The Heritage Garden

Heritage Garden_01

With a gentleman’s agreement, an abandoned walled garden became a community project. The garden at the Avila Carmelite Centre in Donnybrook came to the attention of gardener Jacqueline Kelleher and she saw an opportunity for a restoration project.

She approached Father Michael McGoldrick of the centre and they agreed that Jacqueline could take over the garden on the condition that she make it a community project. The project, The Heritage Garden is home to 200 year-old apple trees and is situated within the larger grounds of the centre.

To begin, a core group of 10 volunteers set about repairing the gardens and preparing the ground. “The first year was the hardest, it was about making the soil suitable for organic growing,” said Jacqueline. Last winter, the 200 year-old trees were pruned and restored, with the help of a tree expert, to their current healthy condition with the hope of producing a harvest of apples soon.

The group teach classes on vegetable growing, particularly with limited resources. Vegetables, herbs and plants are the main interests here. Volunteer Kevin Corr explains, “The aim is to get people interested in growing their own produce for themselves, even if it’s just a windowbox for herbs.”

During the summer, The Heritage Garden teamed up with Headway in Donnybrook, an organisation for those with acquired brain injuries (ABI) and set up a course which 12 clients took part in. Helen Gaynor of Headway talks about the advantages, “It involved designing and building a herb garden and planting and growing vegetables. It was of immense benefit to our participants, who have all sustained an ABI. Being outdoors in the fresh air was a great solace and they all commented about the ‘special energy’ in the garden.”

Therapeutic cognitive benefits included focus, increasing attention span, problem-solving and logical sequencing of tasks. Relaxation, stress relief, having a common purpose in a group and growth in confidence were among the emotional benefits. Volunteer Jean Burtchaell emphasises, “An aspect of the gardens is to bring people to a positive place to work and learn.”

There is also an interesting mix of one-off workshops for those with green fingers and a view to expanding their horizons with an introduction to bee-keeping, a bat workshop and homeopathy for the garden.

The Heritage Garden is always looking for donations of seed, soil, compost, empty pots, tools and any items suitable for gardening. Visitors are invited to go along and enjoy the walled garden on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 10am to 4pm. Their website is
Tel: 086 409 5763.

Pictured: Fuki Yoshida, Jean Burtchaell, Bernard Quinn, and Kevin Corr in the Heritage Garden.
Photo by Leeza Kane.

By Leeza Kane