A Coastal Drive
I’ve always loved the drive up the Antrim Coast Road so it was just great to have the chance to pay a return visit to the lovely walled garden at Glenarm during the week.
Both the coastal drive and the secluded garden are real antidotes to grey day blues and we’ve had a few of those this week, haven’t we? grey days that is, hopefully not the blues...
We were there to meet up with Reg Maxwell, who works alongside the estate managers and the gardeners in an advisory capacity and we began, in time honoured tradition, with a brew in the bothies with Reg, James and Billy the two man team who do such an excellent job in looking after the magical gardens.
Over tea, coffee and pancakes, made sharp and sweet with butter and lemon curd (thanks to Julie for bringing the picnic!) we chatted about the annual tulip festival and the huge job of lifting and planting the thousands of bulbs which will canopy the gardens in the spring, the challenges of gardening by the sea and the alarming scarcity of bees during the summer. Normally the linear glasshouse which hugs one of the walls is busy with bees keeping the gardeners company as they work inside on the peaches, nectarines, grapes, tomatoes and strawberries.
Our chat brought home the sobering fact that bees all over the world are under threat and if they aren’t here then neither are we, so the more we do to help them to thrive in our own gardens or in the wider countryside, the better.
If you’d like to find out more about great plants for encouraging bees or if you’ve ever thought about keeping them go to www.rhs.org.uk/plantsforbees or www.ukba.org or www.inibeekeepers.com .
Tea break over, we headed out to see the garden and the first plants to jump out at us were the bright pink Nerines bringing the last splash of colour to the herbaceous border. Making autumn impact too, but in a much bolder way, were the beech hedges which weave and thread their way through so much of the garden. Glorious and golden and somehow Mad Hatter-ish they are too.
There is a lot of fruit in the garden at Glenarm with many varieties of apple grown espalier-style, their branches mostly now bare, fanned out along the high walls. So Reg talked us through how and why to grow apples this way and he also sang the praises of “Greensleeves” a neatly shaped small apple tree growing happily within the wider orchard.
Spread around the ground at the base of the tree and looking as dark and rich and hearty as Christmas pudding was a freshly applied mulch which looked good enough to eat.
And this is of course the perfect time to dress the base of trees and flower beds in general with moisture retaining, sustaining, protective mulch. And as well as the benefits to the plants, it somehow makes the garden look organised and sorted for winter.
Elsewhere the herbaceous plants, now cut back and contained in the bare earth of the deep borders, gave no hint of the absolute opulence and abandon which they displayed in the height of summer.
And soon the thousands of tulips which James and Billy are getting ready to plant will take their place too, waiting for spring and the Tulip Festival in May which marks the opening of the garden for the new season.
Find out more about Glenarm at www.glenarmgardens.com
With the coast well and truly behind us, our next visit this week was to a very special urban garden in Poleglass. We last visited the Footprints Womens Centre three years ago to see a newly created vegetable garden established for young mums and children in the area. The idea was to teach families how to grow and cook their own vegetables and against this backdrop and providing help with other projects too, is a Family Support Officer funded by Children in Need.
Today the garden is managed by a really enthusiastic team and it was great to meet up with Eileen Wilson, David Boyle, Eddie Brennan and Moya Carberry. They are all passionate about the garden and determined to see it thrive. Since our first visit it has extended and developed with more space making it possible to grow more and now you’ll find soft fruit bushes, fruit trees, herbs and flowers alongside the raised beds for the everyday vegetables like onions, potatoes and carrots. There is an Eco Club, a Kitchen Garden Club and much of the produce grown makes its way in the Footprints Kitchen for everybody to enjoy.
Cheery mobiles dangle from the trees and dance in the breeze, a Jackanory scarecrow and giant painted boulders provide a safe play area for children and a little wooden house, built around a tree trunk, provides a perfect outdoor space. And in August, to everybody’s great delight the garden was judged to be the regional winner of the Sunday Telegraph “Gardening Against the Odds” Award established in memory of gardening writer Elspeth Thompson.
If you’d like more information about the awards and this year’s winners, go to www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening Huge congratulations to everybody at Footprints. We’re really looking forward to our next visit.