There wasn’t a cloud in the sky on the morning of 1st October when some members of the IGPS went on a DIY visit to Rowallane Gardens, Saintfield, Co Down. In full compliance with the regulations, each member made an individual booking and the visit was self-guided using the excellent handout prepared by head gardener, Claire McNally, which was circulated in advance.
Essentially an informal garden carved out of fields marked out by stone walls, Rowallane’s Walled Garden is about the only element of formality and the obvious place to start one’s tour. Some of the treats on Claire’s list included a towering Salvia concolor, Itea ilicifolia with its dangling green tassels, the original Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Rowallane’ where the leaves were turning crimson, Rhododendron thomsonii which was covered in deep red blooms despite it being autumn rather than spring, and the unusual Colquhounia coccinea with white downy undersides to its leaves and dramatic scarlet-orange flowers. Colour was guaranteed by an excellent range of herbaceous plants with autumn interest including deep blue aconites, the airy wands of Actea ‘Black Negligee’, and huge stands of white Japanese anemones and Phlox paniculata ‘Mount Fuji’.
The Outer Walled Garden is home to a stunning collection of hydrangea, including Hydrangea aspera subsp. sargentiana with its large leaves and H. aspera Villosa Group but perhaps the star of the show in this area was the rarely seen Eucryphia moorei festooned with white blossom.
From here members spread out and enjoyed the early autumn colour from the eclectic selection of trees and shrubs distributed through the other areas of the garden.
Many thanks to Maeve Bell for this report and photographs.