Gardener’s know all the dirt

Montalto Estate and House Formal Garden

What a benefit to the community when men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in

The Carriage Rooms' crowning glory has got to be the setting and grounds and this is something our visitors comment on time and time again. They frequently struggle to believe us when we tell them that there are only two full time and two part time groundsmen responsible for the upkeep of, not only The Carriage Rooms grounds but a 400+ acre demesne! With the sun shining and warmth in the air, we decided to take a walk with Peter Harris - Head Gardener - to see the sights, chat through some of the ongoing developments and get a little history lesson at the same time. The title of this blog certainly rings true!

Things may be quieter at this time of year in The Carriage Rooms but for Peter and his team that just means a shift in their focus. Rather than tending the beds in The Walled Garden, raking the gravel paths and generally making the areas around The Carriage Rooms pristine for weddings and events, they’ve been getting stuck into some projects that have been in the planning stage for a while with a concerted effort to furthering them along.

First up on the 'tour' was our new Alpine Garden. This has been established as a tribute to Countess Clanwilliam, wife of the Earl of Clanwilliam who was a previous owner of Montalto Estate. In 1938, the Countess used the grounds here to host a garden fete and exhibition of alpine plants which resulted in the formation of the Ulster group of The Alpine Garden Society. Our guys have spent a lot of time clearing a rock face, levelling sections of this and planting has begun to transform the feature into a significant point of interest for future visitors.

“There is fantastic enthusiasm amongst my small team currently. It is so rewarding to see the fruits of our labour and the development of our numerous projects will be something many people will benefit from for years to come.” Peter Harris - Head Gardener

Next stop on the 'tour' was our Cutting Garden. This is an area on the estate dedicated to growing cut flowers. Peter explained that the advantage of a cutting garden over picking from borders is that it avoids depleting the many flowering beds and spaces which the public will be able to view. With the development plans currently underway, the increase in the number of events and weddings, not to mention more buildings than ever to make pretty, him and the team have tripled the size of the Cutting Garden in anticipation. The seeds have been sown for a mixture of perennials, shrubs, annuals and biennials which will result in a lush explosion of colour and choice. We can’t wait and seeing it in full bloom will definitely be something spectacular!

Something with a longer term focus is the unearthing of what we’re calling The Lost Garden and this was our last stop on today’s welcome escape from the office. Recently uncovered, the site and remnants of the old glasshouses on the estate which date from the 19th century, are believed to have been used in part for a grapery. Growing table grapes in years gone by was considered to be a sign of substantial wealth and importance and a clear nod to society that your family was well-to-do. Throughout the site we have discovered various relics and artefacts such as the original pipework, brickwork, boiler and tiles which were all part of the overall construction. We are working closely with a number of respected historians and experts in the field as the exploration of the site continues with a view to a potential complete restoration project which would bring the whole area back to life.