Having turned off from your road and entered the wood, you have really gone through a gate which is now closed behind you, and your ordinary world is shut out with all its noise and sorrow and care.
– John Stewart Collis
This evening we went for a walk on a winding path through a tall canopy of trees, with ivy twined high and the undergrowth diverse with wild fern, moss and lichen. Only a few metres from our main entrance laneway, this particular path has just been cleared for walking pedestrians, exposing the rich forest fauna as yet undisturbed by human feet.
Whimsical Sylvan Charm: In the dusk I notice one very tall, young tree; it’s almost dark but I know it’s a Sycamore. I scan the tree for signs of stress under the ivy’s grasp: these two have grown up together and seem to know how to exist symbiotically. I realise with gratitude how familiar a vast array of Killruddery’s plants and trees have become to me – I recall the scents, shapes and colours of the day.
The umbrella Osmanthus, with extending tentacles and scent of jasmine; grass mown in regimented lines with Speedwell and Daisies its decor; on, under the under the Turkey Oak, planted when my father-in-law was born – demonstrating the growth of a tree in the life span of a human; Copper Beech – so vibrant in Midsummer, with leaves abundant; my respects to the old Larch tree, easing the visual and chemical effect of Sitka Spruce plantations, now as high as it was in the 19th century (before a storm blew off it’s head) and the embrace of its branches as my children explore its shade and gather cones; wander on, past the Rhododendrons who drop now the last of their flowers; turn to the black Elderflower, ornate in her pink lace. Move to the granite steps at the back of The Rock, into cool woodland once again: now Holly, Yew, Rowan and a finale of Bluebells; pick a Buttercup and various wild grasses (here the rock opens into views as far as the Dublin Mountains) – breathe here! Back into shade with tiny Anemones and woodland treasures – feathers, seeds, bark…and the quiet. Down here, through proud Oaks, Hornbeam; mature Rock Wood, cleared of undergrowth in recent years by our Gardening Team and underplanted with woodland varieties.
My ever growing connection to the shape shifting Gardens and woodland that surrounds my home is awakened as I meet this young Sycamore on our new Pedestrian Path. I’m reminded why it’s so important for people and families to find a way through the woods: we thrive as one amongst the trees! It’s so precious to connect with nature and, hand in hand, observe the passing of time.
As an art student I spent hours drawing plants in the Glasshouse in the National Botanic Gardens. I am ever grateful to those gardeners who tended to the plants – and to the plants themselves. Occasionally I get to return and see all the succulents – the Staghorn Fern stands out for me amongst others. I have forgotten their names, but not their impact. Twenty years they have changed in shape, but they continue to thrive. My world has been enriched by observing them! It has allowed me to reconsider my vital place amongst other creations on this beautiful planet Earth.
If you come to the Gardens by foot this year, I hope you will walk with delight through these woods and with eyes wide open – and then I hope you will return and become part of a family who shall witness this century’s creativity and growth at Killruddery.
My recommended reading on the lives of trees and plants:
– The Wisdom of Trees by Max Adams
– The Hidden Lives of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
– Ireland’s Trees by Niall Mac Coitir