Fota Frameyard Field Trip

Fota Frameyard Field Trip

Today the Frameyard Guild went on a “school tour” to Kinalea Garden, Shipool, Innishannon, County Cork. The owner, Alannah  Sheehan,  gave the group a warm welcome and told us all about her garden, which she has been developing and tending for over 30 years. It is spread out over one acre near the Bandon river and has a lovely mixture of herbaceous plants, alpine beds and trees.

Alannah’s garden is very much embedded (pardon the pun) in the locality. Some of her trees were saplings she found in the woods, local stone from nearby fields are used on her alpine bed and slate from an old hospital in Kinsale is recycled in her sunken patio. The alpine bed is particularly interesting for both its design and its plants. Unlike many alpine beds, it’s not at ground level but is on a raised, horse-shoe shaped structure, beautifully enclosed on a stone casing. It’s architecturally and aesthetically pleasing and very practical.

This wonderful design appealed to those of us who suffer from aching (gardening) backs. It also shows off the plants  which are closer to the eye. The curved design mirrors the shape of this section of the garden and provides a sheltered sitting area close to the house. There is a great selection of alpine plants including  Rhodohypoxis red and Rhodohypoxis white.

There’s a lovely Lewisia cotyledon which is ingeniously protected from the rain by a plastic cover, an idea which won Alannah a year’s subscription to the Irish Garden Magazine from Gerry Daly. 

A stepping-stone path leads you in a semi-circle around the mixed flower beds where you will see roses, aquilegia, ferns, hostas, acers, grasses and many shrubs.

One of the most striking ferns, which seem to love this shady corner of the garden, is the Japanese Painted Fern Athyrium. It stands out from the others with its silver and burgundy markings, looking like a giant starfish. The secret of successful ferns, Alannah tells us, is water and plenty of it.

The sunken patio area has a large swathe of Crocosmia (montbretia) along one side and the space around it is thoughtfully landscaped with standing stones and ceramic spheres. The gravel path here leads to an area where there are begonias, geum and a happy looking Frances Williams hosta. It’s large, variegated, textured leaves were collecting some of the day’s rain.

The front garden is surrounded by various pine trees and a lovely Crinodendron hookerianum (Chilean lantern tree) which brings lovely colour to the blue/grey tones of the different trees. Across the driveway where there are bamboos, rhododendrons, dead nettle ground cover and there is also a big larch, sprouting new growth. 

For the volunteers, visits to other gardens give us new ideas, for ourselves and for the Fota Frameyard. This visit to Kinalea Garden was stimulating and we’re always learning. As Gertrude Jekyll said ““Let no one be discouraged by the thought of how much there is to learn. Looking back upon nearly thirty years of gardening (the earlier part of it in groping ignorance with scant means of help), I can remember no part of it that was not full of pleasure and encouragement.”

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Fota Frameyard Guild at Kinalea Garden with Bernard (Frameyard Gardener), David (Horticulture Student on work-experience) and Alannah Sheehan, owner (second from right).

Kinalea Garden is part of the West Cork Garden Trail and more details are available on