The words, phrases and thoughts that come into one’s head when lying awake in the dark hours of early morning can be very odd and peculiar and make one wonder how in the love of god such and such came along. The old man’s complaint, as Statia, a companion of my working days, used call the enlarged prostate common in older men, wakes me at night to go to the toilet. Generally, it impinges on my sleep no more than a quick turnover and it is something I do almost in my sleep. Last night was one of the exceptions and I lingered awake for a long time with the words “Yes, we’ll gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river” ringing around in my mind along with images, gleaned from old Western films, of religious groups – for some reason, down-trodden, suffering people – singing with an air of suffering in this life but feeling assured of eternal happiness and salvation. My cynical irreligious mind now says that they were disappointed in that hope and the afterlife was no….well, was nothing at all.
Of course, when one lies awake like this at night, with a silly jingle clattering around the brain, one attempts to bring some semblance of sense and understanding to the situation and I wondered what had prompted it. I eventually made some sense of it, at least enough sense to settle my mind and sufficient to allow me drift back to sleep again. We had visited Mount Usher Garden in Ashford, Co. Wicklow, on Monday and, of course, at this time of year it is the autumn colour and especially its reflections in the River Vartry which is the attraction. While we might visit these gardens at various times of the year, we make a point of visiting in spring when there are carpets of the blue Scilla biflora and Anemone nemerosa (Wood anemone) and again in autumn for the display of colour – one might even regard it as a place of pilgrimage on these occasions. Would this be enough to bring the religious hymn to mind? The explanation was enough to allow me drift off to sleep again so it has that to its credit and that was sufficient for the occasion.
So, let’s all gather at the river and enjoy the views:
The river views, despite the fact that two fallen large trees and a dead conifer obscured the view to a degree, are undoubtedly the highlight of the garden at Mount Usher but there are other areas of interest. The garden has exceptional collections of Eucalyptus, Eucryphia and Nothofagus along with other excellent specimen trees through the gardens – the Montezuma Pines on the river bank are spectacular. Nonetheless, it isn’t a garden without its faults and the upper areas of the garden which might generously be described as “Robinsonian” seem to slipping towards neglect and lack of attention – perhaps, gathering at the river really is the best idea!
Let’s have a look around other areas of the garden away from the river:
The colchicums always attract my attention at this time of year. I imagine they must have been planted many years ago as they appear naturalised in grassy areas now and look very beautiful. The single white colchicums are most likely C. speciosum ‘Album’ while the double pink is almost certainly, C. ‘Waterlily’. I wouldn’t be sure of the other – perhaps, C. speciosum ‘Atrorubens’:
And, finally, a few other flowers which caught my eye on the day:
If you would like information on the gardens you can visit the Mount Usher Visitor Guide or the Discover Ireland entry for the gardens and, if you are awake late some night, you might like the full text of that hymn and some background information on its author – whose father came from Northen Ireland, by the way!: Shall We Gather at the River by Robert Lowry