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Garden Blog May 2019

Welcome back to our May Garden Blog from behind the walls of the Victorian Garden here in Kylemore Abbey.

The recent dry spell resulted in an explosion of plant growth within the garden walls and our automatic irrigation system supplied the needed water during early morning hours. Visitors are fascinated when we explain that all the water is coming from a natural lake ‘Lough Tougher’, situated on top of the mountain behind our garden. A men-made dam and kilometer-long cast iron pipes made it possible to supply fresh water to the garden and the Abbey since Victorian times. The same system is used for the garden nowadays, but the pipes have been replaced with more modern ones. Rainy weather, like today, means that our natural water reservoir is regularly filled up again. The surrounding bogland also acts as a huge filtration system before the water channels into the lake. So we can safely say that we do save and use rainwater for our garden irrigation, maybe not in a conventional but definitely in a very environmentally friendly way.

The Herbaceous plants in our double border seem to have grown overnight and the colour spectrum consists of many different shades of blues, purples, whites, and pinks. We add more plants every week at the moment to fill in gaps. Mainly annuals, biannuals like Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) or Mulleins (Verbascum) and also new varieties like Rock Knotweed (Plogygonum vaccciniifolium) to add to the display. Our Foxgloves give an especially great show this year. I have also noticed the abundance of wild Foxgloves everywhere in Connemara.

Pic1 Foxglove in our Herbaceous Border – Digitalis purpurea  ‘The Shirley ‘

I love the delicate blossoms of Irises, the flowers look like live-watercolor drawings. They are so easy to grow and don’t need much attention which suits us just fine! Fussy plants have a hard and mostly not very long life here in Kylemore! Once planted in the right spot they will grow for many years or even decades without getting too invasive. We feed our borders once a year with a topping of our own home produced compost and an additional feed of chicken manure.

Pic2 Lovey light blue Iris pallida – Dalmatian Iris

Another rather unusual late spring to early summer flowering  bulbous plant is Scilla peruviana or Portuguese squill.  Its low growths and big soft blue flower heads make it ideal for the front of borders and rock gardens. Even though it is a Mediterranean plant is seems to thrive well in our climate.

Pic3 Scilla peruviana or Portuguese squill

 

The growth spurt of the Vegetables has not been much behind the flowers. The first early potatoes are nearly covering the ridges by now.

We just sown our carrots and parsnips into prepared ridges. It is essential to sow them at the right time to avoid the Carrot Fly as much as possible. They have two life cycles and can destroy your whole crop! A surrounding bio-netting will hopefully keep the little creatures out.

Pic4 Potato ridges with first early varieties like ‘Sharps Express’

 

Pic5 Ulick preparing potato ridges for the last main crop

 

Our gardeners designed a new structure for our Runner- & French beans. It looks great and will be so much easier to put up and dismantle every year. For us it was important to have a strong frame so strong winds and storms don’t knock it over.

Pic6 Our new Bean supports

 

One of my favourite corners in the garden, although its quite hidden, is the area behind the restored Vinery. This place was originally also under glass and used as a fern glasshouse. The shaded side to the north was ideal to house different types of ferns and shade loving plants. Artificial rock work on the wall created grow pockets for smaller ferns. It must have been a fantastic setting back then, 130 years ago.

Pic7 Former Fernery glasshouse area behind the Vinery

 

Late spring and early summer is always the best season for our Fernery along the stream running through the garden. We added white Candelabra Primulas to the existing yellow and maroon ones.

Pic8 Candelabra Primulas japonica ‘Millers Crimson’  (maroon), bulleyana (orange) and japonica ‘Alba’ (white) in our Fernery

 

The wet days are used to clean, count, label and store the few thousand heritage spring bulbs which are laid out in the glasshouse to dry off. These bulbs will be replanted in October and newly bought ones added to the old bulbs to ensure a full display.

Pic9 Heritage spring bulbs laid out to dry off

 

I will be back with more news from the Walled Garden here in Kylemore Abbey & Garden in June. Until then, enjoy your early summer garden. Please find more tips for June gardening below.

 

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in June:

To Sow / Propagate:

~ Sowing of second batch of late summer flowering annuals as replacement plants like Nasturtiums, Calendulas or Tagetes

~ Take softwood cuttings of shrubs like Fuchsia

~ Re-sow every ten days Lettuces for ongoing supply

 

To plant:

~ Plant out pumpkins, marrows and courgettes; put straw around plants; we use cloches for wind protection

~ Plant out all potted plants, they do much better in suit then left in pots

 

To maintain & prune & feed:

~ Deadhead herbaceous plants and annuals regularly to prolong flowering season

~ Watering of new crops and bedding is essential in dry periods

~ Prune shrubs after finishing flowering (Deutzia, Weigelia…)

~ Fed lawns with a special summer feed (available in garden centers or nurseries)

~ Look out for pet and diseases caterpillars, green or black flies and signs of blight

Garden Diary August 2019

It is early morning here in the Walled Garden of Kylemore Abbey and I am walking through the six-acre tranquility to take my monthly pictures. The rain, which we had plenty off for the whole month of August, just stopped and gives me the needed opportunity to catch every angle of the garden with my camera. We have only had two dry days in August as a matter of fact! That leaves us with soaking wet lawns which squelch when walking over them, a big challenge for our greenkeeper!

It is coming towards harvesting time for apples, pumpkins, and grapes. These all developed quite well this season, despite the recent weather conditions. The grapes and pumpkins need another two or three weeks to fully ripen.

Pic1 Apple ‘Valentine’, a dual apple; also suitable to make Cider

 

Pic2 Grape ‘Black Hamburgh’ needs another two weeks to be fully ripe

 

Pic3 Pumpkins and Marrows; the orange Pumpkin ‘Rouge Vif D’ Etampes’ grew a lot since last month (look at the Garden Diary from July)

 

It is also harvesting time for our french and runner beans. I love especially the crunchiness of the string-less french beans. They are so easy to prepare without the fuss runner beans sometimes need.

