Posts Tagged ‘yellow flowers’

By the time we had finished wandering in and photographing Rowallane’s gardens we were in much need of a hot ‘cuppa’ but… the garden cafe was closed. It was about to be moved from the stables to the newly renovated house.  So we headed south to find the nearby Butterfly Sanctuary and its cafe.

Male Peacock on a mission!

We were greeted by a couple of peacocks. “Get out of my way”, he seemed to say.  He was a bird on a mission.

Pea hen

And yes, he was in pursuit of this beautiful lady – a pea hen.

Peacock feathers

The peacock’s feathers made for a lovely piece of natural abstract art.  Who said blue with green should never be seen?   My art lecturer when I was at Teachers College, that’s who!  Maybe she’d never seen a peacock.

Hot Chocolate – Irish Style

Tearing ourselves away from our fascination with the peacocks, we found the small cafe.  It was run by a very friendly young lady who enjoys the ‘craic’, the Irish version of enjoying a conversation. We ordered tea and scones… cherry scones were the offering of the day. They were awful! Made with glace cherries. Do not try.

I had changed my tea order to a small hot chocolate. Imagine my surprise when this work of art was delivered! As I sat stunned, staring at this vision of sugar gone crazy, she said, “This is how we like our hot chocolate in Ireland. You can either drink it or climb it.”  Lesson learned re hot chocolate!

It had begun to rain again by the time we extricated ourselves from the lady and her cafe. The butterflies would have gone into hiding and we didn’t particularly like the thought of wandering in gardens in the rain again.  So we drove on through DownPatrick.  All roads in County Down lead to DownPatrick, the main centre. We could have stopped to see St Patrick’s grave, or the Cathedral, or a steam railway museum. But none of those were on our list of things we most wanted to do after our wonderful morning at Rowallane.  So we drove on back towards Strangford Lough.

A road sign caught our attention just as the sun emerged from behind a curtain of clouds.  It pointed the way to Castle Ward, another National Trust property. A visit to a castle could be just the thing to do on a wet day.  So we turned down a long drive through this 332 hectare (820 acre) property with its promise of walks and views over Strangford Lough, and its eccentric Manor House which is open to the public much of the time, but, as we were to learn, not all of the time.

View over Strangford Lough from Castle Ward

Yes – the sun came out as we began to walk up towards the house. What a lovely view looking down over the waters with blue sky above.

Front view of Castle Ward – the Classic Palladian style side.

Castle Ward was built in the 1760s by the first Lord Bangor, Bernhard Ward, and his wife Anne. It was built of Bath stone brought to Ireland in one of Lord Bangor’s own ships. The big problem for their architect was that this Lord and Lady couldn’t agree on the style for this building.  Lord Bangor wanted classical Palladian style. Lady Bangor wanted the newly fashionable style, neo-Gothick. There was no compromise so, with semi-octagonal bays at each end joining the two ‘faces of the house’, this most eccentric house was a built.

The side that faces the driveway (above) was built in the classic Palladian style with columns supporting a triangular pediment… his half.

The Georgian Gothick side of the house   (Photo courtesy Wikepedia)

The side that faces Strangford Lough, and that view, was built in Georgian Gothick style with pointed windows, battlements and finials…. her half.

The difference in style continues throughout the interior of the house with the divide down the centre. Although the house has stood the test of time, the marriage of Lord and Lady Bangor did not. The couple separated, not surprisingly perhaps!  By 1827 all the furnishings had been dispersed. In 1950, the house was presented to the National Trust, in lieu of death duties after the death of the 6th Viscount Bangor. It has been restored and refurnished in both styles. Unfortunately for us, on the day of our visit, the house was closed and so we did not experience the inside of this eccentric mansion.

A footnote to the Castle Ward story: On 10 February 1973 – Leonard O’Hanlon (23) and Vivienne Fitzsimmons (17), both members of theProvisional IRA,  were killed in a premature bomb explosion in the grounds of Castle Ward estate. Thankfully those times appear to be over and Northern Ireland is enjoying a time of relative peace from ‘the troubles.’

