Glossy Gardens: Explore the Walled Garden at Salthill House

On the grounds of a family home in Mountcharles, Co Donegal sits a late 18th-century WALLED GARDEN

Salthill House in the coastal area of Mountcharles, Co Donegal is the home of Elizabeth and Lynn Temple, who took up residence in 1984. Behind the Georgian house, a late 18th-century walled garden lay waiting for redesign. The old local sandstone walls enclosed a large green lawn – a perfect play area for their three children – and a clean canvas for Elizabeth to put her distinctive mark on over the last three decades.

No formal plans were ever put on paper. “I have pictures in my head as to forms and colour but in reality I draw with my spade,” says Elizabeth. A former English teacher, she didn’t have any formal horticultural training but gardening has always been an interest, thanks to a long line of gardening ancestors who have passed on the “green gene”. The family archive reveals 19th-century photographs of her relatives proudly standing beside their Victorian stone follies and shrubberies.

Salthill continues the tradition of creating playful spaces with warm sandstone features and arches punctuating the greenery. There are 100-plus varieties of trees, shrubs and perennials. Balancing an air of formality, paths wind through herbaceous borders but nature is very much allowed to have a free run.

From the start, Elizabeth nurtured an organic approach – pesticides are avoided and plants carefully chosen to withstand the sometimes harsh conditions of the North West. The garden works with, rather than against, the elements. Being so close to the sea does mean regular gale force winds but storms also wash up thick ridges of seaweed which are collected and used as a natural fertiliser for the traditional Donegal vegetable beds.

Each season brings something new; scent is the sense that resonates most, with all its shifting guises throughout the year. In the height of the summer months, Elizabeth’s favourite moments in the garden are at dawn when the fragrances are at their most discernible. In the depths of winter, Jacqueline postill (Daphne Bholua) will appear with a scent to lift a dark day or in autumn the heady musk smell of phlox remains in the air long after summer abundance has disappeared.

The garden is open to visitors from May 1 – September 30 from 2-6pm, Monday-Saturday, €5;

Penny McCormick

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