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.