Delectable Dublin Botanic Gardens
Expecting the UnexpectedClick thumbnail to view full-size
Arriving at the Gardens
Before making the journey to the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland in the Dublin suburb of Glasnevin, check out the meteorological forecast; Irish weather is most unpredictable. On arrival, you will see the visitor’s centre, where you will find bathroom facilities, a restaurant and café where you can enjoy lunch and afternoon tea, and join one of the tours that begin here. But you may prefer to wander about the garden with the map as your guide, a bargain at one Euro. The good news is that entrance to the Botanic Gardens is free.
In 1775, the Dublin Society founded the Gardens for the purpose of advancing knowledge of plant life. Ever since then, various directors have organised the design of the area. In 1877, the government took over its running and today, over 20,000 plants grow within its boundaries, which is about 20 hectares. The Gardens are a haven for photographers, artists, poets, students of botany and philosophers. Apparently, Wittgenstein liked to drop in daily when he was living in Dublin.
Be aware that picnics, tree-climbing, fishing, hunting, cycling and the playing of loud music are forbidden activities in the fragile environment of the gardens.
Remember the old adage: take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints!
From Socrates to Seagulls
With the map as your guide, you can take the left, right or centre path through the gardens. Do not forget to look out for the witty statues along the way, like the Art Deco Dames (my title!) and the cool sculpture of a little boy gazing into a stone basin. You will also find poetry in stone. Cross the Mill Race and still keeping right, you will see another bridge, across which lies the rose garden. Trek alongside the Tolka River until you arrive at the statue of Socrates. Here, it is impossible not to rest and ponder on life awhile until you feel like moving on.
Walk until you find the serpentine pond. Be aware that the featured seagull is not a sculpture but a very naughty animal that would not pose for my photograph. About half-way along the pond, you will find the DNA-inspired sculpture by architect Charles Jencks. The Wireframe Man is a bizarre sculpture that lurks in the vegetable garden, on the other side of the Botanic Gardens. The ornamental elephant sits outside the Director's Residence.
Glasshouse MagicClick thumbnail to view full-size
Dublin's Botanic Gardens has a number of glass house. The Curvilinear Range was built by the celebrated Dublin ironmaster, Richard Turner, in 1849, of both cast iron and wrought iron. See how the iron work imitates the organic nature of tendrils and branches. The Curvilinear Range has received a Europa Nostra award for excellence in conservation architecture. The tallest building in the Gardens is the Great Palm House, originally built in 1884 and the featured plaque marks the place where Wittgenstein sat on the step while he worked . Plants in the Great Palm House include giant bamboos and bananas.
Tropical PlantsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Flower PowerClick thumbnail to view full-size
The directors have made a policy of cultivating plants that suit all climates, from semi-deserts to lush, cottage gardens, Check out the contrasting vista of florals on the south-east side of the Gardens. Beds of vibrant purple and glowing yellow blossoms flourish on one side of the alley and gentle pastels on the other. In the summertime, the rose garden is a profusion of colour, a riot of pinks and lemons, reds and oranges. The best time to see this display is during June, July and August.
Roses all the way....
Day of the TriffidsClick thumbnail to view full-size
While still in the Mill Field, look out for the giant rhubarb, with leaves that sheltered me from the torrential rain. Not far from the Wireframe Man in the vegetable garden, you will find massive sunflowers and Triffid-like thistles.
Into the ForestClick thumbnail to view full-size
Continue along the path as it winds back towards the river, and you will eventually arrive at the extreme north-west perimeter of the garden. Turn in a south-easterly direction and work your way past the many species of deciduous trees that feature in the lexicon of Irish fauna; larch, hawthorn, beech, chestnut and several others. When you arrive at the yew tree that marks the entrance to the fruit and vegetable garden, turn left and walk until you arrive at Pine Hill, an elevated point that overlooks a glorious vista of elevated pines. From here, you can descend to the delectable plant varieties of the rock garden. Whichever way you go, do not neglect to return to the fruit and vegetable garden.
Diverse CulturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Watch this space
Outside the cultivated garden, continue along the path until you come to “Wild Ireland”, a strange, lost and lovely arena demonstrating what happens when nature takes over once inhabited areas of land. Compare and contrast this area with the lush vegetation about the pond.
On leaving Wild Ireland, you still have wonders to behold; vistas of extravagant blossoms, hanging baskets and a reconstruction of a 10th century Viking house. But this is only the beginning; like all gardens, the Dublin Botanic Garden changes with time and the seasons – watch this space.