harmony between great Victorian revival castles and their
ornamental grounds is rarely seen to such perfection
as at Johnstown
The mature woodlands and lakes of this demesne provide the
setting for this turreted, battlemented and machicolated
gleaming silver-grey ashlar, built for the Grogan
Morgan family between
1810 and 1855 and incorporating
a more ancient castle.
The property was
presented as a gift to the Irish Nation in 1945
later occupied by the Department of Agriculture who
agricultural institute here and undertook to
maintain but not to
alter the ornamental grounds.
Kilkenny architect Daniel Robertson, who was responsible for some
of the building work on the castle,
is generally believed to have
laid out and planted much of the grounds in the 1830s. This would
have included the digging of the five-acre lake opposite the
castle with Gothic towers rising from its waters and a terrace
lined with statues on the opposite bank. Many fine trees and
shrubs grow in the vicinity of the castle,
including two lovely examples of Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans',
several very fine redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), a huge Rhododendron arboreum and some of the oldest and largest
specimens of Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) in Ireland.
The variety of mixed
planting around the lake, which includes noble
cedars,Atlantic blue cedars, copper beeches, golden
Lawson cypresses and holm oaks, provides a very satisfying range
of colour through much of the year. In the area to the west of
the castle lake, visitors will pass through a woodland garden
created around the ruined
medieval castle of Rathlannon.
Here the exotic foliage of a
wilsonii from China borders a large, elegant dogwood (Cornus
kousa) from Japan and a Japanese
snowball (Viburnum plicatum) with tiered spreading
lies a two-acre lake dug in the 1860s, while in
the area to the north is a four-acre walled garden built
1844 and 1851 and rehabilitated by the Department of Agriculture.
This is entered
through the Devil's Gate, an arched gateway with gargoyles that
leads onto a very long
gravel path lined with flower borders and
backed by clipped hedges. To the tight across mowed lawns a
hothouse shelters a colourful display of plants through out the
year. Steps lead to the Upper
Garden, now largely devoted to shrub
propagation, and the old melon yard.
Here no one will fail to
admire a tender dwarf Japanese maple planted in the 1880s and a
azaleas, magnolias and hibiscus.
attractions at Johnstown include a cemetery with very fine
gates made in Italy, the site of the sunken Italian
Garden close to the car park,
and the lower lake, dug in the 1850s
and covering some fourteen acres.
All three lakes in the demesne
provide a home for a wide range of waterfowl -
mute swans, moorhens,
coots, little grebes, herons and a recently introduced
mallards - all of which help to control the waterweeds.
attractive early nineteenth century farm buildings to the north of
lower lake house the Irish Agricultural Museum where
a variety of old
horticultural implements are on display.