Chinese garden in Ireland’s birr castle

CNC reporting from Ireland
Added On July 8, 2013

There is no better time to experience the beauty of plant life in Ireland than the summer.

Birr Castle in central Ireland is well-known for its vast gardens.
 
Some of them have some surprising links to China.

CNC correspondents will take you to explore the astonishing gardens and stories within the castle.

[STANDUP] ROSS LEAHY, CNC correspondent
"We're here at Birr Castle, County Offaly. With magnificent gardens, beautiful architecture and truly incredible scientific artifacts it's a must see for anyone visiting County Offaly."

Birr Castle and its grounds are the residence of the Parsons family who have lived on this land since 1620 and who hold the Earldom of Rosse.

Perhaps the most famous feature here at Birr Castle is its award winning gardens.

These gardens host some of the rarest tree species in the world and are full of exotic plants and flowers.

The gardens also have a huge connection with China as 40 percent of the plants grown and nurtured here originally come from China.

The 7th Earl of Rosse, Brendan Parsons shows us some of the beautiful examples of plant life on display in his Yunnan Garden.

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"Can I start by saying failte or welcome to this particular piece of the province of Yunnan in County Tipperary where we are now at the furthest end of the Birr Castle Demesne where I planted out the plants from the collections that we made in 1993 and 1996."

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"This was one of the many, one of the number of trees whose bark was used as the first painting materials, in China, and is one of the loveliest. This is a nice flowering example of the hypericum, hypericum forestii, that I collected in Yunnan in 1993." 

Water is a prominent feature on the estate and Riverwalk Garden is one of the most scenic walks on the grounds.

There is also a great deal of interesting plant life to be found here.

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"This tree is here positioned just by the well of St. Brendan's, the site of the old monastery so I see it as a lovely example of the most beautiful Chinese plant in the most traditional Irish landscape of the old well of the old monastery here. "

The Earldom of Rosse now has a strong link with China.

The 8th Earl, Patrick Parsons, married his wife Anna, who is a native of Tianjin in China, in 2004.

The couple now have two children, William Charles and Olivia Rose Parsons.

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"This is Anna' s tree, the tree we planted for Anna's marriage to Patrick and which we selected because it was Chinese and because it has its foliage in the shape of a heart that we thought was lovely to represent the love that we hope would endure between Patrick and Anna, from China like all the other most beautiful Chinese things in our collection as it were."

Another garden on the grounds of Birr Castle is the Millennium Garden.

This features a fitting monument symbolising the connection between Ireland and China as well as a truly beautiful flower display."

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"We are now standing on the middle terrace of the Millennium Gardens in the Birr Castle demesne against the moon gate which has, at its centre, an Irish drinking vessel made of our own native oak wood from the demesne. Sculpted by an Irish wood sculptor called Liam O'Neill from the Connemara Gaeltacht, the little village of Spiddal, in this lovely shape of an Irish vessel and have set this, for the Millennium when all this was made, against the moon gate in which it is framed to symbolise the connection and the background to the collection of Chinese plants in this demesne."

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"Okay, here we are at the end of the top terrace of the Millennium Garden at the top of the cloisters looking at the seat and the paeonia behind it which best illustrate the close connection between our family and China as well as Birr in general. In the centre there is the seat that my mother designed in her initials  'A'  in the centre and  'R'  for the Rosse that she became, Anne Rosse and..."

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"Behind this seat which is now being copied incidentally at our twin garden in Nymans there is the paeonia also named after her so that there is the Anne Rosse paeonia behind the Anne Rosse bench."

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"The paeonia delavayi and the paeonia lutea both of which come from south western China, from Szechuan and Yunnan respectively and they were both growing happily at Birr."

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"So, what we have is a recognised Irish offspring of purely Chinese parentage born in Birr and named after my mother behind the seat that she designed herself. This dominating the top terrace of the Millennium Gardens in the Birr Castle Demesne."

[STANDUP] ROSS LEAHY, CNC correspondent
"This is the great telescope at Birr Castle, historically known as the leviathan. It is a scientific icon in Ireland and, when it was built in 1845 by the 3rd Earl of Rosse Sir William Parsons it was the largest and the most powerful telescope of all time."

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)BRENDAN PARSONS, 7th Earl of Rosse:
"Here we are at the great, great Rosse telescope or the leviathan as it was known. The leviathan of Birr or Parsonstown as then the town was alternatively called. At the site here of the great telescope that was built over the early 1840s and was first used in early 1845, just before the effects of the famine really struck Ireland, to see further into space than anyone had ever been able to do before."

For the first time, this year, the private residence of the Parsons family, Birr Castle, has been open to the public.

In the months of May, July and August tours are available which offer fascinating insights into the Earldom of Rosse, an opportunity to see Ireland' s contribution to science and, with its vast gardens, a chance to experience a little bit of the Orient here in Ireland.