Celebrating the Irish Country House Garden
Posted by IGS
From 23rd September to late November, the IGS is hosting Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland's Walled Gardens. Click here to learn more.
Birr Castle, County Offaly
Alison Rosse (Stepping through the Gate, Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens)
Located on the edge of a town, but within a 150 acre demesne Birr Castle has been home to the Parsons family, later Earls of Rosse, since 1620. While earlier generations had created gardens, much of what is seen and admired today is due to the sixth Earl of Rosse and his wife. He inherited the estate at an early age, and while still young began to travel to the Far East, bringing back seeds and plants for Birr; their presence has helped to make the gardens one of the most important in Ireland, home to an abundance of rare trees and shrubs. Following their marriage in 1935, the Rosses both devoted much time to this project, but also to other areas of the demesne. Inside part of the old walled kitchen garden, they laid out a box parterre, the centerpiece of which is a pair of intertwined Rs, the Rococo design of which is echoed by a pair of large stone urns that came from Bavaria. Around the perimeter of the parterre, a horn beam allée was installed. This might have led to an enclosed, flat-roofed tunnel, but the Rosses encouraged the overhead branches to curve upwards. In addition, arched ‘windows’ were cut on the side that opened onto the parterre, thereby creating views across the space and encouraging greater circulation of light: Alison Rosse’s painting shows a view down the length of one of the hornbeam allées, each of which concludes with a classical statue within an arbour planted with roses. One of the delights of the gardens at Birr Castle is that they continue to be a work in progress, one to which the present Earl of Rosse has devoted much of the past forty years. Every year brings fresh initiatives, underlining the fact that gardens are living organisms which respond best to ongoing developments.