Formal Garden, Aghavannagh, Co. Wicklow
There were two main themes in mind when designing the garden at Aghavannagh. The walled paddock at the front of the Barracks originally served as a parade ground and any design would have its Palladian symmetry as a main point of reference. Inspired by gardens laid out in front other former military buildings, particularly the Royal Hospital in Dublin (now IMMA), the decision to create a small pleasure garden on formal lines was adhered to.
The second theme, unrelated to soldiers and parade grounds, was apples. The intention being to weave a garden into the framework of an orchard. One hundred free standing M106 apples of various hardy varieties were chosen and laid out at four metre intervals, with pears and plums espaliered on a long retaining wall. The Barracks is located just under the mountain of Luqnaquilla, the season short, and the surrounding landscape hungry and rugged. The idea was to create a walled space of blossom and fruitful bounty in the wild hills.
The initial ground works involved digging out a level platform below the house and creating terraces and steps that lead down to the garden. This involved moving and rearranging many hundreds of tons of top soil and sub soil, laying land drains and moving semi- mature trees to suit the new layout.
The design follows ‘two squares’ outlined by twelve apple trees and divided by a central rose arch. In the centre of each apple square a box parterre planted with lavender hidcote and yew topiary has been set around a full moon laid out in granite cobbles. Beyond this a hornbeam cloister thirty metres long and eight metres wide has been grown with the intention of creating a secretive retreat in the heart of the garden. This has been set out with leafy windows creating lines of sight dissecting and capturing the various vistas.
Beyond the hornbeam cloister, a wildflower meadow set amongst a further expanse of apples leads to the crumbling perimeter wall that has been capped with a long yew hedge. Clipped balls of holly line the driveway and further yew hedges frame the terraces and steps at the front of the house. Many thousands of snowdrops, narcissi, and crocus have been planted around the trees and open spaces and the wild flower meadow hosts a wide variety from camissia to dog tooth violets to fox gloves. The garden has grown into a peaceful and productive place of order and reflection, complimenting the Barracks, yet always looking to the surrounding hills.