Delta Sensory Gardens have been voted the best place to visit in County Carlow by Trip Advisor for several years running. In addition, described as “An Oasis of Peace and Tranquility”.
These gardens are unique for many reasons. And have so much to offer the visitor during all the seasons of the year.
So, Delta Centre was established in 1990 as a center for adults with intellectual disabilities. What`s more, the center is currently the main employer in the town of Carlow for about 120 people with disability.
Then, Delta Sensory Gardens were officially opened in 2007. And were the first of its kind in Ireland. So combining the attractiveness of a tourist facility with therapeutic benefits for disabled people.
Covering an area of 2.5 acres, Delta Sensory Gardens is one of the main attractions in Carlow County.
The Gardens consist of 16 interconnected multi-sensory gardens which visitors can walk through.
Moreover, the individual parts were designed by leading Irish garden designers. Among others such as Gordon Ledbetter, Mary Reynolds, Rachel Doyle, Paul Martin, and Elma Fenton. They designed themed gardens by using natural elements such as stone, water, and various plants.
So, the Gardens include the Thistle Fountain, Circle of Life Garden, Memorial Garden, Five Senses Garden, Stolen Child Garden, Roof Garden, Formal Rose Garden, Mediterranean Garden, Willow Garden, Sculpture Garden, Games Garden, Peace Garden, Woodland Garden, Iris O`Brien Health and Wellness Garden, The Pavilion, The Waterfalls, Patio Garden.
What`s more, each of the gardens gives visitors a great opportunity to relax. Also provides sensations for all the senses. So, you can not only enjoy the view of beautiful, often very rare plants but also touch, smell, taste …
Delta Sensory Gardens are located at Strawhall Estate. One and a half kilometers from the center of Carlow Town. And can be visited from Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 17:00. The cost of the ticket is 6 euros.
Location of Delta Sensory Gardens:
Below are my photos taken in September 2020.
Garden Centre Shop
Just before the entrance to the Gardens, there is also a Garden Centre Shop. Where you can buy lots of different seedlings and plants.
First, right at the entrance, there is a very original and amazing water feature “Thistle Fountain“. So, after purchasing the ticket you can enjoy the view of this gushing fountain. It was purchased during the Celtic Tiger from Fountains and Décor County Kildare. Water spurting out of the 127 nozzles powered by a large pump forms a perfect thistle.
Circle of Life Garden
Next to Tristle Fountain is the “Circle of Life Garden”. This garden was designed by Elma Fenton from Kildare. Award-winning gardening gold medallist at Chelsea. So, the garden encourages meetings, conversations and rest in the circle. Moreover, the garden is a spiral shape created with vertical Douglas fir sleepers with mature hornbeam trees forming a lovely canopy. Besides, these trees were donated from the Nano Nagel garden in Cork. What`s more, located to the rear of the garden there is a sculpture of dancing Rods made of hand-blown glass from Jerpoint Abbey. Then, in the corner, just behind the dancing rods, there is a tulip tree.
Then, there is a garden called Memorial Garden. So, this garden is surrounded and sheltered by a living wall of bamboo and commemorates 1916/2016. A simple layout with a distinctive limestone carving displaying the signatures of the 1916 Proclamation. An eternal flame flickers at the heart of the structure. Moreover, there is a reflective circular pond in the center of the garden which is encased in an oval-shaped lawn area. Then, the opposite corners of the garden have beautifully carved limestone seats set on 100-year-old limestone paving. So, each seat has a quote that relates to the Easter Rising, a line in the poem by WB Yeats. He wrote it as a tribute to Irish people who fought in the Easter Rising. What`s more, there are seven trees planted in memory of the martyrs.
Five Senses Garden
One of the most beautiful and extraordinary parts of Delta Sensory Gardens is, in my opinion, the “Garden of the Five Senses”. That garden was designed by Rachel Doyle from the Arboretum Garden Centre. So, the wooden bridge is the entrance to the garden from two sides. Moreover, this wooden bridge spans two quirky ear-shaped ponds complete with goldfish. Different tactile surfaces are used, including timber, steel, stone, marble, and glass. Visitors can sit and inhale the relaxing scent of lavender and curry plants. Lots of vegetables, fruits, and herbs are available to taste. But, the most stunning feature of this garden is the Kugal – one tonne of Indian pink marble floating on a cushion of water, on a limestone base and, colorful blue glass surround. What`s more, it is only one of its kind in Ireland.
