We were blessed at Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland, where the beautiful garden and house of Lord Londonderry confirmed its reputation of a micro climate. It was sunny during the three hours we spent there and only started pouring when we were at the other end of the lake, admiring the gigantic rhododendrons and gunerreas.
Warmed by the Gulf stream, Mount Stewart sits on the sea East of Belfast. It was resurrected in the 1920’s by Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, who hired veterans of the war to dig and plant her gardens, and it has become a theme garden with the Shamrock garden and its Red hand of Ulster, the Italian and Spanish gardens, the Sunk garden facing the dining room and Dodo Terrace with its stone animals representing regular guests. The walk around the lake which takes under an hour, is full of surprises, with the walled garden and rock walk.
Lady Edith had travelers and plant diggers bring her back Tibetan lilies, Himalayan blue Pavots, and plants from Italy or Spain and she developed, through drawings and instinctive planting, a series of exotic gardens and foreign trees. The Japanese maples iluminate the lawns with their flashy colors and it seems that the predominence of reds and yellows was like a challenge to the rainy skies of Northern Ireland. It is an oasis of warmth and firework of colors.
Lady Rose Lauritzen who stil lives there part of the year, was away unfortunately, but the National Trust staff was charming and the German gardener Lisa, who guided us around the formal gardens was tremendous fun informing us of all the changes made recently by head gardener Neil Porteous. We were surprised to find so many perfumed lilies which belong to Mediterranean gardens, eucalyptus trees and even banana trees!
The Italian garden is planted with a rainbow of flowers which illustrate the course of the sun from blues to oranges. I did not like the bright red geraniums which you find on every window in French villages! but discovered purple red fuchsias in large bushes which seem to be particularly happy in Ireland. Inside the house which was restored two years ago to its orignal 19 th century decor, a very large painting by George Stubbs dominates the staircase and numerous Philip de Laszlo portraits of the family line the walls. There is Chippendale furniture and beautiful libraries and formal English drawing rooms.
Mount Stewart is one of the best examples of the resurrection of a house by the National Trust whose army of volunteers explain everything in the different rooms with grace and application.
If you are in this part of the world of County Down at any point, do stop at Mount Stewart. It is a rejoicing experience!
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