A walk among the tulips by David Corscadden
What does spring mean to you? New growth on plants? Flowers emerging? Longer days? For me, it has to be tulips and colour. As many gardeners will know, the weather has not been a friend to plants this spring. Finally though nature has caught up with itself and now gardens are awash with colour and interest for everyone to enjoy. Personally for me the best part of Powerscourt in spring is the tulip festival, which was in full swing when I visited the gardens last.
With over 10,000 tulip bulbs planted around the grounds I don’t think you could find a better place in Ireland to enjoy their beauty. One of the best places to enjoy them I found was in the walled garden. The display is particularly great around Julia’s Memorial and along the herbaceous border, which has seen great growth in recent weeks.
With the roses at the memorial still a month or so away from bloom, the great show of mainly orange, yellow and red tulips are a great addition of colour here. I was particularly impressed with the display of tulips that are found in the beds that flank either side of the Ball Throwers statues. They were a great sight with the tulips dancing in the breeze above the carpet of spring bedding plants.
The walled garden could not be overshadowed however, with a great eruption of growth and flowers since my last visit. The walls surrounding the garden were unrecognisable when I walked through the gates into the garden. Now they are covered in lush leaves from the many fruit trees growing up the walls and were speckled with white and pink blossoms that contrasted against the bricks perfectly.
The herbaceous border had changed dramatically with the great weather. There was so much growth on the herbaceous plants that adorn it. You could really start to see glimpses of the borders soon to be great plant display that will last until autumn. One particular plant that caught my eye was Rheum palmatum atropurpureum. Its great burgundy foliage is found near the English Gate. I fell in love with this particular plant and am now on the hunt to get one for my own garden.
The display of narcissus that I had talked so highly of in my last blog post has begun to fade but there is no lack of colour. The vivid yellow of the narcissus has been replaced with a multitude of colour from the great selection of tulips that now occupy the beds.
Of all the tulips planted at Powerscourt two of my personal favourites are found planted within the herbaceous border. The first is a scarlet red tulip which I think looks just great and adds a sense of drama to the bed.
The other, which I will admit I have fallen head over heels for, is a blush pink variety that has hints of orange within its petals. This particular one I thought looked just spectacular standing to attention in the sun. Yet another plant I will have to add to the list of plants I want for my own garden that each time I visit Powerscourt seems to grow and grow! That I guess, is the main reason gardeners go to visit other gardens, to find inspiration and planting ideas that we can replicate in our own gardens.
Of course Powerscourt at spring time does not just mean tulips there is so much more to see around the gardens at the moment. One of the best finds I found while walking around the gardens was the many great sways of wild garlic that have come into flower just below the dolphin pond. You can smell the garlic much fast than you can see it, but when you do find it hugging the ground it is a great sight.
Scattered in between the large sways of wild garlic, I also found some great clumps of wild primroses fighting for attention along the edge of the gravel footpath. As they have become a more seldom sight along country roads, it was great to see so many thriving here.
This time of year for plant lovers is also the time when rhododendrons really come into their own. In particular the plants along the rhododendron walk at Powerscourt look beautiful at this time of the year. There is something for everyone’s colour preference here, elegant white, scarlet red, vivid pinks and my personal favourite a dusky lilac flowering one found very close to the dolphin pond.
If you want to enjoy the great displays of spring colour in the gardens make sure to head along quickly as it will not be around for too much longer. I would highly recommend a stroll along the herbaceous border and along the rhododendron walk for some great spring colour.
Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles
By Arthur Conan Doyle
Adapted for the stage by Laura Turner
“Life has become like that great Grimpen Mire, with little green patches everywhere into which one may sink and with no guide to point the track” Welcome to the world of Sherlock Holmes!
