Visiting the President of Ireland's Gardens - Soon To Be Organic Certified
Posted Aug 12 2010 1:26pm
Shawna Coronado standing at the rose and lavender garden at Áras an Uachtaráin, the President of Ireland's residence.
Traveling to Ireland this summer to keynote at the very green and sustainable
Bloom 2010 event was a tremendous
experience because of the warmth and beauty of Ireland's people. What made the
trip completely over-the-top was receiving an invitation to tour the gardens of
Áras an Uachtaráin, President Mary McAleese's official residence gardens in
President McAleese is known for a quote which I think strongly reflects the
garden which has been built surrounding the Presidential Residence, "That past
is still within our living memory, a time when neighbour helped neighbour,
sharing what little they had out of necessity, as well as decency." Áras an
Uachtaráin's grounds are built to be shared with the people of Ireland and the
world; encouraging others to building community and garden organically.
Robert Norris, Head Gardener at the Áras an Uachtaráin gardens, walked with
me in a very special private tour of the Presidential property. While there, a
smile rarely left my lips. Our first stop was to walk around the Presidential
residence and view the formal gardens which were originally built in the
Victorian era. Every notable head of state is invited to plant a tree on the
grounds, the largest being Queen Victoria's tree. Aptly, on one of her three
visits, Queen Victoria planted a Redwood - a Giant Sequoia - at this front
garden. It is so absolutely magnificent and huge that it transforms the view of
the garden from the stately home sometimes referred to as the "Irish White
Closer to the residence, the Victorian theme is duplicated with a rose garden
and gorgeous rows of lavender which form unique frames to the walking paths in
the rose garden, as well as scenting the air with their delightful aroma. It is
a wonderful spot to host visitors from all over the world.
After the more formal gardens immediately surrounding the home, I was lead
through majestic, tree-lined allee's filled with specialty bulb gardens
and sweeping views of the property. This part of the tour was quiet and calming
with its sprawling trees, green grass, and grand views of nature - it was a
place for thought and reflection.
(to continue reading this story, please click the link below...)
Next came my favorite garden on the property; the private organic kitchen
garden. Although the Presidential gardens are not yet fully certified organic,
they have for many years been working on a conversion process which involves
switching over to organic cultivation, fully eliminating the use of artificial
fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and synthetic chemicals. Although
"organic" status has not been awarded yet, the process will soon be complete.
The kitchen garden is not open to the public and I was unable to video this
portion of the Presidential garden. However, I was allowed to take photos which
you can see in the below photo series.
What truly amazes me about this garden is the dedication of the staff, under
President McAleese's guidance, creating an example of organic living for the
people of Ireland. Utilizing organic fertilizers, such as manures, the garden is
very carefully managed so chemicals are not used. This creates an environment
where most of the food served at the Presidential residence which is taken from
the gardens is healthy and chemical-free.
Within the walled kitchen garden is an amazing array of table vegetables,
fresh herbs of every possible type, and house chickens. Delightfully, the
chickens peck at any greenery beneath their hen house, and their eggs help feed
the household. They adore fresh greenery, and their coop is moved regularly over
various sections of the garden so the hens can act as natural "weeders". Each
hen had its own personality and plays an important part in supplying the
President's chefs with the freshest eggs imaginable.
Surprisingly, the perennial flower cutting gardens surrounding the Peach
House, a very special green house designed by the renowned 19th century
Architect Richard Turner (and recently restored), are also without chemical use.
Any cut flowers from these gardens used for the tables inside the Presidential
residence are chemical-free as well. This means that seeds and petals dropped on
the tables are also chemical-free. What a terrific example of President
McAleese's healthy initiatives; setting a sustainable example for the world on a
better and more positive way to live.
Each garden is kept surprisingly clear of weeds, and you will see in the
video I made of the experience, that the staff is utilizing every creative
technique possible to manage the garden. The only weeds I saw were between
potato plants near the fruit orchard; soon to be creatively smothered with the
vegetable plant's top-growth. Because Áras an Uachtaráin is located on the
Phoenix Park property, right next to the Dublin Zoo, there are plenty of
opportunities for the gardeners at the Presidential residence to use organic and
natural zoo manure. This is a great arrangement which encourages the staff to
continue building rich organic gardens. Composted manure is one of the best
natural fertilizers ever. There was even a sustainable permeable paving parking
on the property. This parking area allows water to drain back down to the water
table instead of being washed away into the sewer systems.
Aras an Uachtaráin is the official residence of the President of Ireland and
I was privileged to have an invitation extended to me to visit the gardens. I
hope some day to meet the President personally and thank her for her amazing
organic initiatives. The best way to educate the public on sustainable practices
is certainly by setting an example. President McAleese and her staff are doing
an astounding job of that.
Above is a video which shows me giving a tour at the gardens at Áras an
Uachtaráin, with a focus on creative tips and ideas you can learn from
the gardens which are going organic. Remember, the gardens are still in process
of being officially certified organic, so references made to "organic" in the
video and in this article mean the areas which are in process of being
The house and grounds are at Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland, and are open to
the public each Saturday. To learn more about the residence and other
information about the President of Ireland, please go to the Official Website
of the President of Ireland .
Special thanks go to the Presidential staff at Áras an Uachtaráin for
welcoming me and my sponsor escort, Emma Walls of Glenisk Organic Dairy, to the
presidential gardens. It was truly a personal dream come true.