Heywood House in Ballinakill, Co Laois is steeped in history. It was originally built in 1773 by Michael Frederick Trench with the help of his friend and renowned architect, James Gandon. Empress Elizabeth of Austria dined there and legendary horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll was a frequent visitor, but it was Edwin Lutyens who made the biggest impact on its history. It was not until the house passed on to Colonel William Hutchinson Poe that Lutyens was commissioned to design the elaborate formal garden at Heywood in 1906.
Edward Lutyens (known as Ned) is considered one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. His style signatures in architecture are sweeping roofs, buttressed chimneys, small doorways and long strips of windows. He was much influenced by Gertrude Jekyll’s approach to garden landscaping, especially her “simplicity of intention and directness of purpose.” Lutyens was also responsible for the garden design at Lambay Island, War Memorial Park and Howth Castle.
Despite a difficult site, Lutyens designed the garden in meticulous detail, and it is thought Jekyll was responsible for the planting. The Pergola and Loggia he created survives as does the sunken garden, though the house which had been used as a seminary was destroyed by fire on January 31, 1950. The State took ownership of the property after this event.
To highlight its rich history, Ballinakill Community Development Committee will host the inaugural Twin Trees Festival, from August 22 – 25, with many events set in the gardens. (The festival name is inspired by two landmark lime trees which are symbols of Ballinakill). The event is also inspired by the 150th anniversary of the birth of Lutyens and on August 24, Amanda Pitcairn, a direct descendant of Lutyens, and representative of the Lutyens Trust will be present.
On August 24, starting at 12pm visitors are invited to “Tours, Talks and Afternoon Tea” as part of the Twin Trees Festival. After touring Heywood Gardens with Pitcairn, David Averill FRIAI, of the Lutyens Trust, will deliver a talk in All Saints’ Church, Ballinakill entitled “Lutyens & Heywood in Context”. Afternoon Tea will be served in Ballinakill village, before Dr Matthew Jebb, the Irish botanist and Director of the National Botanic Gardens, delivers his talk on “Lutyens, Lambay and Jekyll”. Tickets (€30) for this event are available from www.twintrees.ie.
Other events (tickets for which are available on Eventbrite) include a three-day en plein air painting event, yoga in the garden, a fishing competition and floristry display. On Saturday there will able be a free picnic and musical evening on the lawn at Heywood Gardens.
More than anything, Twin Trees Heywood Festival remembers two gardening and design legends, from which many of today’s architects and horticulturalists still draw inspiration.
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