Travel

Monday 14 July 2014

Garden Trips: A bloomin' great time for all

Niamh Horan

Published 14/07/2013|04:00

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There is always plenty to interest visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show, for instance, last year's 'Magical Tower Garden', from Diarmuid Gavin, was an 80ft high, seven-storey, pyramid with a lift running up the centre

They say if you want to be happy for an hour, get drunk; if you want to be happy for a year, get married; and if you want to be happy for a lifetime, become a gardener.

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After four days spent with an avid group of green-fingered enthusiasts, I now see the sense in the age-old proverb.

I must admit, I had brought my mother over for a trip to Chelsea Flower Show and also the gardens at Wisley, assuming it would be more her cup of tea than mine.

Something I would trot along to, feeling that seeing the smile on her face would make it all worthwhile.

But from the moment I was introduced to this fascinating breed of people, who live and breathe their passion, my mood was lifted by their good spirits and gentle nature.

It would seem gardening has the same effect as yoga, or any other type of meditation.

What a lovely thought that people spend most of their free time making their space in the world around them that little bit more beautiful.

And their stress-free nature rubbed off on me before we even caught a glimpse of any flora or fauna.

Celebrity gardener and RTE presenter Dermot O'Neill was our guide for the week, and has the impressive ability to make gardening magic, even for people like myself, who came to the trip with no previous experience.

He is so inspiring, in fact, that a number of people in the group were on a return trip with O'Neill, having enjoyed his tours in years gone by.

He has the ability to take, what I thought, was the exclusive world of gardening and bring it to the masses.

"How many of those among you pick up snails and throw them over the wall into the neighbour's garden?" he asked, in a faux scolding tone.

"Now come on, I know you've all done it," he goaded, as hands sheepishly went up around the crowd.

And there was I thinking butter wouldn't melt. I guess even gardeners have their flaws.

"Well you're all only fooling yourselves," he explained. "Mark a snail with an X the next time you're about to throw it over and I guarantee you'll see the exact same creature back in your yard the next day."

It was amusing to see the horror in their faces as the realisation swept through the troop.

As we made our way in the sunshine through the Wisley Country Gardens in Surrey, (which I was told by one gardener would be even more impressive than The Chelsea Flower Show – it turns out he was right) I was surprised how there was so much to learn and take in.

Flowers with the most unusual and interesting titles lined the long ponds and hillside. There were names such as Fire Island and Praying Hands, that look exactly as they sound, to quirky sounding flowers such as the "dinky donna" and bonsai trees that I was told are priceless.

"No, but really how much if I really wanted to buy it," I made the mistake of asking one gardener who had taken care of their bonsai for the best part of 40 years.

"I told you, it's NOT FOR SALE."

My favourite sight had to be the plastic grass, though. Much to the horror of Dermot, it's now available by the roll.

Perfect for lazy wannabes such as yours truly.

The team at Wisley gardens has also succeeded in growing rare plant blooms that you will find it incredibly hard to see anywhere else.

For example, they have encouraged a rare pink trumpet tree to flower profusely in their gardens.

Another rare sheep-eating plant (yes you read that correctly) can also be found in the gardens. The team has waited 15 years to see it burst into bloom and it finally happened this year. The flowers, with razor sharp spines, ensnare livestock that unwittingly cross its path.

Living on the edge of the Curragh, where sheep have often dined out on my mother's hard work, I wouldn't be surprised if this was on top of her shopping list when we returned home.

Weather-wise, The Chelsea Flower show itself was a washout this year. But the tears poured down our cheeks from laughter as we had fun at the stands, so I can only imagine how much better it would be in the typical sunshine the annual event has become accustomed to.

The flowers were out of this world. From 'Lady in Red' hydrangea to the 'Natasha Richardson' Rose, we seemed to see every blossom under the sun (or not).

The vibrant colour, the aroma, the pure spectacle of flowers in bloom by their thousands was enough to recommend this show to anyone. And that was before we even got to the display gardens.

The only one I was disappointed in was the Champagne Laurent-Perrier entry – they had water in the fountains rather than the real deal. Now that would have been my type of garden.

The Moran Hotel in Chiswick is a home away from home. Many of the staff are Irish, so there are friendly accents, from the reception desk to the porters, and Irish humour is commonplace as they interact with guests.

Nothing is too much trouble. From special requests at breakfast to fixing the wi-fi in your hotel room at two in the morning. Service is always prompt and with a smile. I didn't get a chance to use any of the hotel facilities as we were out making the most of our days, but the small amount of time we did spend in the hotel, we spent in the bar where the atmosphere was always lively and bustling.

Perfect at the end of a long day when you are still too awake to go back to the quietness of a hotel room.

The other thing that's great about the hotel is the location. The bus stop is right outside, buses come every two minutes and it is a two- minute drive away from the Kilburn tube station which zips you straight into the centre of London.

It is also near Cricklewood which is great for upmarket bars and restaurants such as The Gaucho Grill – if you want a nice meal out without travelling the whole way into central London.

I would recommend this trip to anyone– but if you're a garden lover, then you've found your heaven here.

From Wisley to Chelsea with Dermot's expertise as the added bonus, you won't be disappointed. He even shares all this secret tips on the tour.

So what do you do to get rid of those pesky slugs then?

Apparently a tray of your favourite beer is the best line of defence every time.

No wonder so many dads enjoy spending so much time in the garden then.

Sunday Indo Living

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