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Our work at Rowallane Garden

A view of the Annie Quinn Summer House in the Walled Garden at Rowallane Garden
The Annie Quinn Summer House in the Walled Garden | © Catriona Corrigan

Carved into the County Down landscape, Rowallane Garden has grown from its 19th-century beginnings at the hands of Reverend John Moore and his nephew Hugh Armytage Moore. Their vision to create a place where visitors can leave the world behind and immerse themselves in nature lives on and influences the ongoing conservation work in the garden.

Caring for Rowallane Garden

Rowallane Garden has been named one of Northern Ireland's most beautiful gardens. Our Gardeners and volunteers help us keep it looking spectacular all year round but our visitors and members ensure we can also care for some of the garden's other, iconic features.

Long stems need support

Sun-loving plants growing in shade tend to stretch for the sun and frequently require staking to prevent them from toppling over. Other perennials are simply more prone to flop due to their large flower heads or lanky stems.

In their natural habitat, many perennials don't require staking because they grow among and lean on taller, stronger plants, such as shrubs, or bushy perennials.

The garden team lend a hand

Rowallane’s gardening team works alongside passionate volunteers in all weathers to help perennial plants stand tall against the elements and give plants a helping hand to prevent flopping, toppling and drooping.

What is staking?

Staking typically falls into two categories: preventive and remedial. Preventive staking here at Rowallane involves thoughtful planning and action before stems collapse. It's what we do for known floppers in the garden, such as peonies, delphiniums and helenium.

How we stake

We use the twiggy branches of beech trees cut in February or March before they come into leaf. The forked and branched stems can be small or large depending on which herbaceous plants we're staking. In general, when we stake, we want the support to be somewhere between the midpoint of plant height.

Using flexible twigs

Twiggy branches are pushed into the ground all around the herbaceous clump in April. The flexible twigs are then bent and woven together over the perennial. No string or wire is required. The staking becomes virtually invisible as the plant grows up through the beech twigs.

The Kitchen garden in October at Rowallane Garden, County Down
The Kitchen garden in October at Rowallane Garden | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Conserving Rowallane Garden's iconic structures

The Annie Quinn Summer House

Situated in the corner of the Walled Garden, the Annie Quinn summer house is a beautiful feature of Rowallane Garden that, sadly, fell into disrepair and became unsafe for visitors to sit in. Providing a shady spot with stunning views across the garden we were keen to restore the house to its former glory for visitors to enjoy in the warmer weather. In November 2022 restoration work began and visitors can now enjoy this historical House for many summers to come. The project was made possible thanks to a generous donation from visitors along with fundraising efforts on property.

The Sundial

In 2021 the Sundial that stands to the left of Rowallane House at the entrance of the Walled Garden was damaged, for a second time that year. Once staff noticed the damage wheels were put in motion to remove it and once more send it off to specialists for repair.

The stone lions of Rowallane Garden

In December 2017, the beloved stone lions that guarded Rowallane's Avenue Ground for over 100 years vanished without a trace. What happened to them remains a great mystery. The lions were never recovered. Greatly missed, we decided that the stone lions should be replaced. This would allow future generations to enjoy and connect with this important part of the garden’s history. Skilled stone sculptors at Cliveden Conservation took great care to recreate the curled manes and characterful expressions of the old lions. The new lions have been greeted warmly by staff and visitors alike since installation in 2018.

The restoration of these iconic features was made possible with support from visitors and members and experts across the Trust who pooled their knowledge and talents to see this project to completion.

View of stone urns in Tea Garden at Rowallane Garden
View of stone urns in Tea Garden at Rowallane Garden | © Kyle Lamb

Old Urns get a new lease of life

Near the Paddock at Rowallane Garden you'll find an old building that was once a chicken shed. Hidden amongst the undergrowth our gardeners made a fantastic discovery. Four Georgian urns that had succumbed to the elements were found after years lying forgotten.

The urns are made in the style of Robert Adam (1728 – 1792), one of the most important British architects working in the neoclassical style.

The stylistic qualities of this period can be seen clearly. Now situated in our Tea Garden, the urns are very ornate. Upon closer inspection, it is evident the urns have been hand carved. They are not pure reflections of one another. Each urn has its own character. The finials differ in height and each is decorated slightly differently. The embellished edging although similar, sweeps and turns over each urn with unique personality. Had the urns been made on a lathe, they would have been indistinguishable.

When the urns were rediscovered they were damaged. Finials had been broken off, one was missing and the lead dowels had corroded with age. Enter Cliveden Conservation.

Their team spent four days drilling out the old lead and resetting the urns with new stainless steel dowels. They also reinstated the ornate finials atop the urns. The urns were then cleaned, placed on their ‘socle’ (neck or stand) and installed in the Tea Garden.

Alongside the planted beds and the stone wall, the four Georgian urns really bring the tea garden to life. They complement the tea garden’s design and as a whole, the space looks as though it has always been part of Rowallane Garden.

The unfinished urn

Towards the back of the Tea Garden you will find an urn that is missing a large section. The missing section has been turned to face the garden. You could easily assume the urn was weathered with age as it remained hidden or maybe, that at some stage it has fallen of its base and smashed when it hit the ground.

In actual fact, there is more evidence to suggest that this urn was broken as the sculptor was carving it. On closer inspection, you can see that it was never finished. It is likely that a large section fell off the urn as the sculptor was adding decorative edging. On one side the decorative edging stops abruptly suggesting that the sculptor gave up once the large section fell off.

Thank you for your support

We look forward to welcoming you on your next visit to Rowallane Garden. Your support helps us continue this important work – thank you.

A selection of National Trust Handbook with multi-coloured covers on a shelf
Support our work as a member | © N/A

Belfast Association

The Belfast association was founded in 1971 to enhance and promote the work of the National Trust and provide members with opportunities to share common interests and meet with like-minded people.

Raising funds for the Trust is also an important part of the Association’s activities. In recent years they have supported special projects at Minnowburn and Rowallane Garden.

Social events

Through an organised year-long programme of talks, outings and social events, members learn more about local places of interest and the work of the Trust, as well as forging new friendships.

  • Talks – during the autumn and winter months they organise talks on a variety of subjects, usually followed by light refreshments.
  • Social events – Christmas Lunch is one of their most popular events and is held in a different venue each year.
  • Day trips – they organise a number of day trips and tours to places of interest in NI and further afield. These may include National Trust properties but also privatively owned houses, estates and historic sites. In recent years they’ve have visited Dail Eireann in Dublin, gardens in Donegal, an island in Lough Erne and the Bronte country in County Down.

Get in touch with the Belfast Centre

To become a member of the Belfast Association you must be either:

  • A fully paid-up member of the National Trust
  • A volunteer who holds a current National Trust Volunteer Card
  • An employee of the National Trust
  • A member of the public

Current membership is £10 for a single person and £15 for a family membership.

For information about the centre and to join, please contact them by phone 028 9268 2638, or email

A family walk along a path through the woodland around Penshaw Monument; the dappled sunlight shines down through the leaves


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