Given the background and history of the grounds in general, and the rose garden in particular,the Drumalis Environment Group in 2006 decided it was time to look at the situation seriously and assess the possibility of breathing new life into the rose garden. This would call for a sensitivity towards its history, appreciation of modern day requirements about safety and accessibility and also provide for the ongoing task of maintaining a restored garden. The rose garden would again become a central part of the life and work of Drumalis as it moved forward with its own development plans for new and improved facilities.
Towards the end of 2006 wide consultations were held between the Drumalis Environment Group and various professional bodies. Belinda Jupp drew up an initial proposal for the restoration of the garden including replanting and renewal of the beds. The Heritage Lottery Fund in the person of Mark Robinson and team were sympathetic to the proposals and brought consultants from England to examine the arches which were proving difficult to deal with. Eventually contact was made with Lost Art, an English firm specialising in restoring historic landscape furnishings, who were prepared to undertake the restoration of the surviving arches. This meant dismantling them, transporting them to the workshop in Wigan and returning them repainted. Help was sought from Alan McIlveen and John McTurk, former head gardener with the National Trust. The trees were surveyed again and a proposal was drawn up for funding. The application to the HLF was successful – all was ready to roll in February 2007.
CHRONOLOGY OF DRUMALIS ROSE GARDEN RESTORATION
Feb 07- Mar 07 Clearance Work: Trees around the garden perimeter are trimmed back, laurel thinned out at verges and dead trees removed by tree surgery.
March 07 Spraying of all grassed area in preparation for reseeding.
March 07 Lost Art, a company specialising in the restoration of historic landscape furnishing remove all arches and transport them to their workshops in England for restoration.
April 07 Building work on site to clear out old roots, ruffle ground and build ramps to allow disabled access to garden from main house. Grotto is removed and seating area built.
May 07 Further tree surgery
Manure is drawn in from local farm and new top soil is purchased. Trenches are dug for circular beds and filled with manure.
Sept 07 Grass area is ruffed, rotovated and sown out with grass seed which germinates by mid-October.
Nov 07 Central beds are marked out and dug. Planting plan is prepared.
At this stage, it was expected that arches would be back but the work is proving to be very intricate and a delay is now expected - until spring. This affects the planting plan. But since the central beds are not adjacent to the arches it is decided to proceed with the planting out of the six beds. The roses are selected, ordered and delivered.
Feb 08 Michael and his team plant out the six rose beds, the seating area and the new grotto space. Thirty healthy Silver Jubilee roses are rescued from the demolition area at the new building site and transplanted to the grotto and seating area. These beds 1 – 6 are fertilized and mulched up to restrain the weeds.
April 08 A post-Easter surprise: Dan, Philip and Roy arrive from Lost Art and it takes four days’ hard work to reinstate the arches, now back to their former glory. This involves staking them securely into the ground and connecting them together with nuts and bolts. Drumalis is able to provide them with Parkview cottage, during their stay.
20-25 April 08 An intense week follows, digging out beds around the arches in preparation for the new roses. Meanwhile Alan McIlveen has been selecting, planning and ordering the new roses, climbers and some plants and equipment.
8 May 08 The roses arrive in pots from McNamaras in Cork – over 700 of them.
10-14 May Michael and team together with three trainees from Greenmount plant out the new roses according to the scheme. The next few weeks of very dry weather call for some watering, spraying, fertilizing and weeding.
June 08 A summer schedule of mowing, weeding and spraying swings into action. Sr. Margaret Rose, working from the planting plan, prepares signage for the whole garden including directional arrows.
July 08 The first blooms to appear are George Best. Coinciding with the blossoms come the visitors, singly and in groups. To date: Local Womens’ Institute groups from Cairncastle and Straid, carers from N&W and S&E Health Boards, A Moravian Historical Society from Germany, Summer Retreatants, Passionists, Dominicans, Fraternity Groups, Inter-Church Groups (Belfast), etc.
Training session are held for ongoing maintenance of the garden, spraying, dead heading, tying up climbers, weeding, sweeping paths, etc.
The arrival of a new circular seat from Woodscape for the seating area, the rest of the signs from David Stevens of Creative Signs and the summer holiday season marks the completion of the process and beginning of the next phase of the Drumalis rose garden. Drawing on the biblical reference that there is A time to sow, a time to plant, a time to pluck what is planted, a time to cease from planting … it is time now to cease from the planning, the planting and just enjoy!
By July 2008 the invitation is to savour the beauty of two years’ hard work.