Despite drought, rain and the coronavirus, work on a sensory garden in An Díseart is nearing completion and will give the community an opportunity to deepen their connection with the earth when it opens on August 10.
The garden was designed by Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner Mary Reynolds and landcaped by Breda Enright, Tom Healy and Robert Hickson with the help of contractor Sean Moriarty whose machines did the initial heavy lifting.
The Covid-19 lockdown put a halt to the development during the spring when work on the garden was at a crucial stage and hundreds of trees and shrubs were at risk of being lost if they weren't planted. However, Breda managed to maintain the plants through the period of drought and lockdown and when it was possible to resume work there was a race against time to get everything in the ground.
The revised planting schedule meant areas of the garden were no longer accessible to machinery but Breda, Tom and Robert put their backs into the job, digging and hauling soil and planting at a furious pace. Their efforts paid off and those who have already been hugely impressed with their work include designer Mary Reynolds and some of the Presentation Sisters who previously lived in the convent.
The former Presentation Convent was the home to The Presentation Sisters from 1878 and the old garden was first laid out in 1894. The new garden that has now been completed is the third part of project envisaged by Msgr. Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, who established An Díseart in the former convent in 1996.
Díseart board member, Sr. Marie Wall said: "It puts the finishing touches to the original plan which the late Mons Pádraig Ó Fiannachta had to develop the garden in stages - Family Tree Garden, Labyrinth Meditation Garden and now the Sensory Garden."
The garden which will be open to the public on August 10 has the protection of biodiversity as a central theme in the choice of plants and the overall design. Sections of the gardens are planted with wildflowers and will be left unmowed to provide habitats for insects and bees. Sr. Marie explained the rationale behind the garden
"This development was made to heighten our sense of place and deepen our connection with the earth. Over time the trees will develop into a balanced ecosystem with wild flowers, all creating a haven for wildlife as well as for people who can come to enjoy the everchanging landscape," she said.
The newly planted garden will take a number of years to become fully established and the Board of An Díseart are hopeful that the community will get involved in helping protect the area. "These gardens belong to the people of Corca Dhuibhne. We hope everyone will take pride in them. We remember the challenges that followed keeping the Dingle Town Park safe and clean. All are welcome to enjoy the gardens but we ask everyone to ensure that they are cared for properly," a spokesperson for An Díseart said.
The development of the sensory garden was made possible through a grant from the Town and Renewal Scheme, which covered 85 per cent of the landscaping costs. The Bord of an Díseart are grateful to Cllr Seamus Cosaí Mac Gearailt for his assistance, and also for the support from the Community Employment Scheme and in particular, CFCD scheme supervisor Joe Brick.