I was raised on those English stories in which primroses dot the woods and foxgloves fill the hedgerows. When I began gardening on my own and tried growing these flowers, it quickly became apparent that in my Vermont garden, those stories were the stuff of fairy tales.
As an avid gardener, visits to Ireland’s southwest coast are always full of spectacular surprises however, as some of those fairy tales blossom before my eyes. Ireland’s Iveragh peninsula (the “Ring of Kerry”) juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf Coast channels warm waters to the region year round. So, while Ireland never gets really hot, it also never gets really cold, which allows for an amazing diversity of flowers and plants, as well as a very long growing season.
On an early trip to Derrynane, I was amazed to find pale yellow primroses literally dotting the forest floor as I walked through the park, and last year in May I got to see foxgloves flowering in the ditches, on stones walls, and in those hedgerows from the stories of my youth. Tall fuschia hedges grow wild along the roadsides, and I have seen it in flower as early as April and as late as November. Wild orchids can be found in bogs and pasture land.
There are some spectacular gardens in this area that take advantage of the temperate climate. Tree peonies and tree ferns grow here, as well as eucalyptus trees, stands of bamboo, and rhododendrons that grow to tree height. The long growing season means that plants we don’t see flowering together in the Vermont gardens I am accustomed to will be blooming at the same time in Ireland. There is always something new to see and learn when visiting an Irish garden, or wandering a hillside or back road.