Ireland: Green, blooming, beautiful

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2016

A small group of friends and Master Gardeners had the opportunity to travel to Ireland in September.

Master Gardeners have planned for years to expand their plant knowledge and love of gardening and take an overseas excursion. If there’s one trait most common with Master Gardeners, it’s the thrill of learning about new plants and the opportunity to travel.  A group of 16 friends and Master Gardeners traveled to tour Ireland — some of them have called it an experience of a lifetime.

Ireland, often referred to as the Emerald Isle, is aptly named, as the entire country seems to be a sea of vivid green. Vales and valleys provide a truly unique experience with scenic vistas of “forty shades of green,” according to a Johnny Cash song.

Ireland’s unique climate is a result of the warm Atlantic providing average summertime high temperatures rarely over 70 degrees and mild winters that never go below 32 degrees. A dusting of snow may last a few hours but is very rare for the island.

Ample rainfall is another key factor for its beauty. Rains fall almost constantly, but is generally a gentle rain that may last only a few hours. The Irish refer to these gentle daily rains as “a soft day.”

Ireland’s weather is almost void of thunderstorms, downpours, hail and freezing rain. Couple the moderate temperature with ample rainfall and the perfect environment exists for not only beautiful green landscapes, but dazzling flowers, as well.

Compared to those that we see in our locale, blooms on flowering annuals and perennials were truly amazing, especially those in container plantings. It seemed every building had large containers and window boxes with unbelievable flowers due to both vivid colors and size.

Master Gardeners Carolyn Glasgow and Joan Wright were in awe of the multitude of container plantings. Begonias seemed to be a favorite of many, with blooms almost as big as a baseball. Fuchsias and lavender, which we try desperately to grow here with little luck, grow almost like wild hedges there.

Lana Miller, another Master Gardener, was amazed at the scores of beautiful flowering hydrangeas. These profusely blooming plants are seemingly perfect and range from lavender to deep red pigments.

Beautiful blooming lavender covers many acres in Ireland.

Many plants not indigenous to this country grow well in the special climate so it wasn’t unusual to see fuchsia, rhododendron and palm trees all in the same planting bed; each thriving in the rainy, cool climate.

Dawn Holshouser was amazed at an incredible rhubarb planting in the formal garden at Blarney Castle which easily reached over 10 feet tall!

When you think of Blarney Castle, you immediately think of the Blarney Stone, yet, the castle has over 100 acres of various plantings. Katherine Jones was genuinely taken with the formal gardens at Blarney Castle as well as the Lissadell House gardens. Each were absolutely breathtaking in garden history as well as social history.

Ireland would be a true wonderland to a Master Gardener or any plant person. But, even with the endless blooms, containers and vast plantings seemingly at every turn, these traits offer just a smidgen of the true beauty for those who travel and experience this beautiful country.