On Sunday 3rd July 45 members left for a hugely enjoyable four day trip planned by Lucille and Toni to visit gardens mainly in Sligo and south Donegal.  We were based in the Sligo Park Hotel where the staff looked after us very well – at least one of us has already booked a return trip there.

Our first stop was at Strokestown Famine Museum and Gardens for lunch and a tour of the gardens led by Head Gardener, John O’Driscoll.  John has been involved with the gardens since the restoration began; his passion was infectious – so much so that he had a very receptive audience and we kept him well past his allotted time.  We heard about the history of the house, admired the mature specimens, the herbaceous planting, the greenhouse and fruit and vegetable gardens and we learned of the ongoing plans and came away with such titbits of knowledge as red squirrels eat the hazelnuts and a mulberry tree doesn’t leaf up until after the last frost.

On Monday, Liam Leyden took us around Lissadell House.  Liam has lived locally for all of his life and is steeped in the history of Lissadell which he very much made come alive for us.  The 1916 exhibition was well worth a visit and while the weather was not kind, those of us who took the 15 minute walk to the Alpine Garden were hugely rewarded as it benefits from a microclimate, has many tropical plants, wonderful roses and herbacious borders and is in fact a large beautifully planted walled garden leading down to the sea.  We were made feel very welcome at Lissadell and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and coffee break at the cafe.

On Tuesday, Elizabeth Temple took us on a very informative and enjoyable tour of Salthill Garden, an amazing gardener’s garden which she has created overlooking Donegal Bay and which is beautifully described and photographed in The Irish Garden (Jane Powers with Jonathan Hession).

Over the course of the four days, Nigel expertly navigated to another five gardens, specially opened for us by their very friendly and helpful owners – each was inspiring, some award winning and we came home with lots of tips and ideas AND, as ever, lots of plants, many from Ardcarne Garden Centre where owner James Wickham gave us a talk on some chosen plants and generously donated a number to our raffle.

This trip was one of our most successful and enjoyable – a tribute to the amount of research and hard work put into its planning.