Ambrose Congreve, who lovingly established the world-renowned Mount Congreve Gardens in Co. Waterford died on May 24th last year, aged 104. By coincidence, I had visited the Gardens just a day or two before he died and wrote my own personal tribute to him then. http://wp.me/p1ip9d-8s
He has been on my mind a good deal over the last year and in the days and weeks following his death, I felt a haunting sadness whenever I passed the closed gates of Mount Congreve which is only about 5 miles from my home in Tramore. I was also jolted a few months ago by finding a black and white photograph among my late father’s collection of my sister and I sitting on the grass by the magnificent greenhouse at Mount Congreve back when I was about six and my sister eleven. I looked at that photograph for a long time and thought of the immense love my parents had for Mount Congreve and how my mother, especially, treasured the fact that it is a woodland garden full of wildflowers as well as the marvellous collection of trees and perennials.
All Winter, I looked forward to the re-opening of the Gardens for this season, gardens which Ambrose Congreve left in Trust for the people of Ireland. I wondered how it would be to return, knowing that Ambrose Congreve, had passed on.
I needn’t have worried. As ever, there was a friendly smile and welcome waiting at the entrance to the Gardens which are open each Thursday. Just as Ambrose Congreve wanted, there was no entry fee and it was so clear that those who were welcoming visitors were passionate about the Garden and its future.
Walking through the Garden, there was a wonderful sense of calm and absolute reassurance. Yes, the bluebells were in full bloom, carpetting the woodland and the trees and vast collection of rhododendrons, magnolias, azeleas … were sparkling with freshness, hope and colour. It was as if they were proudly displaying the heart and passion of Ambrose Congreve and keeping his memory alive.
Much of the talk in recent weeks has been on the forthcoming auction of art and antiques from Mount Congreve House and I read today that the first auction will take place in London next Wednesday, May 23rd.
It seems so fitting that Ambrose Congreve’s first anniversary falls on a Thursday – the one day of the week that Mount Congreve Gardens are currently open. I have a feeling that the sun will be beaming down and that the colours and scents will exude more than ever. I, for one, hope to be there to witness that wonder and whisper my thanks for this great gift that Ambrose Congreve brought to Ireland and has bequeathed to us.