On the lonely wasteland of the desolate Devon moors, something evil is afoot. When death stalks the Baskerville family, legend and superstition collide with the most heinous of crimes. On the moor nobody is safe, not even the bravest of men. Chapterhouse Theatre presents the world’s most famous of detectives, Sherlock Holmes himself, as he is called upon to solve the greatest mystery of all time...that of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Join Powerscourt Estate and Chapterhouse Theatre Company for an unforgettable afternoon of theatre, mystery and suspense. Bring a picnic and your best detective skills along!
Date: 30th June
Location: Powerscourt Gardens
Cost: Adults €18, OAP €16.50, child €10. Family (2 adults & 2 children €52)
Booking Details: BOOK ONLINE. Tickets also available for sale at Powerscourt House reception
Secret Tour of Powerscourt and its Hidden Gems
Enjoy a walking tour with a difference at Powerscourt Gardens. Let yourself be transported back in time by Michael Seery, a local history enthusiast and founder of the Enniskerry Local History blog. Michael will show you the hidden gems of Powerscourt Gardens and provide plenty of interesting anecdotes along the way! Discover the kitchen gardens at Powerscourt and learn about the food from that era. Uncover the trees that Princess Grace and Jackie Onassis once planted. Learn about garden designer Daniel Robertson who is said to have suffered from gout and directed operations from a wheelbarrow, fortified by a bottle of sherry! The tour takes place on 24th of May at 11am in Powerscourt Gardens. It is included in the entrance price to the gardens and is free for annual members. No booking is required. See www.powerscourt.ie/events for more information.
Venue: Powerscourt Gardens, Enniskerry, County Wicklow.
Contact Details: W: www.powerscourt.ie/events T: (01) 204 6000
Dates and Times: 24th May, 11am
Cost: Adults €8.50, seniors €7.50, includes entry to gardens. Free of charge for annual members. No booking required.
Would you like to trace your roots? Powerscourt is celebrating ‘The Gathering’ with a special genealogy talk from Nicola Morris, presenter on RTÉ’s ‘The Genealogy Roadshow.’ Come along to find out how to trace your Wicklow ancestors and learn a little bit about the history of the youngest county in Ireland, a wild and untamed land that loomed over the second city of the British Empire. Find out about the marauding O’Tooles, the Wicklow gold rush, the last stand of Michael O’Dwyer in 1798 and the first inter-county GAA match. Nicola will offer a useful guide to genealogical sources for the county, interspersed with stories of the labourers, miners, English settlers and the landed gentry of Wicklow. This event is complimentary and takes place at Powerscourt House on the 16th of May at 2.30pm. No booking is required. See www.powerscourt.ie/events
The Wingfield Family
About Nicola Morris: Genealogist Nicola Morris draws on a rich family history that can be traced back to the court of Henry VIII and the breweries of Lancashire to Cork city publicans and a mysterious Italian great great grandmother. She works very closely with the production company for the BBC programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ and the US version of the show. Nicola has appeared on screen with Rosie O'Donnell, Jeremy Irons, Graham Norton and Chris Moyles and, most recently, was one of the presenters of the first series of ‘The Genealogy Roadshow’ for RTE.
Pepper Pot Tower, circa 1910
Venue: Powerscourt House, Enniskerry, County Wicklow.
Contact Details: W: www.powerscourt.ie/events T: (01) 204 6000
Dates and Times: 16th May, 2.30pm
Cost: Admission is complimentary and no booking is required.
"On my last visit to Powerscourt, spring was finally beginning to appear. Not only was it appearing in the gardens here but in fact all around the country. Thanks to a great spell of weather, the spring bulbs have started to erupt in colour. This filled me with excitement for the season to come and its many delights. The gardens will take on a new life now, beginning to change and develop as the days get longer. There will be more and more to see plant wise on each visit now. The biggest change I noticed on this visit was how the herbaceous border is now a sea of yellow. Large sways of Narcissus have sprung up and were putting on a great display when I was there.
The walled garden is one my favourite places at Powerscourt at the moment. I say at the moment as each time I go to the gardens something else in a different part of the garden will catch my eye and I will become fascinated with it. Yet once I have got over the excitement of finding wild garlic in the Japanese garden or a wild primrose beneath the Pepperpot Tower, I find myself thinking about the walled garden.
