Kiwis in your Garden
Gardening in West Cork is a delicate balance between finding plants that thrive in mild conditions, but can be hardy enough withstand the prevailing winds. A lot of New Zealand plant species are now a common features of many a West Cork garden, and the gardens at Ballynoe House are no exception. We have just under 40 specimens of flax offering year-round colour. There is one particularly large specimen, on the top of the slope of front courtyard garden to the main house, that we call “King of the Hill”. When in flower, with spikes over 2m long, they form his magnificent crown. Below him, are two groups of different coloured phormium with their smaller coronets, as princes and princesses, attending him at court.
The flower heads of the larger phormium prove to be popular fuelling stations for flocks of young starlings.
“Big Bird” was one of several cordylines in the garden at Ballynoe House. The distinctive Cordyline australis, introduced to Europe in 1823, give West Cork gardens a tropical look, but have the more unfortunate non-botanical name of the New Zealand Cabbage Tree, even though it looks more like a palm. Unlike 2016, most of those around Ballynoe House erupted with a large show of flower spikes in 2017, filling the garden with a light jasmine-like perfume.
Wind Breaks & Butterflies
In order to maintain any kind of garden in exposed coastal regions, hedging and wind breaks are essential. In many cases, this can be provided by the New Zealand privet (Griselinia littoralis), which looks like a larger-leaved version of the common European variety. Libertia is a group of ornamental grasses from New Zealand used in gardens in West Cork. We must have half a dozen different kinds in Ballynoe House, which come in a range of stripes and colours. An early Spring bloomer is the white New Zealand Butterfly Iris.
Mark Grace, “Head Gardener”, Ballynoe House
Footnote: Sadly, “Big Bird” lost his head during hurricane “Ophelia” in October 2017 and many of our cordylines also suffered badly under the “Beast from the East” in early 2018. A number have lost their crowns due to wind and others have shed their crowns to due to rot after the unusual winter snows.