The other day I heard a radio discussion about the beneficial influence of beautiful places on those who are depressed or despondent, and I thought “How like our own dear Mount Stewart”. Recently returning from a lovely holiday featuring sun, sea and sand I flew over the crumpled green eiderdown of Ulster’s fields contemplating the daily grind that awaited, until I remembered how fortunate I am to work here. I knew the moment I drove in through the gates my spirits would lift; its the Best Place for taking you out of yourself.
I also realised how very lucky we are to live in a country with seasons. In the Far East it is either hot, or hot and wet, and there is none of the wonderful fresh Spring smell of emerging buds and those delightful citrusy colours that we get here at this time of year.
So, I couldn’t wait to get back to see what had been happening in the gardens while I was gone. Certainly the place looks fantastic, tidy edges, pruned shrubs, hardly a weed to be seen, the gardeners have been busy. OK, some of our more tender plants are still in their winter woolies but I was amazed to see how much colour there was and the camera was red hot.
The lake walk is so pretty just now, and the swans are nesting too.
Spring-like green and white, even the Skunk Cabbage looks fresh, but don’t sniff – it lives up to its name!
The fiddleheads of the ferns are about to burst.
A beautiful peachy pink rhodie to add to the reds and whites.
Standing under this Magnolia Stellata is like being in a snowstorm.
My fave rhododendron, Loderi King George, with huge clusters of sweet smelling bells.
The Jetty has been prettied up with a coat of preservative, adding an architectural detail to the lake.
The topiary has been trimmed and has a nice sharp outline against the sky.
And the white tulips are like little lanterns lighting the corners of the Sunk Garden.
So, I hope you’ll agree with me that Mount Stewart deserves the accolade of a Best Place as, guess what? There is currently a competition for Northern Ireland’s Best Place. Launched on 6th April by the Royal Town Planning Institute, members of the public can nominate their Best Place. A panel of judges will collate a top ten and you can then vote for your favourite. Closing date for nominations is 2nd June and you can nominate by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, making sure you clearly mark it Northern Ireland Best Places in the subject box. Let’s get Mount Stewart House & Gardens on that list!