Approximately 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres) the Walled or Flower Garden as it was called was much loved by Lady Gregory. In 1898 she asked William Butler Yeats to carve his initials on a mature Copper Beech and over the following decades many more distinguished guests were invited to add their own. These include Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw, Jack B Yeats, John Millington Synge, John Masefield and Augustus John. A plaque at the base of the tree helps with identification as some are becoming faint due to the natural healing of the bark wounds and many are names unknown to history.
The high walls provided shelter in the garden to enable the growing of more delicate plants and flowers. It was here that the hothouses were situated where grapes and other exotic fruit were grown for Coole House, sheltered by a row of upright Irish Yew still standing today. The remnants of these hothouses now provide a covered area with seating and picnic tables. The Irish yew, distinguished from the common Yew by its upright form, is a female clone propagated vegetatively; when grown from seed it reverts to the common yew form. Behind the Yew trees is an analemmatic sundial i.e. a sundial which uses a person’s shadow to tell the time.
“Before I came here an old, old gardener…was said or fabled to have raised from seed that tall bastion of yew that guards the vineries from Northern snow and storm, and these should be a more enduring monument to him than awaits many of us, if what our old people say is true that three yew trees planted one after another “will wear out the world from its beginning to its latter end”. (Lady Gregory)
Against the eastern wall on a plinth is a marble bust of Maecenas (c 80 B.C.) a distinguished Roman statesman and literary patron, in the same social circles as Horace and Virgil. The statue was brought to Coole House from Italy by Richard Gregory in the early 19th century and was later moved to this spot in the walled garden:
“as if exhausted by such travel it found its resting place within our dwelling house for many years, until some awakening of energy……was the cause of its removal to the garden one summer day….” (Lady Gregory)
The Catalpa (Indian Bean Tree), favoured by Lady Gregory, was said to have been planted as a sapling in Coole, having been transported over desert on a camel’s back wrapped in a hemp sack. In the shade of this tree Lady Gregory spent many sunny evenings. A replacement tree was planted by Lady Gregory’s grand-daughters in 1995. “I have gone far out in the world, east and west in my time, and so the peace within these enclosing walls is fitting for the evening of my days”. (Lady Gregory)
Autograph Tree & Signatures
1. Theodore Spicer Simpson
2. George Bernard Shaw
3. John Masefield
4. Countess of Cromartie
5. Augustus John
6. Elinor Monsell
7. An Craoibhin Aoibhinn (Douglas Hyde)
8. Augusta, Lady Gregory
9. William Robert Gregory
10. William Butler Yeats
11. Sean Ó’Casey
12. John Millington Synge
13. Violet Martin “Ross”
14. George W.Russell (A.E.)
15. Jack B. Yeats
Other signatures on the tree include George Moore, Sara Allgood, Lennox Robinson, Lady Margaret Sackville, Frank Fay and William Fay, J.D. Innes, Robert Ross, Ian Hamilton, John Quinn (New York lawyer), and Dame Ethel Smythe.