Pic4 Runner and French beans on our newly designed supports; these supports proved to be very successful in holding up the weight, especially during strong winds and storms here in Connemara

 

Pic5 A selection of French beans ‘Bluelake Stringless’, ‘Cosse Violet’ and Runner beans ‘Painted Lady’

 

We had to wait a while before we were able to take out our Onions, the ground was just too wet and we could not leave the onions on the plot for drying off.

Pic6 Onions laid out for drying

 

When I was up on a ladder to prune and train our indoor peach tree along the inside wall of the Vinery I thought that the interior looked very tropical from above with all the lush greens of the Bananas, the Ginger Lilies, the Bird of Paradise and the climbing grapes.

Pic7  Plants in our Vinery

 

The flower garden and the Herbaceous Border changed colour again. Late season perennials and shrubs are now flowering in different shades of rosé, purples, lilacs, and yellows. These include Anemones, Cyclamen, Cannas and Hydrangeas.

Pic8 Anemone ‘Queen Charlotte’, bred over 100 years ago in 1898

 

 

Pic9 Cyclamen hederifolium – the Ivy-leaved Cyclamen in our Fernery

 

Pic10 Our Cannas have a stunning season this year, the best I can remember anyway! It is not often that they get to this height.

 

Pic11 Kirengeshoma palmata in the Fernery likes half shade and moist conditions; slugs love them!

I was always wondering about the genus name and where it came from: It is Japanese, ki means yellow and rengeshoma is a similar-looking plant, the false anemone.

I actually educate myself a lot when doing these Garden Diaries! Nothing is worse than false information’s, even so, it is hard to get it always spot on with so many sources available or sometimes none at all!

 

Our main walk through the garden is lined by flowering Red Hot Pokers once again. It always resembles the beginning of autumn to me. I really like this point of view through the whole length of the garden. It gives you a good idea about the garden’s huge scale. This view would be facing west where we could get strong gales from the Atlantic which is only two kilometers away. The line of trees protects the flower garden at least partially.

Pic12 The East – West orientated main avenue through the garden which was formerly the main road to Letterfrack

 

As I mentioned in one a previous b I  have tried to grow Melons in our cold frames once again. Hand pollinating the female flowers with the aid of the male flowers was necessary to get any results, a task you need a bit of patience for! Hidden under leaves we found this little guy below!

Our first and only melon! My gardeners thought he needs extra care since he looked a bit fragile! He is only in his infant stage and needs to grow a lot more!

That’s all for now, more to come from our September garden at the end of the month. Below are more garden tips for the month of September.

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

 

General Garden tips for September:

To sow/propagate:

~ Sow overwintering green manure directly in the ground

~ Continue potting on spring bedding plants like Wallflowers as backup plants

~ Propagate shrubs from semi ripe cuttings, cuttings could be left outside or in frames once they rooted

~ Collect ripe seeds of various annuals and perennials, dry them properly before bagging, label and date them

 

To plant:

~ Lettuces, Spring Onions or Spring Cabbages can still be planted out

~ Re-sow lawns after scarifying

 

To harvest:

~ Apples, Pears, Nuts, Blackberries

~ Carrots, Cabbages, Kales, Lettuces, Beetroots, Spring Onions

~ Runner Beans, French Beans, Dwarf Beans

~ Herbs; also for drying (great for the winter colds…, my favorites would be thyme and sage)

 

To maintain & prune & feed:

~ Blow leaves of lawns regularly to avoid browning off the grass

~ Pick up fallen fruits, they will only attract rodents; could be still used  to make jams or chutneys

~ Moss treat and scarify lawns

~ Prune summer fruiting Raspberries, Gooseberries and Currants

Garden Diary July 2019

Welcome to our high summer garden diary from our Victorian Walled Garden. It is the second of August already and somebody came to me yesterday and said it is the first day of autumn! I must have looked a bit shocked and started to explain that in Germany August would be your main summer month. I know that seasons are counted a bit differently here in Ireland but I always struggle to accept that February is spring and August counts as autumn!

Anyhow, the weather we are experiencing is definitely more like summer at the moment and it is a pleasure to work outside and enjoy the fruits of hard labour from the previous recent months.

The summer bedding is doing very well. Regular deadheading, especially of the Calendulas are vital at the moment and ensure a continuous display. They have to last another month at least, preferable another two before we start to change the summer bedding to next years spring bedding. We are also replanting a second lot of younger Calendulas in between the older ones.

Pic1 Calendula ‘Orange King’ in combination with Lobelia ‘Chrystal Palace’ in our Parterre

 

Pic2 Tagetes tenuifolia ‘Golden Gem’, Lobelia ‘Mrs. Clibran’, Tropaeolum ‘Empress of India’ and Canna in our formal bedding scheme with the Propagation glasshouse in the background

We finally got around to fixing our sundial at the top of the garden. We got a nice replica from an antic shop and it is lovely to see that visitors try to read the time, only on a sunny day of course!

Pic3 Our new sundial at the Parterre

 

White is always a good colour to bring out contrast in the garden. Our ‘Snake beds’ are planted with the white flowering Lavatera ‘Mont Blanc’, a lovely annual Mallow. The huge flowers attract a lot of insects, a good sign nowadays. The white works well with the restored Vinery in the background.

Pic4 ‘Snake beds’ in full bloom

 

The kitchen garden is similarly lovely and at its heights at the moment. We never saw the Curley Kale so big and full. Also the Red Cabbage ‘Red Drumhead’ gives a great show this season. The Calendula in between the rows is acting as a companion plant and also brings a bit of colour in between the greens.

Pic5 One of the Brassica plots with a selection of Kales and Cabbages

 

The Courgettes, Marrows, and Pumpkins have had another good season. It is worthwhile to cover the young plants with cloches when they are planted out to give them the needed protection here in our climate. The leaves can develop mild mildew sometimes but it is removed easily.

