Glenarm Castle News

Harnessing the energy of youth

The Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle is fashionably situated—fashionable for the first part of the 19th century at least—a few minutes’ walk away from the imposing four-towered mass of the house itself. The castle is home of Randal and Aurora McDonnell, Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce. Randal’s favourite approach to the garden is via the shady avenue of shaggy Monterey cypress. The avenue was once so shady and tunnel-like that, when the army was stationed at the castle during the Second World War, tanks parked along its length were completely hidden from view. You enter the garden through the simple green painted Bell Gate, almost hidden among the drapes of clematis that are trained over the high stone walls.

The explosion of fiery colour that greets you—an elongated, perfectly graded cash register of fiery reds, yellows and blues—is as surprising as it is exhilarating. The use of colour and form here in the Hot Border is exemplary. There are crimson dahlias (including Aurora’s favourite starshaped Dahlia Marie Schnugg), their reds made more intense by the electric blue of Salvia patens. The delicate arching form of the clear lemonyellow Crocosmia Citronella is echoed at the back of the border by Inula magnifica, its deeper shade of yellow soft enough to sit comfortably next to towering stands of bruised-mauve Eupatorium purpureum.

Perking things up throughout, in that quirky secret-ingredient way achieved by only the most magical borders, are pockets of Potentilla nepalensis Roxana, with its ringed salmon-coloured flowers and the pink-flushed bells of Penstemon digitalis Husker Red, whose burgundy stems and pale flowers add subtlety and depth to its sizzling neighbours.

It was the formidable Anne Catherine McDonnell—Countess of Antrim in her own right—who decided against a kitchen garden closer to both the house and nearby Irish Sea and built the current four-acre Walled Garden in the 1820s using limestone quarried from the demesne. The Countess also undertook a Romantic transformation of the house, including the addition of a castellated Barbican Gate...

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