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Uncover Our Gardens

A wealth of floral facts & figures to surprise and amaze your horticultural companions!.

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  • Apothecary's Chest

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    In medieval Ireland, abbeys invariably had their own gardens, orchards, kitchen gardens and sometimes a physic garden, filled with medicinal plants and healing herbs. The physic garden at the 12th century Cistercian monastery of Grey Abbey, County Down is a notional reconstruction containing over 50 varieties of plants and herbs; an outdoor medicine chest!

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    For the garden historian, the estate property of Castle Ward, County Down is a place of considerable interest as the park has residual remains of a history of garden development spanning four centuries. The 820 acre walled demesne also boasts a 530m long canal known as the Temple Water - the largest ornamental garden feature to survive in Ireland from the early 18th century.

  • Bless You!

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    Each year in May there is an annual almost pilgrimage for those in the ‘know’ to Rowallane Garden to gaze upon the magnificent spreading branches of the handkerchief tree Davidia involucrata. It has massive wide spreading branches which are laden with fluttering white tissue-like flowers. The handkerchief tree was once considered the Holy Grail of exotic flora. After an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones, legendary botanist Ernest Wilson eventually found this spectacular tree in China and returned with its seeds to the British Isles. This particular tree was purchased in 1904 for 7 shillings and 6 pence (approx 75p) and planted in Rowallane by then owner Hugh Armytage Moore.

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    At Rowallane Garden visitors will also find the original Chaenomeles x superb ‘Rowallane’, a flowering quince and the famous Hypericum ‘Rowallane’ hybrid commonly known as St John’s wort, which began as a seedling self-sown in the Rock Garden.

  • Peace Maze

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    There’s many a winding garden path across Northern Ireland and none more so than at the Peace Maze, the largest and longest hedge maze in the world – it’s planted with 6,000 yew trees!  You can visit the Peace Maze at Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down.

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    Over at Carnfunnock Country Park along the Causeway Coastal Route there’s also a maze in the shape of Northern Ireland with seven central spaces, one for each county and one for Lough Neagh.  At the Tropical Butterfly House at Seaforde Gardens, County Down you will find the oldest maze in Ireland in the centre of the walled garden.

  • Renowned Rose Heritage

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    Northern Ireland has been a centre of rose breeding since the late 19th century and is home to the world’s oldest rose breeding family, the Dickson's of Newtownards, County Down.  Colin Dickson is the sixth generation to carry on the tradition!  Famous roses produced by the Dickson's Nursery include Crimson Glory, Shot Silk, Innisfree, Grandpa Dickson and Elina, which was added to the World Rose Hall of Fame during the International Rose Convention meeting in Japan, 2006.

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    The beautiful Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park in South Belfast is home to the City of Belfast International Rose Garden, where a magnificent display of over 30,000 rose bushes can be enjoyed in summer months.  The Rose Garden is famous for its Annual International Rose Trials and Rose Week.  Around 50 new varieties are submitted by international breeders each year and each rose is given points for habit, growth, resistance to disease, flower quality and scent. The highlight of the week is the judging of the trial roses by a panel of experts.

  • Mother of All Irish Yew Trees

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    Northern Ireland has the distinction of cultivating the Irish yew, a dense, dark and fastigiated tree. Around 1760 a County Fermanagh farmer, George Willis found two young yew trees displaying a graceful upright shape in the Cuilcagh Mountains.  He planted one in his garden and gave one to his landlord, Lord Enniskillen, who planted it at Florence Court, County Fermanagh.  The Florence Court yew prospered and soon became known as the ‘Florence Court Yew’, its popular shape led to the tree being commercially propagated in 1820 and today all fastigiated yews across the world can be said to have derived from that one tree.  It is known affectionately as the mother of all Irish Yew trees!

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    Nearby Crom Estate is one of Ireland’s most important nature conservation areas and is home an ancient yew tree designated one of the 50 Greatest British Trees.  This huge tree is actually two yews situated a few steps apart — one male, one female — thought to have been planted close together in the 17th century.  They have grown to give the appearance of a single remarkable tree.

  • Sweet Smell of Camomile

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    The Camomile Lawn has a long tradition in big houses in the British Isles.  The Elizabethans enjoyed the sweet fragrance that filled the air as they walked on the soft, springy Camomile.  The herb garden at the pretty 17th century ‘Plantation’ home of Springhill, County Londonderry, is designed around a scented camomile lawn.  When greeting guests Lady Conyngham encouraged gentlemen visitors to remove their boots and enjoy walking on the lawn.  This ensured they entered her home smelling sweet and fragrant!

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    Another imposing home with beautiful gardens is Glenarm Castle Estate and Walled Gardens, County Antrim which perfectly blends a historic legacy with gardens that are open to the public from May until September. The estate boasts a magical walled garden, impressive open gardens with fabulous displays of spring bulbs and apple and pear blossom in May, as well as an essential Tea Room.

  • In The Pink

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    The internationally renowned gardens at Mount Stewart, County Down were planted in the 1920s by Lady Londonderry and were known to her as the ‘green’ fairyland.  The magnificent series of outdoor ‘rooms’ and vibrant parterres contain many rare plants that thrive in the mild climate of the Ards Pennisula.  Look out for the Magnolia Campbellii planted in the 1920s, it flowered for the first time on April Fool’s Day 1956 and when Lady Londonderry spotted the pink bloom, she thought someone had played a joke on her – but, to her delight, it was the first of many blossoms that have appeared every springtime since.

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    There are a number of private gardens across the region too where you can visit on a special open day organised by the Ulster Gardens Scheme or make an appointment to go and explore our hidden gems! 

    Visit www.ulstergardensscheme.org.uk for more information.

  • Record Breaker Rhododendron

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    The largest rhododendron bush in Europe (Guinness Book of Records) can be found in the magnificent gardens inside the walls of Hillsborough Castle, County Down.  Formerly the home of the Governor of Northern Ireland, the mansion is now the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and has played host to many esteemed guests over the years, including past US presidents and key government figures.

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    Hillsborough Castle and Gardens are open to the public for tours each Saturday in May and June.  In spring and early summer the rhododendron walk at Rowallane Garden, County Down is ablaze with beautiful colour; oranges, yellows, pinks, whites, purples and reds, as well as many other exotic plant species.

  • Have you ever seen a Cucumber Tree?

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    No, it is not an April fool. A fine example of Magnolia acuminate, also known as the Cucumber Tree, can be seen at Florence Court near Enniskillen. Magnolias have been on the earth for at least 100 million years, placing them here at the same time as the dinosaurs. As they are so primitive, magnolias were around before bees and as a result developed tough flowers so that beetles could pollinate them without damaging them. The name Cucumber Tree comes from the unripe fruit, which is green and often shaped like a small cucumber. This then turns bright pink in autumn before ripening to a dark red and opening to release its seeds.

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    While at Florence Court you must seek out and ‘hug’ the venerable Weeping Beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’. At a girth of 3.5m and height of 16m it is the largest in County Fermanagh. You will also find the 7th largest girthed tree in Ireland at Florence Court, a Common Lime, Tilia x europaea measuring in at over 10m girth by a massive 22m height!

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