Experience Irish hospitality and centuries of Irish garden making along with a small group of fellow garden lovers, including Garden Gate & Horticulture’s executive editor, Kristin Beane Sullivan and senior photographer & videographer, Jack Coyier. We’ll meet visionary horticulturists and garden designers on personal tours and experience some of the country’s most unique and iconic landscapes.
This tour occurred on July 2-July 10, 2023. Past tour information is preserved for informational purposes only. Visit Tour Highlights below to see a recap of this trip.
July 2, Sunday – Arrive at Dublin Airport
July 5, Wednesday – Powerscourt Estate
July 10, Monday – Depart or continue travels
Tour members arrange their own transportation to Dublin and to Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Hotel where a reservation has been made (included in tour price).
We will gather for a welcome dinner this evening at the hotel restaurant (included in tour price).
We’ll leave our airport hotel and travel to the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland at Glasnevin, which has undergone a complete facelift in recent years. Enjoy the restored Victorian glasshouses and carpet bedding as well as beautiful herbaceous borders, a rockery and a plant collection that includes more than 15,000 species.
In the afternoon, we’ll visit Mount Usher, which was started in the late 19th century following William Robinson’s newly introduced “managed wild garden” philosophy. Along both sides of the River Vartry you will find an astonishing collection of “Champion Trees” the largest of their kind in Ireland. Follow winding paths through sweeps of perennials, such as primulas, wild orchids and more. Unforgettable!
The day starts in June Blake’s Garden, a 3-acre country garden designed with an artist’s eye for color, texture and shape combinations. From a beautiful borders to a flower meadow to woodland walks, there’s no shortage of color in almost any season. Learn June’s secrets and enjoy the architecture of the charming granite stone farm buildings as well.
Next we’ll visit Hunting Brook, the garden of Jimi Blake, the brother of June Blake, who we met earlier in the day. In 2001 he acquired 20 acres of the family estate and started a garden where he experiments with plants and design ideas and pushes the limits of hardiness. We’ll have a chance to ask questions and wander through several themed gardens, including the valley (with beautiful views of the Wicklow Mountains), a woodland, and the new sand garden.
We’ll end our afternoon at Airfield Estate, a large sustainable and self-sufficient garden. Not only does it boast a 2-acre organic kitchen garden and productive orchard, but there are walled borders, a sunken garden, glasshouses and more.
Finally, we’ll have dinner together at Johnnie Fox’s, where we’ll enjoy an evening of traditional Irish music in a mountaintop pub.
Today we will visit the world-renowned Powerscourt Estate, whose first gardens were started nearly 300 years ago. This 47-acre property boasts many themed areas, borders and terraces with breathtaking views of the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain and the County Wicklow countryside. Climb the Pepperpot Tower to enjoy the scenery, have a seat on Lord Londonderry’s seat at the top of the Japanese Garden and wander among the formal beds and trails around water features and beautiful statuary.
This afternoon we’ll make our way toward Cork and its wonderful and unique gardens.
Today Ned Kirby will welcome you to Beechwood Garden, which he’s developed over the last 25 years. This 1-acre property features acid-loving perennials and grasses, natural water features and scree plantings, and much of the stonework is reclaimed from old buildings.
In our second private garden of the day we’ll visit the sloping gardens surrounded by woodland at Hillside Garden. It’s a plant collector’s dream: Unusual plants fill the borders, scree garden and rockery, and it offers nice views of Cork Harbor and the Lee Estuary.
At plantswoman Hester Forde’s Coosheen we’ll find out just how much you can grow even in a small space. Clever use of lawn and small trees makes this little suburban garden seem much larger than it is. Explore her collections of woodland plants in raised beds and troughs and be prepared to “ooh” and “aah.”
You’ve probably heard of Blarney Castle’s famous stone, but did you know that it also boasts extensive and very interesting gardens? These have been mostly developed over the last 20 years, and we’ll be lucky enough to have a tour with the knowledgeable head gardener. We’ll see impressive tree ferns (Dicksonias), visit the Carnivorous Courtyard, experience the mysterious Rock Close, said to be part of an ancient druid settlement, and see endangered Vietnamese plants that the head gardener has collected and is working to preserve.
Next we’ll visit Bantry House and Garden, which has been in the White family continuously since 1739. Its parterre and seven terraces were originally established in the 1800s and after decades of neglect, a restoration commenced in 1997. At the top of the 100 stairs to the woodland, take a break and enjoy the view of the gardens, the stately Irish country house and beautiful Bantry Bay.
Garinish Island was the dream of Annan and Violet Bryce and designed by British architect Harold Peto (of England’s Iford Manor) between 1911 and 1914. Originally a pile of bare rocks in Glengariff Harbor of Bantry Bay, it’s now a garden filled with rare trees and exotic plants. It can only be reached by boat, which is the perfect way to spot seals or a white-tailed eagle. You won’t want to miss this amazing place!
In the afternoon we’ll visit Derreen on the Atlantic Coast. It was established in 1870 and has been well taken care of ever since. The name Derreen means “little oak wood” in Gaelic, and in this magical woodland garden, you’ll follow the labyrinth of paths through mossy rocks, huge tree ferns, eucalyptus, conifers and its namesake, oaks.
Today we start our journey back toward Dublin. Our first stop will be at Mount Congreve Gardens, a 70-acre property overlooking the River Suir. Follow its many walkways through the woodland garden, the borders within the walled garden, and admire its many unusual varieties in the collections. These gardens were all the vision of Mr. Ambrose Congreve, who oversaw their installation and maintenance until his death at age 104 in 2011. It's a plant collector’s heaven!
Our final visit will be to Patthana Garden, the horticultural canvas of T.J. Maher and Simon Kirby. This charming village garden features lower and upper courtyards, a wildlife pond, and herbaceous borders bursting with both hardy and tender plants. There’s a special focus here on organic principles and gardening for wildlife.
Our time together has ended, but garden lovers always find fresh inspiration wherever they are. Tour members can choose to return home or carry on the adventure.
July 2 – Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Hotel
July 3-4 – BrookLodge & Macreddin Village
July 5-6 – Vienna Woods Hotel
July 7-8 – Glengariff Park Hotel
July 9 – Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Hotel
In her 26 years at Garden Gate magazine, Kristin Beane Sullivan has been lucky enough to meet hundreds (if not thousands) of gardeners, tour and photograph countless gardens and learn something from every single gardener she’s met. She comes from a long line of farmers and gardeners, and today tends an ever-expanding urban garden with her husband and three children who are a lot more help in the garden than she was at their ages.
In his 13 years at Garden Gate magazine, Jack Coyier has photographed some of the most beautiful gardens across the country and has come away inspired by the spirit and passion of the vast gardening community. Jack wants his imagery to enrich the gardening experience of the Garden Gate community and help gardeners achieve their dream gardens. When not on the road photographing, Jack spends time in his suburban garden with his wife, twin boys, a herd of deer and a smattering of rabbits.