Perhaps only once in a century will there be an individual with
the passion and the resources required to create a world class garden.
Before the birth of Christ, Nebuchadnezzar II built the famed Hanging
Gardens of Babylon. Centuries later before the United States existed,
King Louis XIV was fashioning gardens for the Palace of Versaille
outside of Paris.
Recently, I was fortunate to tour another and more recent "Garden
for the Ages", Mount Congreve in south eastern Ireland.
The gardens of Mount Congreve have been the passion of the two
gentlemen seen in this picture: the owner, Ambrose Congreve walking with
his cane on one of the many miles of garden trails, and his
head gardener for many years, Mr. Herman Dool (pronounced like "Dole" as in Presidential Candidate, Bob Dole).
Situated at a sheltered
bend along the river Suir near Waterford at the south eastern coast of Ireland, this magificent
estate covers over seven hundred acres, approximately 100 of which
comprise the most fantastic gardens imaginable. Expertly designed
and tended by these two gentlemen for over 60 years, this garden not only
has a remarkable collection
of rare and unusual plants and trees, but the landscape is one of the
very few that has been designed
for an estate of this scale. As we walked some of the paths that May afternoon,
Mr. Dole told in me that he never put in less than 25 plants of a variety because
the mass planting makes the proper statement when the garden matures.
And so it has!
The people of Ireland and gardeners of the world should be pleased to
know that Ambrose Congreve plans to leave his garden to the National
Trust when he passes. However, there has been some recent concern because the
highway department in Ireland wants to put a road through part of
the property. Unfortunately, this will destroy some of the exquisite
beauty seen here, as well as the shelter belt
that makes this horticultural treasure so unique. Surely, a resource
of this magnitude should be of great national concern to the people
of Ireland. Tourism is big business! For instance, Versaille
reportedly attracts over 10 million visitors a year and I am sure the French
government would never consider putting a road through such a resource.
Here are a few of the many pictures I took during one short afternoon as
I tried to appreciate the years of expert knowledge and tender loving care
that has been poured into these many acres of rare plants.
We were there in peak season for rhododendrons and azaleas, but Mount
Congreve has a world class collection of magnolias, camellias, and
rare trees, too. As all who have seen this treasure, I too must go back again
to Ireland, and Mount Congreve.