A Saturday morning appraisal of the coming weather advised us that Sunday and Monday would be wet and as this would lead to two days of confinement, to being indoors, inactive and probably dreary, we decided to put aside our plan to cut the grass before the wet weather and take a day out. Days out are not as they had been but one must make the best of the situation and seek enjoyment and pastime as best one can. A garden visit is a reasonably safe situation in these days of concern about the Covid virus. It is an open situation and people are well spread out so mingling is easily avoided. It is as good as we can do while being able to be relaxed and be at ease.
Lismore Castle is about forty five minutes away, just far enough to be described as a day out but near enough to be convenient and we bought a season ticket at the beginning of the year – absolutely wonderful value – and we have visited every three/four weeks since early summer and every visit has been a pleasure. For the most part, the gardening here is of a very relaxed style, more cottage than castle, but it is well anchored by the impressive buildings and mature trees. Though the vegetable garden is laid out in a perfectly orderly and very productive manner, not quite regimented but certainly leaning in that direction, the rest of the garden is very relaxed, fulsome, tumble-about where self-seeded plants are accommodated as they suit and a light sprinkle of what might normally be termed weeds is not at all intrusive.
It has been especially interesting to visit this year as it allowed us to watch the progress of the restoration of the Paxton Vinery which was built in the early 1800s. The structure has been completed and the glazing is almost done. It has been wonderful to watch expert craftsmen at work, to see the intricacy of the structure as its skeleton was revealed, the cleverness of the design and, quite simply, the beauty of the whole building.
A ramble around the upper garden, first constructed by Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Cork in about 1605, is dominated by the castle and it does provide a setting and background to the garden here, a beautiful rigid and formal backdrop to the informality of the garden itself.
Some of the softer plantings of the Upper Garden:
The Lower Garden is clearly divided from the Upper Garden by the Castle Avenue and one passes over the avenue via The Riding House, a building which arches across the divide with one going downstairs within to the lower level. Though there are many attractions in the lower garden, for me nothing compares to the splendour of a magnificent specimen Magnolia campbellii which flowers in late February into March. It is quite simply one of the most beautiful trees in the whole country, justification enough to visit the gardens early in the year.
At this time of year it is the stand of mature Eucryphias which take the attention of the visitor. I doubt if one could see such a grouping anywhere else and they are truly impressive. However, as I heard Darren, the Head Gardener, explain during a visit a few years back, he feels they have become too big for the space, too dominant and are cluttering the Lower Garden and there is a consideration that they might be removed or, at least, have some of them removed. It is a difficult decision to remove something so successful and so beautiful and hope it improves the garden overall.
A few other images from the Lower Garden: Click on the first image to start a slideshow:
Finally, we always walk through the main axis of the Upper Garden to complete our circuit of the gardens:
Visit http://www.lismorecastlegardens.com/ for general information.