The Roof Garden
Next, visible from a distance, the distinctive and original part of Delta Sensory Gardens is the “Roof Garden”. This impressive “A” Frame structure was purchased at an auction at the Chelsea Flower Show. And has found the perfect home as a central figure in Delta Sensory Gardens. The wooden boxes on the roof are lined with rubber. And are planted with sedum grass, which is a colorful grass that does not need cutting. Moreover, the roof garden is accessible by a wooden stair. And the loft area gives the visitor a fantastic vantage point over all of the gardens. Also, the area under the framed structure is planted as fernery and another green foliage plant.
Further, there is a “Patio Garden”. So, it is a decorative courtyard, decorated with plants, modern sculptures, and a fountain. There is also a “hotel for insects”. So, this is the perfect place for entertaining, barbequing on a sunny day, and having a delicious lunch alfresco with friends and family. Besides, a large circular pond gives a nice backdrop in the rear, with water cascading down a series of copper cups. Local sandstone was used to create a beautiful semi-circular raised bed a perfect home for alpines enveloping around the pond. Looking around the patio garden one can see how the lovely natural planting of perennial shrubs and trees has evolved and matured over the past 20 years. Moreover, the ornamental crab apple trees bring wonderful color throughout the year with their mix of flowers, leaves, and fruit. The garden uses circles to create a restful atmosphere.
Stolen Child Garden
The “Stolen Child” garden inspired by the poem by W.B. Yates is a wild, magical, and full of otherness place. Created by Mary Reynolds Landscape Designer, Author (from the Wexford area), and nature activist, known to be the youngest contestant to win a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show since it began 100 years ago.
This garden is an example of a new approach. The land is allowed to be full and lush with plants that may be seen as weeds in a modern garden setting. Using wild plants in a structured and simple way shows us their subtle beauty. This garden is not a plant hunter’s paradise but an altogether different concept of an Irish garden. Look out for a unique grass sculpture at the end of the garden and also some tree sculptures by Martin Monks. Mary’s original inspiration came from William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Stolen Child”. The theme of this poem is the loss of innocence as a child grows up, written in 1886 when Yeats was 21. The Stolen Child is one of his works that is strongly rooted in Irish mythology.
“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the worlds more full of weeping than you can understand
Away with us”.
Formal Rose Garden
“Rose Garden” is a type of garden that is always a great attraction throughout the flowering season. In the middle of the garden is a ring – an amazing function of water, a circle that rotates and water flows inside. On the inside of the ring is a solar calendar.
Formal beds are laid out in a half-moon shape with extensive use of Euonymus Japonica “Green Spire” hedging in this large garden with interconnecting limestone gravel paths. Each bed has its own variety of roses and is underplanted with thousands of daffodil bulbs for spring color. The impressive stainless steel circular feature is a time tide ring, giving the month of the year at 12 noon when the sun shines through its eye. Water clings to the outer of the ring in a very impressive fashion. The garden is well protected from high winds being fully surrounded by beech and yew hedging.
The sandstone paving here has a central sun shape, bordered by an arrangement of large and small terracotta pots planted up with a mix of herbs such as sage, rosemary, Korean mint, and thyme. Also, there is a selection of summer flowering annuals which include cosmos, dahlia, tomatoes, and alpine strawberries. At the end of the garden, you can view a clever water feature with three stainless steel spouts mounted in the limestone wall, with water disappearing into a cobbled trough below. Railway sleepers form a clever attractive perimeter with beech hedging to enclose the space.
“Willow Garden” is a very romantic garden, ideal for taking wedding photos in it. Here you will find garden furniture that is fun, growing and has a rustic feel. Living willow has been impressively woven to form arches and a pergola as well as seating fit for a King and Queen. Besides, the appearance of this garden dramatically changes from season to season. Other features are a granite statue of a scholar with a book in hand and an old-style pump with a trough adding to the tranquil atmosphere. This willow tree garden can be buzzing with wasps, bees, flies, and other insects during the late summer. These wasps are probably attracted to the honeydew deposits from sap-feeding insects such as aphids.
