A true plantsman’s garden of about 5ha nurtured since 1950 by the owners, Cicely Hall and her son Robin Hall, this garden has a reputation for being one of the finest of its type with one of its best collections of plants in Ireland, excluding trees and shrubs. It is reached through a beech avenue with a small but growing arboretum on one side and has an excellent collection of snowdrops, including its own variety, so consequently is best visited in February. In mid-summer, the visitor is rewarded again with luxuriant herbaceous borders. Irises, lilies and lobelias feature strongly.
Primrose Hill house is a regency villa attributed to the architect, James Gandon. Eamon de Valera and his political constitution adviser, Dr. Irwin were frequent visitors to the house in the 1920s and 1930s. The house and grounds were part of the Lucan House Demesne. Four generations of gardeners in the same family have tended and developed the garden at Primrose Hill with some plants there being in the family for over 100 years.
This event is for members only. There is a cost of 6 euro per person. Parking is available nearby. Another alternative is to get a bus to Lucan and walk 600m. Detailed directions will be sent out on the 19th of February to attendees.
Booking will open on the 7th of February at 9.00 am and close on the 18th of February at 11.00pm
Jane Powers wrote in 1997 in the Irish Times about Primrose Hill as follows:
There are two items essential to a visit the gardens at Primrose Hill in Lucan, Co Dublin a warm vest and elastic knees. It can get profoundly cold here when you are crawling around on all fours in February and March – as we all may do when the garden is open. But that is the only way to enjoy this spring garden properly Primrose Hill is not a place where you stroll around admiring things from afar.
It is a collector’s garden where you must concentrate your mind, slim down your vision and ignore the distractions of the big picture. Only then are you able to appreciate the small but exquisite treasures hovering just a couple of inches above the soil. And at this time of the year, the main attraction is the massed gathering of the galanthus tribe – snowdrops, to you and me.
Robin Hall, who lives here with his mother, Cicely, is the man who is responsible for the snowdrop invasion, at least 40 or 50 varieties “and that’s understating it”. He is coy about the exact number in his collection, his wariness a hangover from his days in the highly competitive world of antique dealing, when there was always somebody around the corner ready to go one better.
Robin’s interest in snowdrops was kindled by visits to Beech Park – the garden of the great plantsman, David Shackleton – when he was a boy. “It was during its heyday then and I became very excited when I saw the bulbs.” Later, in his early teens, a bout of middle ear trouble kept him out of school. “We sent him outside to recover,” remembers his mother. “Fresh air was the cure for everything in those days.
And so in the fresh air, the young Robin began to amass his little flotillas of trembling white bells. The first of these, came, naturally, from David Shackleton. And from Straffan House on the banks of the Liffey in Kildare came the Irish hybrid “Straffan”, a remarkable plant which produces two flower stalks instead of the customary one. It is thought to be the illegitimate offspring of the common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis and a Crimean cousin G. plicatus. From Riverston, near Nenagh, came “Hill Poe”, a very, very double hybrid with a tight ruffle of inner petals. From gardens in England came “Robin Hood” “Merlin” and “Ophelia”.
In time, Robin Hall’s snowdrop colony became one of the largest in the country. And recently in the grips of an irresistible expansionist urge, he took over the family vegetable patch, filling it with rivers of his more plentiful types, like Galanthus caucasjcus – which has a little “blip” on the tip of the leaves – and small islands of rarer characters.To the untrained eye, they all look much of a muchness but when you hunker down and peer under their skirts, the differences are manifest. The common snowdrop, for instance, has a simple outer skirt of three pure white petals and an inner three petal white petticoat hemmed in green. “Hill Poem” on the other hand, has five outer petals and a short, many layered, lacy confection underneath that would put most bridal underthings to shame. And tall “Robin Hood” wears a long, modest no nonsense under tunic which decently hides his stamens.They’re all utterly different to the fine tuned eye here an extra half centimetre of leaf width, there a wan sheen of green, glossed over white satin, that petal marked at the base and that at the apex. When you’re inspecting a plant this minutely, the possibilities are legion which is why more than 300 different types of these little white quaking bells of early spring have been identified and named.
And there is no more dramatic place to view them than along the drive to the house where hundreds of the common snowdrop are naturalised in the grass under a canopy of beech trees. And interspersed are scatterings of acid yellow aconites. Mind you, it’s the last vista you’ll get. Then it’s time to get down on your hands and knees and take a closer look at life from the earnest galanthophile’s special viewpoint two inches above soil level.