Pic6 Tiny pumpkin ‘Rouge Vif D’ Etampes’, still a bit to go to full size; this heritage variety dates back to the 1880th and was once the main pumpkin in French markets

 

Pic7 Courgette ‘Green Bush’, always a good reliable variety

 

It is the second year in a row that we were able to grow this unusual tomato variety. The ‘Pineapple’ tomato, also a heritage variety, is called after its shape and has a marbling flesh and a fruity taste. Many beefsteak tomatoes are rather dry but this one is very juicy and worth a try. The size is similar to a medium-sized apple.

Pic8 Delicious tomato ‘Pineapple’

 

Other garden areas like the Rockery are also worth a visit. This natural Rock Garden is hidden behind a Sycamore hedge on the top of the garden and like a secret garden since not visible from down below. It took many years to establish as the growing conditions here are not the easiest ones. The yuccas enjoy the heat in between the natural lime stone and are in full bloom at the moment.

Pic9 Yucca flaccida (‘Adam’s needle) and Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican fleebane) in the foreground

 

I planted a few different heritage varieties of Cannas  in our Head Gardeners Border recently and Canna x ehemannii which  has lovely reddish purple blossoms. The name ‘ehemannii’ derives from the german name ‘Ehemann’ which translates into ‘Husband’.

Pic10 Canna x ehemannii in the subtropical Head Gardeners Border with the Head Gardeners House in the background

 

Another showy plant in front of the Head Gardeners House is the Pineapple Lilly, Eucomis bicolor. Its striking and very unusual flowers are a show stopper at the moment. The flowers will last for a couple of weeks and we will save seeds from this bulbous perennial when they are ripe.

Pic11 The Pineapple Lilly in full bloom

 

Mornings and evenings  are the quitest times here in the garden and are very inviting for a calming stroll through all the different areas like the Herbaceous Border for example.

With these words I would like to end this months Garden Diary, more to come in early September. Enjoy your own or other gardens for the last month of summer!

Pic12 The Herbaceous Border end July

 

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

 

 

Things you can do in your garden in July:

To Sow / Propagate:

~ Its still time to sow more Green Manures like Phacelia to cover plots; lovely for wildlife when flowering
~ Start to sow spring beddings like Wallflowers
~ Sow spring cabbages like ‘April’ or Curley Kales for over wintering crops

~ Take cuttings of non-flowering shoots of Santolina, Dianthus, Pelargonium, Hydrangea or Fuchsia

To plant:

~ Plant out potted plants into borders and water well in
~ Replace summer bedding if necessary
~ Plant out more catch crops like lettuces and spring onion

 

To harvest:

~ Courgettes, Marrows
~ Mangetouts, Peas, Broad beans
~ Main Potatoes
~ Lettuce, Spinach, Leaf beet
~ Herbs for drying or for fresh herbal teas like Sage or Mint

To maintain & prune & feed:

~Feed annuals in pots or planters on a regular base
~ Cut down Comfrey and use as mulch and feed
~ Regularly dead heading of bedding plants like Calendula and herbaceous plants for continues flower display
~ Check vegetables and flowers for pest and diseases e.g. cabbage root fly, caterpillars, green flies, blight
~ Prune shrubs like Weigelia after flowering
~ Feed lawns and treat Box hedges

Garden Blog June 2019

Welcome back to our June edition of our Garden Blog.

We experienced a lovely spell of dry weather this June, our rainfall was just around 95 ml for the month. The heat in the recent two weeks made plants, especially in our double Herbaceous Border jump and is creating a lovely display along the 80 meters of the historic plant selection. One of the main Herbaceous flowering at the moment is Digitalis ambigua, the Yellow Foxglove. This perennial was introduced before 1900 and is the longest flowering Foxglove. In Germany they are called Thimbles (‘Fingerhut’) due to the shape of the flowers. Just keep in mind that all parts of the plants are poisonous.

Pic1 Digitalis ambigua – Yellow Foxglove (A snail found a home under the bottom left flower head!)

 

The Yellow Foxglove looks particularly nice in combination with the purple Iris kaempferi as a backdrop.

Pic2 Yellow Foxgloves and purple Irises

 

Pic3 Northside of the Herbaceous Border end of June

 

Pic4 A mixture of Verbascum, Tanacetum and Acanthus in the Border

 

The crops in the Vegetable Garden are filling the plots nicely and  a few things such as Mangetouts are ready for harvesting.

Our Cabbages have also made a healthy growth within the last few weeks. Seaweed fertilizer played a big part  in this. Cabbages are very hungry crops and need a good feed. They will be ready for the coming Vegetable Sale in a couple of days.

Pic5 Cabbage ‘Greyhound’ in our Brassica plot

 

Our potatoes are also doing great so far. The Queens will probably be ready for harvesting in about four weeks time.

Pic6 Potatoes ‘British Queens’ with Diamond Hill in the back ground

 

It is lovely to see our Globe Artichokes doing so well this season. We had years when we hardly had any. I love the architectural look of them and rather have them flowering then eating!

 

Pic7 Globe Artichokes!

 

The warm spell we are experiencing at the moment is also great for the melons. We were very unlucky in growing these fruit in recent years. Lets hope it works out better this summer. They are kept in the coldframe which is developing a lot of heat under the low glass frames. Back in Victorian times they had a special glasshouse for Melons alone here in Kylemore.

Pic8 Melons ‘Ananas’ and ‘Zatto’, two Italien varieties

 

The weather is also an advantage for tender plants like succulents. I researched few different old seed varieties of Echeverias last winter which we propagated successfully in spring. They developed quite well and are planted out in a typical Victorian urn planter now.

Pic9 Echeverias and scented Pelargonium

 

We were a bit behind with our flower display in the Formal Gardens but most summer bedding plants are  in bloom finally. The later season can also mean that we will have a longer display, going right into autumn hopefully.

Pic10 Calendulas, Lobelias, Tropaeolums and Cannas in our formal Flower Garden; restored Vinery in background

 

We are also expanding our ‘Animal display’. Hannah and Heidi, a Connemara mare and her foal found a new home in the meadow behind the Teahouse. They are already very popular with the visitors and the backdrop with the Diamond Hill gives a lovely  picture opportunity.

