Mount Stewart is one of the most beautiful gardens in Ireland and we make a point of visiting whenever we are close by but had never previously visited so early in the year. A visit in mid February was quite different to other times of the year – for unexpected reasons!
The garden is situated on the shores on Strangford Lough, on the Ards Peninsula, Co. Down in Northern Ireland and, while presently in the stewardship of the National Trust, the garden was the creation of Edith, Lady Londonderry. Her passion for bold and dramatic planting is continued to this day and the mild conditions of this seaside location allows tender plants to thrive – but not without some drawbacks at times of the year.
The formal garden beside the house was a strange sight with a myriad of plants which require protection from winter weather wrapped in layers of protective material so that the scene resembled an ensemble of monuments or statues but such, I suppose is the off-season of a garden which wishes to push the boundaries of what can be grown in our climate. However, after paying a ticket charge of £9.50 X 2 (€22), it was hardly the garden scene I had hoped to see and I wondered, given that sections of the garden were also closed for repairs to the lawns, if it would have been better to close the gardens altogether for a while.
However, as is the way in all great gardens, there was interest elsewhere and we continued our walk and found some more pleasant areas to enjoy.