4,000 bulbs to brighten historic garden restoration at Castle Ward

A member of the Castle Ward gardening team at work in the sunken garden
A member of the Castle Ward gardening team at work in the sunken garden

A neglected landscape once considered one of Ireland’s finest gardens is being restored to its former glory by a team from the National Trust.

When originally designed, the 19th century Victorian Windsor Garden at Castle Ward near Strangford was a formal terraced garden featuring a sunken parterre with elaborate flower beds between a series of gravel walkways.

How the garden at Castle Ward looked when it was painted by Mary Ward in 1864

How the garden at Castle Ward looked when it was painted by Mary Ward in 1864

However, the design of the garden has been dramatically altered over the years – including the placing of an imposing statue of Neptune which overshadowed the floral displays to some extent.

“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,” head gardener Andy Dainty said.

Working with a team of both local and foreign garden volunteers, Andy plans to create what he calls a “vivid visual kaleidoscope” of intricate planting he’s convinced will impress the many regular visitors as well as 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,” he said.

The renovation will involve 550 metres of edging, 120 tons of soil and compost and more than 4,000 bulbs. Work began with a 3-D scan of the garden to work out the dimensions of the 61 new beds. Pathways were then widened before the soil and compost was wheelbarrowed into the site.

“The project has been tough but really satisfying,” Andy added.

“It’s been fantastic to be involved in every aspect of it. Along the way I’ve been everything from the wheelbarrow man to the project manager. For more details visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-ward