I think I always end up dreaming about the walled garden because of all the fine details that are dotted around the area. It is only when you really look for them that many of the gardens best features jump out at you. One of the best features of the gardens are its magnificent gates.
In total there are four gates that connect the walled garden to different parts of the garden. The first one most people encounter is the Chorus gate which connects the Italian garden to the walled garden. This gate, which is modelled on a gate from the 17th Centrury, creates a great entrance in to the garden. It is adorned with figures blowing trumpets and to me is like a joyous welcome into this new area of the grounds.
As soon as you walk into the walled garden, I would recommend you just keep walking straight. Walk straight past the two ball thrower statues and right past the rose beds, that will be filled with fragrant flowers in weeks come.
This will bring you to the Bamberg Gate which is around 240 years old and creates a great optical illusion when you walk straight at it. It has almost an Alice in Wonderland effect to it, forcing your eye to fix on a point off in the distance.
As you stand at the gate and look through it you see a statue at the top of an avenue of Monkey Puzzle trees, Araucaria araucana. Once you have had a good look at this gate and the view beyond it, you can now go back and enjoy the delights of this part of the walled garden.
When you stand with your back to Julia's Memorial and look down towards the second part of the walled garden you get a great view straight through the walled garden, towards the Dolphin pond and pet cemetery beyond.
As you walk towards the next section of the walled garden, you go through Venetian Gate which was put in place in 1900. I think these gates out of all the others suit the garden the best. The grape vine motifs that adorn it mirror the fruit and vegetables that would have been originally found here. The walled garden was formally the kitchen garden, supplying the house with all the produce it would have needed.
Hints of the walled gardens former use are still found with the espaliered fruit trees, growing in a fan shape against the brick walls in this section.
As you walk along the herbaceous border, you come to the final gate in this area. The English gate leads on to the Dolphin pond and is adorned with rose, thistle and shamrock emblems. Compared to the other gates this one is not as showy but still makes a fitting exit to go through and continue your adventures around the grounds.
Once you are finished exploring the walled garden, I would highly recommend walking around the Dolphin pond and then walk towards the pet cemetery. As you walk towards the pet cemetery you will walk past a number of rhododendrons that are covered in flowers at the moment and are quite a sight to see and one not to be missed!"
David Corscadden, April 2013
“I believe in everything until it is disproved
So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons.
It all exists, even if it is in your mind”
Once upon a time many years ago the fairies lived all over the beautiful island of Ireland. The Queen of the Fairies had heard many stories about a magical place full of trees and flowers and shining light. She decided that the time had come for the fairies of Ireland to find a permanent home where they could shelter under the trees, tend the enticing flowers and spin their magic fairy dust in peace. This place was Powerscourt Gardens and it was located in Co Wicklow which because of the fairies and their magical powers became known as the Garden of Ireland.
One glistening spring day my daughter Molly and I were lucky enough to take part in Tink’s Nature Trail. Tink greeted us outside Powerscourt House and told us wonderful stories about olden times. Map in hand our group of children, Mums, Dads and Grandparents set off like intrepid super sleuths to find some magical fairies and to explore the nature of Co Wicklow. First stop was the Pepper Pot Tower standing tall and proud and guess what? At the very top of the tower was a clue left by a fairy! We set off for the Japanese Gardens and along the way we found special messages in the trees:
“All the world is made of faith and trust and pixie dust”
As we walked towards the Japanese Gardens there were squeals of delight as the children walking down the steps realised there was actual fairy dust scattered across the paths. We could hear the gentle ringing of little bells and woe and behold there at the bottom of the steps was Harmony the Fairy waiting for us. She was so beautiful!
Harmony asked all the children (and I’m sure I saw some of the grown-ups too) to hold hands in a ring, tightly close their eyes and make a wish. Then she led us over the bridges and pathways to the magical grotto where the water shimmers down the walls and never ever stops, then we passed through the secret passageway and via the wishing well where we headed off to find more lovely fairies.
