Sun gave way to shadow as the day faded, but the brilliance of the azaleas and rhododendrons in their natural surroundings still shone through. I have been to many gardens, but I think Rowallane Gardens may be my favorite yet.
At the start of the weekend, we had no plans, but the weather was terrific so we had to get out and enjoy the sunshine. And UK Fulbright Scholars are enrolled in the National Trust, which allows free access to sites under its purview.
So free is free, even though it proved easier to hire a car than to figure out how to get a bus for the 15-mile trip to County Down.
The 50-acre property was developed by the Rev. John Moore in the 1860s, then expanded and updated by his nephew Hugh when the property passed into his hands in 1903. Hugh brought in plant species from around the world and cared for the garden until his death, at which time the property became part of the National Trust.
We’re told the crowds were thick earlier in the day, when Rowallane held its annual plant sale. But we mainly had the place to ourselves in the late afternoon/early evening.
The formal gardens were nice, but I really liked the natural areas. There were wide grassy areas trimmed with trees and bushes, mostly in bloom. We walked past the 100-year-old handkerchief tree, which has just started putting on leaves for the year. The Himalayan blue poppies dotted the landscape, adding bits of color along the pathways.
Bees were working feverishly, drinking deeply from the flowering plants. Light and shadow played in the Pleasure Ground, a treed area that Moore planted. The pictures I took there did little to capture the splendor of the light’s interplay with shadows.
We already had plans to visit another famous garden the next day, but Rowallane Gardens would prove tough to beat.