If you go down to Glengarriff today you might just be lucky enough to happen across a hidden garden nestled into a hillside and planted with a wonderful assortment of local and wild plants – mostly if not all edible. You can eat your way out! ‘The Garden of Re-imagination’ is the creation of Kloe Wood Lyndorff and Adam Carveth of Two Green Shoots, two passionate gardeners, wildly enthusiastic about creating an outdoor space that nourishes wildlife and the local landscape, while also providing a feast for the table.
As well as specialising in creating gorgeous green spaces that nourish people and places, Two Green Shoots runs regular Taste Tours and Feast Nights. There is also a Botanical B&F (Bed and Feast) or Botanical Bell Tent for those looking to completely escape!
Adam trained to become a gardener with the Royal Horticulture Society at the age of 23, before going on to volunteer at one of Cornwall’s leading gardens, Trewithen Estate, internationally acclaimed for its camellia collections. He spent two years with the National Trust, managing the romantic gardens at Chastleton House in the Cotswolds and then a team of seven staff as Head of Surrey Landscapes, which included a Capability Brown Landscape garden. His most recent adventure, before moving to West Cork, was as Head Gardener in Hertfordshire, looking after 28 acres of magical gardens at Knebworth House.
Kloë grew up in the Ewe Sculpture Gardens in West Cork before moving to the UK to study. After completing a BSc in Zoology with Conservation, she came to the conclusion that “you can know almost everything about the lifecycle of a specific species but if us humans come along and decimate its habitat then it’s potentially a goner”. Subsequently she became more interested in sustainable development, which led her to Cornwall where she met Adam while launching a community gardening project called ‘Plant your Park’. “He was the gardening columnist in a local paper and I liked the look of him so I invited him along,” she says laughing.
The rest is history…five years on and the young couple decided to settle in West Cork, where Two Green Shoots was born and is growing up fast.
“I was frustrated with not being able to plant the way I really wanted to,” explains Adam, as he leads a recent Taste Tour literally down the garden path! “For me a cherry tree should have beautiful blossom but also have berries to eat. In my previous employment, I was told to avoid the fruiting ones and I just couldn’t get my head around it.”
Adam believes a garden should be self-sustaining. “It’s not all about me, it’s about the wildlife and getting the balance right,” he explains.
He points out a stone boundary. “It was completely impassable here before, dense with Rhododendron Ponticum (like a pretty assassin, killing everything around it) and Lawson’s Cypress.” The garden was originally planted seventy years ago but left free to roam, it became completely overgrown.
Adam goes on to explain how the pond he built will eventually take all the waste water from the house. It’s planted with lots of edibles – hostas (the spring shoots are apparently tasty fried with some butter); meadowsweet, which Adam and Kloe make cordial and muffins with; Indian potato plant, which has very pretty flowers and you can eat the tubers. Adam has tried to naturalise it as much as possible, surrounding it with wild strawberries, sorrel, primroses (like little sweets if you sugar-coat them) and a native sedum.
He points out a canker-resistant apricot tree, which grew well in the drought this summer and a Paw Paw tree, which put on a foot of growth after the heat and ensuing rain.
The Siberian Pea tree is nitrogen fixing so it improves the soil and Comfrey Bocking 14 provides excellent plant food and is attractive to bees.
Other wonderful plants in this garden that deserve a mention include Cornus kousa chinensis, which has fruit that look like a strawberry but tastes like a lychee and Mountain asparagus –a striking herbaceous perennial growing up to two metres in one season with a golden tinge when fresh growth arrives. The shoots taste of asparagus but to chefs in the States this plant is known as Udo.
There is so much more to be discovered on this Taste Tour that you need to go and see it for yourself.
Afterwards, you’ll get to sample some of the edibles from the garden used in Kloë’s delicious cooking. Her seaweed pesto and meadowsweet cordial are worth waiting for.
Adam and Kloë have created something really special here…a self-sustaining project in the beautiful wilds of West Cork. Arrive curious and leave inspired!
The Garden of Re-Imagination Taste Tours run four times daily during the A Taste of West Cork Food Festival. For bookings call 089 7081099.