When Barbara and Timmy O’Connor had the lawns around their house in Killeagh, Farranfore done in 2006, Barbara was out playing with her two young sons James and T.J. one day when she decided that they needed to brighten up the outside space of their new home.
Barbara had the plan, Timmy, a mason from nearby Scartaglin, had all the skills so they started with a simple flower bed using up some of the stone left over from the building of the house.
On the Garden Path
That flower bed and the natural gift of plant loving moms and nans set them on the garden path to their maturing Meadow Gate Garden which they are about to open to the public.
It would be easy to brand what they have done as a garden, but in a country and in an economic landscape like the Ireland of today, this is a growing enterprise – a cottage industry if you like and one built by commitment and hard work.
“Neither of us had any horticulture experience although we grew up with mothers who passed on a keen interest in gardening,” said Barbara.
Family Connections Propagated by Cuttings
“Our site was and still is extremely exposed to the elements. My own mother Joan Barry took me back to her home place of Greenmount in Aughills, Castlemaine where we took cuttings of fuchsia hedging from my grandparents’ garden.
“My mother then showed me how to propagate them and today all our boundary hedging has come from those first few cuttings.”
Timmy’s mother, Betty O’Connor who has a beautiful garden, has supplied so many plants and trees down through the years to the evolving project and her knowledge, experience and advice has been invaluable to the couple.
Statues from Barbara’s Nan
Timmy, a son of the late Christy O’Connor, is a mason by trade has a keen eye for rescuing items that are about to be dumped and Barbara will then find a place for them in the garden.
With this in mind the couple has developed various areas of interest to explore and each has its own unique meaning to both of them.
One such spot is the little wildlife pond behind which Timmy has built a small grotto in which to showcase a pair of religious statues Barbara inherited from her grandmother.
“My father, Tom Barry’s mother, Eileen Barry had these two statues for years upon years, now I am not overly religious but I love having that connection to a woman who was so special and dear to me,” said Barbara.
Spuds and Hay With Dad Tom Barry
And, while on memory lane: Barbara remembers setting potatoes and cutting hay with her father in the field where her now beautifully maturing garden is now flourishing.
Barbara is definitely a plants person at heart but is the first to admit she had no idea what she was doing when they started.
One of her many strong points is that she still feels she has so much more to learn.
“I have murdered as many plants as I have nurtured, I had a very expensive lesson to learn.
Starting from Seeds
I quickly realised I had to learn how to propagate and start plants from seeds, which today I can thankfully do in my poly-tunnel, cold-frames and glasshouse,” she admitted.
From this Barbara soon developed a love for all kinds of unique plants and today her garden bears testament to that.
She grows everything from the humble potato to wonderfully melt in the mouth grapes, simple spring bulbs like daffodils and snowdrops to wonderful exotics like banana plants and tree ferns.
She doesn’t have bananas yet – but Barbara will.
Unique Areas of The Garden
“We grow many types of different plants, trees and shrubs with alder, birch, beech and chestnut taking center stage along our boundaries and wonderful hydrangea, dailies, lupins, phlox and grasses contribute their own charm to the colourful displays in the different and unique areas of the garden.
Three ponds help give life to a whole new set of natural conditions and planting schemes.
“We also have a wildlife meadow, woodland area, small white garden and try to provide interest all year round with different planting schemes from winter flowering hellebore and evergreens to high summer favourites like roses and agaphanthus.
Two Young Helpers
“I even have two wonderful helpers in my young five-year-old nephew Denis and one-year-old niece Tess who have grown their own peas and pumpkins in our garden.”
Barbara and Timmy have turned a simple three-quarters of an acre of wild meadow into a garden and a place that is as unique as it is beautiful and wonder full.
“We quickly realised we were gripped by the gardening bug and started to visit other gardens that were open to the public.
Learning from Gardens and Gardeners
“We learned so much from all of these gardens and their owners and hoped that one day in turn we could have something similar.
“A huge amount of advice and help also came from Shanahan’s Garden Centre in Farranfore which is our number one stop shop for all thing gardening.
“Now we are finally taking the chance and opening to the general public. We are well used to family and friends visiting.
Open by Appointment
“We really want the message to come across that we are complete amateur gardeners but if we can build and nurture something like this anybody can, just come and visit and see for yourself what we have achieved.
“Our garden is open by appointment only for the moment but we will do our utmost to accommodate people and arrange a visiting time that suits everyone.
“We can be contacted by email at email@example.com by phone at 087 69 65 193 or our new Facebook page Meadow Gate Garden,
“Our admission is €5 per person with all proceeds going to the upkeep of the garden,” said Barbara as she dead-headed on her way through her dream garden.
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