Widely respected as the jewel in Ireland’s gardening crown, Altamont Gardens are an enchanting blend of formal and informal gardens with riverside walks covering over 40 acres (16 hectares). The estate gains much of its character from the many mature trees, both natives in the avenues and woodland areas, and exotic specimens throughout the gardens including Cedrus deodara (Deodar Cedar), Taxodium distichum (Swamp Cypress), Quercus rubra (Red Oak) and Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Redwood). Lawns bisected by sculpted yews slope down to a lake surrounded by rare trees and rhododendrons and lead in turn to a very different garden featuring exotic shrubs and trees. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen with its canopy of ancient oaks and huge stone outcrops leads the visitor to the River Slaney.
The original Victorian layout was enhanced by Fielding Leckey Watson (and later by his daughter Corona North), following his purchase of Altamont in 1924. Corona travelled extensively in her search for plants, which continue to flourish throughout the gardens, including Cornus kousa ‘chinensis’ and Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree). When Corona North, who lovingly cared for the gardens for over 50 years died in 1999, the gardens were left to the State at her request. Ongoing restoration and maintenance continues under the careful stewardship of the Office of Public Works.
Altamont is a great experience at any time of year starting in spring with the wonderful snowdrop collection, one of the largest in Ireland and moving on to daffodils and other spring bulbs such as Fritillaria meleagris (Snake’s Head Fritillary) and Muscari armeniacum (Grape hyacinths). Rhododendrons, azaleas and later on the rose collection is in full bloom in midsummer, followed by contrasting autumnal colours and the beautiful silhouettes of the mighty trees in mid-winter.
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