Episode 403 • July 9, 2016


Welcome to Ireland! Actually this week’s show is a quick little trip via video to our recent Garden Time tour to the Emerald Isle. Our little group of 38 people saw a bunch of wonderful gardens and even had the opportunity to see the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and even a chance to kiss the Blarney Stone (or view the poison garden at Blarney). It was a whirlwind tour and featured lots of stops including 10 gardens and the Guinness brewery. You can see a lot of our trip within this week’s show. I think everyone agrees, it was a wonderful trip! If you want to see more pictures from our tour they are on the Garden Time Facebook page. ‘Like’ the page and scroll through to see all the beauty!

If you would like to join us on our next Garden Time tour, we are headed to Hawaii in February. You can see a rough itinerary on the our Garden Time website at We are still making changes to the schedule and will have a final schedule of events soon!

This week we featured...

Helen Dillon's Garden

Helen Dillon's Garden

Helen Dillon is a world-renowned plant expert, author, lecturer and broadcaster. With her husband Val, she has created a garden that is considered to be one of the gems of Ireland. Her garden is stuffed full of wonderful and colorful plants. Our group was in awe with Helen and her garden. She has a great mix of plants including some old favorites and a few rare ones too. She makes use of a small greenhouse by moving plants in and out based on how and when they are in bloom. She calls her garden a ‘stage’ and moves the performers on and off the stage, some are still in their black pots. One of her favorite plants at the moment wasn’t even a colorful bloomer. Chionochloa conspicua is a New Zealand grass that looks great in the garden and it performs for almost the entire year! The seed heads are huge and free-flowing in the slightest of breezes. They are really stunning.

The only bad news to our trip was finding out that Helen and Val are selling their home. They are moving into a smaller home and the garden tours will end in September. We were glad to be there before it was all gone. If you would like to get a book written by Helen, she has one published by local book publisher, Timber Press.

Dublin Gardens

Dublin Gardens

Helen Dillon’s garden was just one of the gardens we saw in the first 2 days of our tour. Some of the other gardens included:

Corke Lodge: this was a garden that offered a lot, but not a lot of color. It was striking in the structures in the garden. One ‘living’ structure gives the garden its name, a huge cork tree in the center of the garden. The garden also features salvaged stonework and arches from a nearby castle that was removed.
Carmel Duignan’s Garden: Carmel was a delight. She had us in stitches as we wandered her garden. A garden writer and TV producer, she has a wide assortment of plants, some of them on the cutting edge of tenderness, rarity, and textures. She had wonderful insights about gardening and even some design tips that were cool. She even shared an accidental design tip. A friend had tipped a plant on one side and it looked so good, that she now keeps the plant on its side as a display.

Lambs Cross Garden: Patricia and Michael Maguire opened their garden to our group and we walked into a wonderland! Their small front yard has a small, but wonderful, alpine bed. This didn’t prepare us for the outstanding garden behind their home. They had ‘islands’ of color all over the garden. Wandering the lawn we were impressed with the mixture of color and textures we found. They had gardens that ranged from alpine to woodland, and even a stream and pond on the property.

Mount Usher Gardens: These gardens were voted the best garden to visit a couple of years ago by the BBC’s Gardener’s World Magazine. The gardens are considered a ‘Robinsonian’ style of garden. That means they are designed in a naturalistic approach. This style is named after Irish designer, William Robinson (1838-1935). The gardens are spread out over 22 acres and is bisected by the River Vartry. We saw just a portion of the 5,000 different species of plants, but what we did see was spectacular, including a variety of exotic plants.

Knockrose: this garden is built on part of an old farm. We walked down a country lane to see this outstanding garden that was tucked away on the slope of a hill. This garden had lots of little hidden ‘rooms’ that housed vegetable gardens, reading sheds and quiet little tables. It had some different plants since it was a little higher than some of the other gardens we saw. It was even built on the site of an old castle.

June Blake’s Garden: June is a very passionate plants person. Her garden/nursery is located in the old farmyard of a manor house. Jane sources seeds and plants from around the world and she trials them in her garden before picking the best for sale in her nursery. We saw lots of unique bamboos, grasses and other perennials. We even saw the foundation of an old bar that used to be a stopping point on the main road to Dublin.

Hunting Brook: This garden was our last stop and was the home of Jimi Blake, June’s brother. His 20 acres are right next door to June’s place and were filled with a wide assortment of plants he has collected over the years. He had a real eclectic assortment of plants in different areas of his garden. There was a large woodland area, an area of prairie plants, some tropical plants and even a 7th century ring fort full of plants. Jimi’s garden has been featured in numerous magazines from around the world.

These gardens were all beautiful in their own way and it was wonderful to experience them all!

Powerscourt Gardens

Powerscourt Gardens

We traveled to county Wicklow just outside of Dublin and visited the gardens at Powerscourt Estate. This garden has been built over the last two and a half centuries. All the time and effort is worth it. It was recently selected as the 3rd best garden in Europe by National Geographic. Part of that effort has been at the hands of head gardener, Alex Slazenger. Alex’s family now runs the estate and garden and he joined us for a tour. The gardens are diverse with a formal Italian garden, a Japanese Garden, the Tower valley and even a pet cemetery featuring the favorite pets of the Powerscourt Viscounts and their families. The gardens are also full of rare statuary and ornamental gates. Alex grew up on the grounds and now his playground is his work. He is trying to stay true to the past Viscounts in his approach to maintaining the garden. He is not only replacing plants as they die, he is looking to add new and exciting varieties of plants to the palate as well. If you ever make it over to Ireland, this is the one ‘must-see’ garden to visit, but make sure you leave yourself lots of time, it is huge!

Guinness Tour

Guinness Tour

One of the most iconic beers in the world is Guinness. We were able to tour this wonderful brewery with Guinness expert Cal Gray. We started by talking about the history of Guinness. On the first floor of the Guinness Storehouse you can actually see the 9000 year lease that Arthur Guinness signed for the location at St. James Gate in Dublin. Signed in 1759 it also guaranteed the rights to the water that is needed to brew beer. This seems like an incredible deal now, but it took a lot of work to build the beer and the brand into the success it is today. For all that has been said about Guinness, there are only 4 main ingredients, barley, hops, water and yeast. The barley is all Irish grown, the water is from the Wicklow mountains and the yeast is a protected company secret. The part that would interest people in the Pacific Northwest is that part of the hops used in brewing are from our area.

Guinness is known for its wonderful advertising campaigns and there is a whole floor devoted to that. Visitors can also walk through the process of brewing and end up on the upper floor in the ‘Gravity Bar’ with a 365 degree view of Dublin for a free pint. Guinness is not only about stouts. They have now expanded their types and styles of brews to include stouts, porters, lagers and ales. If you are out and having a drink, ask for the perfect pint of Guinness. The perfect way to enjoy a Guinness? At your own pace, in moderation and of course, chilled!

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