There was more fairy dust on the pathways and secret messages in the trees and as we walked past the magnificent flowers we remembered that Tink told us that the fairies help the Powerscourt flowers grow by sprinkling fairy dust all over their glistening petals.
By the Dolphin Pond we were greeted by Nix the Fairy who was putting the final bag of Pixie dust on her favourite tree. She explained how it is spun into fairy thread and it is then transformed into wonderful dresses.
We tiptoed through the walled garden so as to not wake any of the sleeping fairies and arrived triumphantly back at the main reception hall where we were greeted with open arms at the reception and were given our tasty treats. Overall it was a great day!!
Tink and her gang have been very busy and the gardens are currently blooming with tulips. The Tulip festival is on until the 6th May so don’t miss out on it. And remember if you look really carefully you might see Tink, Harmony and Nix working hard flying around scattering their fairy dust!
(Many thanks to the team from Imaginosity for a great day)
Here are some of the wonderful mammals you can meet at Powerscourt Waterfall! Plan a day out to Powerscourt by visiting our website.
Badger (Meles meles)
This shy nocturnal animal lives in a large underground labyrinth of tunnels and rooms called a ‘sett’. Badgers are extremely ‘house-proud’, and will spend hours cleaning and renovating their home, which can be hundreds of years old and contain up to fifteen family members. If you are patient, you might be rewarded with a badger sighting at dusk, when they leave the sett to forage for earthworms, slugs, insects, small mammals, frogs, fruits and grains.
Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
You may catch a flash of orange-red fur amongst the trees in the evening light, as a red fox begins its nightly activities. With acute hearing, a keen sense of smell and alert amber eyes, the fox will be on the hunt for rabbits, rats, mice, insects, earthworms and a variety of fruits.
Did you know?
On a successful night, foxes will bury their extra food to save for later.
Otter (Lutra lutra)
Seldom seen, the secretive otter is a resident of the banks of the River Dargle. Its webbed feet, thick dense coat and streamlined body make it at home in the water, where it preys on salmon, trout and even the occasional frog. Keep an eye out for its droppings (‘spraints’), which are often the only sign of its presence.
Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
Rabbits are rarely seen grazing farther than a few hundred metres from the large burrows (‘warrens’) they call home. If you happen to see one, be still! With a thump of a hind foot and a rapid dash for the door, the entire colony will disappear at the first sign of trouble. Underground there can be many families living together, and a strict pecking order keeps the peace.
Did you know?
Rabbits were introduced to Ireland by the Normans during the 12th century and were bred for their fur and meat.
Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
Keep your eyes peeled in the trees around the car park and waterfall for the beautiful but elusive red squirrel. Most active in the morning and late afternoon, these tree-dwellers use their large bushy tail to help them balance as they leap about in the canopy. While they like to scavenge leftovers from picnic sites, their normal diet consists of acorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, bark and fungi.
Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
This engaging little animal is a very important part of the Irish food web, being a major component of the diet of owls, kestrels, foxes and badgers. A wood mouse can travel up to 1km per night in search of seeds, its favourite food, as well as nuts, berries, bulbs, fungus and even bugs.
Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
One of Ireland’s favourite animals, the hedgehog is more than meets the eye. Its characteristic squat, spiny body hides a surprisingly athletic ability. Hedgehogs are able to swim, run up to 8km/hr and even climb walls and fences! All of which come in handy when pursuing small mammals and insects, which they eat in addition to worms and slugs.
Did you know?
Hedgehogs hibernate in winter, often choosing piles of leaves and logs left at the bottoms of gardens as a nesting site. Take care not to disturb these areas from the end of November to April!
Pygmy Shrew (Sorex minutus)
These tiny creatures live short, hectic lives. In fact, few live more than 15 months. Due to its tiny size, a pygmy shrew must eat every three hours, and consume its own body weight in beetles, woodlice, flies and spiders every day! Listen out for their high-pitched squeaks as they fiercely defend their territory.