The sunken garden at Castle Ward

The sun shone, briefly, so although we missed out on seeing inside the house, we were able to walk in the garden, at least until the rain returned.  We read that back in 1902, this Sunken Garden had been a formal ‘parterre’, an elaborate design of 61 garden beds filled with flowers – colourful floral artistry. There was little or no grass at all then. Now it’s  a simple design, mainly lawn, in the centre of which is a circular ‘lily pond’ with a statue of Neptune brandishing his trident.


Castle Ward has nothing like the walled gardens at Rowallane, but there were a few interesting plants such as this Alstromeria to brighten an otherwise ‘green garden’.  Known as the Princess Lily or the Peruvian Lily, these flowers are delightful with their streaked petals and compact growth. They can grow to 2 feet tall and there are dwarf cultivars as well. We have a dwarf  Alstroemeria in this colour in our garden in Canberra. I made a mental note to add some more varieties this summer… there are so many colours available now.


These cheerful yellow Alstroemeria would bring a splash of sunshine to any garden, no matter what the weather. I do know that these larger forms can ‘get away’ in the garden and become rather weed like. But we’ve had no problem with the dwarf variety and they grow well in pots.

Blue flower

And if the  yellow Alstroemeria brought the feeling of sunshine, theses lovely blue flowers brought the blue of a clear summer’s sky. I don’t know the name of this flower. Any suggestions?


Fuchsias are a familiar sight in Irish gardens and along country roadsides. In this garden, fuchsia is grown as a hedge along the path from the house down to some out-buildings. They hide the buildings and provide colour at the same time.  They are such beautiful ‘ballerinas’.

Herb Robert

The tiny flowers of the common, weedy wildflower, Herb Robert, can be found almost anywhere there is a stone wall in Ireland.  It always fascinates me to take a close-up look into flowers and these flowers, not much bigger than my little fingernail, deserved a closer look – exquisite in their simplicity of form!

Beautifully ‘sculptured’ mushroom caps

Mushrooms and fungi usually reward a closer look, also.  I had to splash through very soggy grass to photograph these beauties.

Portaferry seen across the Lough from Castle Ward

Portaferry is the village on the other side of Strangford Lough. We would get a closer look at that on our way to our next garden, Mount Stewart. But before that , with rain falling once more, we made our way back to the village of Strangford.  There, at The Cuan Inn (our home away from home) we had a much needed hot shower and a rest before enjoying a wonderful birthday lobster dinner in the company of new found friends.

On the ferry

Next morning, again in drizzle, we took the ferry across Strangford Lough from Strangford to Portaferry… our hire car the middle one.

The house on the point at Strangford

You really have to be out on the water to see homes like this one.

Looking back at Strangford village

It was pleasant looking back at Strangford from the water – a very different view of this lovely village.

Portaferry – from the ferry.

Portaferry has a mixture of architecture.  It would be a good place to explore more. Perhaps next time I’m in Northern Ireland!

(There are more notes on Strangford and Portaferry in an earlier journal entry.)

Portaferry with the old look-out tower on the hill behind

Safely across the turbulent waters of the mouth of Strangford Lough, we disembarked at Portaferry for the drive to our next destination, another National Trust property, Mount Stewart House and Gardens… and that will be the subject of my next journal entry.   J

Photography  © JT of jtdytravels

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Today’s gardeners, if they have the right conditions, can grow plants that came originally from all corners of the world.  That’s thanks in large part to visionary, pioneer plantsmen like Hugh Armytage Moore of Rowallane. This garden is his legacy and to wander here, is to take a world tour of plants!

A quiet space in Rowallane’s walled garden

The walled gardens are large enough to have trees that form a gracious backdrop to the smaller plants. It’s a garden to take your time in, to wander and to sit and contemplate the amazing variety of plants. That seat did look inviting.. but, unfortunately, a to sit there was not possible in the rain!

The lawn area framed by plants.

The central lawn area gives this garden an openness, a space. It allows you to not only enjoy each flowering plant up close, but also to see them further away in their setting against the trees.  And looking through these spaces is an invitation wander along more paths, to explore further.

Rogersia sp.

There are so many plants that captured the eye like these Rogersias with their panicles of flowers rising above strongly veined leaves.

Rogersia sp.

Rogersia leaves are as photogenic as the flowers themselves!

Rogersia sp.

