Our Garden – Ballyrobert Gardens

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Our Garden

The garden is a Royal Horticultural Society Partner Garden and is open everyday from March to October except on Sundays. We welcome all types of visitors. We trial and propagate our plants from here.

We believe the garden is set apart from others for two main reasons; it is designed to blend into the countryside (we have a bit of woodland) and it contains an extensive collection of LABELLED (!) plant varieties; over 4000 at last count. 

We are not a park or country estate! This makes us different from many other gardens open to the public. The style of the garden is intended to be subtle. As mentioned, we hope to blend in with the surrounding countryside. The garden area extends to approximately 6 acres - about 3 or 4 football pitches, altho our woodland and wilded area is about 10 acres. The length of time visitors usually spend in the garden is anything between half an hour to half a day. It depends on the person and their interests! For guidance; when we give a guided tour of the 6 acre garden to groups it takes us just over one hour to get around on average.

To find out more about entrance fees, visiting times, group tours, and so on please click here. To find out more about the garden, keep reading!

Take a Wee Tour...

Ballyrobert Gardens commenced its initial development, around 300 years ago, as a small farm. It existed in that form until we came along in 1994 and started to dig beds and add trees. Then it became a garden, a nursery, and….a small farm.

The site was quite rich in wildlife and had a bit of history. After a lot of thought and soul searching we planned to garden in a way to fit the local landscape. Throughout the process we have been as careful as possible to blend our love of gardening with the rich built and natural history of the site. So let’s start a wee tour…..

The Entrance

The entrance to the property in 1994 consisted of a nondescript tubular gate. A search of the local area soon revealed what a traditional entrance ought to look like and so we dutifully copied the design for the pillars and the gate. Note the nearby fairy tree - such trees were (are?) sacred to the old pagans and if damaged or cut down they bring lots of bad luck to the culprit. Legend has it John Delorean cut one down himself for his local car factory after local workers refused to do so ….. the rest is history.

Fortunately, our tree is beside the entrance pillars, also associated with fairies who guard the property! One of the pillars are left slightly flat on top to allow the fairies to dance, hang out, hold all-night-raves etc.

The Station Lawn

This area is so called because at one time there was a railway station across the road.

The soil thought out our land is very heavy and in winter is frequently covered in water. We are not to be deterred because we know there are thousands of plants which like such conditions and we have trial and choose accordingly. We are quite Darwinian in our plant selection; if a plant thrives without any input we keep it, if it doesn't then we replace it until something else does!

The station lawn is also the location of our ‘holetree’ which is basically a natural sculpture to reflect a nearby prehistoric holestone. Maurice has a mild obsession with photographing the holestone, which probably says something about its ancient efficacy as place of pagan worship. 

The Cottage Garden

The area immediately to the front of the cottage is the only area of the property that had been gardened since its inception. Previously this would have provided for food for the inhabitants. There are two ungrafted apple trees here, so we guess they date back over 100 years. This garden is primarily ornamental now but we kept the apple trees and added some blackcurrants and herbs as a nod to its productive past.

For keener eyes we also have more choice plants in this area and in particular our rare snowdrops and Erythronium.

One of the pics here was taken very soon after a misty dawn, hence the wonderful colours. #NoFilter.

The Glenlinchy Borders

No garden in County Antrim is complete without a glen and we are fortunate to have a small natural glen.

To the rear of one side of the glen we have quite a few large borders with interest all year round. As you move from these ornamental borders to the glen and woodland area the planting mixes naturalises to contain snowdrops, wood anemones, blue bells, etc

We quite like this area in autumn and winter. 

The Lakeside Garden

We have a small lake in the glen from which elements of the garden radiate outwards towards various focal points.

The most dominate feature is the Azalea display in May but there is some lovely autumn colour which reflects of the surface of the lake. In spring there is an abundance of peach coloured flowers and foliage; rather unusual but beautiful.

Woodland Garden

There is quite a lot of woodland around the garden but in this particular area of trees we have tried to garden quite intensively. It is surprising what you can grow in some shady areas, for example some grasses! Various woodlanders have been chosen to grow under the tree canopies which creates specific conditions for growth but also adds to appearance and effect. To make the area more intimate we have created a natural path that is in keeping with the philosophy of the garden. In addition to the cheerful azaleas in spring, note also the carpeting impact of low growing plants.

In the woods we also added some fairy houses. A bit corny, yes, but the kids and fairies love them.

The Orchard Garden

Our heavy soil and the fact that we are in a frost pocket does not allow for good fruit growing. The orchard is therefore for visual impact and wildlife.

We have apples, cherries, and plums and yet any fruit we produce seems to be taken by the birds first!

Our natural sculptured pear is nod to the difficulty of growing fruit here. We are guaranteed to have at least one fruit!

The Formal Garden

This area is basically the only area of formality that we have in the garden and this applies only to the layout as opposed to the plant design. We used to have a box hedge but felt that even that might be a bit too formal given the path already gave the area structure. The path is in the shape of a high cross and this is another nod to the local history.

Planting is informal with a mix of plants with an experimental emphasis on edging plants.

The Rear Garden

The Cottage Garden is designed to be seen from the cottage and the same situation applies to this garden, but to the rear. The beautiful views from the kitchen window and the patio reveal a garden that allows the formality of the cottage to gradually change to informality as the garden enters the countryside. We have a great fondness for this area since wildlife of all kinds, from hares to foxes are regularly at our back door. Cattle also say hello from the neighbouring wooded field.

 

 

Into the woods

We have three main areas of woodland and these have a range of mixed habitat to attract wildlife. They are accessible via pathways, and we hope to make more. There is significant amount of under planting especially of bulbous type plants with displays of snowdrops and bluebells added to with choice varieties of wood anemone and cyclamen.

The woods provide a wonderful backdrop to the garden and whist mainly native we have added many interesting plants from walnut to magnolia. We'll like add more paths and ferns as time goes by.

On the wild side

Whilst the garden is very much designed with the natural environment in mind we have an area of the garden (farm?) that is distinctly wild and is all about creating conditions to maximise wildlife. This is often referred to as ‘wilding’ best exemplified by Knepp, West Sussex – albeit on thousands of acres there! We have devoted a much more modest ten acres to this concept. Basically the concept is very low intensity grazing on mixed herbage to reflect conditions of the distant past.

When we set about this project we decided to also have a visual design aspect. What we have here is a large spiral and another area devoted to a concentric ring shapes both of which are plentiful on the ancient art work on the Dolmens at Newgrange (older than the pyramids BTW). These features have been designed so that they create an oasis/walkway of roughly one mile through the rushes.

The wildlife is tremendous in this area but very shy. For example woodcock and snipe are plentiful as are grasshopper warblers.

Most people end their visit to the ornamental garden and woodlands by walking round this area. So we'll stop here! Perhaps you will visit in person sometimes soon...