Before the building works in the Italian Garden were even properly started the first artefacts arrived on the freshly built pier in April 1911, safely packed in wooden boxes. Where might the lovely marble with the two lovers be?
Unfortunately another staddler stone along the path to the temple lost its ‘cap’ recently. Will this and the other lost upper parts of those devices (which were once used to protect the grains against mice and rats) be replaced for the next season? Have a look at the old photograph, spot the difference to the nowadays terrace!
This feature is one of the signatures of Harold Peto. In his own garden in Iford they are placed along a very steep path leading to the Edvard VII column.
“This lily pond is lined with small blue-green tiles to give the illusion of sea water, and round the edges in the water are pots raised on bricks of Iris kaempferi, tiny Bulruhes and Reed of various kinds. This Lily pond contains myriads of goldfish, and in the early morning the brilliant many colored king-fisher is to be seen darting over the pond.” written by Violet Bryce for the magazine Gardening Illustrated in January 1929. It would be really great to see the water blue again next year, just a little scrub of the bottom and the lower walls would do it (and maybe a bit more of water…)
Violet and Annan Bryce owned a magnificent house in London W1 which was decorated over and over with pieces of art, antiques and exotic objects especially from the far East like Burma, where Annan had worked (around 1885). They invited the London society for balls and could provide for up to 600 guests.
Two watercolour paintings from William Turner (1775-1851), which were in the possession of Roland Bryce and displayed in the so called gardener’s cottage where he spent the last 30 years of his life, can be admired in the National Gallery in Dublin each year for about four weeks in January (due to the low light which would otherwise affect the delicate colours). A third painting which might be from Turner too is also part of a major collection. Unfortunately there is no hint as to the real origin of the donation (the Bryce family is not mentioned).
A couple of weeks ago a new book about Irish gardens was published: The 100 Best Gardens in Ireland by Shirley Lanigan (Liberties Press). Of course Garinish Island is among them. But will the next generation still find the spirit of the creators of the once so spectacular garden? Shirley unfortunately again narrates the old story that ‘Annan Bryce bought the island’ and also that ‘it must have required enormous quantities of imagination for Mr. Bryce to believe he could create a garden on the rock in Bantry Bay’. According to contemporary reports Annan wasn’t so much into plants and gardening but he loved architecture and art and owned enormous values of paintings at a certain time. The photographs in the book are from the OPW archive and rather (too) well known. The author finishes her article about Garinish Island with a wish which so many a friends of the island share:
Overall, Ilnacullin is a truly glorious garden, but it is in need of a good overhaul and in some respects it is looking tired. This is too important a garden to be neglected. Created by great gardeners, it now needs another great gardener, of which there are many in the country, to conserve and develop it to stop it from becoming an old ghost. Let a talented enthusiast loose on it.
It comes to mind that 15 years ago a similar statement was to be read in The Irish Garden (Winter 1994):
Have you been to see Ilnacullin, formerly Garinish Island, at Glengarriff, Co. Cork, in the past year? If not, be prepared. As always, the first-time visitor will be spellbound by the romantic beauty of the place, its enchanting setting and the inspired marriage of formal design and informal planting. But the returning visitor, and the connaisseur, will be sadly dissapointed. All is not well with Ilnacullin, and there is no point in pretending otherwise. … there was plentiful evidence of the physical damage caused by the feet of visitors … plants in containers looked as though they were not watered and fed often enough, even in the famous Italian Garden. In this same area, there were examples of totally inappropriate planting. Modern bedding hybrids filled the beds bordering the lower area; not only inappropriate, but the colours chosen did not even sit comfortably with each other… parts were overgardened – for instance the completely unnecessary removal of the litter layer beneath trees and shrubs… meanwhile other parts sprouted weeds…
Well, 15 years later, has anything changed to the better? Yes, one topic: most of the marble artefacts were cleaned and shown to the public in the Casita for the last week of the season in 2010. This year the Back of the Casita was blocked and filled with the frost damaged lion, the cleaned sarcophagus, tools, timber and benches. The lights remained off, the explanatory texts for the artefacts hardly legible (dark and hidden way too low for adults). And a small (very small) path was opened to the magical part of the garden, just below the Port Rock, shortly before the season ended. Did something deteriorate? Yes, all the artefacts damaged by the frost were’t repaired – like the faceless lion. And the larch bonsai in the 2000 year old container disappeared.
It feels like it is time to invest into the future of the island. The money is available now: 2.4 million euros. Let’s hope that that fabulous sum will not be entirely invested into the making of the museum but also be used for the rejuvenation of the real asset of the island – the garden and its plants.
A phantastic grant for Garinish Island: € 2.4 million for restoring the gardener´s cottage into a island museum to tell the story of the island and its occupants. This may be the time now to tell the story of the O´Sullivan-Garnish-family who lived on the island in 1910 for the very first time! Did you know? So let’s hope that not only the great byzantine marble tomb – which is now perfectly cleaned and sitting in the back of the casita – will get a worthy display in the near future. According to Harold Peto’s plans it was to be incorporated into the north facing wall of the never built mansion (you would have seen it climbing the slope after the many steps from the eastern gate of the walled garden).