The recent death of celebrity gardener Dermot O'Neill has brought back fond memories for Brendan and Lorna Enright, who tended the beautiful Rose Garden in Tralee Town Park for many years prior to their retirement in 2018.
The couple were personal friends with Dermot, a frequent visitor to the town park when he would compliment the couple on their dedication to the gardens.
Dermot would occasionally reference the beauty of their work during his many television shows on RTÉ, at public lectures, and in his publications.
"I was so sad to hear he died. I remember the first time I met him he was wandering around the rose garden,” said Brendan.
"He told me he was fascinated by the colour, variety, and layout. He said it was one of the finest rose gardens for a public park anywhere in Ireland. He couldn't give enough praise for it."
In 2007, Dermot published a book entitled ‘Roses Revealed’ in which Tralee Rose Garden was listed as a ‘must visit’ for rose enthusiasts.
"He always mentioned Tralee Rose Garden. I have a signed copy of that book that he sent me. At the back of it Dermot published a list of all the major rose gardens in Europe; he included Tralee Rose Garden as well,” said Brendan.
“This was a great honour for Lorna and me, as well as being good for Tralee tourism. He gave me the idea for the pillar roses – to give the garden a bit of height. He also gave me a few varieties of roses; one named 'Wild Edric' is still in the town park today. He was a great ambassador for gardening."
Brendan believes Dermot’s easy-going personality and the way he simplified gardening techniques made him popular with people.
"He was just so nice about everything. He made people feel at ease,” he said.
"We met Dermot at a Bloom Festival in Dublin where he was giving a lecture. He spotted me and Lorna in the audience and introduced us as the people who oversaw the beautiful rose garden in Tralee.
"He was very good like that. He would often ring me and ask how things were going. When he bought his own walled garden, and an old-style cottage, we often discussed what he would grow there. He couldn't be nicer."
Brendan explains that because Dermot travelled so extensively around Europe viewing rose gardens and obtaining new ideas, he was able to share with fellow gardeners what he learned.
“This was something he liked to do, it made him popular with people as he easily shared his knowledge. He was also a very accomplished cook and a good judge of wine; he loved his wines," said Brendan.
"I remember one time when Dermot and Derek Mooney visited me in the Green. Dermot picked out a bed of lupins we had growing. After roses, lupins were his second favourite flower. He told me his mother used to grow them when he was a child. He always loved them because of that,” said Brendan.