Did you know?
The pygmy shrew is one of the smallest mammals in the world, weighing an average of 4g... that’s the same as a teaspoon of sugar!
Though many recoil at the mention of their name, bats provide a fantastic service few people think of. From moths to flies, earwigs to spiders, bats do a wonderful job of controlling the number of insects, many of which are crop pests. All of the ten species of bat found in Ireland eat insects... in abundance! For example, the tiny pipistrelle bat (which fits inside a small matchbox) can eat over 3000 midges and mosquitoes a night!
The history of the sika deer
The animal that Powerscourt is most famous for is the small Japanese sika deer (Cervus nippon). These deer first appeared in Ireland in 1858, when Mervyn Edward Wingfield (better known as the 7th Viscount Powerscourt) took a fancy to introduce a number of exotic deer species as decorative additions to the one hundred acre Powerscourt deer-park.
One species, the sika deer, flourished. The four original imports (one male and three females) soon became hundreds. From here they quickly spread throughout Ireland. Lord Powerscourt gave a number as gifts to estates in Killarney, Monaghan, Limerick and Down. A broken fence in the deer-park led to the escape of many more into the surrounding Wicklow Mountains. The deer bred with native red deer, and today it is thought that all of the deer in Wicklow are in fact sika-red hybrids.
Did you know?
Sika deer get their name from the Japanese word for ‘deer’, and they are considered sacred in their native land.
Find out more about Powerscourt Waterfall!
We are delighted to welcome David Corscadden on board to blog with us on all apsects of horticulture and nature at Powerscourt Estate! David is from county Kildare and is a soon to be graduate of horticulture from University College Dublin and a self-proclaimed plant lover! Having spent a childhood playing in his grandfather’s garden he has grown up with a passion for gardening and affection for nature.
David recently finished an internship with Gerry Daly at The Irish Garden magazine and caught the garden writer's bug. You can follow his journey with plants here on the Powerscourt blog and on his own blog: beyondthewildgarden.wordpress.com.
Enjoy David's first article with us!
"If you are a plant lover or gardener like me, I bet you have asked yourself the exact same question that I have found myself asking “Has spring sprung yet?!”. Each time I have looked out my window in the past few months, I have grown more and more depressed. I am waiting for the colours and excitement of spring to arrive at my door step. Unfortunately as everyone has realised now, spring is really and truly late this year.
I set off one cold morning to start my yearlong adventure trying to document the magic that is the Powerscourt Gardens. When I first walked out of the house to start my walk I had to stop a moment to take in my surroundings. No matter how many times you go to the gardens I don’t think you can be anything but awe struck when you walk out to see the Italian gardens below you and the Sugarloaf Mountain off in the distance.
It was a great day to go to Powerscourt as the gardeners were all busy working away on the beds, starting to get ready for the onslaught of growth and flowers. It was great for me as it meant I got the chance to talk to the Head Gardener, Michael. He too shared my feeling that nature has really been affected by our strange weather of late. He shared with me the one thing that visitors have been commenting to him about in the past few months. That is that a large Liquidambar tree, planted by Princess Grace of Monaco in 1978, has failed to lose its leaves. It has kept hold of them all winter when it normally, like all deciduous trees, drops them in a flurry of flaming reds and oranges.
One of my first stops that day was down to the Grotto which I think truly gets across how cold it was when I visited just before Easter. The walls of the grotto were covered in icicles. They hung down all around me and seemed to grow as I looked at them! The longer I stood there the colder I felt, as more water began to drip down the wall and freeze!
I finally decided to venture away from the Grotto and the icicles and serenity that can be felt as you stand there listening to the water drip down the walls. I then moved on to have a look around the Japanese garden. While it was not as glorious as it will be at in a few weeks when it is awash of colour it was still full of excitement and wonder. One of the most exciting things I found was a large sway of wild garlic beginning to grown in one corner of the garden.
