Castle Ward gardens to be restored to halcyon glory

Castle Ward gardens to be restored to halcyon glory

29 November 2017

THE gardening team at Castle Ward on the shores of Strangford Lough have embarked upon an ambitious £37,500 project to restore the original Victorian Windsor Garden at the estate.

The huge transformation task has required 550 metres of edging works, laying 120 tons of soil and compost and planting over 4,000 bulbs.

Famed for its eccentric two-faced mansion house, Castle Ward’s impressive estate also features two very distinctive designed landscapes, the 17th and 18th century Temple Water and the 19th century Windsor Garden with pleasure grounds.

The National Trust — which owns the estate — has already committed to a three year plan to restore the traditional landscaping of the Temple Water and with this project now well underway by the estate team, head gardener Andrew Dainty’s focus has turned to the potential of the pleasure grounds.

They incorporate a Pinetum, established to house trees and shrubs sourced from exotic places around the world, a rockery and the 19th century Windsor Garden known as the sunken garden. 

Andy explained that together, the innovations are a fine example of the gardening style of the period and were obviously designed to show off to visiting guests.

“It has been a long-term vision of mine to restore the Windsor Garden and when funding was secured at the start of the year, the project was given the green light,” he revealed.

When originally designed, the Windsor Garden was a formal terraced garden, dominated by a sunken parterre with an elaborate bedding design between gravel walks.

Over the years, the garden’s form has altered dramatically with elaborate beds being replaced by rolling lawns and an imposing statute of Neptune overshadowing the flowers to take centre stage.

“The garden was no longer recognisable as one of the greatest in Ireland,” said Andy. “However, thanks to the support of gifts in wills, donors and the Ulster Garden Scheme, we have embarked on a project to elevate the presentation of the sunken garden and revive the Victorian passion for plant collections and colour.”

Working with a team of local and foreign garden volunteers, Andy plans to create a vivid visual kaleidoscope of intricate planting that is sure to impress regular visitors and appeal to new ones.

He continued: “Over the next few months, our ambition is to restore the Windsor Garden with its associated parterres and rose beds, back to the historic presentation captured on canvas in a painting by Mary Ward in 1864.”

Work on the project  began with a 3-D scan of the garden to work out the dimensions of the 61 new beds and this was followed by the creation of plans and the installation of over 550 meters of edging to create the new parterre design. 

In addition, pathways were widened, over 120 tons of soil and compost were manually wheelbarrowed into the site and before 4,000 bulbs will be planted to bring the design to life.

“The project has been tough, but really satisfying,” explained Andy. “It’s been fantastic to be involved in every aspect of it, from the birth of the idea to the final result. Along the way I’ve been everything from the wheelbarrow man to the project manager and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

The National Trust says the end result will be a garden that “reflects the importance” of this area of the Demesne, ensuring its place as one of best examples of a Victorian garden on the island of Ireland. The new garden will be in full bloom next spring.