Mount Congreve ~ Garden of Eden

Yesterday I got to go back to Mount Congreve, which is my Garden of Eden. It’s just a few miles from Tramore and has opened again for this season.

Mt C

Mount Congreve is beyond special to me and it has probably inspired more posts on this blog than anywhere else. It’s a place that stretches back to my childhood as we used to visit when I was a kid and then in recent years I’ve been going at least once a week during the season which lasts from now until we get to soak in the Autumn tints.

I die a little each year when Mount Congreve closes for the Winter and from late January onward I can feel a growing sense of anticipation as I look forward to making my grand return.

The weather was perfect yesterday ~ blue skies, warm sun and the peace, calm and tranquility that Mount Congreve always rains down on me. I can honestly say that if I was told I had only a day or two to live that Mount Congreve would be the top inland place that would call me.

Mt C2

It was so reassuring to reach the lovely wrought iron gate at the end of the woodland garden that has the heart which always warms mine.


The splendour of Mount Congreve is almost overwhelming, especially with the blaze of colour it always presents.

Magnolia Magic

As yet another season begins, I simply have to say a loving ‘Thank You’ to Mr. Ambrose Congreve (1907-2011) for leaving this wonderful Garden to the people of Ireland. What an inheritance!

Inscription on the Temple

And here’s how the Temple looked yesterday as it gazed  down on the River Suir making its way towards Waterford City.

Mt C4

Where is YOUR ‘Garden of Eden?’ 



But Love Always

I guess everyone deals with anniversaries of death in different ways and I suspect that for most people the number of anniversaries that truly penetrate the heart is very limited.

My father’s anniversary is one of those which has huge significance for me. He died on September 10th, 2010 and yesterday all I wanted to do was to feel as close as I possibly could to him.  I’d done all in my power to keep the day as clear as I could but I had no specific plans for what I’d do.

It proved to be one of the most beautiful days of the year here in Co. Waterford with the gentlest light you could possibly imagine. It’s always been important to me to be somewhere that he and I loved at 10.57 a.m. the time he died (and also my birth date, something that he would have pounced on with his fascination for numbers.)

I just sat into the car and let instinct drive. At 10.57, I was walking Kilfarrassy Beach ~ a beach where we spent so much time as kids and where Dad and I whiled away many hours chatting and watching the waves in the final years of his long life.

Kilfarrassy Beach, Co. Waterford
Kilfarrassy Beach, Co. Waterford

It never occurred to me on September 10, 2010 that the natural world, which Dad loved so much, could possibly be bursting with colour, vibrancy and continuity. Nor did I envisage that a time could ever come when I would stand in the presence of nature on his anniversary and feel a true sense of celebration ~ celebration of a life well spent, a father/daughter relationship filled with trust, empathy, fun, shared interests and unconditional love.

Instinct drove me out along the Copper Coast, into the picturesque village of Kill with its aptly named, Happy Days, shop where I bought a picnic lunch that had to include a Waterford ‘blaa’ (type of bread roll) and a little  Cadbury’s snack bar like the ones Dad always seemed to have hidden away, just in case!

Onwards to Mount Congreve Garden which was like The Garden of Eden.

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Yes, ‘Light and shade by turn but love always.’

And how better to round off the day than with a swim at sundown at Garrarus Beach with son, Harry, who seems to have inherited many of Dad’s traits, especially his passion for nature, sport and his hearty laugh.

Garrarus Beach at Sundown
Garrarus Beach at Sundown


Mount Congreve: A Garden beyond Words

There is no doubt that places one knows and loves deeply have their own special way of conversing. Mount Congreve Gardens certainly fall into that category for me and I can best describe the feeling through this short poem:


I don’t take your words
Merely as words.
Far from it.
I listen
To what makes you talk –
Whatever that is –
And me listen.
Shinkichi Takahashi
(Translated from the Japanese by Lucien Stryk and Takahashi Ikemoto) 


At present, Mount Congreve is full of colour and the Astilibes, especially, are blooming in glory:


However, what spoke loudest to me when I was there were hearts of all descriptions. I think seeing a painting ( I don’t know by whom yet!) of  the late Ambrose Congreve in the delightful little coffee shop set the tone for me.

Here was the man who had devoted so much love into developing Mount Congreve into the gardens that we enjoy today:

Ambrose Congreve
Ambrose Congreve

So, it was a walk defined by thoughts of heart, hearts, and heartfulness and one during which it seemed that Mount Congreve was speaking and listening by turn.


Light and Shade by Turn but Love Always

Light and shade by turn but love always are the words engraved on the Temple at Mount Congreve Garden. As I read them this morning, they seemed to sum up every emotion I was feeling.

Today, May 24th, is my son’s nineteenth birthday; it also marks the last day I saw my late parents together as they sat in their porch at sundown in 2009; and it is the anniversary of the death of Ambrose Congreve who died, aged 104, in 2011.

Yes, life is full of light and shade; joy and sadness; and love is what we need to sustain and nurture us through the rough and the smooth.

