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May 10th - Kilcoan Gardens, County Antrim


Leader: Cherry Townsend




The Field Club always try not to arrange trips which clash with other events to avoid having to drive through heavy traffic. We can still get it wrong – an event down South when there was a cycle race going to Newry, and a trip to Derry by train which coincided with the Air Show at Portrush, are two memorable occasions!


Unknown to us the date for this field trip was the same as the Giro d'Italia! The route closed roads all round the North of Ireland including the road to Larne which was the only access to the turn off for Islandmagee. Despite this a keen group of members set out early, picnicked at Drains Bay and so were able to arrive at Cherry’s garden at the expected time. Thanks to mobile technology we were able to keep her up to date with our progress.

Cherry Townsend took up gardening as a hobby about 12 years ago. This hobby soon turned into an obsession and a few years ago Cherry decided that she would like to be able to earn a living from her love of flowers and so Kilcoan Gardens was born.

She was fortunate to have an extensive mature garden of 2 acres in situ, featuring a wide range of shrubs and perennials.

With plenty of material from which to propagate, the gardens soon started to bloom. A mild maritime climate on the peninsula of Islandmagee (but with plenty of wind!) means considerably less frost than inland, so flowers like dahlias continue for several weeks longer than in gardens further from the coast.


The  gardens are organically run and so are full of a diverse range of wildlife including many different birds and insects, with several wildflower meadows and a small pond.

Cherry took us on a tour of the garden which has beautiful views over Larne Lough. She pointed out the plants that were good for wildlife as we went along.  The recently established cut flower field includes eight raised beds full of annuals and five large perennial beds all of which contain plants suitable for cut flower production. There are also several established perennial beds, a willow arch and a newly planted prairie border.


The weather was dull and showery but we still saw a Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) in flight and watched Carder (Bombus pascuorum), Early (Bombus pratorum) and White-tailed (Bombus lucorum) bumblebees feeding in the flower rich areas.


She left a field uncut and ungrazed to allow it form to a wildlife meadow and has been delighted to find Yellow Rattle has established itself naturally this year. It has become a favourite spot for hares and they are often seen there at dawn and dusk.


We finished the afternoon with a welcome afternoon tea in the barn with tasty home-made tray bakes.

 

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Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

Lady’s Smock

(Cardamine pratensis)