Arboretum and Annesley Garden given prestigious award

Arboretum and Annesley Garden given prestigious award

9 May 2018

THE Arboretum and Annesley Garden at Castlewellan Forest Park have been presented with a prestigious international award.

The presentation was made last week by the International Dendrology Society which promotes the study of trees and conservation of rare and endangered plant species worldwide.

The Society awards plaques to gardens or dendrological collections of exceptional merit, with the Arboretum and Annesley Garden the first in Ireland to receive the honour. The plaque was presented to Forest Service chief executive John Joe O’Boyle by Society chairman Giles Crisp.

Mr O’Boyle said the award was a “prestigious honour,” recognising the unique nature of the Castlewellan Arboretum and Annesley Garden which he described as a place of “unquestionable beauty” all year, particularly at this time of year as blooms are emerging.

He continued: “It is also a place of great history as many of the trees here are more than a century old and have grown through world wars, momentous events and times of great upheaval. The arboretum and gardens also have great scientific value as the specimens here represent a horticultural collection of unequalled diversity.’’

Hundreds of species exist in the Castlewellan garden, including examples from across the world and local plants such as the Castlewellan Gold. It also boasts over 30 champion trees, which are considered leading examples of their species.

Mr O’Boyle continued: “Yet for all this unique environment does to stimulate the senses, it is also a place of calm and stillness. You don’t need to know the background or be a botanist to appreciate the splendour of Castlewellan Arboretum and Annesley Garden. I welcome members of the International Dendrology Society and am pleased to accept this plaque on behalf of the Forest Service. 

“This award recognises the generations of care and attention which have gone into the gardens since its establishment in 1750, particularly through the efforts of Hugh Annesley, the Fifth Earl Annesley creating here in Castlewellan something that has been much enjoyed by many through the decades.”

Mr O’Boyle said the gardens and the wider forest park thrived on partnership, explaining that the Forest Service’s work is supported by many organisations and the local community, all of whom have a part to play.

He also said the partnership at Castlewellan between Newry, Mourne and Down Council and the Forest Service had opened up “exciting new leisure and recreation opportunities” with over 300,000 visitors coming to the park on an annual basis.

Mr O’Boyle added: “I have no doubt the partnership will develop further and the enjoyment of visitors will continue for many years to come.”

The Society’s Ireland vice-president, Thomas Pakenham, said the organisation was delighted to be able to present the plaque.

He added: “In the 60 years since our foundation, we have only presented 16 plaques. This is the first given to an Irish garden or Arboretum. It demonstrates that this is a place that registers high on the global scale, a unique place to inspire the senses as well as a place for education and research.”

In its citation, the IDS praised Castlewellan as “one of the most remarkable tree collections not only in Ireland but in the whole of Europe”.

The citation continued: “Just a few miles from the Irish sea, sheltered by the mountains and surrounding woodland, Castlewellan Arboretum and Annesley garden contain a truly extraordinary number of trees of great rarity, beauty and size.”