Diarmuid Gavin's gardening calendar for 2016
The renowned gardener sets out his gardening calendar for the year ahead and identifies where you should visit and what you should see.
1 March to May
If you only visit one garden this year, make sure it's The Dillon GARDEN in Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Helen Dillon is a genius at creating beautiful scenes with plants. Join one of her classes, which take place on Saturdays until May 14. Running from 10am to 12.30pm, it costs €20 paid on the day and refreshments are included.
SEE: dillongarden.com; (01) 497 1308
2 March to August
Kilmurry Nursery is a family-run nursery in Gorey, Co Wexford with a superlative collection of top quality herbaceous and perennial plants. Enjoy the garden and relax in the tea rooms.
SEE: kilmurrynursery.com; (053) 948 0223
3 March to September
The Irish Specialist Nursery Association run plant fairs across the country and throughout the year which are great hunting grounds for good and unusual species. Join them at:
St Anne's Park, Raheny, Dublin: Saturday March 19
Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin: Sunday March 27 and Bank Holiday Monday March 28
Airfield, Dundrum, Dublin 14: Sunday April 10
Mallow Home and Garden Show, Mallow, Co Cork: Friday May 27 to Sunday May 29
Fota House, Fota Island, Co Cork: Sunday, September 18
4 March to October
For a beautifully curated collection of herbaceous perennials and grasses visit Mount Venus Walled Garden, Mutton Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16. Plan the trip carefully as this garden can be tricky to find but it's worth the adventure.
SEE: mountvenusnursery.com; (01) 493 3813
5 March to October
If you wish to choose from a spirited collection of trees or shrubs, pay a visit to the wonderful nursery and garden centre Future Forests in Kealkill, Bantry, Co Cork. The centre features in Dare to be Wild, the feature movie that's been made about Wexford woman Mary Reynolds' gold medal win at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2002.
SEE: futureforests.net; (027) 66176
6 March to December
When touring the South West visit the sub-tropical garden at Kells Bay House and Gardens on the Ring of Kerry. It specialises in tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica and other hardy exotics.
SEE: kellsgardens.ie; (066) 947 7975
7 March to December
Visit the Kilsaran Exhibition Centre in Dunboyne, Co Meath for loads of gardening inspiration. The site includes a growing series of show gardens which demonstrate how to use paving to create pathways, seating areas, and water features.
Each year a national competition is held for students attending horticultural colleges throughout the land to find new gardening talent. Part of their prize is to have their winning design created.
SEE: kilsaran.ie; (01) 802 6300
8 March to December
Stam Bamboo was established in 1988 and Peter Stam is Ireland's renowned bamboo specialist. Based in Lismore, Co Waterford, they have over 90 different types, from dwarf ground cover varieties to mature specimen plants of majestic proportions. Visitors are welcome to the nursery but phone in advance to make an appointment.
SEE: stambamboo.com; (058) 54787
Go for a spring walk amidst the blossoms of ancient rhododendrons at National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh in Wicklow and hear the remarkable stories of this estate and the introduction of exotic species to Ireland. There are daily walks at 3pm, meeting in the car park. Admission is free but booking is advised.
SEE: botanicgardens.ie; (404) 48844
Join the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland which organises events, lectures, garden outings and tours. This year, the organisation celebrates its 200th birthday, and as part of the celebrations the Bicentenary Lecture will be held at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin on April 13. The lecture will be given by Seamus O'Brien, Head Gardener of the National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh, and horticultural national treasure. Travelling through Kilmacurragh's wildflower meadows, bulb lawns, herbaceous borders, and the tree and shrub collection, Seamus will also focus on the re-planting and restoration of the gardens.
SEE: rhsi.ie; (01) 493 7154
The Organic Centre at Rossinver in Co Leitrim, runs fascinating courses throughout the year on all things organic. One of this season's highlights is sure to be the Masterclass on Healthy Soil and Plants. Led by one of Europe's most experienced organic gardeners, Klaus Leitenberger, it takes place on Saturday April 23. Klaus will demonstrate how to build soil fertility. He will also show how growing without pesticides and herbicides will produce healthy plants and food. The talk will include a session on growing some more unusual vegetables such as oca, mashua, yacon, lentils, amaranth, quinoa as well as some fruits such as sea buckthorn and rosehips.
SEE: theorganiccentre.ie; (071) 985 4338
The National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin in Dublin are always worth a visit. Apart from the stunning gardens and collection of plants, they run great events throughout the year, many for children such as pond-dipping and flower pressing. On April 23 and 24, a wide variety of orchids will be on display during the annual Dublin Orchid Fair. This event is of interest to both beginner and accomplished growers. As part of the fair there will be talks on growing orchids and a tour of the Glasnevin orchid collection.
SEE: botanicgardens.ie; (01) 804 0300
The gorgeous Hunting brook gardens, created by Jimi Blake - the former head gardener at Airfield Estate - in Blessington, Co Wicklow are always worth a visit. On May 4 and 5, you can join Jimi on a shopping trip to one of my Chelsea plant suppliers, the renowned Crug Farm nurseries in Wales, followed by a visit to the beautiful gardens of Bodnant and Plas Cadnant. Cost €250 includes coach, ferry entrances fees and guided tours.
Closer to home, Jimi's sister June Blake's garden is also a treat with beautiful herbaceous borders (juneblake.ie).
SEE: huntingbrook.com; 087 285 6601
Bloom celebrates its 10th anniversary on the June Bank Holiday weekend this year. There will be a host of exhibits at the Phoenix Park, including sculptures, botanical art, craft displays as well as the all-important show gardens.
15 July and August
I'll be giving a talk at Arboretum Home and Garden Centre in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow on July 23 as part of the Carlow Garden Festival. I'll be joined by the green-fingered geniuses Helen Dillon and Carmel Duignan to chat about our experiences of creating a garden at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. The festival runs until August 1, and other speakers include Neil Porteous, head gardener at Mount Stewart, and celebrated authors and gardeners Thomas Pakenham and Mary Keen.
You should also pay a visit to the new Arboretum branch in Kilquade, Wicklow. This incorporates the National Garden Exhibition Centre, a nicely matured collection of many different garden styles by some of Ireland's most innovative designers.
SEE: arboretum.ie; (059) 972 1558
The Totally Terrific Tomato Festival at Killruddery House, in Co Wicklow, takes place on Sunday September 4. As its tricky title suggests, it's dedicated to all kinds of tomatoes - especially heirloom and open-pollinated - and the wondrous diversity they represent. There'll be competitions for tomatoes of all classes, shapes and sizes. If you'd like to join in the competition and the display, now is the time to start preparing and growing.
SEE: killruddery.com; (01) 286 3405