Cedar Lodge

by Ciaran Burke

I remember hearing of Neil Williams about 20 years ago. I was working in Murphy & Wood Garden Centre in Dublin, Neil was propreitor of Carewswood Garden Centre in Cork. Both garden centres had a similar focus, sourcing rare, new and unusual plants to sell to their plant mad customers.

I remember when the blue flowered Corydalis flexuosa first became available in Ireland, it was Carewswood that got it. They were the only ones to have it, and everyone wanted it, and all at Murphy & Wood were a little bit jealous. Since then a lot has changed in the plant retail world, Corydalis flexuosa quickly became a common garden plant, it’s premium price reduced, it’s snob value lost.

Neil retired from the business 14 years ago, and since then he with his wife Sonia have had the time to plant their own garden, filled with great range of unusual plants. He has now moved to the other side of the garden centre counter and is a customer seeking out the interesting new introductions.

Visiting Cedar Lodge and walking through the garden in the company of Neil is a treat. He is a gentleman, who is happy to talk plants, share information and inspire enthusiasm about plants and gardening. “Do you know this plant?”, “I love this one”, he enthuses about plant after plant in the perfectly maintained garden.

He took me to see his latest pride and joy. A plant that he saw in a catalogue from a nursery in England. He remembers saying to his wife, as he admired the catalogue picture, that it was too expensive. But Sonia told him he should buy it if he really wanted it. He like every clever man listened to his wife, and be bought the plant. He still sounded as if he felt a bit guilty as he related the story.

The specimen in question is a fabulously flowered peony, Paeonia ‘Garden Treasure’ with large double orange-yellow fragrant blooms. He relates that the plant is the result of crossing a tree peony with a herbaceous one. It’s hybridizer died before the plant flowered, but his wife continues his work. It may have been expensive, but you dont just purchase plants, you make investments. Neils plant had eight flowers this year, he expects that there may be as many as fifty in a few years. Fifty flowers, uncalcuable pleasure, years of enjoyment, you can’t put a price on that.

Photos below- from top:
Neil Williams welcomes our group to Cedar Lodge; Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’; Magnolia wilsonii; Hostas; Deutza ‘Strawberry Fields’; Papaver orientale ‘Curlilocks’; Clemtia ‘Arabella’; Paeonia ‘Garden Treasure’.

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