Beyond The Garden Wall – Royal Hospital Kilmainham

As I became more and more interested in garden design and in garden history, every time I talked to someone I heard whispers of Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Every time I wondered why everyone was blown away with this garden and felt slightly ashamed to say I have never been to visit them. From now on though I can say with confidence, that I have visited the gardens and I loved them! I can now see why everyone spoke so highly of the gardens and why everyone seemed to love them so much. They really are quiet spectacular and rather breath-taking when you look down over them from the stone railing near the hospital.


Not only are the grounds beautiful to look at but they have such a long history and play such an important role in Irish design. The hospital is the current home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art but while the art that hangs in it is modern, the walls they hang on are extremely old. The building dates back to the late 1600’s, when it was built as a retirement home.


While I didn’t really explore the actual building or the museum when I visited (mainly because it was closed!!) , I did walk through the central courtyard and was very impressed with the sheer size and attention to detail that went into constructing such a fine building. Let’s face it however all this was quickly swept from my mind when I got to the gardens.

The Formal Garden  is a former physic garden that would have once contained medicinal herbs, it now though is more ornamental with few medicinal herbs. The gardens have been restored in the last number of years and have been filled with plants that would have been popular around the time the building was constructed.


I personally love the formality of the gardens and the use of box hedges and topiary. One thing I was surprised by was the topiary variegated holly bushes. I thought that these added great interest in both colour and texture to the main walkway of the garden.


The statues in the garden are an other great feature of it. I love the mix of very classical with ultra modern statues. They both work very well in the garden and make for extremely interesting focal points at the end of walkways. My favourite installation in the garden (besides from the snowman with no arms!!) was the water feature in the very center of the garden. It was very interesting and almost looks like sheets of flowing water.

The box hedging made a great surround to all the plants that are in long borders on either side of the garden. I think the dark green of the box made the colour from the flowers almost bounce from all corners and radiate outwards to create a very cheerful boundary walk. There are some notes to the gardens former physic garden use in the planting. Great echinacea flowers danced in the light breeze along side some great herbaceous flowers.

The plants were not just restricted to the ground though, the great brick walls are adorned with some great crops of apples, jasmine and some down right amazing passion flowers.

Of course what would a garden of this grandeur be without a garden room?! The room here did not disappoint! A beautiful red bricked building at the very end of the garden made for a great discovery.  This particular room was actually the gardener’s house! I would not have minded working in that garden if I got to live in this house!


While this was my first visit to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, it definitely will not be the last!