Today, I feel especially grateful to Ambrose Congreve for creating a garden which brings such peace and allows for such connection and reflection. My parents adored Mount Congreve and it is a place in which I have shared many, many precious hours with my son.

Here are some of the key images that particularly captivated me in Mount Congreve today as they seemed to highlight themes around the seasonality of life, lives well spent, and, of course, love:







Dear Mr Congreve …

White Seat,
Mount Congreve Garden,
Co. Waterford,
 9th May, 2014

Dear Mr Congreve,

It seems only natural to write to you as I sit here in your garden basking in beauty, birdsong, blazing azaleas, a flowing view down to the blue Suir and even bluer hills beyond.

There’s a soft breeze swaying through the fresh leaves of the tall trees that are providing me with perfect shelter in the sunshine.

It’s all so calm and inspirational – a hare has just run passed, ears tall, eyes fixed on the path ahead.

I was just looking at the Quercus Caslaneifolia ‘Green Spire’ which the Royal Horticultural Society presented to you on April 4, 2007, in houour of your 100th birthday.

You are someone who knows the meaning of ‘long life’ and the nearest person to me who lived to be 104.

Your legacy to Ireland and the world is truly magnificent. Mount Congreve Garden brings endless pleasure to everyone who visits.

I come here every week and see it as my Garden of Eden. The weekly changes never cease to amaze me and you’ll probably laugh at this but the ONE thing I photograph every single time I’m here is the heart on the iron gate at the very far end of the Garden.

It’s like my anchor here and always makes me think of the love you poured into making this a place for all seasons; full of colour, nooks, crannies, steps, tiny paths, sweeping avenues, vistas of water and plants.

I hope you’ll smile, too, when I tell you that I’d love to be Mount Congreve’s Writer in Residence. To tell the truth, I half see myself as that already! Yes, Mount Congreve is like home to me and fills me with a sense of  absolute peace and gratitude every time  I come here.

Your spirit pervades the Garden and today it rings out most of all through the delicious carpets of bluebells.

Thanks for giving me this haven and for your comforting presence.

With love and a gentle kiss through the scented air,




Dear Mount Congreve

Dear Mount Congreve,

It was sheer bliss to be able to spend three wonderful hours with you early on Saturday morning.

You looked different than I’d ever seen you before because it’s only mid-March and it was always  much later when we first greeted each other all those other years that stretch back to my childhood.

You know how to bring total peace to my soul, catch my imagination with your dashing colours, remind me of the magic of woodland gardens with all that birdsong and the mingling of the seasons.

I know you will never again look like you did on Saturday so I’m posting a few photos just to remind us of the beauty we shared.

I’m so, so happy that you will be there for me, and everyone who loves nature, colour, creativity and peace, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from now until the Autumn.

With love and look forward to seeing you later this week,

Jean xxx

PS. It’s always good to be able to check in on your website:

Light and Shade ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 188

Today has to be the hottest day of the year ~ and perhaps for many years ~ here in Tramore.  I was fortunate enough be able to go for a walk in shady Newtown Wood this morning and to follow that with a luxurious swim at sun-kissed Garrarus Beach.The contrast between the two settings made me think of the evocative inscription on a family memorial in Mount Congreve Gardens.

Mount Congreve Gardens, Co. Waterford

While  the words  Light and shade by turn but love always  are  perfect words for a passionate plantsman like Ambrose Congreve,  they also have a depth that emphasises the absolute importance of ‘love’ in human existence.

I wonder is anything more fundamental than love?

Mount Congreve Gardens ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 171

World famous Mount Congreve Gardens here in Co. Waterford were open to the public yesterday. They were looking absolutely splendid.
Like so many others, I am hoping that a resolution can be found to ensure that the Gardens remain open to visitors, as was the abiding wish of the late Ambrose Congreve.

I hope you enjoy this slideshow of the Mount Congreve’s summer splendor yesterday.

Mount Congreve on my Mind ~ Gatherings from Ireland #149

This week (May 24th) marked the second  anniversary  of the death of  Ambrose Congreve, aged 104, who developed the world famous Mount Congreve Gardens which are just a few miles from Waterford City.

Anyone who follows this blog will already know that Mount Congreve Gardens have a very special place in my heart, going right back to my childhood. I had been so, so looking forward to visiting them on the first Thursday in April to witness Spring in all its natural glory but , alas, they didn’t re-open as negotiations are ongoing  with the Office of Public Works to try to make Ambrose Congreve’s wish to leave the Gardens to the people of Ireland a reality.

It is hard to describe the yearning that I feel to be able to walk around Mount Congreve again. Somehow the blooming of the single rhododendron that lives in my back garden is serving as a reminder of the incredible beauty that defines Mount Congreve.

I hope with all my heart that the negotiations are brought to a satisfactory conclusion as soon as possible as it is unbearable to think of  such a jewel of Ireland ~ that exudes the very best of nature, colour and sheer passion being locked up, especially when I know it has to be way beyond stunning with that wonderful collection of rhododendrons at their peak this very day!