22 May 2015

Wisteria brings the colour of spring and
the promise of summer to Farmleigh

Wisteria on the portico at the State Guest House in Farmleigh this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I have claimed my democratic privileges, exercised by franchise, done my civic duty and cast my ballot, voting in a way that I hope is going to do my country proud.

I spent much of the day marking undergraduate exam papers, working through lunchtime. By early afternoon I needed a break, and two of us headed into the city centre, across the river, and out to the Phoenix Park for a late lunch and double espressos in the Boat House Café at Farmleigh House.

Walking around the lake at Farmleigh with its water lilies and overhanging trees (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Later we walked around the small, tree-lined lake, with its artificial island and water-lilies. This was a boating lake for the Guinness family when they lived at Farmleigh, and then strolled through the Walled Garden.

A pair of elegant decorative wrought-iron gates lead into the four acres of the Walled Garden. Inside, a diagonal walk is lined with herbaceous borders backed by high yew hedges. South of the main crosswalk is a small orchard and potager while north of it there is a small rose and lavender garden.

The Walled Garden dates from the early 19th century, when Charles Trench owned Farmleigh. In the Victorian era, the walled garden had several glasshouses. The present cast-iron glasshouse was erected by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh and great-grandson of Arthur Guinness.

The walled garden was first planned by Charles Trench and redesigned by Lady Iveagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

His daughter in-law, Lady (Gwendolen) Iveagh, later created a new layout in the early 20th century, dividing the walled garden into compartments with old-style garden plants and herbaceous borders. A new traditional path led from the wrought iron gateway connecting the Walled Garden to the broad walk at the back of the house. This new axis of the garden was reinforced by tall yew hedges backing the long double herbaceous borders that she also planted.

A stone temple was created as a focal point of the garden by Benjamin and Miranda Guinness in 1971: it has six antique columns of Portland stone with a copper roof and ornamental weather vane. The main cross path either side of the temple has metal structures designed by Lanning Roper for climbing roses and wisteria similar to those in the Bagatelle Garden in Paris.

A paved rose garden was laid out to the north east of the temple backed by a yew hedge and looking across a lawn to the small orchard and potage. Lanning Roper suggested planting a quince, a mulberry, a catalpa, and a magnolia, to complete what he described as a Carolingian Quartet on this lawn. Lady Iveagh later planted the double herbaceous borders, which include yuccas, phormiums, paeonies, astilbe and euphorbias.

Hannah Deacon’s Wedding Scene, inspired by ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Hannah Deacon’s Sabbath Evening, inspired by ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

From the walled gardens, we walked back past the state guest house to the Gallery for the Intelligent Machinery Exhibition, with exhibits by Sofie Loscher, Jonathan Mayhew and Niamh O’Doherty.

Next door, the Cow Shed is hosting ‘Cross Over,’ this year’s end-of-year graduate exhibition for Ballyfermot College of Further Education. The exhibition opened last Tuesday and continues until Sunday.

I was particularly captivated by three scenes inspired by Fiddler on the Roof, the work of Hannah Deacon.

Wisteria in the Courtyard before leaving Farmleigh this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Before we left, I lingered a while in the courtyard to admire the wisteria which is in full bloom there and throughout Farmeligh.

Naturally, I particularly associate wisteria with the Courts of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where the wisteria has been in full bloom in recent weeks. The botanist Thomas Nuttall said he named wisteria in honour of Dr Caspar Wistar (1761–1818), an American physician and anatomist from Philadelphia, but I wonder why he changed the spelling.

Wisteria blooms in late spring, and is often at its fullest in early summer. Certainly, Farmeligh was filled with the promise of summer this afternoon.

Here are some extra photographs from the Walled Garden in Farmleigh this afternoon:


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