 

Please join me again for more news from the Victorian Walled Garden here in Kylemore next month.

 

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

Garden Blog April 2019

Welcome back to our April garden blog, even though it’s the first of May already.

A very busy April went by in the blink of an eye, it seems and we are in the famous ‘transition period’ between spring and summer displays.

The late Easter this year meant that the spring flowers were all in bloom  which created a lovely spring feeling. Also the different Rhododendron cultivars like Rhododendron falconeri subsp. eximium, an early flowering variety, had a fantastic flower display this year.

 

Pic1 Early morning in the formal flower garden with view to the Diamond Hill

 

Pic2 Rhododendron falconeri subsp.eximium in full bloom; named after H. Falconer (1808-1865) who was Supervisor at Saharanpur  Gardens in India in 1832; introduction 1850

 

Pic3 Tulip ‘Colour Cardinal’ and white Bellis in our Parterre with Head Gardener House and Tool Shed in the background

 

Pic4 Tulip ‘Peach Blossom’ in the ‘snake beds’ in front of the restored Vinery

 

Pic5 Fritillaria pallidiflora, an unusual very attractive small Fritillaria from 1844

 

A rather dull day, weather wise, did not stop lots of children with their families wandering around the garden and experiencing yet another Kylemore Easter event. The children had to find three (adult size) bunnies within the garden, could decorate and create a birthday card for the pigs, get their face painted in bunny style or look at the new fairy items in our fairy wood. The day was finished off with a birthday party for our two Kune kune pigs, which are with us for  one whole year. A very funny and unusual ceremony was enjoyed by all!. Our garden students created a special cake for the pigs, whereas the visitors were able to try out a lovely home backed sponge cake.

 

Pic5 The dining table in the Bothy decorated for the big Easter Breakfast

 

Pic6 One of the rabbits had to take a rest in the bedroom in the Bothy from all the hopping around

 

Pic7  The Vegetarian birthday cake for our two pigs Gloria and Ken, loveingly decorated by our garden students

 

Pic8 The ‘proper’ cake for the guests

 

There are jobs happening in every corner of the garden at the moment. The first hedges like Fuchsia macrantha are getting trimmed, a job which needs to be repeated at least one more time throughout the season. Also in the Vegetable Garden the seasonal planting of different crops like leeks, celery, peas, lettuces, potatoes, parsley and many more is happening all at once it seems. Before they are planted out the seedlings are getting hardened off in our cold frames where they get a bit of protection from the brick walls and glass frames, especially in stormy weather like last weekend.

 

Pic9 Vegetable seedlings in the coldframes

 

We finally got around to start fixing up our broken sundial in the Parterre. One piece of the granite top where the dial would sit on broke off few years ago. We are not sure when the actual sundial disappeared. It happened many decades ago as far as we know. The new one will hopefully be similar to the original sundial, not easy to judge since there is no original picture existing.  I will upload a picture when the new one is fully installed.

Pic10 Steve is fixing the original base of the sundial

 

I am very exited that our two peach  trees, both Amsden June varieties, will be fruiting this year. The hand pollinating must have helped I think. We will see which of the two is performing better and which fruits are nicer since one of the trees is growing outside along the south facing wall and the other one inside the Vinery, also along the south facing wall. The size of the fruits is only about 2 cm at the moment.

Pic11 Peach ‘Amsden June’ with baby peaches!

 

The last picture for this month is from our lovely garden students Miriam, Julia and Alicia. They are doing a great job here and had fun when helping out at the Easter event two weeks ago. The pink ears are normally not part of their uniform!

Pic12 Our Easter Bunny helpers Miriam, Julia and Alicia

 

Enjoy your own garden as much as we are enjoying to work here in the Victorian Walled Garden in Kylemore Abbey!

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in May:

To Sow / Propagate:

~ Take softwood and non-flowering cuttings of Fuchsia and Pelargonium
~ Take softwood cuttings of shrubs
~ Sow Carrots and Parsnips (end May to avoid Carrot fly)
~ Succession sowing of radishes and lettuces

 

To plant:

~ Plant Tagetes and Calendula as companion plants between your crops to attract beneficial insects

~ Start to plant out summer bedding in final position and protect against slugs (try coffee ground)

~ Plant out potted plants to prevent pot bounding

~ Plant runner beans and french beans on climbing supports

To maintain & prune & feed:

~ Trim formal hedges of Buxus, Fuchsia or Escallonia and feed them

~ Put up supports on taller perennials, broad beans and sweet peas
~ Water plants and lawns well in dry spells, mainly in mornings or evenings

~ Prune spring flowering shrubs like Weigelia or Forsythia after finishing flowering

 

Garden Blog February & March 2019

Welcome back to our second garden blog for this year.

The first flush of early spring flowering bulbs like Crocuses, Snowdrops and early Daffodils is over and is replaced by later flowering ones. One of the most stunning Crocuses we have in the garden is ‘Crocus ‘King of Striped’. Regular readers of this blog would have seen pictures of it in recent years. The different shades  of lilac in combination with the stripy whites and the orange stigmas in the center in contrast make this heritage Crocus one of my favorites. The only downside is that one storm can ruin the whole show within a day or night. Gardening is all about enjoying every single moment.

 

Pic1 Crocus ‘King of Striped’ in its hay days about three weeks ago

 

The weather is very much up and down at the moment; cold fronts and stormy weather are holding back many spring flowers like Tulips for example. The earliest flowering Tulip we have this year is Tulip kaufmanniana, the original kaufmanniana specious. It is also called the water-lily Tulip. I was able to obtain this specious during one of my heritage research trips and we are delighted that the bulbs make such a lovely show stopper in the Parterre this spring. The dwarf kaufmanniana Tulip only opens up fully during sunshine and looks very different when closed since the petals are red outside.

