05 July 2014

Left without words after an afternoon in
the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland

Welcome to the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

As a child,I spent many warm summer days like these indoors, smothered with hayfever, and suffering with bewildering, heavy nosebleeds. Nobody explained what was wrong, and at times, I remember, I was chided for scratching my eyes, my nose and my ears.

I was in my teens before someone kindly explained what was wrong. I was in my 20s before I found any medication that relieved the symptoms. I was in my 30s before I realised I could enjoy summers and go further than England and Ireland at summer time, taking packing holidays and enjoying the sun.

I have since realised that the sun and this summer weather are natural pleasure for someone with my complexion and my temperament.

Although I grew up loving the countryside and feeling it is my natural environment, there are many consequences arising from long sunny summers spent indoors. I learned to draw, to paint and to write creatively, while others were outdoors playing, fishing, cutting turf or saving the hay. Yet, along with never having had a musical education, one of the many regrets I have from my childhood is having grown up without knowing the names of trees, flowers, plants and birds.

I often wondered at this ability to name as some gnostic skill acquired by others who had been initiated into the outdoor summer rituals while I was indoors creating my own existence.

Sine then, I have never taken an interest in gardening, although I enjoy sitting in the back garden on summer evenings, dining al fresco to slurpering sound of the lion’s-head fountain.

I enjoy country walks and beach walks, and walks by the banks of rivers and the shores of lakes. I enjoy sunrises and sunsets. I enjoy being on the sea. But I would cringe at the idea of spending a summer afternoon in a garden centre, and have no interest in conversations about green fingers.

Yet, I know instinctively how much I would enjoy having my own olive trees, my own wisteria, and have rejoiced in presents of both recently. Even in moments of fantasy I can imagine living by an olive or citrus grove or close to a vineyard.

On the other hand, in recent months I have enjoyed visiting the gardens in Alhambra in Grenada, and even spent a few pleasant hours this summer one Saturday afternoon in a garden centre in Virginia.

Today was a first. I spent a few hours this afternoon in the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland in Glasnevin.

Two of us just allowed ourselves to roam for a few hours, enoying the Victorian wrought-iron glasshouses, which are monumental achievements in engineering and architecture, the trees, the shurbs, the plants, the flowers, the ponds, the colours, the riotous colours, the the paths, the walled gardens, the rose gardens, the birds, the birdsong, the squirrels, the wildlife, the towers, the rose garden, the water, the River Tolka, the Mill Race, the lilly ponds, the heron beneath the bridge ...

And it was all free ... for the whole afternoon.

How can I describe it?

Instead of continuing the narrative, I have decided to post a random collection of about three dozen photographs from this afternoon. Let the images speak for themselves. They are better than any words I could use. They are sufficient.

Scroll through them. If you click on them you can enlarge them further and continue scrolling without reading. They are my present to you.

Photographs © Patrick Comerford 2014

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