Expert advice, workshops, gardening displays and food fest events combine to make Carlow Garden Festival one of Ireland’s finest annual garden festivals
The gardening paradise of County Carlow, best described as one county, one garden, will open its garden and castle gates to gardening enthusiasts for the Carlow Garden Festival at the end of July. This annual festival, organised by the Carlow Garden Trail, and renowned as one of Ireland’s finest garden festivals,
takes place from Saturday, 29 July until Saturday 5 August.
Now in its twenty-first year, this weeklong event will see eighteen acclaimed gardeners and garden designers from Ireland and the UK deliver an inviting range of events that includes specialist talks, garden tours and workshops. Longtable suppers, afternoon tea and evening meals along the Carlow Garden Trail are all part of this mouth-watering mix on offer in County Carlow.
Launching this year’s programme, Robert Miller, Chairperson of the Carlow Garden Trail and owner of Altamont Plant Sales said: “Visitors to this year’s festival will gain practical information and advice from renowned gardening and horticultural experts, many from the UK, whom Irish gardeners would not have access to unless via their TV screen. From the amateur to the expert, there is something for everyone, with talks marrying traditional gardening values with biodiversity to create the ideal garden space”.
Two of the UK’s most respected gardeners, Adam Frost and James Alexander-Sinclair are back by popular
demand to open the festival on Saturday, 29 July. Acknowledged as the highlight of the 2022 festival, this ever-popular duo will present design concepts for an outdoor space, using two previous garden designs they have worked upon as their example. They will provide lots of information, advice, and helpful hints
on how to create an outdoor space, whatever the size.
The main message from this workshop, which will take place in Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven in Leighlinbridge, will be an understanding of how to create an average sized modern garden and, if 2022 is anything to go by, this knowledge sharing will be interspersed with hilarious one liners and friendly banter.
While the extensive listing of events is posted on www.carlowgardentrail.com, of particular note is the visit of BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Nick Bailey.
His presentation in Duckett’s Grove Walled Gardens and Pleasure Grounds on Sunday, 30 July is entitled “365 Days of Colour in Your Garden – Plants, Tips and Techniques for Year-Round Colour”
During which he will share his knowledge of planting and managing a garden, whatever its size, to ensure year-round colour and interest. Initially explaining simple colour theory principles and how to apply them to a garden, he will highlight beautiful plants and planting combinations for every season. Earlier that day, Randal Plunkett, the man behind the Dunsany Nature Reserve, Ireland’s only large-scale rewilding project focuses on nature’s ability to recover and regenerate and the small micro changes everybody can make, in
the special venue of An Gairdín Beo, a two-acre community garden in Carlow Town.
Monday, 31 July sees gardener and writer Alasdair Moore visit Huntington Castle where he will trace Thomas Hanbury’s remarkable life and passion for horticulture, examining how a young man from Clapham, London, formed the finest private plant collection of his generation, with over 5,000 rare
and exotic plants from Africa and Asia alongside native Mediterranean flora.
“Making Magic in My Garden” will be the theme of June Blake’s presentation in Delta Sensory Gardens on the same day. The amazing colour displays in June’s garden in County Wicklow are quite extraordinary and, in this event, she will demonstrate how to create colour and magic in a gardening space through a range of flowers and colours.
On Tuesday, 1 August, head gardener of the National Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh, Seamus O’ Brien, will
be in Hardymount Gardens in Tullow, where he will recount the adventures of a trip he led in July 2022 to the mountains of Ladakh, where he and his group studied a high-altitude desert flora. Ladakh has some of the greatest glaciers in Asia and these glaciers water the deserts on the mountain slopes and valleys below, giving rise to a rich flora. Seamus will explain how climate change is threatening this rare eco-system.
Altamont Gardens features on the festival programme on the same day with a talk by ecologist Mark Desmond on the rich biodiversity of the gardens.
Shankill Castle and Gardens in Paulstown will play host to a trio of events on Wednesday, 2 August,
including a talk by Kitty Scully on essential kitchen garden plants that thrive in the Irish climate; an in-depth
foraging walk through the grounds and organic farm of Shankill Castle with Mary and Robert White of Blackstairs Ecotrails; and a three-course feast supper, celebrating foraged, seasonal and local ingredients cooked by Seamus Jordan of Plúr Bakery, to end the day with a relaxed evening of great food and garden chat.
Soil health will be at the forefront of Colm O’ Driscoll’s talk in Burtown House and Gardens on the same
day when he will delve into the area of regenerative organic vegetable production, focusing in on the most
environmentally sustainable approach to growing vegetables.
Robin Lane Fox of The Guardian delivers an interesting talk on Beauty and Biodiversity in the stunning surrounds of Borris House, arguing the case for an approach which is best served by the traditional craft of gardening rather than declaring war on every chemical and hybrid plant. Later that day Shirley Lanigan delves into herb gardening exploring their long and colourful history at Kilgraney House and Herb Gardens, a beautiful location in which to learn more about their use.
A panellist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time since 2009, and a wellrespected garden designer, writer,
broadcaster and lecturer, Matthew Wilson, will give a talk at Altamont Plant Sales on Friday, 4 August on how plants can be used to maximum effect whatever the shape or size of the garden. Using examples of gardens he has designed over the last 20 years, this talk considers the use of plants in relation to materials,
place and vernacular, the architecture of plants and the importance of the garden in the wider environment. Gardener, presenter and writer, Alys Fowler, who will be familiar to gardeners for her series,
The Edible Garden on BBC will also present at this venue on the Friday, sharing tips on how to redesign a garden sustainably through recycling and reusing.
A final day treat is in store when Fergus Garrett, chosen by Gardens Illustrated as one of the 30 most influential living garden designers and horticultural educators in Britain, visits Huntington Castle and Gardens to talk about the history of Great Dixter, the 15th century manor house and its restoration by the
famous arts and crafts architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. Focusing on border design, planting style, meadow gardening and the importance of a biodiverse garden, he will also discuss the way forward for a sensitive historic garden and estate such as Great Dixter.
Marie Staunton, one of Ireland’s top fashion models in the 1980s developed a huge interest in gardening eventually studying horticulture at the National Botanic Gardens. In a guided tour of Delta Sensory Gardens on Saturday August 5 she explores how gardeners can mix texture and colour to create wonderful
and exciting combinations.
Chairman of Carlow Tourism, Michael Walsh said: “Diversity and inclusion is most certainly the focus of this
amazing festival; it is all encompassing addressing topics as diverse as garden design, vegetable and herb gardening, year-round garden colour, climate change, biodiversity and foraging. It takes place at one of the loveliest times of the year with the main gardening work in gardeners’ own garden havens completed, giving them the opportunity to down tools and travel to our beautiful county. The festival brings together, in one location, an unrivalled variety of Irish and UK gardening and environmental experts to share knowledge and information about a host of topics from traditional gardening techniques and design to all the changes
that makes gardening such a fun and enjoyable activity”.
“The Carlow Garden Festival caters for everyone from the novice gardener to the garden connoisseur and with special accommodation packages available for the festival, it provides the perfect opportunity to travel around the county to see the many spectacular gardens on the Carlow Garden Trail. Visitors can also partake in the two food fest evening events in Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven and Shankill Castle and savour treats in delightful cafes and tearooms in the many garden locations throughout the county alongside a stunning afternoon tea in Hardymount Gardens.