For me, wild garlic is one of the main highlights of a spring walk in woods near my house in Kildare. But unfortunately for me I have been finding it hard this year to find it in Kildare, as we are even further behind in plant growth. So you can imagine my excitement when I finally found some here. Spring was officially starting to get underway!
It was after making this discovery that I really started to hunt out spring in the rest of the gardens. To my delight I did find a merriment of different plants that filled me with hope that the cold would go away and all the gardens would come out of their long hibernation! From the shuck pale yellow flowers of a lone primrose beneath a towering tree near the Pepperpot Tower to the emerging scarlet flowers of the rhododendrons near the Dolphin Pond, colour was creeping in everywhere.
Pink seemed to be one of the main colours in the gardens that day. The pink flowers of the camellias were starting to blossom at the entrance to the herbaceous border. The Viburnum x bodnatense ‘Dawn’ also put on a great display of subtle pink flowers. Found near the Dolphin Pond, the flowers this time are a duskier shade of pink and much more delicate.
None of these sights however could out do the colour and vibrancy of the spring bulbs that have started to erupt from the ground within the walled garden. One of my all-time favourite spring bulbs, the humble crocus, stands erect in great clumps of purple throughout the beds here. Its vibrancy though had stiff competition from the narcissus flowers that stood like burning suns on that cold crisp morning.
This experience with spring bulbs made me long even more for the firework display of colours that will come with the mammoth amount of tulips emerging in a few weeks. However like the rest of nature the tulips are running later that normal this year. The tulip festival will be taking place at Powerscourt between April 22nd to May 6th.
I hope if you do take anything from my first blog post it is that you are not put off by the cold weather and head off to Powerscourt to explore. Even in the cold there is so much enjoyment and colour in the gardens. Even if there is not colour, spring is a great time to go visit gardens and really see their skeletons. Often many of the things you miss when you are distracted by the colour and show of flowers stand out more clearly. You might just miss the liquidambar tree that is still in leaf or the beauty that is the gnarled bark and habit of a Pinus radiata tree."
David Corscadden, April 2013
Meet Kerry Gordon our new blogger!
Kerry lives in beautiful County Wicklow with her daughter Molly and greyhound Lola. We are delighted that Kerry will be blogging for the Powerscourt Estate on an eclectic mix of fun filled events over the coming months. She will be sharing her experiences on a regular basis and hopes you enjoy reading about them as much as she loves taking part in them!
Kerry is a Communications Specialist and previously worked as the Marketing Manager for Wicklow Tourism. She can be contacted at www.thecommunicators.net
"My daughter Molly and I have been going to Powerscourt since she was a ‘babe in arms’. Now that she is 11, we still return for special events like birthdays and celebrations and it will always hold a special place in both our hearts. Whenever we have overseas visitors it is top of our list to visit and to drop into the Avoca cafe and have a pot of tea and a big fruit scone. Driving into the estate with the magnificent backdrop that never fails to impress, the beauty of the estate is simply breathtaking. It has a serenity that is impossible to replicate and that allows you to enjoy the wonder and beauty of the past and present.
On the St. Patrick’s weekend some family friendly activities, designed to celebrate Irish culture, took place throughout the beautiful surrounds of Powerscourt House and Gardens. Culture, Craic agus Ceol happened to coincide with my birthday so it was a double treat! We assembled in the grand main hall where we were greeted by the friendly faces of the Imaginosity (Dublin’s Children’s Museum) team.
There was fantastic face painting especially of Shamrocks and then everyone lined up in a circle for the Ceili to begin. The age group was from toddlers to young teens but the adults were not allowed to miss out on the fun!
After a Diddli warm up we were taught a few set dances and after lots of bumping into each other the Riverdance came out in all us and we were spinning around each other having great fun. Then the real adventure began – the Shamrock treasure hunt in the stunning and magical Powerscourt Gardens! The event was sold out and as the numbers were limited this made sure a group of eager and excited children going from clue to clue did not impact on any other visitors. The back of the map had all the clues and when you had completed the hunt there was a small treasure to be found back at the reception in the main house.