Pic2 Tulip kaufmanniana fully open

 

Pic3 A close-up of Tulip kafmanniana

 

All these early flowering plants are so important for the insects, especially bees since not much else is providing food for bee & co. around this time of year.

Another spring flowering show is happening in our Ribbon beds at the moment.

The combination of Snake Heads Fritillarias and the small delicate Narcissus canaliculatus, another dwarf or miniature Daffodil from the Tazetta group, are creating the perfect Easter theme to me. These colours work so well together and the plants are actually quite hardy in our climate and can withstand strong gusts from the Atlantic. It must be the speckled flower-heads of the Fritillarias that remind me on Easter eggs…!

Pic4 Fritillaria meleagris and Narcissus canaliculatus in the Ribbon beds along the brick wall

 

Red flowering Bellis and creamy coloured Hyacint ‘City of Haarlem’ are providing colour along one of the walks in the Formal Flower Garden. Strong contrasts in the bedding layouts were one of the highlights in Victorian Gardens in the 19th century and are one of the main themes in our garden, too.

Pic5 Hyacinths and Bellis in the Diamond beds

 

The old Tree Rhododendren, originally planted by Mitchell Henry in the late 19th century had also an early start. Originally imported from Asia they were planted along the driveway from the castle to the garden and show impressive sizes after ca 130 years. I ordered a selection of heritage varieties of Rhododendren, introduced before 1901, like Rhododendron sinogrande, the Great Chinese Rhododendron. These will be planted along the avenue to the garden and will hopefully grow to similar sizes like the Tree Rhododendren eventually.

Pic6 Rhododenron arboreum with the Statue of Sacred Heart in the background (top-middle)

 

I dug up the last of the Yacon tubers from our permanent Vegetable plot just last week. Now, if I would not know what they are I would never have guessed either! I could puzzle a good few people and it took a bit of convincing to get them to the stage of trying them. They are lovely raw in salads.  The crunchy taste is a bit of a mixture between a pear and water melon, I think. The plants itself are left in the ground and will produce new tubers during the season.

Pic7 The edible tubers of Yacon

It is this time of year when our glasshouse is starting to get overloaded with newly sown seed trays. Most seedlings take about ten days to two weeks until germinating and another two weeks before they get to the potting on stage. The watering needs to be checked every two hours, more often when the sun is out or the trays are left on heat. We normally have a germination rate of over 90% which is important since seeds are getting more and more expensive.

Pic9 Our propagation glasshouse in full use

 

Jenny, our garden cat seems to be less interested in the success of the seed propagation and is just enjoying the warmth of the propagation benches.

A big yawn shows clearly her priorities!

Pic10 Without words!

 

When passing by our Head Gardener Border you will get a very intense scent of the Honey Spurge, Euphorbia mellifera. It is nearly overwhelmingly strong. I would not recommend this evergreen shrub to people with a strong dislike to honey. Saying this it is a lovely plant and would be greatly missed in our borders.

Pic11 Fully opened flowers heads of the Honey Spurge

 

I never saw the  new cones of the Korean Fir so intensively red in colour. They nearly look like red Christmas candles, just at the wrong time of year! It seems to be a good year  for them since the tree is covered in them. The cones will turn purple to brown when fully grown later in the season.

Pic12 Korean Fir (Abies koreana)

 

We held our annual tree planting week once again. Very enthusiastic pupils from our local National Schools and the creche took part and planted two native trees each school. It is the seventh year since we started in 2012 and tree number 63 was planted on the last day of the event.

Pic13 Pupils from second class  Letterfrack National school planting carefully a Sessile Oak

 

Pic14 Children from our local creche gave their thumbs up after finishing re-homing a Birch tree

 

Please join me for more news from the Walled Garden in Kylemore Abbey next month.

Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in March

To Sow / Propagate:

~ Last chance for grafting apple trees

~ First sowing of green manures into prepared  plots in the kitchen garden
~ Sow first early potatoes like ‘Epicure’ or ‘Duke of York’ as soon as soil is warming up
~ Harden off Vegetable seedlings like Radishes and Lettuces
~ Continue sowing summer bedding plants and prick out when big enough
~ Take cuttings of non-flowering shoots of Pelargonium or Fuchsia

To plant:
~ Plant Broad beans and stake well
~ Plant onions, shallots, garlic
~ Plant bare- rooted trees until mid April (Much cheaper than potted trees!)
~ Divide and transplant perennials in borders
~ Divide & replant chives (also great in borders and good for black flies on roses)

To maintain & prune & feed:

~ Look after your compost; turn, feed, water

~ Finish pruning apple trees
~ Service all garden machinery before first use
~ Sharpen edging shears regularly
~ Cut back Willow hard for later use as supports, baskets etc.; grade and store in cool place
~ Last chance to prune Gooseberries, could be trained like cordons or fans along wires
~ Feed all fruit trees and bushes with potash
~ Feed herbaceous borders with soil improver like chicken pellets and own rotted compost
~ Feed Spring Cabbages with Seaweed powder

Garden Blog January 2019

Welcome to my first garden blog for 2019.

It is the last day of January and the grips of winter have finally gotten us. Very unexpectedly we were plunged right into sub-zero temperatures. The very mild conditions from the previous weeks let nature decide to put out flower buds which normally only appear in two or three months time. Of course, the pre-spring joy only lasted a short while, the lovely early blossoms of our ornamental plum trees are history already!

Pic1 Winter blossom of the ornamental cherry plum tree Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii’

Our snowdrops are also out much earlier than usual but you would not mind this since they will at least enjoy a bit of snow! We must have planted thousands of snowdrops within the last decade but rodents must get the most enjoyment out of them since only a handful of snowdrops have made it to the flowering stage.

Pic2 Snowdrop in our fernery

 

Pic3 Crocus ‘King of Striped’ has also an early start

 

Two days ago the snow came, from every direction imaginable. I must have passed three or four different weather types when driving into work. The mountains and the closeness to the Atlantic make our weather here in Connemara very unpredictable which creates huge challenges for a garden like ours.

