When you enter a walled garden and hear the chatter and laughter of people who are working in the vegetable, fruit and flower beds, and see an abundance of bees, butterflies and other insects, then the signs are that it is in a healthy state.

That is very much the case at the National Trust’s Florence Court Kitchen Garden, which is being transformed to how it probably looked almost 100 years ago.

With the benefit of support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Community Fund, the National Trust is endeavouring to achieve its aims to ensure the four-acre site produces many varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers, with the potential to increase that in the years ahead.

At peak production, from the late 1890s up to World War II, 12 full-time gardeners would have worked in the Kitchen Garden –the produce from which provided valued crops for Florence Court House and the wider estate.

However, the garden and glasshouses fell into decline following the departure of the last Head Gardener in 1947.

In 1995, the Walled Garden was transferred into the care of the National Trust, which recreated the Upper Rose Garden and restored the apple orchard. There are now 87 varieties of apples grown.

The upper part of the garden, known as the Rose Garden, has already been restored, and the remaining two acres, known as the Kitchen Garden, are currently undergoing a project to return the site to the 1930s arrangement.

So far, the original pathways have been restored and herbaceous borders planted containing a wide variety of plants, including achillea, asters, bergamot, marigold, cosmos and many summer-flowering bulbs.

Two large fruit and vegetable plots have been brought into cultivation and are used to grow common vegetables and Victorian favourites such as sea kale.

Each year, new and unusual vegetables are grown – most recently tree spinach, callaloo and mooli radish.

The plots are edged with calendula and other flowers to attract beneficial insects.

Additionally, 110 metres of espalliers have been installed to support native Irish apples.

In the late 18th Century, the Kitchen Garden provided the estate and surrounding area with vegetables, herbs and even tropical fruits from the glasshouses.

The National Trust is now currently working to restore the garden back to its 1930s arrangement and is working in partnership with the public to achieve those aims.

An appeal for donations to purchase some new plants and help with the improved infrastructure is continuing.

However, one change from the past is evident – where once 12 gardeners worked here, now there are a few paid gardeners and an army of volunteers.

The Kitchen Garden Volunteers, numbering around 18 in total, work in the Kitchen Garden on Tuesdays and Thursdays, some specialising in certain areas of the garden such as the herb garden, while others get on with seasonal tasks needed.

However, as well as an appeal for donations, the National Trust would also welcome more volunteers to spend whatever time they have available to help with the restoration project.

Volunteers are not committed to working full days, but whatever hours they can offer. The National Trust estimate that the volunteers contribute 6,000 hours in the Kitchen Garden each year.

Throughout the summer and autumn, crops are managed and kept clear of weeds and then harvested and filled onto trays and trolleys for sale at the Visitor Centre.

On the day we visited the Kitchen Garden, some of the 17 varieties of potatoes were being dug and onions were being harvested for stocking at the shop, rows of peas were being weeded, and the grass surrounding the circular herb garden was being edged neatly.

This year, a plot of Dahlias were planted and are now in full flower, making an attractive backdrop for photographs taken by visitors. Deadheading is an essential task to prolong their flowering period.

Overseeing the Kitchen Garden Restoration Project is Kathy Dunphy, Senior Project Co-ordinator, who will be ensuring that the aims of the project are delivered; whether that is the construction of the new replacement glasshouses is completed on time, to organising visits from children’s groups or community groups who are keen to learn more about the growing of food or learning about nature.

For example, recently a number of children attended a flower-arranging day, a summer-pruning apple workshop was held, and a workshop was held looking at the benefit of herbs including those for making herbal teas.

In October, the National Trust will be holding a Festival of Colour with a focus on harvest, and during the weeklong event, there will be garden tours, arts and craft classes and updates on the restoration project.

The preparation work is currently being completed for the construction of the new glasshouses to replace those which were once sited against the north wall.

They should be completed over the winter months, and will then be used to grow more exotic fruits as well as being used as a community space for engaging with local groups.

For gardener Ian Marshall, the new project will enable them to grow even more varieties than at present. Apart from the common vegetables, more unusual types such Yacon or Kohl Rabi, which probably could not be bought in local shops or supermarkets, are grown.

The collection of herbs is impressive. The circular design is divided into four main groups: medicinal, aromatic, culinary and those for herbal teas, with 12 segments in total.

Common herbs such as thyme and sage are grown alongside others such as lovage, chervil and hyssop.

The Walled Garden at Florence Court dates from the late 18th Century, probably from around 1780, and the Ordnance Survey 1st Edition (1834) probably shows the garden layout much as it appeared when first created.

Substantial developments took place in the walled gardens following the marriage in 1869 of Viscount Cole (later the 4th Earl of Enniskillen) to the wealthy Dumfriesshire heiress Charlotte Baird, assisted by her Scottish Head Gardener, James Sutherland.

Sutherland was to remain at Florence Court for at least 18 years from 1886, and appears to have been the most distinguished Head Gardener of Florence Court in the 19th Century.

With the departure of Sutherland (to the United States) from Florence Court circa 1908, the garden was run by a succession of other Head Gardeners, culminating with James Sheppard, after whose departure the garden was gradually abandoned during the 1940s, such that by the 1960s it had become an overgrown wilderness.

A reconstruction of the garden’s layout and design in Sheppard’s time has shown that, in general, this garden was quite typical of the traditional Walled Garden, characterised by a mixture of flowers, fruit and vegetables in a formal ornamental plan.