The hunt took us through the Italian Gardens down to Tower Valley where we climbed the Pepper Pot Tower. From there it was a dash over to the tranquil Japanese Gardens and Triton Lake with its dramatic fountain. Next stop was one of our favourites, the Pet Cemetery, where the children scrambled around calling out the funny names of the family pets. The nearby Rhododendron Walk was showing the signs of spring with flowers blooming in their magnificent colours.
Finally we visited the Dolphin’s Pond and the last clue led us to the Walled Garden full of its fascinating plants. A quick dash back to the house and cheery Powerscourt staff welcomed us all in. Throughout the hunt one of the highlights was how the children were helping each other out to solve the clues and did I mention that the event was free to Annual ticket holders! Overall it was tremendous fun and a great way to celebrate my birthday."
Kerry Gordon, March 2013. Thanks Kerry!
There is so much wonderful flora and fauna to discover at Powerscourt Waterfall! Get started now :)
Gorse (Ulex europaeus)
Decorating the landscape with its vibrant yellow flowers and sweet aromas of coconut and vanilla, gorse (also known as ‘furze’ and ‘whin’) is easily recognisable. Listen out on hot summer days when the hairy, blackish fruits dry out and burst open, scattering seeds with a loud cracking “pop”.
Did you know?
This spiny evergreen shrub flowers all year round, leading to the well-known country saying “When the gorse is out of blossom, kissing’s out of fashion”.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
You can find carpets of this low growing shrub under the shade of the oak trees at the top of the small hill behind you. Small bluish-black berries, which give the plant its name, appear in abundance in late summer. These bitter berries are rich in vitamin C and are delicious in tarts, jams and wine.
Did you know?
Bilberries were traditionally gathered widely on the last Sunday in July, so called Fraochán Sunday due to the common Irish name for this plant.
From June to September, two low growing bushy shrubs adorn this path with blushes of pink and purple. Look for ling (Calluna vulgaris), with its delicate pink flowers, and bell heather (Erica cinerea), with its purplish-red bell shaped flowers, which can be found growing alongside one another.
Did you know?
Heathers were once used in Ireland as bedding and fodder for livestock, material for brooms and thatch for roofs, for fuel and even ale!
Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
This prickly member of the rose family is widely known as the ‘blackberry bush’ because of its familiar blue-black berries. An important food for birds and wild animals, they are also a firm favourite with humans! These sweet tasting berries have been eaten by man since Neolithic times and are still enjoyed today in pies, jams and cordials.
Did you know?
The roots of bramble were used in the past as the core for hurling balls.
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Be careful! All parts of this plant are poisonous!
The name ‘foxglove’ comes from ‘folk’s glove’, as people used to believe the fairy folk used the purple tube-shaped flowers as gloves! If you look inside the flower, you will notice many red and white spots. These are used as a ‘runway’ to guide bumblebees to the sweet nectar inside. Once the bee is in, the clever plant covers its back with pollen, which will be transferred to the next flower it visits.
Did you know?
Foxgloves contain a powerful drug (Digitalin) which is of huge importance in the treatment of heart conditions.
Tormentil (Potentilla erecta)
Amongst the grass you should see the small yellow flowers of tormentil. This unassuming plant has been used in herbal remedies to treat digestive problems. Its unusual name, taken from the Latin Tormentum, is thought to refer to the pain which it relieves.
Did you know?
The crushed roots of tormentil produce a red dye which was once used to tan leather.
Take a deep breath
If you look carefully at the branches of trees, you may be able to spot small green-grey bushy tufts known as lichen. Lichens are unique organisms which are made up of a combination of a fungus and an alga, which live together in a mutually beneficial relationship. Lichens are very sensitive to air pollution, and their presence here highlights the fresh, clean mountain air!
You are also likely to see:
- Hawkweed (Hieracium sp.)
- Sheep’s-bit (Jasione montana)
- Dandelion (Taraxacum vulgaria)