Pic4 View from the Vinery over to the Parterre with the Head Gardeners House to the top right side

 

The following day the sun came out and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. The setting opposite the Diamond Hill, seen in the background, gives the garden a different dimension altogether which is even more highlighted during dawn or dusk. Most of our plants are hardy and don’t need special care during the winter months. Cordyline trees can accept a drop in temperature down to minus 10 degrees Celcius. We wrapped our newly planted tree ferns in the Fernery as a precaution since we lost 15 big ones in the harsh winter of 2010.

 

Pic5 Sunrise over the Parterre with the Diamond Hill the background

 

The sun is so low during the winter month that the north-facing south slope hardly gets any light or warmth. The elevated glasshouse complex has a clear advantage which says a lot about the knowledge, technology and design back then, 150 years ago.

 

 

Pic6 View from the south slope over to the former glasshouse arrangement of 21 glasshouses as part the Formal Flower Garden

 

One of the many winter jobs we  undertake annually is the maintaining, updating and renovating of the different buildings, structures, and glasshouses within the garden walls. We are doing a big renovation job on one of the two restored glasshouses this winter. Although only restored twenty years ago, unfortunately, it already suffered great decay in the timber structure, dry rot made the whole building very unstable and unsafe. Being in contact with other restored gardens I noticed similar problems which are leading to many problems down the line.

 

Pic7 Our propagation glasshouse gets a make over

 

The Head Gardeners House also got already an internal painting job done last summer. I love the layout of this 150 year old house and it gives you a good understanding of the importance of the Head Gardeners position back then.

Pic8 The hallway in the former Head Gardeners House which is now open to the public

 

We always try to tell the story of Kylemore Abbey or back then Kylemore Castle as accurately as possible. Artifacts of any kind or historic documents play a big part in this. Ongoing research and extensive archive work on site are important jobs for achieving this. Below is a picture of the Auctioneers Book of Sale from 1902 when Kylemore Castle was sold and eventually bought by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester. This document is an exhibit in the hallway of the Head Gardeners House together with a detailed description of the whole estate, covering a grand total of 13 000 acres back then.

The Walled Gardens  description is as follow: ‘”The gardens and grounds, planted with an endless variety of luxuriant trees and shrubs and intersected by mountain streams, are far-famed for their beauty and high state of cultivation, and include walled flower and kitchen gardens of eight-and-a-half acres, with an extensive range of magnificent glasshouses.”

Pic9 The announcement of the auction by Foster & Cranfield on Wednesday, the 18th of June 1902 at the Mart in London

 

Another exhibition showroom would be the former tool shed with an extensive range of old and used tools, found mainly during restoration times and used until the garden went into decline. All tools will be properly cleaned and oiled once a year during the winter month.

 

Pic10 Exhibition tool shed

 

Our pet animal, pigs, and cats alike,s take advantage of every bit of sunshine and good weather to roam around and an extra portion of food, especially Gloria and Ken is always welcome.

Leftover peels and offcuts from the restaurant are devoured in no time. An extra layer of straw will keep them cozy in their little shed and we even put a ‘pig door’ on the existing door to keep the draft and cold winds out.

Pic11 Nothing wrong with a pigs life!

 

The Robin, our garden companion can still find enough food, especially when we are digging in the soil. He is watching us and the soil very carefully and sometimes gets a fat worm for dessert from us.

Pic12 The loyal Robin

 

This is all the news from the Walled Garden here in Kylemore for now, let’s hope the winter does not get too much of a grip. Saying this, we need a cold spell in order to disseminate bugs and slugs, pests and diseases.

Below are a few more tips for winter garden jobs!

 

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in January & Beginning February

To Sow / Propagate:

~ Start to sow first vegetable seeds indoor in modules like spring onions, lettuce, kale, broadbeans

~ Propagate apples or pears by grafting on suitable rootstocks

To plant:

~ Plant bare-rooted fruit trees, roses, hedges

~ Plant herbaceous perennials in borders when frost free

To harvest:

~ Jerusalem Artichokes, Leeks, Herbs like Sage or Rosmary, Curly Kale, overwintering Cabbages and Kales

~ Lift celery before strong frosts and store

To maintain & prune & feed:

~ Start winter pruning of Apple & Pear trees (ongoing until the end of February)

~ Check Apple and Pear trees for signs of canker, cut out if occurring

~  Prune deciduous trees and shrubs for a balanced shape

~ Prune tall roses by half (precise pruning again in spring)

~ Clean and tidy potting sheds, tool sheds, propagation trays, pots etc.

~ Check on stored Potatoes, bulbs and fruits for diseases and dispose affected ones

~ Prune Grape vines after frosty period; leave about two to three buds of laterals (side shoots of this years growths)

~ Clean up Herbaceous Borders, cut down old growths

 

Garden Diary November & December 2018

The last days of November are approaching fast and the countdown to Christmas is getting updated on our Blackboard in the craft shop every day.

A lot of winter preparation has happened in the  Vegetable Garden in the recent weeks. We have concentrated on covering empty plots with different types of materials this winter. Straw, our own leaf mulch and seaweed from the shores are amongst the natural materials we use. Also the coverage with black polythene was done once again. It might be not the prettiest way of dealing with the issue of preventing nutrients getting washed out of the soil but it is definitely very effective. We are also looking at the option of  ‘No-dig gardening’, something which sounds very very appealing! We just have to work out if it would be a suitable option for our type of garden but we are always very keen on trying out new methods. That’s also the way the Victorians were, always working and progressing in many ways; they were constantly hunting for new ideas and inventions, not all successful I have to say! ‘Trial and error’ is a good motivation I think!

 

Pic1 A thick straw cover, weighted down with rotted manure on an empty plot; the straw will slowly rot down  improving the soil structure and feeding it at the same time

 

Pic2 A heavy layer of seaweed between the spring cabbages

 

Pic3 Leaf mulch spread  between newly planted Comfrey plants along the south wall; Morello cherries are growing along the wall

 

We also use our own rotted compost to top up planting areas like those  below at the Red Currants. Again, it will feed and mulch at the same time. Heavy rainfalls will lead to a lot of erosion, especially since the North side of the garden is very sloped.

