Castle Ward restores eleborate Victorian garden

A painting of the original Windsor Garden by Mary Ward from 1864

Famed for its eccentric two-faced mansion house, Castle Ward’s impressive estate also features two very distinctive designed landscapes – a 17th and 18th century Temple Water and the 19th century Windsor Garden which is currently being restored to its Victorian splendor.

With a three year plan to restore the traditional landscaping of the Temple Water now well underway, head gardener Andy Dainty’s focus has turned to the potential of the pleasure grounds which incorporate a Pinetum, (established to house trees and shrubs sourced from exotic places around the world); a rockery and the 19th century Windsor Garden (now known as the Sunken Garden).

“Together these innovations are a fine example of the gardening style of the period and were obviously designed as a showpiece to show off to visiting guests,” Andy explains. “It’s been a long-term vision of mine to restore the Sunken Garden and when funding was secured at the start of 2017, the project was given the green light.”

Andrew Dainty, gardener at Castle Ward pictured in the sunken garden
Andrew Dainty, gardener at Castle Ward
Andrew Dainty, gardener at Castle Ward pictured in the sunken garden

Restoring a great Victorian garden

When originally designed, the Windsor Garden was a formal terraced garden, dominated by a sunken parterre with an elaborate bedding design between gravel walks. Over the years the garden’s form has altered dramatically with elaborate beds being replaced by rolling lawns and an imposing statute of Neptune overshadowing the flowers to take centre stage.

“The garden was no longer recognisable as one of the greatest gardens in Ireland, however, thanks to the support of gifts in wills, donors and the Ulster Garden Scheme, we have embarked on a £37,500 project to elevate the presentation of the Sunken Garden and revive the Victorian passion for plant collections and colour.”

Working with a team of local and foreign garden volunteers, Andy plans to create a vivid visual kaleidoscope of intricate planting that’s sure to impress regular visitors and appeal to new ones.

“Over the next few months our ambition is to restore the Windsor Garden with its associated parterres and rose beds, back to the historic presentation captured on canvas in a painting by Mary Ward in 1864.

The restoration includes the installation of 61 new beds
The garden restoration includes the installation of 61 new beds
The restoration includes the installation of 61 new beds

4,000 bulbs and a lot of labour

“Initially I had thought the project would take six weeks,” laughs Andy. “We’re now a couple of months in and I would hope that the work will be complete early next year.”

Work began with a 3-D scan of the garden to work out the dimensions of the 61 new beds; this was followed by the creation of plans and the installation of over 550 meters of edging to create the new parterre design. Pathways were widened, over 120 tons of soil and compost were manually wheelbarrowed into the site and finally, over 4,000 bulbs will be planted to bring the design to life.

 “The project has been tough but really satisfying,” adds Andy. “It’s been lovely to have been involved in every aspect of it – from the birth of the idea to the final result. Along the way I’ve been everything from the wheelbarrow man to the project manager, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s been hard work, but I don’t mind a bit of hard graph,” he laughs, “it means I can go home and enjoy some chocolate in the evening!”

The end result will be a garden that reflects the importance of this area of the Demesne, ensuring its place as one of best examples of a Victorian garden on the island of Ireland. Be sure to visit Castle Ward in early spring to see the beautiful new planting scheme in full bloom.