The race is on to crown the 2020 Historic Houses Garden of the Year.


Montalto Estate has announced that it is only garden in Northern Ireland to be shortlisted for this competition – of which the public decide the winner – so they need your help.

The Estate was purchased by the Wilson family in 1995. They set about a programme of works to restore the house, grounds and outbuildings to their former glory. They did so by consulting with the then Head Gardener at Mount Usher in Co. Wicklow, on the garden development and John O’Connell, a well know Georgian architect.  John recommended having some of the larger specimen trees checked for ‘Champion Tree’ status and this resulted in having a number listed in the ‘Tree Register of Ireland’ including a Sequoiadendron giganteum with the biggest girth in Northern Ireland.

Peter Harris, Head Gardener at Montalto said;
“Obviously to be shortlisted is wonderful but right now, we are asking for the public’s help in this competition. So much of our heart and soul has gone into the gardens; we really hope that people take the time to vote for Montalto Estate and bring the title of Historic Houses Garden of the Year to Northern Ireland. You can simply search online for Historic Houses Garden of the Year to vote.


“The work we do here is ongoing and there have been many beautiful additions to the Montalto Estate gardens in recent years. It’s in a constant state of evolution as we make sure there is something new for our visitors to see each season including a beautiful Hydrangea walk with over 50 cultivars from July to October and the thousands of spikes of Nepeta grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’ surrounded by Portuguese laurel topiary in the formal garden throughout the summer.”

The effort that the gardening team, lead by Peter Harris, have put into the 400 acre estate is immense. In 2015, work began on an impressive alpine garden on a natural large outcrop of rock. This was thoroughly cleaned after a build up of leaf mould, debris and colonisation of native tree species (Pine and Birch) over the years to reveal a wonderful rocky environment to display a range of alpine plants. With the help of retired local alpine plant specialists, Charlie and Jeanette O’Fee, over 245 varieties of alpine were planted in three stages the following year to create a garden feature with an abundance of colour in spring.

Historically, it was felt this was an important addition to the garden as Lady Clanwilliam, whose family owned Montalto Estate from 1912 to 1979, was involved in setting up the Alpine Garden Society – Ulster Group.

If you want to visit the impressive Montalto Estate gardens for yourself, it has begun a phased reopening where the trails and gardens are once again accessible. Pre-booking of tickets is required at  To vote, please visit

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