22 Jan 2022

Gardener’s ‘private’ paradise

Visitors flocking to see celebrity gardener Dermot O’Neill’s walled garden near Camross have been disappointed to learn it’s not open to the public.

Visitors flocking to see celebrity gardener Dermot O’Neill’s walled garden near Camross have been disappointed to learn it’s not open to the public.

Quelling local rumours, Dermot told the Leinster Express insurance and staff costs mean that the garden will remain private for the foreseeable future.

Gardening enthusiasts can still view the results of his labours in renovating the plot a new RTE series called Dermot’s Secret Garden. It documents his work on bringing the garden and adjoining stone cottage back to life, while also telling the story of his personal battle with stomach cancer.

The popular TV presenter and author bought the site in Clondeglass ten years ago following a long search.

“I was looking for many years for a walled garden, they are few and far between. When I did see one, it was usually out of my league pricewise, or in the wrong location,” he said.

He had viewed Clondeglass and understood that again it was beyond his budget. After seeing that it was still on the market months later, he put in an offer and was delighted when it was accepted. It was three years before he could get more funding to begin the restoration something that has proved quite a job.

“The main door was collapsed. There were sheep grazing in it, the local farmer used it to protect the lambs from foxes. The nettles were huge, and I knew that if the nettles were doing well, there was good in the soil,” said Dermot.

He created paths, a greenhouse and invested in the soil, and by the end of programme one, had reestablised herbaceous borders and introduced hens, geese and even beehives. The stone gardener’s cottage, built into the wall of the garden, is also receiving a makeover throughout the programme.

Though Dermot can only spend limited time in his walled sanctuary, he has made many local friends and connections, such as his builder Peadar Robinson, Mark and Marguerite Sheeran in Coolraine, and David Kinsella, who supplies him with sandstone mined from the Slieve Blooms. His farming neighbours, the Bennetts, generously provide him with fresh manure while Peter Dobbin, who lived on the estate all his life, now cares for Dermots poultry, protecting them from minks.

Dermot’s health deteriorates throughout the series, but he has since received the good news that the cancer is in remission, and feels that Clondeglass played a big part.

“I am much better than I was. The garden was a huge help to my health,” he says.

The garden is now restored, with rose and magnolia sections and a plentiful supply of vegetables, fruit and eggs for Dermot to share with family and friends. The work is never done of course, and with another gardening book underway, perhaps that’s the way he likes it.

“It evolves all the time, that’s part of gardening,” Dermot says.

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