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Kells Bay Gardens need protection


A SOUTH Kerry garden featuring some of Ireland's finest sub tropical plants should be given protected status, according to a leading horticultural expert.

Former Gardener's World presenter Roy Lancaster made the call during a day-long conference on plants from the southern hemisphere held at Kells Bay Gardens.

Owned by Billy and Penn Alexander, the gardens feature tree ferns, palms and other hardy exotics from around the world which flourish in the milder microclimate found in the Kells area.

The couple staged the facility's first ever 'Southern Sypmosium' on plants of the southern hemisphere this month and invited Mr Lancaster along as guest speaker on the day. The presenter is currently an advisor to Britain's Prince Charles at Highgrove but first visited the gardens in the 1980s. In a speech to dozens of gardening enthusiasts, Mr Lancaster commended the work being undertaken to restore, preserve and enhance the exceptional collection of plants at Kell's Bay Gardens.

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"I'm astonished that the gardens remain unprotected by statutory recognition or support as their importance is of international importance - without such help it is difficult for such gardens to survive," he added.

Fellow guest speaker Seamus O'Brien, of Kilmacurragh, endorsed the call for protection and support for the gardens and warned the important plant collection was potentially vulnerable to the whims of the commercial property market.

The collection is important because of the variety of specimens and the rarity of plants that cannot grow elsewhere in Europe including, for example, the Tree Fern and the Chilean Myrtle.

The Alexanders now hope to make the Southern Symposium an annual event and places are already reserved for 2015.