The garden in Kiltumper has been evolving for at least 200 years — which is not to say it’s one of those old, established country gardens with high stone walls and specimen trees set by Anglo-Irish landlords of old, like one might see in Ballymaloe or Dromoland or Glin Castle or nearby in the Vandeleur Gardens. Kiltumper was always a working farmer’s garden, which my ancestors, the long, tall Breens (I’m neither), have been cultivating since the beginning of time and which I and my husband have continued to develop.
The soil has been yielding its goodness from the days of saving hay to saving potatoes to saving seeds for next summer’s flower borders. When our children were small they knew where to look under the fuchsia hedge for hens eggs. The sloping, south-facing patch in front of the cottage has seen cows and horses and a donkey named Nellie, and chickens, geese and hens we named Breda, Eileen and Mary. Now its only guardian is our black cat, Tiro. He rolls in nepeta, the blue catnip with silvery stems, and chases crab-apples when they fall in autumn.