The flowers of Rogersia come in various shades from red to pink, and cream to white except for Rogersia nepalensis which are a greeny yellow. This is yet another plant that comes originally from eastern Asia, most species being found in China, Tibet and Nepal. In their native habitats they thrive in soil that never dries out, growing by streams and in shady moist woodland. No wonder they grow well in Ireland!

Rogersia sp.

Grouping different colours of Rogersias together makes quite a show. They are indeed a very handsome plant.

Giant Knapweed,   Centaurea macrocephala 

Another plant that I hadn’t encountered before is the Giant Knapweed, Centaurea macrocephala.  These are rather tall plants, up to one and a half meters, with flowers on ram rod stiff stems. They are very hard to miss!   The shaggy-headed, yellow, thistle-like flowers emerge from their bracts in early summer through to late summer.  In the wild, the many species of this genus, Centaurea, are found only north of the equator and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere, particularly in the the Middle East.

Giant Knapweed, Centaurea macrocephala

Although the yellow flowers were fascinating, it was without doubt, the balls of  sculptured, glowing bronze balls of bracts that really attract attention. They add such an interesting textural component to the garden and, I’ve no doubt, look very good dried in flower arrangements. The species name of this particular Centaurea is macrocephala and that’s derived from two Greek words:  makros meaning ‘large’ and kephale, meaning ‘head’. Very apt.

When researching this plant in the horticulture literature, I learned that the botanical name for this plant, Centaurea, comes from the name of a noble mythical Centaur, Chiron. I searched further.  It appears that, in Greek mythology, this centaur, half- man and half-horse, taught music, horse skills, hunting, martial arts and medicine to several of the great Greek mythical heroes.  He is credited with inventing medicine. And in one story, Chiron cured a festering arrow wound, in one of said heroes, by covering the wound with the flowers of a plant from this genus.  And for that, the genus not only got its name, Centaurea, but also its reputation for having great healing properties.  I wonder if modern medicine has discovered this!

Centaurea montana

There are many species of Centaurea. Another one growing in this garden is the lovely blue cornflower-like Centaurea montana, with its solitary fringed blue flower with a reddish centre.  The natural habitat of Centaurea montana is, not surprisingly, in mountain areas, particularly in the more southerly mountain ranges of Europe where I have seen it in the wild. It has also become established in the wild in the UK, Scandinavia and North America, but in those places it is as a ‘garden escapee’. It has several common names, including perennial cornflower, mountain cornflower, bachelor’s button, montane knapweed or mountain bluet, so once again, the botanical name is the most useful descriptor.

It’s very similar to the more commonly known and grown blue cornflower, Centaurea cyanus.   The difference is that Centaurea montana  is an evergreen, perennial plant that has a reddish centre and just a single flower head (rarely three).  By contrast, Centaurea cyanus has many flower heads, is blue in the centre and is an annual. The blue cornflower, once a common sight in cornfields, hence its common name, is now, as a result of modern farm practices, rarely seen in the wild although it is widely grown as a garden plant.  In this garden of uncommon plants, Centaurea montana prevailed.

Another garden view of the old stables tower

The tower of the old stables is always a focal point in this garden. The yellow flowers bordering the path here are Golden Garlic,  Allium moly.

A border of Golden Garlic,  Allium moly

That bright yellow of Golden Garlic, Allium moly,  made quite a statement bordering the main path back to the bottom entrance arch, yet another focal point in the garden.   This perennial plant, also sometimes called Lily Leek, is primarily found in Southern France and Spain.

This was another plant in the garden that had a ‘name plate’ with information notes.  From that we learned that the bulb of Allium moly is edible and is used for some medicinal purposes. It is used in this garden as a long-lasting, wonderful sunny border. It is easy to grow and naturalizes quickly, increasing happily in the sun in most garden soils. So prolific are these plants that the gardeners here deadhead the flowers before the seeds set – a most necessary measure to help control its spread to parts of the garden where it is not wanted!  The golden flowers make excellent cut flowers.

Golden Garlic, Allium Moly

Another mythical story refers to this plant. One of the greatest Greek storytellers was Homer and in his epic, ‘The Odyssey’, moly was the name of the drug used by Hermes to help Odysseus to become resistant to Circe’s magic spells.  She had planned to turn Odysseus into a pig, as she had already done to some of his men. As with many good stories, once Circe realised that Odysseus was resistant to her magic, she fell in love with him and released his men from her spell.

