Florence Court Kitchen Garden history
Learn more about the history of the Kitchen Garden and how it played its role in making Florence Court one of the finest examples of a sustainable Irish estate.
The Walled Garden at Florence Court was created during the late-eighteenth century, probably around 1780, and the Ordnance Survey 1st Edition (1834) probably shows the garden layout much as it appeared when first created.
Substantial developments took place in the walled gardens following the marriage in 1869 of Viscount Cole (later the 4th Earl of Enniskillen) to the wealthy Dumfriesshire heiress Charlotte Baird, assisted by her Scottish head gardener, James Sutherland. Sutherland was to remain at Florence Court for at least 18 years from 1886 and appears to have been the most distinguished head gardener of Florence Court in the nineteenth century.
During this period the Rose Garden was laid out beside thewaters of the upper pond, circa 1890, and a new approach was made to the garden via a wooden bridge over the upper pond having rustic palisades; formerly an arch of whale bones spanned this bridge- they still survive but in very poor condition. The pergola in the Lower Garden with its climbing roses and clematis was also created at this time, as was the tennis court and nursery in the area to the north of the wall.
At this time glasshouses were also constructed, comprising the vinery and apricot glasshouses against the north wall with a curvilinear central section which was dismantled around the time of World War I.
Another glasshouse was built against the south face of the wall in the Upper Garden but it is not clear when this was originally created.
With the departure of Sutherland (to the United States) from Florence Court circa 1908, the garden was run by a succession of head gardeners culminating with James Sheppard, after whose departure the garden was gradually abandoned during the 1940s and by the 1960s it had become an overgrown wilderness.
A reconstruction of the garden’s layout and design in Sheppard’s time has shown that, in general, this garden was quite typical of the traditional Walled Garden, characterised by a mixture of flowers, fruit and vegetables in a formal ornamental plan.
At peak production, from the late 1890s up to World War II, twelve full-time gardeners would have worked in the Kitchen Garden, the produce from which provided valued crops for the House and wider estate. The garden and glasshouses fell into decline following the departure of the last Head Gardener in 1947. In 1995 the Walled Garden was transferred into the care of the National Trust who recreated the Upper Rose Garden and restored the apple orchard.
Work so far
The upper part of the garden, known as the Rose Garden, has already been restored, and the remaining 2 acres, known as the Kitchen Garden is currently undergoing a project to return it to the 1930s arrangement.
So far, the original pathways have been restored and herbaceous borders planted containing a wide variety of plants, including achillea, asters, bergamot, marigold, cosmos and many summer flowering bulbs. These can also provide cut flowers for use in the house.
Two large fruit and vegetable plots have been brought into cultivation and are used to grow common vegetables and Victorian favourites such as sea kale. Each year new and unusual vegetables are grown - most recently tree spinach, callaloo and mooli radish. The plots are edged with calendula and other flowers to attract beneficial insects. 110 meters of espalliers have been installed to support native Irish apples.