Pic4 Red Currants top dressed with rotted Compost

 

There are still plenty of crops left in the ground and many of them will overwinter nicely until the new season begins.

Celery gives a very fresh look to the rest of the plots with its green and golden leaves. The variety below is called Celery ‘Golden Self-Blanching’ and is a very old Heritage variety dating back to 1883. In one of the original seed catalogs it was described as:

The stocks grow vigorously, with large ribs, very thickly and closely set.  It is entirely self-blanching, without any banking up or covering whatever, even the outer ribs assuming a yellowish-white color of a very fresh and pleasing appearance.”  

Mizuna is another great crop that lasts here in Kylemore throughout the winter. It is a Japanese brassica with very decorative glossy leaves.

It will regrow when cut back, has a mild mustard flavour and is mainly used in salads, stir fries or soups.

Pic5 Row of Celery ‘Golden Self-Blanching’

 

Pic6 Japanese Mizuna Greens

 

Winter time is always a lovely time to show off the decorated branches of deciduous shrubs which are not too visible when covered in leaves during the main season. Dogwood (Cornus) or Willow (Salix) have many different varieties, many with different coloured bark. Our willow, which we use for making natural plant supports, is quite attractive with its yellow-greenish bark against the grey limestone wall behind.

Pic7 Our willow nursery during dormant season

 

All tender plants like Agaves, Bananas, Fuchsia or Tree ferns are tucked in nicely in the Vinery where low heat is keeping them frost protected. Daily ventilation is vital to reduce the risk of fungus’s. Palms like Trachycarpus are left outside since they are quite hardy and can withstand light frost. One of the Yucca palms outside the Visitor Centre is in full bloom at the moment, a bit off season I would say but it also shows clearly that the seasons are changing!

Pic8 The Vinery during winter month’s

 

Pic9 Variegated Yuccas in bloom

 

We also started on the next area to clear the endless amount of the wild Rhododendron which is covering a great area here in Kylemore. We are concentrating on the region around the Gothic Church and the Mausoleum which was nearly invisible behind these huge plants.

Pic10 Rhododendron are cleared in the woodland to open up the view to the Mausoleum

 

In the Head Gardeners House is a hint of festive feeling in the air and the Christmas tree is bringing a warm atmosphere into this cosy room, which was once the study room of the Head Gardener. The original bay window gave a perfect overview to the grand design of this six acre Walled Garden.

Pic11 Former study room in the Head Gardeners House

 

Our animals or better said ‘garden pets’ are enjoying the dry spells in between heavy showers. Jenny, the white fluffy cat is presenting herself well in front of the former tool shed to make sure she gets the attention and maybe few strokes of the visitors.

Pic12 Jenny nearly camouflaging with the white wall of the former tool shed

 

Pic13 Gloria is watching the little Robin closely to make sure nothing of her breakfast disappears but Robin was faster in

the end!

 

With this I will finish the last edition of the Garden blog of the Victorian Walled Garden here in Kylemore Abbey for this year.

I wish all my readers an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas with a little rest from the never ending garden work! I will spend ‘Weihnachten’ in Berlin, my former home town once again.

Please join me for more news of our garden in January 2019!

Below the usual garden tips for December.

 

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

 

 

Things you can do in your garden in December
To Sow / Propagate:

~ First indoor sowing of Broad beans and Lettuces
~ Sow Pelargonium seeds for the coming season
~ Grafting of apples etc.

To plant:
~ Plant bare-rooted  trees, roses and fruit trees
~ Divide and replant herbaceous perennials, make sure weeds like scotch grass is removed before replanting

To harvest:

~Turnips, Parsnips
~ Kale & Cabbages
~ Leeks, Spinach or Leaf beets

To maintain & prune & feed:

~Frost protect water taps, move watering hoses indoor

~ Clean and tidy potting sheds, tool sheds, propagation trays, pots etc.

~Build coldframes for raising early crops under glass
~ Start winter pruning of Apple & Pear trees
~ Prune deciduous trees and shrubs after flowering for a balanced shape
~ Prune climbing roses by half

~ Check on stored Potatoes, bulbs and fruits for diseases and dispose affected ones
~ Check Apple and Pear trees for sign of canker and cut out if occurring
~ Prune Grape vines, leave about two to three buds of laterals (side shoots of this years growths)
~ Clean up Herbaceous Borders, cut down old growths

~Plan next year seasons,eg. crop rotation plans

Garden Diary October 2018

October came and went within split seconds or so it seems. My original idea of writing this blog in the first half of each month seems to become more and more difficult, time runs at an enormous speed. Since October is nearly over I will focus on garden jobs which could be done in November at the end of this diary.

The planting of all spring bedding, sorting out bulbs, tidying away the endless supply of leaves, cutting back borders, saving seeds… the list seems endless. It is a good complaint I presume and our work days fly. Finally I got a chance to sit down and type out my recollection of the past few weeks. Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Connemara and the landscape was absolutely breathtaking. I went for a long walk along the Dawros River which starts here in Kylemore and is a bit of a magical place. The purity of the water means that the endangered fresh water pearl mussel is able to live in this fast flowing river and I  witnessed a mussel which just put out its foot to move along for finding the right spot to bury itself half way. It is a great sign to see these massive old mussels, they can have a life span of around 120 years. The natural flora growing along the river banks made it even more enjoyable, the red berries of Holly’s and the red fruits of wild roses were gleaming in the autumn sun.

Pic1 Freshwater Pearl Mussel

 

Today is a different story again, cold rain and gusts go right over the garden walls and make our work a bit more challenging.

Nearly all the spring bedding is planted and also the first spring bulbs have gone into the beds  too. Crocus, Hyacinths, Narcissus and Chionodoxa would be the first bulbs we plant. Tulips, Fritillarias and Anemones will follow soon. It is important to check the bulbs  in the store weekly and to remove rotted ones and to check for damage caused by mice.

