Thursday, 1st October 2020
Mount Usher in Ashford, County Wicklow, is one of Ireland’s greatest gardens, and is a world-class example of a so-called Robinsonian garden, with its relaxed informality and natural layout. Monty Don has described it as one of his favourite gardens anywhere.
I left Dungarvan early last Monday on a two-hour drive to the Garden County. That’s the nickname given to County Wicklow, and for very good reason.
Any summary I might write would not do justice to this majestic 22-acre paradise. In the knowledge that descriptive writing is not my strength, I attempt to summarise my hours there using a bit of licence…
Thank you for having me here in the gardens today. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’ve been here since the 1860’s as Mount Usher Garden was created by four generations of the Walpole family, spanning a period of 115 years. Throughout all this time I did get a sense that history was being made.
Well, because the family was well-in with Glasnevin at the time and started a four-generation commitment to developing what’s known as a Robinsonian garden right through until 1980. Plant-hunting expeditions were undertaken worldwide and many plants thrived in this garden that would not survive elsewhere.
What’s the Robinsonian thing about?
He was an Irish Gardener who advocated moving away from formal planting design. He preferred informal natural planting. He became very famous and this type of gardening is called after him.
I understand the garden was sold in 1980?
Yes it was bought by Madeleine Jay, and in 2007 it was leased out to Avoca Handweavers.
Really, you must have seen a lot in your time here?
There was very severe poverty right after the Famine, and indeed right through to the late sixties. (1960’s). I’ve witnessed revolution, war, a fair share of how’s-your-father, and latterly, a booming economy… and the latest is the virus that arrived this year.
Why is this garden so well-regarded?
I’ll let the head-Gardener, Sean Heffernan, update you about this.
The Garden is home to 32 of the Champion Trees of Ireland as well as approximately 4,500 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants, many of which are rarely seen growing anywhere else in Ireland.
Is it true that it is Monty Don’s favourite garden?
Monty Don? Who’s Monty Don?