Irish Georgian Society

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The vision of the Irish Georgian Society is to conserve, protect and foster a keen interest and a respect for Ireland’s architectural heritage and decorative arts. These aims are achieved through its scholarly and conservation education programmes, through its support of conservation projects and planning issues, and vitally, through its members and their activities.

NEW BOOK ALERT: Digging New Ground - The Irish Country House Garden 1650–1900


Posted by IGS

Digging New Ground: The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900

Edited by: Finola O'Kane & Robert O'Byrne

What gives the Irish country house garden its distinctive character? A verdant light, lush grass, bold trees and green-fingered generations of care. The Irish country house garden sits at a precise point where nature, culture and history meet, and continues to be a place where the Irish, British and European horticultural traditions potently collide.

This complex identity has often led historians to suppress any emerald-tinted concerns about land, property and empire that might overshadow a garden’s charm or indeed threaten its survival. Yet those concerns also lend the Irish country house garden a strange beauty, as memory, pleasure and tragedy glide along its avenues and sidle through its glades.

Breaking new ground through the presentation of fresh material and research, this book investigates the history, design and planting of the Irish country house garden from c.1650-1900. It considers garden making as an art form in all its dimensions, not least the relationship to contiguous buildings and natural features, as well as the colour, massing and individual habits of planting over three and a half centuries. Changes in fashion, habits of collecting, patronage, gender and networks are also investigated. Although the larger scale of landscape is considered, a primary aim is to address the smaller nature of gardens, and their many specific, often complex, design concerns.

Purchase Digging New Ground: The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900 online!


Beauty and utility: The walled kitchen gardens of Ireland (Terence Reeves-Smyth)

The Seventeenth-Century Walled Garden in Ireland (Vandra Costello)

Buildings become Nature: Rustic Structures in Irish Country House Gardens, 1700–1750 (Ruth Musielak)

Humphry Repton’s ‘Irish expedition’: Sketches and Hints on Georgian Landscape Gardening (Stephen Daniels & Finola O’Kane)

The Landscape Gardens of John Sutherland (c. 1755–1826) (Patrick Bowe)

Sharp Gradients of History in the Nineteenth-century Irish Country House Garden (Finola O’Kane)

The Advent of Iron and Glass for the Victorian Country House Garden (Laura Johnstone)

A Chapter on Ireland (Jonathan Phibbs)

In Search of Paradise: Collecting Trees in Ireland (Thomas Pakenham)

Plant hunting and its influence on the Irish country house (Seamus O’Brien)

Digging Foreign Ground: An Irish Gardener in the United States (Robert O’Byrne)

The Historic Country House Garden in Ireland: challenges for the 21st century (Catherine FitzGerald)


Finola O’Kane MRIA is a landscape historian, architect, conservation specialist and a professor at UCD. Her books include Ireland and the Picturesque: Design, Landscape Painting, and Tourism, 1700–1840 (Yale, 2013), William Ashford's Mount Merrion; The Absent Point of View (Churchill, 2012) and Landscape Design in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: Mixing Foreign Trees with the Natives (Cork, 2004) and she is a former editor of Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies.

Robert O’Byrne is a writer and lecturer specialising in Irish historic houses and gardens and the author of more than a dozen books. A former Vice-President of the Irish Georgian Society, he is currently a trustee of the Apollo Foundation and the Artists' Collecting Society. He writes a monthly column for Apollo magazine and has also contributed to The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review. Since 2012 he has written an award-winning blog,