Last week we chatted about why you should get out & about and visit gardens, profiling the fantastic Ros Ban medicinal gardens in Raphoe, this week we cast our eye further west in the county and chat about the gardens around Harveys Point Hotel, situated in the beautiful Lough Eske area of Donegal.
When you visit Harveys Point it’s easy to skip from the car into the hotel without appreciating how much work and effort went into creating, and goes into managing and enhancing the gardens around the Hotel. It’s when you step back and look around that you can see the wonderful job that Head Gardener Pat Murphy has done over the past 9 years.
Lough Eske is not an easy place to garden in, you cannot put manners on the Lough Eske landscape, the Lough Eske landscape simply tolerates you. Pat has challenges from the wet poor soil, the exposure, the rock, the wildlife, the flooding and the cold to cope with, add in the extra demands brought on by being a 4 star hotel and you’ve a tough gig!
The Hotel gardens are unusual in that they’re not ‘amenity landscaped’ by this I mean that there’s not large drifts of the same types of plants, no large clumps of shrubs but instead it’s a delicate tapestry of individual plants, like what you’d do in your own garden. I can only credit Pat with this attention of detail, treating the 6+ acres of gardens as if it was the garden of a house and not of a multi award winning hotel.
Also this approach shows Pats deep understanding of the soils, microclimates and topography of the site, where he has soil he has planted showy perennials, where there is shallow soil he has alpines and such, and where he has pockets of Limestone he has chosen plants to suit, not planted in 10m2 batches for low maintenance, but instead small pockets of key plants to create a wandering interest in the garden.
Of course there are ‘Impact’ plants, especially around the entrance where there are dramatic shaped topiary and lined avenues of conifers.
Apart from the above I find the connection between the management of the gardens and the visitor experience of the hotel. For those who know Harveys Point you’d appreciate that there are countless windows all looking to appreciate vistas and views across Lough Eske and this is where Pat shows his brilliance. If you go into the hotel and say take up a reading seat at a window he’ll have the hedges trimmed of the tree canopy thinned to give you that vista across the Lough, its this attention to detail that I adore at Harveys Point.
Pat also grows all the bedding plants used on site from seed (in the hotel nursery located nearby), plants all the baskets and window boxes for the hotel and waters all these by hand…..no irrigation system for Pat…he’s a one-man watering machine in the summer!
Whenever I’m down in Harveys Point I always take time to walk the grounds, and I think that the success of Pats approach can be seen by the amount of visitors who pose for pictures in the gardens, but not taking pictures if the gardens, instead using the gardens as a venue and using Lough Eske as their backdrop….and this is when folks appreciate what Pat has created…a garden to compliment not to detract.
This past week the garden at home has been very changeable, with the wet weather weighing down many plants in the garden, so I’ve had to do some staking and supporting to stop the rain from damaging stems. In the Polytunnel the crops are coming thick and fast, with Tomatoes just starting this week and the green beans are just starting to crop now too. Warmth and low winds don’t benefit polytunnels, the plants inside grow fast and as such need carbon dioxide for the whole photosynthesising thing, and where there’s not a great draw of wind through the tunnel plants will stop growing due to carbon dioxide shortage. You can help the equation along by adding a bucket of fresh fruit peeling or a bucket of fresh manure into the middle of the tunnel, there CO2 levels will be lowest, but the first step should be to ensure that your tunnel or glasshouse is well ventilated, open the doors and windows and try whenever possible to leave these open 24/7 at this time of year.
On the Outside crops It’s great to see Tayberrys starting to ripen…these are delish!
Now’s a great time to be taking some cuttings in the garden, cuttings taken now will root quickly and will be ready for potting up in 4-6 weeks and will be ideal for planting next Spring in the garden.
Next Week….Is a Polytunnel worth it?, and more gardening tales…
Gareth Austin is resident Horticulturist with BBC Radio Foyle, a member of the Chartered Institute of Horticulturists and Horticultural Lecturer with the National Learning Network. For more see www.garethaustin.com or join Gareth on Twitter @GardenerGareth .Tags: