Brunneras and ferns and, of late, hawthorns and hydrangeas. I’m sure other plant groups will be introduced as he progress up the hill, clearing further areas of hazel and creating more and more planting situations.
While a visit to The Burren is a fabulous experience it is fair to say that a visit to Carl’s garden certainly adds to the experience and I recommend you seek it out should you be in the area. We were on The Burren last week and dropped in for a flying visit but will be back again.
You will find information on Carl’s Facebook page!