Green-fingered enthusiasts enjoy trip to Botanical Gardens

Green-fingered enthusiasts enjoy trip to Botanical Gardens

5 September 2018

FOLLOWING a recent very successful visit to The Belfast Botanical Garden, it was a natural progression for some of Newcastle Gardening Group to visit, or in some cases revisit, the renowned Botanical Gardens at Glasnevin, on the north side of Dublin.

We were taken on a one hour introductory tour of the gardens and palm houses by Kiera, a member of staff who has an archaeology degree as well as good horticultural knowledge.  

This fantastic garden, as well as its history is currently an education centre covering many aspects of Dublin life including the great Viking history.

We can ask ourselves, what is the purpose of a Botanical Garden? A definition could be ‘they are institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education.’ This garden space certainly encompasses all of these!

The history goes back to 1790 when funds were made available to the Royal Society and at that time it was used for agricultural research.  

By the 1830s this was overtaken by the pursuit of plant knowledge and was the beginning of the era of the great plant hunters such as Wilson, Farrer, Douglas and Portadown man Augustin Henry. 

Henry collected many plants from China and the Far East and introduced many species, so if you see a plant with the variety name, Henrii, you will know who introduced it.  

The main feature at Glasnevin is, of course, the magnificent palm house and other glass houses designed to protect tender and exotic species of which there are many. This curvilinear design — as in the Belfast Palm House — was created and built by the great Dublin ironsmith.

Richard Turner, who then went on to design and build the Palm House at Kew Gardens. Our visit took us to the lovely rose gardens and then through a range of many trees, some of which are quite old and important species. 

There is a wonderful Caucasian Elm with a massive girth, Zelkovia carpinifolia which is just outside the building housing the administration and huge herbarium.  

Kiera pointed out to us how the walls of the building are curved to allow them to go around this important tree.

The River Tolka runs through the gardens and there are several bridges which provide good viewing platforms for the many vistas.

A rockery with waterfall and well stocked and interesting herbaceous borders, deep purple Heliotropes currently creating drama, together with areas to house many native Irish species and Wild flower gardens provided us with much to see and discover. There are botanical art exhibitions and tours available mostly daily.

Some of us later visited the beautiful glasshouse which is currently an exhibition of tomatoes, if ever you think the varieties of tomatoes are limited to three or four, think again….there were hundreds of varieties all shapes, sizes and colours beautifully displayed.

I did not mention the really good cafe with a wealth of foods to try. Whether a first visit or a return visit, there is so much here of interest to all ages and abilities.