The inaugural meeting of the Irish Garden Plant Society took place on 7th July 1981, a draft constitution was discussed, amended and adopted and a committee elected.
The first committee had the following members: as reported in the first newsletter of the society which was published in August 1981: (Titles may have changed in the meantime)
- Chairman: Dr Charles Nelson, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin
- Honorary Secretary: Miss Mary Forrest, An Taisce c/o National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin
- Honorary Treasurer: Miss Anne James, Parks Department, Dublin Corporation
- Mrs. Rosemary Browne, Bray, Co. Wicklow
- Mrs. Helen Dillon, Dublin
- Peter Jackson, Botanic Garden, Trinity College, Dublin. Vice Chairman
- Dr. Neil Murray, Dundrum, Co. Dublin
- Dermot O Neill, Dublin
- Mrs. Mary Simpson, Foxrock, Co. Dublin
- Dr. David Willis, New University of Ulster, Coleraine. Regional Representative.
From its establishment, the society wished to follow the model of the U.K. body, The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG) which functioned by means of a central council and affiliated groups around the country. In a way, the IGPS was an offspring of the NCCPG, since the idea of an Irish group was greatly stimulated by one of the council’s members, Mrs. Anne Kenrick. The IGPS has, since its founding, been affiliated with the NCCPG.
The society publishes a newsletter three times each year and it is an excellent means of communication with members advising them of upcoming events, reporting on the societies activities and carrying articles of interest. To date, sixteen volumes of the society’s journal “Moorea” have been published. The newsletter and the journal are free to members as part of their subscription.
Initially, the IGPS was centred in Dublin but soon expanded to a second group in the North of Ireland (Belfast) and later another group was established in Munster (Cork) so that, presently, there are three regional groups each with its own regional committee with the overall management of the society’s affairs in the hands of an Executive Committee.
In pursuit of its aims each region arranges a series of winter gardening talks and a summer programme of garden visits – at first glance, much the same as many another gardening society but there is an emphasis on Irish gardens and on Irish plants. There is also an annual Annual General Meeting weekend which is very popular as there is always an attractive programme of garden visits associated with it. Regions also occasionally more ambitious garden events, organised trips abroad to visit gardens etc. Over the years there have been several major seminars which aimed to promote an interest in Irish plants and gardens which were a great success.
In 2001, the society published “A Heritage of Beauty – The Garden Plants of Ireland, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia” by Dr. E. Charles Nelson which lists 3,500 cultivars among them 1,000 daffodil cultivars raised in Ireland and 800 roses of Irish origin. This volume gives the background to each plant listed – where it originated, who grew it etc and provides the kind of information on Irish plants which endears them to people, the personal details and histories.
A big event in the Society’s history was having a stand at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1990 where a display of Irish plants attracted great attention and was very favourably received. There are many great stories surrounding the organisation for this event – a group of amateurs organising a stand at the show was quite a challenge and was done on a shoestring. However, the outcome was that the display was awarded a Silver Medal, a great achievement for such a small group.
One wonderful development has been an arrangement between the IGPS and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cooltra, Belfast. The Museum gave the IGPS the gardens of the Lismacloskey Rectory to develop as a showpiece for Irish plants and IGPS members and garden volunteers have developed the gardens over the past few years. It is a wonderful example of co-operation between organisations and a wonderful opportunity for the society.
Members of the society have a particular interest in Irish plants and there is a great deal of exchange between members. It is a fun and enjoyable aspect of the society and members treasure plants received in this way. Plants are also offered for sale at our plant sales – at least one each year in each region. These attract a great attendance, plants are offered at very good prices and it is a way to ensure Irish plants are grown in our gardens.
The next plant sale will be at Rowallane Gardens on the 5th of October from noon to 5p.m.
There will be another on October 12, 11a.m. – 2p.m.at the Trinity College Botanic Gardens, 6 Palmerston Park, Dublin 6. This is the biggest plant sale of the year and a great opportunity to acquire interesting plants. The plant sale in Cork will be next April.
Members are also sent a list of seeds each year from which they choose a selection free of charge. The seeds are collected by members in their own gardens and donated to the society. Stephen Butler, Horticulturalist at Dublin Zoo, has organised this seed list for quite a few years now. It is a great way to obtain new plants – free!
In the last year the society has put quite an effort into developing an online presence with a re-launched website: http://irishgardenplantsociety.com/
where the society’s events are listed along with photograph albums of society events and where members may access all the past issues of the society’s journal, “Moorea” and articles from past issues of the society’s newsletter. Other areas of the website will be developed in time. There is also a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IrishGardenPlantSociety?fref=ts
which has over 2,000 “Friends” at present and a Twitter account: https://twitter.com/igpstweets
New members are ALWAYS welcome and can join via the website or find a printable membership form there.
Our regular events are split into three groups, representing different geographic regions:
Each region has a committee with Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and, perhaps, Events Co-ordinator and organises events locally for members. There is a winter programme of gardening talks and a summer programme of garden visits with occasional plant sales. Non-members are very welcome to come along to the events. There will be a charge for non-members – this is a demand of our insurers – and you would be most welcome to become a member.
There is a central Executive Committee consisting of Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and a Regional Representative from each of the regional committees along with other committee members.
Our Annual General Meeting is held in May each year and is organised in turn by each of the regional committees. As well as the meeting itself there is a programme of garden visits and an AGM dinner on the evening of the meeting. It is one of the highlight social events of the year.