Everything You Need To Know About The Festival of Gardens and Nature at Ballintubbert House - The Gloss Magazine

Everything You Need To Know About The Festival of Gardens and Nature at Ballintubbert House

Whether you’re an armchair gardener, amateur botanist or festival enthusiast, the new Festival of Gardens and Nature at Ballintubbert Gardens & House, Co Laois, running from April 20-21, promises something for everyone…

WHAT: The Festival of Gardens and Nature is a completely new gardening event to be held at Ballintubbert Gardens & House, Co Laois, on Saturday and Sunday, April 20-21. It’s been founded by Catherine FitzGerald, a regular contributor to THE GLOSS, and Minnie Preston.

Catherine, who is co-founder of Lutyens & FitzGerald Landscape Design, is well known for the gardens at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down and at Glenarm, Co Antrim, which won the 2023 Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award. She explains, “During the Festival of Gardens and Nature, we aim to look closely at our relationship with gardens and nature, explore changing perspectives and to share knowledge and expertise.” The emphasis will be the importance of gardening with nature rather than against it.

WHERE: The gardens at Ballintubbert are a fitting backdrop to this lively festival, described as “Electric Picnic meets Gardener’s World.” The historic gardens at Ballintubbert feature an impressive variety of gardens and yew cloisters. Of note is the Sir Edwin Lutyens-influenced fountain garden complimented by Gertrude Jekyll-style planting schemes.

There are wild flower meadows and woodlands inspired by William Robinson’s approach to “wild gardening” in contrast to more formal lime walks. During the festival, visitors will see its blaze of spring bloom including anemones, sweet woodruff, aconite and lecojum. Over the summer months there are interesting varieties of peonies, roses and dahlias, along with an abundance of cannas, Baptisia australis and Strobolanthus wallichii. One of the gardeners responsible for nurturing the gardens at Ballintubbert House is Arthur Shackleton, who is taking part in the festival.

HOW: The immersive festival aims to be as entertaining and relaxed as it is informative and inspiring. Guided garden tours, floristry and foraging workshops, as well as organic cooking classes are all part of the line-up, as is a diverse group of experts who will participate in informal conversations, more structured talks and useful Gardener’s Question Time-style panels, led by David Maxwell, host of BBC Ulster radio Gardener’s Corner.

WHO: The list of speakers reads like a who’s who of experts from the worlds of contemporary garden design, horticulture, historic gardens and nature conservation. Among the line-up is historic gardens consultant and plantsman Neil Porteous, currently working at several OPW and National Trust sites including Castlewellan Forest Park and Glenarm Castle gardens. He is well known as the Head Gardener at Mount Stuart and has a brilliant monthly newsletter.

Renowned floral designer and sustainable floristry ambassador Shane Connolly is also participating. Notably, he designed the flowers for the Coronation of King Charles and for the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Cath Kidston will talk about the scented garden, inspired by childhood memories of geraniums and pelargoniums. She will be joined by Sadie Chowen, owner of the Burren Perfumery.

Gardener and writer Jonny Bruce, who trained at Great Dixter, is most known for the gardens at Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, Kent – the coastal home of filmmaker and gay activist Derek Jarman. Bruce also works as a design consultant and is in the process of setting up an organic plant nursery.

Actor Dominic West will recount how he built an organic pool at his home, Glin Castle, Co Limerick, having been inspired by David Pagan Butler, also in the line-up.

Expect a strong show of Irish gardening experts too, from Seamus O’Brien, head gardener Kilmacurragh, National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, to Darach Lupton, head curator at the Botanical Gardens Glasnevin, and Colm O’Driscoll, the ex-head gardener at Airfield, now Head of Gardens at Lismore Castle.

Tom Petherick is a biodynamic vegetable gardener and consultant to Ballymaloe Organic Garden. Also from Ballymaloe Cookery School, chef and writer Rory O’Connell will discuss, with Kate Gatacre, his interest in growing vegetables and herbs organically and cooking with them. Kate is head gardener at Linley Hall in Shropshire.

Artist, gardener and author TJ Maher is the owner of that hidden gem of Irish gardens – Patthana Garden in Co Wicklow. Finally, singer and actor Johnny Flynn will perform from his new album Lost in the Cedar Wood.

WHY: If you want to know more about meadows, the creation of natural swimming ponds, sustainable floral design, biodynamic vegetable growing, the healing affect of horticulture, the power of scent, and the joy of colour in the garden, then this is the time to plan your visit.

Need to Know: The Festival takes place from April 20-21; it’s open on Saturday from 10am to 7pm and on Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Tickets cost €100, for Saturday, €65 for Sunday. A weekend ticket is €150, available on Eventbrite. For more information visit, www.festivalofgardensandnature.com.


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