Historic Houses Announces 2023 Garden of the Year Winner
Glenarm Castle Walled Garden, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, wins the 2023 Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award, sponsored by Christie’s, in a public vote.
Votes were cast between April and September to give Glenarm the title, triumphing over five other worthy contenders for the precious crown of 2023 Garden of the Year.
This prestigious national award, presented annually since 1984, is designed to recognise the importance of some of the country’s most spectacular gardens with outstanding horticultural and public appeal. The award is voted for by members of the public who judge the gardens based on a variety of factors that contribute to their enjoyment. The announcement was made at the Historic Houses 50th Anniversary National AGM in London on Tuesday 14 November 2023.
Created in the 1820s to provide seasonal produce for the Castle, all that remains of the original garden are the rustic stone walls and a circular yew hedge. Having been completely restored and replanted by Randal and Aurora Antrim, with the help of garden designer Catherine FitzGerald and renowned plantsmen including the late Nigel Marshall and now Neil Porteous, it reimagines the original purpose of a Walled Garden with its ornamental plantings of fruit trees in garden ‘rooms’. These range from a crab apple garden underplanted with wildflowers, to an ornamental pear garden. By creating these defined areas there is always an element of surprise every time you turn a corner.
With its ‘room’ structure the garden provides private, contrasting spaces in which visitors can be peaceful and reflective, whilst the planting offers visitors something exciting to see whenever they visit. There are thousands of tulips and other bulbs when the gardens open in spring; fine collections of hostas, peonies and roses in June, and in July the garden is bursting with colour with the wonderful herbaceous plants and flowers.
Ben Cowell, Director General of Historic Houses, said:
“We are thrilled that in this, the 40th anniversary year of our Garden of the Year award, the prestigious title has gone for the first ever time to a garden in Northern Ireland. Glenarm Castle fully deserves its prize. The walled gardens there have been transformed through ingenious plantings and by an imaginative viewing platform. The gardens provide another additional reason to visit this most special place on the beautiful Antrim coast. Well done to all involved!”
Orlando Rock, Chairman, Christie’s UK, said:
“I am delighted to congratulate Glenarm Castle for winning the prestigious Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award. This striking achievement in the 40th anniversary year of the award is a testament to the captivating and enchanting gardens that have flourished under the stewardship of Aurora and Randal Antrim. Glenarm Castle’s garden is a dynamic showcase of nature’s beauty throughout the seasons and the garden’s unique ‘room’ structure presents an exciting array of botanical wonders for visitors to discover. A true jewel on the Antrim coast!”
Randal and Aurora Antrim, owners and current custodians of Glenarm Castle, said:
“When we embarked on this project over twenty years ago there wasn’t much more than crumbling walls and a few grazing sheep, so to now be winners of the Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award is incredible.
We are so grateful to everyone who voted for us and particularly thrilled to be the first garden in Northern Ireland to win this prestigious prize. The award is a particular testament to the dedication of our small team and some of the wonderful plantsmen and designers who have helped us over the years. The garden is still very much a work in progress, but we really hope that winning this award will encourage visitors from far and wide to come and see what we have been up to in our beautiful and special corner of the world.”
The Manor House, Bledlow, is the Judges’ Choice this year. Open lawns lead to the front of the eighteenth-century house, and to a series of formal garden ‘rooms’ around the house. Further away are the sculpture garden, the water garden (The Lyde), the orchard, and the walled garden. The garden is a place for family of all ages to play tennis and croquet, and the walled garden produces vegetables, fruit, and cut flowers.
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