Sunday, 1 May 2022

The peony in Glasnevin

I'll stick my neck out and declare that not even Kew Gardens can compare with the peony walk of the Irish National Botanics in Dublin's comfortable northern suburb of Glasnevin. I certainly never saw this hybrid tree peony, Paeonia delavayi 'Anne Rosse' in London. And it turns out to be a native speciality: a hybrid of the yellow Paeonia delavayi var. ludlowii and a red Paeonia delavayi, raised by the Sixth Earl of Rosse at Birr Castle Gardens, County Offaly, Ireland and named after his wife. I've not seen it anywhere else, certainly not in Kew.

Said ludlowii, named after Londoner Frank Ludlow who found them in Xizang, Tibet,  in 1936 - North Yunan was the territory where Father Jeam Marie Delavey made his discovers in 1884 - was the only one producing a few flowers when we first visited close to the beginning of my two weeks in Dublin. Otherwise, there were promising buds, with the attractive oak grove behind the hedge as backdrop

where the grouind was carpeted with anemones that first Saturday.

The peony walk is so well planted, one one side the tree varieties with the O'Connell Tower of the extraordinary Glasnevin Cemetery - tourist attraction complete with cafe and visitors' centre - in the background, an 1858 homage to the medieval versions to be seen elsewhere in Ireland ('Rapunzel, Rapunzel' chanted a little girl who passed us as we were walking around it),

and on the other side the herbaceous varieties

which, a local told me, are a riot of colour in peak peony season. The shooting is always attractive - those first sentinels appearing in early spring - and so are the leaves and buds of the fernleaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia)

which nearly a fortnight later were flanked by various types of narcisii 

forming interesting dialogues with their so-far smaller neighbours.

The one spectacular flower out in the herbaceous border was just emergent on Paeonia daurica subsp. macrophylla.

On this second visit (21 April) more blooms were in evidence along the tree-peony side: Paeonia suffruticosa 'Feng Dan Zi',

Paeonia rockii 'Zi Hai Yin Bo'

and plain (in nomenclature, not appearance) Paeonia delavayi.

But that hybrid Irish strain was the star of the show, both collectively - with the leafing of the oaks behind now also advanced - 

and in the variety of its individual flowers.

As I was talking to the local resident - a mine of information about wild-ish Irish gardens in the north - a peacock butterfly landed; it seemed rude to divert for a snap. But soon various bees were at the flowers

and for ocular proof that the butterfly was around and about, here's it is settling on the leaf mould below the peony trees 

where on the first visit a dunnock was rather well camouflaged.

Robins are frequently impertinent inquisitors, but especially so here - I wish I could show the photo of the Other Half in conversation with one. But let's stick to an exquisite colour-clash

and a Peeping Tom.

As at Kew, peonies aren't confined to their special zone. There were more in the rock garden 

and a clump of Paeonia rockii just in front of the wrought-iron Curvilinear Range glasshouses.

By way of an extended coda, I should put up some snaps of these centrepieces at Glasnevin Botanics. The Curvilinear Range was designed by Dublin iron-master Richard Turner and built in 1849. Its 1990s restoration has received a Europa Nostra award for excellence in conservation architecture. The nearby Victoria House, previously containing the great water-lilies, is currently being restored. Anyway, palms against iron and glass

and a Strelitzia further on.

The Great Palm House was originally erected in 1884 

 and in its 20m high central zone feels more jungly within even than its counterpart at Kew.

I can well understand why Wittgenstein liked to come here (beyond keeping warm).

The east wing houses orchids,

the west wing cacti and succulents.

To the north, there are ponds

and waterways; the boundary here is the River Tolka.

And all this for free, a happy resource for everyone living in Dublin or visiting it (I count myself halfway between the two right now). Next stop: the glorious cliff walks to the north and south of Dublin Bay.


Liam mansfield said...

Excellent photos and commentry

David said...

Thanks, Liam. 'Anne Rosse' is pure bottled sunshine, no?

Liam mansfield said...

Yes indeed, David.. Noel is very impressed with the photos .he was reared in that part of the city

Anonymous said...

I trailed about glasnevin for ages before finding the grave of Fr Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, died aged 45, Professor of Greek at UCD. Check out Belfast's botanical gardens sometime, with the excellent museum nearby, with its carefully preserved linen making machinery from long ago

David said...

What a coincidence - I, too, looked for GMH's grave but, having strayed too far from the plan, didn't find it - I knew I was seeking a Celtic cross, but they proliferated. And at the same time I was losing track of the other half, who had asked at the excellent desk to locate his grandfather, and found what he wanted. Where's the museum with the machinery? By the time I return, the peonies will be more or less over.

Anonymous said...

In Belfast the main museum with all the splendid machinery is right next door to the Botanical gardens, in South Belfast, not far from Queens University and the posh Malone Road. I have a great love of the poetry of Hopkins, though I believe his Jesuit contemporaries regarded him as a bit of an screwball eccentric

David said...

Ah, I failed to read the crucial word 'Belfast'. I'm looking forwards to discovering that city, too. Its arts scene is thriving right now.

Liam mansfield said...

He is buried in the Jesuit plot. To the left of the entrance. His name is on base of cross

Liam mansfield said...

Deborah vdB said...

I'm so Anglocentric, to my shame I had no idea where my Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin' came from. Those paeonies! I would love to see some of them in the flesh, as it were. I have a paony Delaveyii seedling from a gorgeous black one in Lacock which I brought with us and flowered for the first time here in London. The one bloom on it looked very much like your hydrid, David. I'm not so sure about it....perhaps I was so very fond of my black one it's hard to accept something quite different. I will have to wait until next year...

David said...

Well, our friend Maev thinks 'Anne Rosse' is vulgar - I wonder if one can say that of nature; blowsy, sometimes, yes. And it's hybridised, of course. But on a still cold April day, all the flowers were little suns. Black peonies I love. You must come and stay (look at me, inviting friends to 'my' Dublin) at the right time, and we'll go. But actually you must come before then.

Anonymous said...

One of glasnevin's watchmen or gardeners took me to the grave of Fr Hopkins, though he didn't say anything about a Jesuit "plot". He just knew where it was. I would still be looking if not for the good man's help, so vast is Glasnevin.

John Graham said...

I wanted to visit the grave of James Connolly, leader of the Dublin rising, at Ardour Hill cemetery, but it was locked. Connolly, a widely read author of books on revolutionary socialism, was executed by British soldiers while sitting in a wheelchair, in Kilmainham prison