Less haste, More speed

Festina Lente2

It is a bit of an odd title for this post, at first glance at least, but on Saturday I visited a garden in Bray, south of Dublin, with the strange name of Festina Lente which means, yep, you guessed it – more haste, less speed – well sort of. It actually means ‘go quickly, slowly’ but you get my drift! You are now probably thinking exactly what I thought – why is a garden called that?

Well, the garden dates back to 1780 and Festina Lente was the motto of the Conyngham Plunket family who owned the house and created the garden much as we see the layout today. In 1946 the grounds were sold to the Christian Brothers who ran a school and maintained the garden until they sold it in 1972. Festina Lente acquired the site in 1996 and now it is run as a charitable community garden. Apart from the walled garden the site is obviously well used by the community and there is horse riding on site, though I did not see it, and there is dog grooming and training.

Festina Lente6

My visit was very ‘spur of the moment’ so I just turned up in the rain and had a look round. The large walled garden is divided into two parts: the formal part with flower beds and the second that has been divided into many small allotment plots, cultivated by individuals, with a large double border running through the axis towards some metal gates in the wall.

Without being in any way critical – I have got into trouble over that before –  the planting in the formal beds is a bit simple – largely calendulas and red persicaria, and this is no National Trust garden. The garden is run and maintained by volunteers who, apparently, were having their annual BBQ that afternoon. They do a great job and, judging by the number of people around who obviously knew each other, this is a really valuable local resource. There are lots of unusual plants, many labelled and there is lots to see and enjoy.

This is a garden that is about people as much as plants. And animals too. The ponds are a terrapin sanctuary – something I didn’t know there was a need for!

Festina Lente8Festina Lente7

Festina Lente3

Hydrangea 'Anthony Bullivant'

Hydrangea aspera ssp. villosa ‘Anthony Bullivant’. A newish cv. introduced in the UK in 1993. It is colourful and more compact than most.

Formal lines, crisp hedges and a pond are the bones and on that you can hang anything you want.

Can you see what is wrong with this scene?

Can you see what is wrong with this scene? Look closely and you may spot something that is slightly odd.

Bigger clue here

Bigger clue here. I have walked right down the garden, up to the gate. Can you see what is odd? *

Festina Lente4

The allotment side of the garden was fascinating, divided up into dozens of plots, all looked after in slightly different ways. And around and between them are some more planned areas such as a huge planting of dark sweet peas and comfrey and, below, a standard bay tree surrounded with calendulas.

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Someone obviously decided to grow big onions this year.

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The gardens are open daily throughout the year and entrance is free though you would have to be very mean not to leave a contribution. There is a small shop and plants for sale and basic refreshments. I suspect that most visitors to the garden are either local or actually volunteers. This is a bit of a hidden gem and well worth a look if you are passing Bray.


  • Well done if you spotted the mirrors behind the gate.

Festina Lente12


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7 Comments on “Less haste, More speed”

  1. derrickjknight
    September 3, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    An excellent tour. I did spot the mirrors, but only after enlarging the second image.

  2. Meriel
    September 3, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    Festina Lente is run primarily as a therapeutic/ training centre for intellectually & emotionally handicapped children & adults, which I suspect you didn’t quite realise. The small allotment plots are rented to people in the community as they have quite a bit of space and additionally is a device to bring in people from the community to be more aware and mix with the trainees. The simple planting is probably because Callendula is easy and reliable for trainees to raise the plants etc. They have some permanent staff and quite a few volunteers helping to keep the show on the road!

    • thebikinggardener
      September 3, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

      I did not realise that and the leaflet does not really explain that. It was obvious that the place is loved by the community and is well used and that came across and gave it a friendly feel. I was not being critical of the calendulas – they looked great. Although it was not a ‘show garden’ it was a fine example of a community garden 🙂

  3. joy
    September 3, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    i love those terrapins .and would enjoy one of those big onions fried lol

  4. digwithdorris
    September 4, 2015 at 10:01 am #

    What an interesting spot. I love the pond for terrapins, how endearing.

  5. Meriel
    September 6, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    It wasn’t a criticism in any way. When I looked at their web site I realised that in these days of political correctness the terminology used for handicapped centers is quite vague! Whereas they very much encourage volunteers and community use of the small allotments (for a price) strictly speaking it isn’t really a community garden – not that that’s important in the overall plan of things!

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