An Historic Garden
Unlike many great gardens which are but the creations of yesterday , the development of the scene of beauty before us at Hamwood was not accomplished by one man or by one generation , but is the result of an unbroken continuity of refined taste , and a keen perception of beauty on the part of several generations of the ancestors of the present owner , as witness the magnificent Pines and Cedars , second to none in Ireland …
The Gardens of Ireland ca. 1900
Hamwood Gardens have been an important part of the estate over centuries. Early generations formed the walled gardens and the ‘pleasure grounds’ with a parterre, and exotic trees and rarer species were planted particularly by Charles Robert IV who was around at an exciting time of pioneering plant collection and reproduction from all corners of the earth. Bearing in mind the Wollemi pine was only discovered in 1994 it was extraordinary to have established such trees that are seen at Hamwood from remote parts of the Himalayas, China and Western USA. One of the largest and most interesting tree is a Monterey Pine which stands imperiously along the Pine Walk and is noted in the Irish Tree Council’s records :
Only one of this species had to be measured as low as one foot up the bole. This is a huge tree at Hamwood which at that height has a girth of 29 feet. In 1905, it was 17 feet, and in 1931, it was 22 feet 6 in.
The climate and limestone soil are exceptional to promote such growth , although sadly now some of the original trees have reached almost 100 feet and are becoming casualties in the recent ferocious storms. The walled garden offered protection from frosts and wind damage to the many exotic plants within and high hedges of yew and beech were grown to shield the flower beds particularly for roses. The yew hedges were trimmed immaculately in the shape of battlements , using shears and ladders.
The gardens are divided into different sections covering some 10 acres: Front and rear lawns, walled garden, pine walk and Spring garden. In the walled garden visitors can see where greenhouses were constructed where even up to the 1960’s there was an abundance of fruit and vegetables grown there , including peaches , nectarines and grape vines. The glasshouses were temperature controlled by a system of piped hot water which was heated by a coal fired boiler.
The first impression fixing itself one the mind of a visitor to this enchanting and remarkable place is one of its great natural beauty , its antiquity , as testified by its gigantic trees, its great extent, and finally, its magnificence from the horticulturist’s point of view.
Half an acre was dedicated to growing soft fruit with row upon row of raspberries , strawberries , gooseberries and blackcurrants . Apples , pears and cherries formed an orchard on some 3 acres , now mostly a plantation of young oak trees , but in its day a weekly cart of produce would go up to the market in Dublin.
Here, azaleas were planted in vast copper troughs filled with peat transported by horse and cart from the local bogs, as the soil is too high in lime for ericaceous shrubs. Similarly the rhododendrons. The two Irish yew trees were planted in the early 1800’s and beyond the furthest one were two lawn tennis courts, now incorporated in the Lawn field. The parterre has been filled in but at one time was a sight to behold appearing in The Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener as a fine example of colour and design by Charles Robert IV , who was both botanist and arborist.
The magnolias and other trees and shrubs were planted within the past fifty years by the Major, Charles VI.
The rose bed with its diamond shape hosts an abundance of old and highly scented roses surrounding the striking urn. A wisteria planted around 1990 has climbed to the very top of the adjacent trees making quite an impression in May/June. At the rear of this lawn lies the sunken lane allowing stock and farmworkers to pass without the view being interrupted. Certain fit family members used to leap across on their run into Dublin on a regular basis- some 12 miles!
In the woods beside stand a pair of red woods towering above the surrounding trees.
Charles III planted out the Pine Walk often called the Long Walk as it ran straight from the main house to Hamwood Stud for almost a mile. The trees lining the route are of immense stature. Cedars, Cypresses, and the magnificent Monterey Pine is one of the finest in the country. At its summit, barely visible is a raven’s nest where the pair return every year, quite content to be swaying some 20 feet in a high wind !
There are few places in Ireland, or, indeed elsewhere, more full of interest than Hamwood. Hamwood is not one of the big places with a stately mansion and great ranges of glasshouses. It is however, replete with objects of interest in a gardening point of view, which many more pretending places do not possess. It is interesting in its being experimental, Mr Hamilton’s great pleasure being in testing the practicability of performing this or that, in testing various modes of cultivation, the different varieties of plants etc.
Journal of Horticulture 1872