“Garden of Sculptures”, abstract sculptures are really impressive, you can let your imagination run wild by thinking about their meaning. This was probably the idea of their creators because the very entrance to this part of the garden is dominated by two limestone sculptures carved in situ, organic shapes reminiscent of Ying and Yang. On either side, you can capture the imagination of the artist with peas in the pod and fallen conkers from the tree. To the rear is a clever water feature with two large limestone slabs in their raw state from a local quarry and water dropping from the peak into a massive carved limestone bowl.
This garden is divided into three sections comprising 2 lawns and one graveled area. There is a massive, giant, paved chess board. Also, there are three craved limestone tables for games such as Snail and Ladders, Draughts, and Giant Jenga. Moreover, the two lawn areas include picnic benches to sit and relax in and soak up the atmosphere. The games gardens and picnic gardens are surrounded with colors and aromas including scented Santolina (Lavender Cotton), Salvia Hot lips, and two native Rowans (Mountain Ash or Sorbus).
“Oasis of peace” – it is a beautiful and magical garden, with a gold and silver sphere in the center and an owl motif. The main feature of this garden is the wooden set of brick pillars. Which offers a home for the many climbing plants for example Honeysuckle, Kiwi, Wisteria, Ornamental Vine, and Thornless Blackberry. Water is a feature here with a stainless-steel ball on a free-standing stainless-steel base. A granite ball is also featured with water oozing from the hole at the top into a cobbled base with paving surrounding its own semi-circle-shaped seated area with a metal arched entry. Raised beds are also featured with herbs for medicinal, cosmetic, and culinary use. Ponytail grasses droop onto the lawn in the small green area. This garden like others is well sheltered with the surrounding beech hedging.
This garden offers a quiet contemplative walk. It is planted with a mix of large broadleaf trees and underplanted with shrubs, ferns, and hellebores which give an understory of green with spring bulbs giving a colorful ground cover. On the walkway bordering the next garden is a colorful willow panel fence that has been treated with linseed oil.
Iris O`Brien Health and Wellness Garden
Designer Paul Martin has created a unique, very original, and amazing garden. So, on entering the garden, you walk down into a dining area complete with a stainless-steel barbecue, herb walls, granite floor, and a floating table level with the ponds. Upon the first view, looking down the garden along a canal cutting through two contemporary walls. Then harp lines allow the visitor to be drawn down to the far perimeter and retro brick paths disappear behind screens. As you travel the path, you can gaze along the water and enjoy the color pallet which changes from greens to whites to blues.
This offers a much-needed shelter at the end of the gardens and affords a fantastic outlook of the waterfalls and the Health and Wellness Garden through its large plate glass window. It is also a home for features during the many special events in the gardens. This area is a very popular haven for sensory groups to just sit and soak up the sights and sounds.
“The Waterfall” is another amazing garden that consists of a pond with live fish, a bridge, and a waterfall. Moreover, this is the first waterfall in Carlow that is completely accessible to tourists, you can go and dip your hands in the water, and go around the waterfall.
Designed by Gordon Lebetter. This amazing garden consists of a series of waterfalls that flow into a large fish pond with many varieties of fish; also in the pond are some beautiful water lilies in various colors. Other plants are meadow grass and a variety of trees and shrubs to provide interest and color throughout the year. A wooden viewing area cantilevers over the water and allows access for all. Before leaving this oasis visitors can take a wander on paved pathways walk under a raised waterfall touch the cascading water and examine their very own “Delta” Stalactites and Stalagmites.
Description of the Gardens – source: deltasensorygardens.ie/the-gardens
So, Delta Sensory Gardens are beautiful gardens full of surprises. It is worth visiting them again and again. The perfect place to relax.
What`s more, after the tour, you can go to the restaurant – Delta Centre Cafe, eat something, drink, or buy products manufactured by Delta Centre.