Mount Congreve

by Don Hyatt

The Story of Mount Congreve

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.

Vistas of Mount Congreve

Mount Congreve Estate as
Viewed from an Upper Garden

Ravine with Rhododendron
Yakushimanum Hybrids

Azaleas Bordering the
Lawn Below the House

Azaleas Blaauws Pink
Flanking Secluded Stairs

Landscape Vistas and Companion Plantings along the Trails

Azaleas and Rhododendrons
with Red Japanese Maples

Dwarf Conifers and

Red Rhododendrons with
Exbury Azaleas

Red Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons Underplanted with Ferns

Rhododendrons Underplanted
with Beds of Hostas

More Views

Azaleas at a Fork in the Road

Lawn with Beach Trees

Large Leaf Rhododendron

Inside the Greenhouse