Nana's rockery is the oldest garden here on Turra Lodge Farm. Located on the south side of Turra Lodge Farm this space is one that holds fond memories for many.
Established in 2002 the garden acted as a refuge for my Mum and Nana as the house began. As Dad would work tirelessly building the house we would call a home, the rockery was the place of experimentation as to what plants would survive this new land.
The location of this newborn flower bed was one overlooking the water giving spectacular viewpoints and wind shelter.
However, what was not initially taken into consideration was this area was in fact an unmined area. This meant, as it was on part of the abandoned mine, where should lay clay was in fact a coalbed.
The soil consisted of a thin layer of topsoil followed by hard, black coal. Some may see this as an impossible place to plant a garden, but to my family, this was merely an obstacle to be overcome.
So, with a pickaxe and an iron digging bar, holes were dug, shrubs were planted and the war with wildlife commenced.
Moving from a housing estate in Kildare my family had little awareness to the battle with wildlife they were about to endure. From torn bark on the trees to vanishing plants, gardening with rabbits and hares was a foreign concept to us.
Through trial and error, it was discovered which plants were not so appealing to the wildlife and what plants would be thieved in the night and basically a lost cause to the garden.
As cute and adorable as wildlife can be, the droves of hares fleecing the newly planted shrubs were not so lovely.
After a few years the plants that survived became established and the rabbits were no longer a threat. That being said, at this point in time we had started to acquire a heard of Pygmy goats…
You see where this is going!
The plants that had survived and thrived were now even more of a prized possession as it had taken so much effort to get them to this point.
So then factor in some young children who were now caring for a herd of goats and not so diligent in locking gates behind them…
Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe it for Mum and Nana at this point.
I have very funny memories of the occasional “the goats are out!” scream from whoever had spotted the escape artists amongst the plants. This was then followed by swift sprinting from the house to return the goats to their rightful place. Screams of “G’wan!” as your arms flail around over your head trying to be a scary creature and safeguard the plants.
You would think we would learn how to secure the goats after the first few times, but I must admit this was a weekly and sometimes daily occurrence for us.
Nevertheless, it made for some great childhood memories.
Speaking of childhood memories, I must explain how the number of wild primroses in the rockery bed came to be.
So, if you are familiar with gorse bushes you may know they are very dense and prickly. They cast a lot of shade on the undergrowth and so provide the perfect home for the primrose.
The hill behind the rockery is filled with these bushes and as children we would cut passageways through the growth creating dens and hideouts.
On these explorations we would inevitably come across some of the flowers which we would have picked and brought down to Nana who was always found amongst the foliage with either a garden hoe or a cigarette in hand.
Realising we had access to these plants Nana armed us with a hand trowel and sent us back up the hill on an adventure to retrieve as many primroses as we could for the garden (preferably with roots attached).
They were then planted throughout the rockery where they now form beautiful drifts of ivory blossoms every spring.
The main plants accompanying these treasured wildflowers in the rockery are hebes. They seem to love the dense soil.
A 40 foot tall eucalyptus tree stands above the rest and is surrounded by various conifers.
There are countless more plants in the garden alongside these but if I was to list them all I might be here forever.
I should highlight that the rockery actually had no reason to be called so before 2016 when rocks were eventually added to the garden. I don’t know why it was christened the rockery, but it just was.
It was Nana's Garden and if I am honest nobody was going to question her logic.
She was a strong-minded woman so to question her was done at your own risk of being told off. This garden is a tribute to her and is to this day maintained in the way she planted it. I’m sure she may not approve of us letting some of the shrubs grow and merge together, but all in all it is still the garden she worked tirelessly on and when called for a cup of tea would inevitably be found popping her head out from behind a shrub within.
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