June 1st-6th - The Burren, County Clare - Caherbridge Garden.

While a garden visit is not usually one of the BNFC's excursion activities, Carl Wright's Caherbridge Garden proved to be one of the highlights of our long weekend visit to the Burren.

Here an ecologist has managed to blend over an acre of a plantsman's paradise sympathetically into the surrounding countryside so that each complements the other. The garden is situated beside the beautiful little bridge over the Caher river which can overflow into the garden at times but plants are chosen to be able to cope with the occasional flood.

Originally the cottage sat in 8½ acres of Western Atlantic hazel woodland, part of which Carl has cleared to develop the garden, but judiciously leaving the occasional native tree and some native ferns which grow on the limestone pavement.  A small area near the cottage which favoured more acid loving plants proved to be part of the original turf stack and has been improved with 24 tons of hand sieved peat to allow growth of some ericaceous plants.

Elsewhere Carl has filled pockets in the limestone pavement with 1000 tons of topsoil, all hand sieved again to cut down on future weed control!

Perhaps the hardest work has been the skilful stone constructions such as the moon gate with reflecting pond and patio all made to the same proportions and incorporating beautiful round ball fountains.

In this wonderful environment plants both rare and common seem to grow at their best including primulae, arisaemas, 85 varieties of fern, corydalis - the list is endless - and the same areas earlier in the year displayed over 200 varieties of snowdrops and hellebores.

The entrance gives an indication of the variety and rarity of the planting with a chimaera tree, laburnocyctisus, an uncommon shrub - Neilia affinis, among geums, aquilegias, geraniums etc, - all growing where there can be extremes of temperature from -17c to +30c.

It was a real privilege to see this garden still in the making and, to quote Philip Doughty, our geologist on the trip, "this garden is inspirational". While the whole Burren is like a garden, Carl has demonstrated that even in this harsh environment many of the world's rarest plants can successfully be grown here and displayed sensitively.

Margaret Marshall

Thanks to Liam McCAughey, Abigail Dunnes and Samuel Millar for the use of their photographs.

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Peach Blossom (Thyatira batis)

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