21 May 2013, Tuesday
Just as I was thinking I was done at Glasnevin Cemetery, Gerry rang. He was just leaving work, having gotten off a little earlier than expected. So with my little map in hand—turn left out of the cemetery onto Finglas Road; bear left at the V onto Prospect Avenue (remember, the cemetery was originally called Prospect Cemetery); then turn left onto Botanic Road and follow the signs—I headed to the National Botanic Gardens. (You can read the first post for this day—about the cemetery—here.)
I love our backyard garden at home—it’s like a little piece (and peace!) of heaven. I love strolling around it early in the morning. “When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy,” poet Minnie Aumonier wrote, “there is always the garden.” Truer words were never spoken.
The sun had come out and the day had become quite lovely … which meant I wasn’t the only one who thought a stroll in a garden was a good idea. It was 11:30—lunchtime for a lot of folks—and the parking lot was full. (Next time I think I’ll come right when the gardens open at nine o’clock.) But I quickly learned to think like a Dubliner: I’d passed a spot that was posted for official vehicles only to see someone else park there as I circled back around (having found nothing else), so I squeezed into a spot where none was intended (someone else had done it too). The Yankee rule-follower in me was squeamish … but I only had an hour!
Did I say it was a beautiful day? It was. I turned and looked back in the direction of the cemetery and was rewarded with a view of the O’Connell monument. I wasn’t kidding when I used the word adjacent in my last post—the cemetery is right next door.
I headed in to the visitor centre to see about admission costs, and was quickly charmed by the border plants.
Then I was charmed by the words No cost! The National Botanic Gardens are free. Drop by any time. And people do. There were lots of folks in quiet spots with brown-bag lunches and books.
“If I only have an hour today,” I asked, “what should I do?” The helpful folks in the visitor centre handed me a vistor’s guide and drew a smallish loop on the map. It started at the Alpine house, led past the cherries and the grass garden to the Victorian-era Great Palm House. Oh my.
Funds for the garden were set aside in 1790 and land in Glasnevin purchased from poet Thomas Tickell; the garden opened in 1795. Today it encompasses more than 48 acres and 20,000 living plants, as well as several greenhouses that are architecturally notable. The garden serves as a center for horticultural research (for example, the potato blight fungus that caused the 1845–1847 famine was identified here, and research to stop the fungus continued throughout that time), as well as plant conservation (the collection of cycads is of international importance).
Spring was very late here. It was late at home—still cold in early May!—and here in Dublin in late May it was also chilly. Plants that might have been well up in a normal year were still just thinking about it when I was there.
No matter where I was, though, it was impossible to take my eye off the Great Palm House. Built in 1884, the building underwent a lengthy restoration (during which it was completely dismantled) in 2002–2003; it reopened in 2004. (You can read more about that here.) In 2005 the Palm House won the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award. (You can read more here and here.) It’s really something.
And then I arrived. You must enter the Palm House through the small greenhouses on either side: the cactus house or the orchid house. (I did not go into the orchid house; if I had I might still be there.)
Oh, what a sight! (And oh, how warm it was! My glasses fogged right up.)
Those Victorians were quite clever.
I’d been told that the tulips were “almost gone,” but if this is almost gone, I’ll take it! I would call this array spectacular. Sure, they were at the end of the cycle that had started with a tight little bud; these flowers are fully open. I think they were at their peak that day—perfection.
I’d reached my hour; it was time to go. Just a moment to fill up my eyes …
Now it was 12:30 and the garden was very busy: moms pushing baby carriages, older folks strolling, working people enjoying lunch. Some walkers, some book-readers. Next time—and I must come back—I’ll come early.
And the day’s only half over! There’s one more part still to come …