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6 of the Best Irish Public Gardens – As Rated by Ireland’s Top Gardeners

Burtown House foxgloves

Everyone knows we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to gardens in Ireland (Wicklow alone is just ridiculous). But which of our many gorgeous public green spaces do Ireland’s top gardeners rate highest? Here, six of the nation’s green-fingered gurus share their personal favourite garden, which they believe makes for the perfect daytrip destination…

1. CORKE LODGE, DUBLIN/WICKLOW
Jane Powers, gardening columnist for The Sunday Times and Garden Heaven contributor: “Corke Lodge, between Shankill in Dublin and Bray in Wicklow, is a garden that is almost secret, and perhaps it is this that makes it so magical. It is a two-acre fantasy devised by architect Alfred Cochrane — a stage set of a garden, made to look as if an ancient arrangement of formal box hedges and topiary is being devoured by a greenwood. Mournful remnants of stonework, salvaged from the demolished Tudor Revival wing of Glendalough House, peer out from the boskage. At the heart of the garden is an ancient cork oak, a kindly beast of a tree, dipping its immense corrugated limbs to the ground.”
Visitor information Opening times: By appointment only. Corke Lodge, Woodbrook, Bray, Co. Wicklow (in the townland of Corke Little, Shankill, Co. Dublin), 01 282 2821; corkelodge.com.

Corke Lodge, Bray, Co. Wicklow

Corke Lodge, Bray, Co. Wicklow

2. BURTOWN HOUSE & GARDENS, KILDARE
Vandra Costello, gardening columnist for Image Interiors & Living: 
“The beautiful gardens at Burtown have been created over two centuries – there are trees which were planted in the 1800s, and a walled kitchen garden which has been in continuous production for over 150 years. In addition to large herbaceous borders, shrubberies, a rock garden and a large woodland garden, Burtown houses the rare plant collection of the late botanical artist Wendy Walsh. The gardens come to life in February with a spectacular show of winter aconites and snowdrops, followed by many varieties of daffodils, hellebores and trilliums in the spring. May and June are peak months for variety and colour, especially in the planting along the stream. After a strong summer show, the garden segues into autumn with a last burst of coloured foliage plants and late-flowering perennials.”
Visitor information Opening times: Varies; check website for details. Burtown House & Gardens, Athy, Co. Kildare, 059 862 3148; burtownhouse.ie.

Burtown House & Gardens, Athy, Co, Kildare

Burtown House & Gardens, Athy, Co, Kildare

3. ARDGILLAN CASTLE, DUBLIN
Denise Dunne, botanical blogger and owner of The Herb Garden: “This is a hidden gem that I visit often. From the ‘wow’ factor when you first get a glimpse of the castle in its majestic setting to the well-tended herbaceous borders, rose garden and walled vegetable and herb gardens, it is well worth a visit. There is also a beautiful woodland walk that leads to a ‘secret’ beach. Highly recommended!”
Visitor information Opening times: Open daily year round; check website for times. Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin, 01 849 2212; ardgillancastle.ie.

Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin

Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin

4. GARNISH ISLAND, CORK
Conal Gallagher, garden designer and owner of Moss & Green: 
“My favourite garden in Ireland is this beautiful island gem off Glengarriff in Cork. A stunning Italianate garden with subtropical growth and style, beech trees to the shore and bananas growing easily… what more could anyone ask?”
Visitor information Opening times: Varies; check website for details. Garnish Island, Glengarriff, Bantry Bay, Co. Cork, 027 63040; garnishisland.com.

Garnish Island, Glengarriff, Co. Cork

Garnish Island, Glengarriff, Co. Cork

5. JUNE BLAKE’S GARDEN, WICKLOW
Fionnuala Fallon, gardening correspondent for The Irish Times and Garden Heaven contributor: “There are quite a few Irish gardens that I think are truly exceptional, including Helen Dillon’s wonderful town garden (Dublin), Jimi Blake’s exciting and idiosyncratic country garden (Wicklow), and places such as Altamont (Carlow), which I love for its unique atmosphere. But if I could choose just one, then it would have to be June Blake’s remarkable garden near Blessington in west Wicklow, because it’s such a rare fusion of inspired, contemporary design and painterly planting, and is filled with so many different areas of interest – from swathes of naturalistic prairie planting to intricately beautiful flower borders, sculptural landforms, and generous stretches of woodland planting. I visit it regularly and am always inspired and intrigued by what June has achieved.
Visitor information Opening times: April-September, Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-5.30pm. June Blake’s Garden, Tinode, Blessington, Co. Wicklow, 087 277 0399; juneblake.ie.

June Blake's Garden, Blessington, Co. Wicklow

June Blake’s Garden, Blessington, Co. Wicklow

6. KILLRUDDERY HOUSE & GARDENS, WICKLOW
Ruth Monahan, floral designer and owner of Appassionata Flowers: My perfect Saturday morning is to pop down to Killruddery House to savour the gardens with the kids. I love everything – from the long rambling lawns set into a 17th-century formal garden layout, with the mix of mature planting and age-old trees, long ponds and a wilderness wood filled with treasures fallen from the trees, to the delight of discovering an 18th-century theatre amidst bay hedging. Then you reach my favourite thing: a rambling walled garden full of homegrown blooms, fruit and vegetables, with the resident pigs keeping everyone entertained.”
Visitor information Opening times: Varies; check website for details. Killruddery, Southern Cross, Bray, Co. Wicklow, 01 286 3405; killruddery.com.

Killruddery House & Gardens, Bray, Co. Wicklow

Killruddery House & Gardens, Bray, Co. Wicklow

Love this? Then pick up the Garden Heaven 2015 annual for more of Ireland’s most beautiful public gardens as well as pictorial garden tours and lots of practical tips for autumn/winter gardening jobs – on shelves now, priced €4.99.

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