Chance to visit gardens around Northern Ireland

Chance to visit gardens around Northern Ireland

11 May 2022

FOR many years, a scheme had been in place to provide visits to private gardens throughout Northern Ireland.

It was organised in collaboration with the National Trust, whose gardens here had benefited from the thousands of pounds raised each year. Unfortunately, the Trust decided to discontinue the scheme in 2019.

The committee members who had been organising the visits were very disappointed but have instead arranged for gardens to open under the National Garden Scheme.

This organisation was established in England in 1928 to raise money for nursing and health charities. In 2021 they donated over £3 million to beneficiaries such as Marie Curie and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Twenty-one gardens are opening in Northern Ireland under the new scheme this year and there are several in Co Down which are open on specific days or by appointment. You can find out more at

Two of the gardens open by appointment are near Killinchy — Linden and Old Balloo House and Barn.

Linden is opening for the first time this year, following much hard work and meticulous planning by its owners, Alan McAteer and Margaret Grahame.

It is a relatively new garden, part formal, part informal, with year-round colour from perennials and grasses. A large rose-covered pergola looks as if it has been there for many years. Many new trees have been planted, including an orchard of carefully chosen apples.

Alan and Margaret’s dedication to propagating plants in large quantities to fill their two-acre site is a credit to them. Whenever you visit there is always some new project on the go.

Old Balloo House and Barn gardens were open for three years under the previous scheme by Moira Concannon and Lesley Simpson, who garden together over their shared site.

It is informal with wilder areas (sometimes tipping towards anarchy). Their shared passion for plants — bulbs, perennials, shrubs but especially roses and trees — is evident. They design together, Lesley digs (she was an archaeologist after all), Moira can’t stop taking cuttings and there are often lively discussions.

The original gardens around the old house have been restored and more gardens created on the steep slopes going down to the River Blackwater. A new section has been reclaimed during Lockdown, on a slope descending to the original mill race.

The opening times for visits are designed to coincide with the later flowering rhododendrons and early roses and some plants in the garden have been propagated for sale. Opening times are by appointment only.

Linden, 24 Raffrey Road, Killinchy. Telephone 07770 773611. May-June and September for groups up to eight, Tuesdays and Thursdays after midday.

Old Balloo House and Barn. 15-17 Comber Road, Balloo, Killinchy. Telephone 07484 649767 or email Open from May 21 to June 5.