Since I am a huge fan of good food and edible landscaping it was a no-brainer to visit the Ballymaloe Cookery School & Garden on my recent trip to Cork, Ireland.
Founded in 1983 the Ballymaloe Cookery School, sits in the middle of a 100-acre, organic farm of which ten acres are devoted to organic market gardens, orchards and greenhouses. Their world renowned cooking school takes advantage of these gardens with handpicked fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs and edible flowers. Their onsite student-run restaurant serves up wonderful menu! But for those of us that didn’t make reservations weeks in advance, a food lover’s store with fresh and canned goods is perfect for sampling and bringing home delicious treats.
One of their most recognizable gardens is The Herb Garden which has over 70 different herbs, including lemon balm, bronze fennel, purple sage, lovage, summer savoury, sweet cicely, parsley, garlic, chives and angelica, planted in sculpted beds. Laid out in a formal parterre surrounded by ancient beech hedges, clipped boxwood edged gravel paths with herbal center pieces; it is a walking meditation of edible delights. Formally clipped bay trees give height to the garden and in the middle a lovey rounded myrtle is planted in honor of Myrtle Allen, the wife of the founding couple who started the restaurant back in 1964.
I was most impressed with one of their smallest gardens, The Ornamental Fruit Garden. Not only are there a myriad of heirloom apples but they are espaliered AND trained to grow in a curved shape over tall metal arches, one variety on each side. Wow, now that takes patience! Asian pears, gooseberries and currants fill in the traditional layout amongst the apple arches. While I was there the chicken were nestled around the berry trellises, taking advantage of their free-range abilities to gobble up any fallen fruit.
In The Herbaceous Border I learned all about an architectural element called a folly. Simply put a folly is an extravagant building with no practical purpose, other than to cause enjoyment to its visitors. This building’s exterior, while very unassuming, houses an extraordinary interior decorated entirely out of sea shells! The Shell House is extravagant indeed!
Open year round, seven days a week from May through September, I highly recommend you check it out: www.cookingisfun.ie