Pic2 Our bulb store upstairs in the former Bothy, a nice dry, dark and cool place

It is always exiting when opening up the new bulb packages, I love the different shapes, sizes and colours. The varieties are all very unique and have their own special identification details like the dark red to brown coloured small bulb of Tulip turkestanica.

Pic3 Small  bulbs of Tulip tukestanica

 

Pic3 Planting out our own raised Forgetmenots on a nice sunny day!

 

Pic4 Spring bulbs are laid out for planting in our Diamond beds

 

The last carrots were dug up beginning October, ‘Autumn King’ must be our best growing and tastiest old variety we have and is also the last one to be harvest. The rich sweet flavour of a home grown carrot can’t be beaten . They were part of our last Vegetable sale for this year and sold out in no time.

Pic5 Carrots ‘Autumn King’, a heritage variety dating back to 1900

 

We also picked the last of the grapes. The crop quantity was average but the flavour quite intense and sweet.

Pic6 Our three grape varieties (left to right): ‘Black Hamburgh’, ‘Buckland Sweetwater’, Grizzley Frontignan’ (Muscat Vine)

 

This year was the first season we were able dig up a good crop of Chinese Artichokes. They belong to the Mint family and grow similar to Oca or Jerusalem Artichokes underground. The small white unusual looking rhizomes can be eaten raw or cooked. I like them raw since they have a lovely crunchy texture and a bit of a nutty taste.

Pic7 Chinese Artichokes

 

We wheld our traditional Halloween event last weekend once again. Despite the rather unpleasant weather we had a good turnout and over 300 children and their families who came to decorate their own fairy doors, witness the wise woman (Cailleach) casting spells, watch traditional turnip carving, taste home baked  brack or finding spots for hibernating frog houses. The event was finished off with a big Bonfire outside the garden walls and luckily the rain held off nicely . We also opened up the new fairy trail in our woodland play area. A remembrance tree in our restored Vinery invited everybody to tie on a card with a personal note on.

Pic8 Tree of remembrance in the Vinery

 

Pic9 Happy turnips carved and decorated by our garden student Michaela

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pic10 The popular Bonfire with the wise woman doing her spells

 

Have a great Halloween and enjoy the last few autumn days!

 

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

 

 

Things you can do in your garden in November:

To Sow / Propagate:

~ Take cuttings of soft fruits like Currants or  Raspberries
~ Propagate rhubarb by division and replant immediately

 

To plant:

~ Plant out herbaceous plants left sitting in pots

~ Plant bare-rooted roses immediately after receiving order, water in well
~ Order and plant bare-rooted trees, shrubs and hedges; until the end of February

To harvest:
~ Any vegetables left in ground like spinach, leaf beet, carrots, parsnips, cabbages
~ Curley Kale after first frost idealy
~ Last of apples and pears, check storage for rotten ones on a regular base

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Tidy lawns of leaves to avoid rotting
~ Power wash surfaces to prevent slippery surfaces
~ Feed spring cabbages with own liquid comfrey

Garden Blog September 2018

Welcome back to our first autumn edition of the monthly garden blog for this year.

Autumn entered quite dramatically with ‘Ali’ taking its toe on the Irish Westcoast, especially here in Connemara.

It was one of the worst storms  I have witnessed in my 17 years here, even so it was not forecast to have such a damaging impact. Few shallow rooted trees like Sycamore came down and the avenues were hardly visible anymore since a layer of leaves, twigs and branches made them blending in with the surrounding woods.

Pic1 A storm casualty – Sycamore tree at the Teahouse

 

I also never  saw such a windburn on the leaves of all type of plants. The scales came straight from the Atlantic and the salt contest must have been immense which lead to an even greater damage of the leaves. All  Cannas looked shredded afterwards and the Herbaceous Border was all of a sudden nearly flowerless. Well, that’s nature (maybe not at its best!) and we have to deal with it somehow!

Pic2 Burned leaves of apple trees

 

Otherwise the garden has still a nice display of flowers (few stronger ones survived!). The Sedum in the long Ribbon beds fully opened up their flower heads and have their annual show at the moment. We started to take out summer bedding plants like Tagetes already to prepare for the upcoming autumn planting with spring bedding for next year.

Pic3 Ribbon beds in full bloom

 

Pic4 Flower display before ‘Ali’ came along…

 

Pic5 Summer bedding gets cleared out by Michaela

 

We just held another Vegetable sale and Carrots, the last of the Potatoes, Garlic, Onions, Beetroot, Red Cabbages, Beans and more sold fast.

The Broccoli has developed nice heads and they look quite attractive at the moment, its a pity to cut them off!!

Pic6 Broccolli ‘De Cicco’ (Calabrese)

 

Pic7 Broccoli ‘Purple Sprouting’

 

 Pic8 Small selection of our Veg and fruit

 

Pic9 One of the last harvested potatoes ‘Flourball’, an old heritage variety from around 1870

 

These were our French and Runner beans, before the recent storm flattened the whole structure. The weight of the plants itself did probably not help. We are looking into the design of a more sturdy structure, a nice winter project!

Pic10 Our beans in better days

 

One typical element in Victorian gardens was the planting of specific Cutflowers which were and still are used for decorating dining tables for special events in the big house. It is lovely to just browse through the beds and pick the best ones out, topped up by greenery like ferns and shrubbery.

Pic11 Cutflowers after ‘harvesting’

 

Pic12 Small Bouquet for the dining table in the Abbey

 

I think our two pigs Gloria (left) and Ken slept right through the stormy weather, they are happy out as usual and devour treats like apples and carrots! Ken makes sure he is always getting the first bite!

Pic13 Our two Kunekune’s

 

The Fernery had a lovely display of Cyclamen; the recent clearing of overgrown ferns helped to open up space for these delicate flowers.

Pic14 Cyclamen in the Fernery

 

 

I will be back with more news in October, enjoy the sunny days!

 

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke