It will always be “Kennedy Park”!

The Irish state bought Ballysop House and adjoining 400 acres in 1964 putting into effect its aim to establish a national arboretum which was officially opened on the 29th. of May, 1968. The general layout of the park was influenced by visits to the Arnold (Boston) and Morton (Illinois) Arboretums where a grand circuit allowed visitors to walk – or drive in their carriages – in a generous route around the parkland with the best of vistas and main plantings on view. This main walkway is still the route of most visitors and is a very pleasant and enjoyable way to enjoy a visit – joining a guided tour is very worth while for a more informed visit and an appreciation of the many interesting plants at Kennedy Park.



20190417_142334Of course, it is nowadays officially “The JFK Memorial Arboretum” – the “JFK” referring to the late president of the U.S.A., John Fitzgerald Kennedy, whose ancestors lived only a short distance from the park and family relations still live there. However, to all who live within striking distance, it has always been simply, Kennedy Park and the name will probably continue to be used for the foreseeable future. Incidentally, and greatly appreciated locally and nationally, the Kennedy family continues to maintain its contact with this area. Recently, the longest bridge in Ireland was constructed across the mouth of the River Slaney and has been named “The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge.” One of the family came to open the bridge officially and visited the arboretum to plant a red oak, the signature tree members of the Kennedy have planted when visiting over the years.

Kennedy Park has been the popular place to bring children for a walk, for a bit of fresh country air, for space to run around freely and safely, to feed the ducks on the pond, to enjoy an ice-cream at the end of the long walk and to be tired enough to snooze and give parents time for a relaxing cup of coffee and a cake. It was where our eldest son, now a 40-year old, took his first steps and we now take our grandchildren to do the same.

Ballysop House was demolished in the development of the park but two of the three Monkey Puzzle trees that were planted at the house around 1920 still remain and there are many, many other interesting trees for the gardening enthusiast to see: Metasequoia glyptostroboides, The Dawn Redwood, is one of the iconic trees of the park, planted in 1968 and modern additions include the only lately discovered Wollemi Pine, planted in 2005. To list others would be a lengthy task and I simply recommend you visit and enjoy them yourself. The planting of maples is exceptional, the eucalyptus extraordinary, the Handkerchief Tree exquisite and so on and so on… so many treasures for the visitors to enjoy.


Lots for a child to explore and experience at Kennedy Park.

The Ericaceous Garden – a garden for acid-loving plants – extends to 12 acres and, with its collection of rhododendrons and azaleas is seasonally one of the most colourful areas of the gardens and a favourite spot for family photographs. The colourful seasonal display of bluebells and daffodils are other favourites. A Rhododendron Week has been a great success in recent years and will be repeated this year.

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Many thanks to Mary O’Neill-Maloney for her recent very enjoyable and informative talk to the members of the Waterford Regional Garden Club which brought back memories of many enjoyable days in Kennedy Park and for this quotation which sums it all up:

An arboretum is:

to the gardener or forester, a growing library

to the scientist, a living museum

to the city dweller, a serene refuge

to the photographer or artist, a colourful source of material

to a bird or animal, it is the finest home. 


Check out the park’s Facebook page for very regular updates and announcements of upcoming events, guided tours etc. JFK Memorial Park & Arboretum

Visit the website for further information: John. F. Kennedy Arboretum




4 thoughts on “It will always be “Kennedy Park”!

  1. What a wonderful account and descriptive blog on JFK park. Your live for it shines through your writing. I am an amateur gardener fromVirginia in CoCavan who loves growing from seed and cuttings ( still learning ) . I love visiting stately old houses and gardens. This is the first I’ve heard of this place but your report has made it a must see for this year. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

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