Rolling countryside and humble white railings at the gate lodge give no hint to the visitor of what lies down the narrow Listoke Avenue. Neatly clipped lawns appear to keep at bay borders heaving with one floral delight after another. This is truly a "gem" of a garden.
Patricia Barrow has had a keen interest in gardening since childhood and was delighted when she and her daughters Juliet and Marielouise were bequeathed the estate and garden at Listoke in 1979. The Barrows moved into Listoke during 1980 and started on the restoration of the walled garden. The garden is a typical Edwardian walled garden with grass tennis court, orchard, vegetable garden and mixed herbaceous borders. Wide gravel paths intersect the garden and the whole is surrounded by mature woodlands.
There are also two greenhouses dating circa 1900, one of which has recently been restored to its original state and now houses a collection of Cacti, Aubergine, Peppers and Tomatoes.
Patricia has a vision for the garden to retain and improve on the original features using old fashioned and scented plants and allowing each plant to reach its natural potential without too much 'clipping into shape'. No concrete is allowed and only natural materials are used, ie stone, brick and gravel.
A recent addition is the 'Garden Shop' which has been sensitively built by Patricia's daughter Juliet and her husband Raymond on the site of the old wash-house alongside the existing stable yard buildings.
Some of the plants worthy of note are a gaint Redwood (Wellingtonia) which was struck by lightening some years ago. ( 10' of the burned top was removed and the growing point has now been taken over by a lower branch), a large flowering Hoheria(flowers in August) and a Cornus (rainbow) brought back from Italy. A yound Wollemi Pine is a recent addition. This tree was thought to be extinct until one was discovered in Australia several years ago. A large specimen Black Walnut tree dominates the lawn and grass tennis court and several unusual trees can be found in the arbouretum.
June is our best flowering month with the Laburnum walk in full bloom intertwined with 'Solanum Glasnevin' and under planted with Allium and Geranium.
April is a wonderland of bullbs the length of the avenue and in the wild garden which is a recent addition specifically planted to attract bees and butterflies. Some species noted this year were the Holly Blue, Small Copper, Red Admiral. Peacock and Humming Bird moth.
The woodlands are home to a myriad of birds and a 'dawn chorus' walk is held here most years in May. Some birds noted this year were the Spotted Fly Catcher, Black Cap, Chiff Chiff, Willow Warbler and Spotted Woodpecker. There are also a pair of Ravens and several species of birds of prey.
The feature film "Asterix and Obelix: God save Brittania" starring Gerard Depardieu was filmed here in 2011, Listoke was the setting for the queen of Engand's Garden in Roman Times.
The livestock at Listoke forms an integral part of our way of life and visitors are greeted in the yard by a voiciferous collection of free range poultry including some rare species of clock and bantam. There are nearly always new chicks or ducklings to be seen. A flock of seventy white fantail doves comple the the picture in the yard. We also provide refuge for orphaned or sick wild birds and animals. The selection changes from year to year and currently we are home to a pair of jackdaws, a hand reared wood pigeon, a juvinial herring gull (a big bad bully), a barn owl and a pair of hand reared House Martains. We also have a family of Chinchillas (a great favourite with children).
There are four horses kept at Listoke, all mares, three of which are in foal. Certainly next June/July promises to be an exciting time when the foals are due. Two of the mares (Poppy and Apache) are in foal to Mr Big Cat who unfortunately died in an accident soon after covering Apache. Anne is in foal to Carrick Daimond Lad who stands at Carrickmacross Co Monaghan.
This year we have had an unwelcomed visitor to the woodlands in the form of a Pine Martin (a protected species) which has made inroads into the poultry collection and we would be glad to see it leave, although it is good to see a rare animal making a comeback to this part of Ireland.