This month, I indulged myself with a visit to the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin, a horticultural gem tucked away along the banks of the river Liffey, in Islandbridge. I have a soft spot for this garden as I served my time here as a student when I studied at the National Botanic Gardens and now bring my gardening class back each spring to teach them how to prune the roses. Designed by renowned British architect, Edwin Lutyens, the garden was established "to commemorate all those Irish men and women killed in the First World War" and is said to be one of Lutyens finest memorial gardens worldwide.
The garden is rigidly formal in its layout with avenues lined with lime trees and Lutyens trademark Sunken Rose Gardens. Each of the gardens are flanked by a pair of granite Bookrooms which represent the four provinces of Ireland and contain records of those who lost their lives during World War I. Between these gardens, in the Central Lawn, lies a granite Stone of Remembrance, an alter type stone with the inscription ‘Their Name Liveth For Evermore’. This stone lies between two fountains with obelisks said to represent candles on the alter. Together with the Cross of Sacrifice, these are perfectly aligned with the obelisk visible in the distance in the Phoenix Park.
Symbolism in the garden is not simply afforded with the hard landscaping features. There is an impressive collection of cherry blossoms representing the cavalry or ‘Foot soldiers’ which are overlooked by staid holly trees representing the ‘Generals’.
Moving into the the Sunken Rose Gardens we find the most exquisite mix of hybrid tea and floribunda roses whose scent perfume the air, enticing the visitor to come closer. The circular layout allows you to take in the vast collection of roses with a glance, with bursts of colour ranging from salmon pinks and apricots to vibrant, bright reds.
The most striking variety is Rosa ‘Peace’, a large-flowered, yet elegant hybrid tea with yellow petals tinged with warm pink. Chatting with Head Gardener, Craig Savage, I learn this variety was first developed in France in the mid 1930’s. The breeder, Francis Meilland, foresaw the German invasion and sent cuttings to fellow gardeners across Europe to safeguard its survival. Today, it is included in many similar memorial gardens across the world as a symbol of peace.
Rosa 'Peace' in bloom
The collection also includes Rosa ‘Blessings’, (seen here on the right) a salmon-pink hybrid tea with a delicate fragrance and Rosa ‘E.H. Morse’, an incredibly fragrant, bright red variety with large, double blossoms.
Other roses worth a look, include R. ‘Elizabeth of Glamis’, a rich salmon floribunda and the inimitable Rosa ‘Trumpeter’ with its profusion of eye-catching, clusters of red roses.
The plant collection is further enhanced by herbaceous borders which surround the rose gardens backed by yew hedges. These borders soften the formality of the sunken rose beds and are filled with complimentary purples, whites and pinks. The borders include the wonderfully perfumed Rosa rugosa which sits comfortably alongside the oversized, poppy-like flowers of the Californian tree poppy Romneya coulteri and the towering stems of the milky bellflower Campanula lactiflora, swathed in violet blue, bell-shaped flowers. Dotted here and there, we find one of my favourites, the Chinese meadow rue Thalictrum delavayi, with its delicate mauve flowers and wiry stems.
There are plenty of healthy looking Penstemons and Phlox thrown into the mix as well as Sedum spectabile which has a profusion of flowers threatening to burst open in the near future. Verbena bonariensis punches through even the busiest patches of the border with its angular stems topped with clusters of purple flowers and of course the purple lavenders which carpet the space underneath the oak beams connecting the Bookrooms. The oak beams are clothed in wisteria and clematis which provide much needed interest before the roses burst into bloom.
After indulging the senses there is nothing more refreshing than taking a seat by the banks of the Liffey, the natural boundary of the park and watching the myriad wildlife going about their daily business. Just beyond the garden, the river tumbles over the weir before it joins the quays in the city. Not only is this park of historical and cultural importance it is a perfect place to escape the bustle of the city and slow down your pace if only for a couple of hours.
The garden is open every day of year except Christmas day with free parking and free admission.
Things to do in the Garden
This month, everything is growing with wild abandon thanks to the glorious sun we had back in June. One of my favourite annuals to grow and one which I mentioned back in spring is the humble sweet pea. This gorgeous specimen was grown by my gardening class and has provided us with an abundance of heavily scented flowers which we regularly cut for the house.
Sweet pea are notoriously hungry and thirsty plants so it's really important to ensure they are fed regularly. Depending on whether you are growing them in pots or in the soil it's no harm to give them a drop of tomato food once every ten days. Do make sure to remove the spent flowers so the plants can concentrate on producing new ones rather than going to seed.
Watch out for those pesky green fly who love to munch on the sweet new stems which can eventually lead to their demise. If like me, you prefer not to use chemical warfare on garden pests try spraying the plants with a diluted water and washing up liquid mix and see them struggle to hold on!
That's it from me this month folks, hope you enjoy the newsletter, feel free to share it and most importantly Happy Gardening!