Crane’s Bill, Geranium sp.

A plant much used in the Irish gardens that we visited is the Geranium, commonly called Crane’s Bill.  With a mounding growth habit, interesting cleft leaves and often beautifully veined flower petals, Geraniums are a wonderful addition to any garden. With something over 400 species to choose from, gardeners can add a touch of colour and beauty with these plants that originate mostly in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

The name of this plant causes some confusion with another plant commonly called Geranium, the Pelargonium… the type that is grown in such profusion in window boxes in places like Switzerland and Austria. It appears that Linnaeus, the man who gave us the binomial way of naming plants, originally included both of these types of plants in the one genus, Geranium. In 1789 they were separated into two genera but still in the family known as Geraniaceae.  But the common name geranium stayed in usage for both.   Confusing?  Yes. But there is a difference if we look at the flowers.

Geranium flowers, as in the photo above, are radially symmetrical with five very similar petals. The next photo of a species in the pelargonium family, shows flowers that have two upper petals very different from the three lower petals. The flowers do look quite different, it’s just the name that confuses.

Pelargonium sp.

In this garden the true Geranium species are grown in the garden beds… the Pelargonium species were grown in pots by the stables.

Peony sp.

A little further along the main path were a group of peonies, those wonderful flowers that look like they have put on diaphonous party dresses and are just waiting for a handsome prince to take them to a royal ball, there to waltz the night away!  It was not a surprise to me to learn that the genus Paeonia is rather unique in that it is the only genus in the flowering plant family of Paeoniaceae, a name first used by Friedrich K L Rudolphi in 1830. I think he must have been a romantic at heart and fell under the spell of these beautiful flowers, just as I always do. They are unique. Peonies are native across much of the northern hemisphere in Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America but have now been bred to grow in many parts of the world, including our own garden in Canberra.

Peony sp.

Another beautiful peony, staying out of the worst of the rain under an its ‘umbrella’ of foliage.

Peony sp.

And another. They are just so lovely.

And here’s another flower-related Greek legend, this one is associated with the name Peony or (Paeony). The story goes that Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing had a pupil named Paeon. But Paeon must have been a little too bright for his teacher’s comfort and Asclepius became very jealous. However, before Asclepius could take out his wrath on the young Paeon, the great god Zeus stepped in and turned Paeon into a peony flower. And, interestingly, Peonies have long been used in traditional medicines of Korea, China and Japan.

Comfrey, Symphytum sp.

And while mentioning the medicinal properties of plants, Comfrey, Symphytum sp,  has been cultivated and valued for it’s medicinal uses for over 2,000 years by various cultures in its native areas of Europe and Asia.  It is said to have been used as a blood coagulant, a treatment for maladies of the lung, and as a poultice to aid in the healing of wounds and broken bones. Consumed as a tea, comfrey is said to treat a variety of internal ailments. I just love its beautiful blue bell-like flowers that are even more lovely when touched by the rain… again, that bonus of walking in a garden in the rain.

Campanula sp.

Another favourite genus of mine, grown in many gardens these days, is Campanula. And there are many stories associated with these delightful blue bell like flowers… especially in places like Ireland where they are connected to ‘the good folk’ – the fairies. It is said that people did not dig them out of their gardens – just in case they should offend the fairies who may sleep in these bells or use them as goblets to collect the dew. And in North America, the Haida Indians cautioned their children not to pick these flowers, or it would rain. Perhaps the Irish should start to pick these bells to STOP the rain!

Raindrops on Delphinium sp. flower buds.

And rain it certainly did, while we visited this beautiful garden of Rowallane.  As the rain grew heavier, we had to finally give up, take one more photo of raindrops on petals, this time on Delphinium buds, and make a quick retreat to the car.

It had been a fascinating morning in a garden that is not only a wonderful legacy to Hugh Armytage Moore, but also a tribute to the gardeners of the National Trust who maintain this important garden with such care and diligence – and I daresay, with a great love for the plants they grow.

Photography © JT for jtdytravels

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