Organised this year by the Northern region, a great weekend was enjoyed by over ninety members and guests at our 37th AGM held at the Burrendale Hotel, Newcastle ,County Down. After the meeting on the Saturday the delegates were bused to Castlewellan Forest Park where they had a guided tour of the internationally famed Arboretum led by Head gardener Alwyn Sinnamon and Seamus O’Brien of Killmacurragh National Botanic Garden.
After lunch in a local pub, we headed back to the park to explore Sam Harrison’s 2 acre garden, Sam’s beautifully designed garden and his collection of rare and unusual plants was a such a delight that several members, not wanting to leave, had secreted themselves in the undergrowth or clung tightly to garden benches ; considerable persuasion was required to get them back to the buses.
But in general they were all fairly well behaved and each were rewarded with a Fuchsia ‘Mount Stewart’ kindly donated from Mount Stewart, National Trust garden by head gardener Neil Porteous.
A fun evening dinner in the hotel with free raffle of Irish Heritage plants and an auction of several rare Eucryphia completed a fabulous day.
Our Sunday visits started at Ballyedmond Estate, Rosstrevor, home of Lady Ballyedmond. Sited on the shores of Carlingford Lough this was a rare opportunity to see a garden unlike any other in Ireland. Members were treated to morning coffee in the Orangery before being guided through acres of early summer blooms taking in spectacular fountains and steps of cascading water, a woodland trail, a Grecian Temple, French bandstand and a harbour promenade.
The afternoon concluded with a visit to the model mill village of Bessbrook, County Armagh where we relaxed in the tranquil town garden of noted Alpine Garden Society members William and Hilary McKelvey. Developed over several decades this plant packed garden created a wealth of interest and lots of questions. Afterwards tea and coffee in the local church hall allowed everyone to reminisce on the weekend and say their goodbyes.
Amazing gardens, exceptional hosts, great company and impressive organisation.
Thanks everyone – hope to see you all next year, Billy
And finally….to show you that IGPS members take the very best care of their plants!