Lismore Castle Gardens, May 2022

Covid prompted us last year to purchase a season ticket for the gardens at Lismore Castle and we have done the same this year as it is both exceptional value and the gardens merit a visit at least once a month through the open season. It really is worthwhile visiting a garden on a regular basis to appreciate the changes over the course of the growing year and to appreciate the planning and constant work of the gardeners to keep it looking well and interesting for visitors.

A first stop on each visit over the past two years has been to see progress on the restoration of the Paxton Vinery. Work is almost complete – just a few details to be completed – and I was delighted to see that the vines have been planted and we will soon see this important historic building back in use as originally intended very shortly:

The gardeners’ hands at Lismore Castle are guiding and gentle rather than harsh and critical and have lead to a wonderful choice, selection and combination of plants which often are then left to their own devices to mingle and blend, to self-seed and decide their own spots and their own company. The wilfulness of self-seeding is not only tolerated but encouraged and local wildflowers are not all elimated, something which leads to unexpected and beautiful combinations – blue irises with Meadow Buttercups. Who would have planned it!

Have a wander around the Upper Garden beginning with the central double borders with the steeple of the town church as a focal point:

In this vein, there is a simple more or less square lawn to the side of the castle, a place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of cake from the cafe or to take your own picnic and, even on the busier weekend days, it is still quiet and peaceful with no sense of rush or crowding – from the photographer’s point of view, there is no difficulty in taking a shot of this view without a person in sight. This lawn is part of the Upper Garden and the area above the lawn is planted in a style that I feel could only be at home in Ireland. Were the castle located in England, I imagine this space would have a formal layout, a lawn with path and clipped yew topiary, perhaps. Here in Lismore it is a garden of softness and curves, of informality and gentleness with not a straight line in sight but a gathering of fruit trees underplanted with a mixum-gatherum of bulbs and herbaceous perennials which develop and change as the year moves along. Each visit brings a different selection and display, a mixture of the planned planting of the gardeners and the results of plants being left the freedom to perform naturally, of being allowed to self seed into one another and present combinations that were never, or maybe they were, envisioned.

A selection of plants in flower when we visited:

In the Lower Garden, the great display from the magnolias of earlier months has passed now though the rhododendrons carry on the interest and herbaceous perennials, paeonias especially, in the beds beside the castle walls look especially attractive at this time of the year – though we had some very heavy rain as we reached this part of the garden last week and we spent much of the time under the shelter of an ancient Magnolia grandiflora.

Around the Lower Garden:

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