The History of the House & Gardens

Mount Usher House & Gardens
Photography: Des Irvine
Mount Usher Gardens were created by four generations of the Walpole family over a period of 112 years from 1868 and preserved by Mrs Madeleine Jay from then until being taken over by Avoca in 2007. The gardens comprise 8 ha (22 acres) with the Vartry River running through it and contain many champion trees of Ireland and the UK, as well as some 4,500 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants. Mount Usher was voted the Best Garden to visit in Ireland by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine and is one of only three top rated gardens here in The Good Garden Guide. Even Monty Don has nominated it as one of his favourite gardens to visit anywhere.

The Walpoles were greatly influenced by the most famous Irish Gardener who has ever lived, William Robinson who was born in 1838. When he started, gardening was based upon what we would nowadays call formal Public Park annual bedding and was a way in which the rich displayed their wealth as the bedding plants required lots of expensive staff to grow and maintain them. Robinson attacked this approach and advocated a natural style which has ever since been referred to as “Robinsonian”.

He believed that a garden should be based around perennial plantings and that its art is working with nature to create beauty. He revolutionised gardening and virtually all gardens in this part of the world owe a great deal to him. Robinson lived until 1935 and made a fortune from his books and magazines.

Mount Usher is probably the oldest and best known of the gardens inspired by him, though an extra dimension of sympathy with Nature was added by Madeleine Jay many years ago when she decided the gardens should be managed organically. Robinson himself used weed killers and inorganic fertilizers but her policy fitted perfectly with his ideals. Avoca continues to garden here by organic principles.

Edward Walpole, the garden’s founder, passed the property to his three sons. The youngest of them was Thomas, an engineer. He made a great contribution to the beauty of the place, designing and building the lovely curved weirs which are dotted along the Vartry River and the suspension bridges over it. These engineering works make the river a central focus at all times – until this was done, in dry spells it was reduced to a trickle – and there is a natural tendency for visitors to follow to the water. But we’d encourage you to stray from it to explore other areas where some of the rarest varieties of trees are located. You will find them all marked and detailed on our Tree Trail Guide.

Avoca is a family business with gardening in its blood too. We have the Avoca Nursery at our Kilmacanogue base, where we also grow for our cafes. Avoca Handweavers was established in 1723 and as guardians of that tradition we’re delighted to have Mount Usher in our care, developing other elements here to make it an ideal destination for families as well as plant lovers and avid gardeners.

Our Garden Café and The Bakery are both based in the courtyard as is The Garden Shop. Avoca is famous for its food and our café here is no exception. We hope you will enjoy your visit to Mount Usher and will agree with us that it creates a great feeling of happiness in those who savour its delights. This is a most extraordinary place quite apart from the amazing collection for which it’s a home.

Good exploring
Donald Pratt

Gardens Open:
Daily 10.00am to 6pm
(Last admission 5.20pm)
(Gardens Open All Year)
Garden Café &
Shopping Courtyard:

Open all year
Avoca Garden Café Open:
Mon-Fri: Kitchen 9.30-4.30pm Coffee/Cakes 9.30-5pm
Breakfast 9.30-11.20am
Sat/Sun: Kitchen 10-4.30pm Coffee/Cakes 10-5pm
Breakfast 10-12.10am | (Call Café @ 0404 40116 to book)
Food Hall Open Daily 9.30am-5.30pm
Click here for our Avoca Garden Café Photo Gallery & Menu
Great value on our season tickets - click here

Mount Usher Gardens & Café, Ashford, Co. Wicklow, Ireland | Email:
Telephone - Office: +353 404 40205 / 087 230 1678 · Foodhall: +353 404 49671 · Cafe +353 404 40116
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