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Garden Blog October & November 2019

The last of the autumn colours are fading and it is time to prepare for the winter season here behind the walls of the Victorian Walled Garden in Kylemore Abbey.

We already experienced night frosts and cold snaps which seems quite early for us here on the western shores of Ireland. It is time to move in all tender plants, to re-pot plants which were left outside for the last season, to feed them and to clear and cut down old growth. Cannas for examples are dug up from their positions in flower beds and put in crates with a cover of compost around the root stocks and kept in the glasshouses.

Pic1 The last of autumn colours in the Formal Flower Garden



Pic2 Tender plants in our Vinery


Now is the time to sort out  harvested seeds. Make sure they are probably dried when putting them into seed packets . They should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place, away from mice! It is also no harm to check them once a while in case they are molding in the packet which could lead to loosing all other seeds in the same packet.

Pic3 Bean pods for drying off, seeds will be taken out later for further drying


We also harvested our one and only melon ‘Ananas’ few days ago. Nearly overripe, it still tasted very juicy with a hint of Pineapple. ‘Ananas’ translates into Pineapple from German or French. I kept the seeds for drying so hopefully we will be able to grow more next year.

Pic4 The seeds of our melon ‘Ananas’


Our pumpkins are also holding out so far. They just give a nice splash of colour to the otherwise rather dull looking Vegetable Garden at the moment. They will turn into mush once they are exposed to more frost though so we better move them in soon.

Pic5 The last of the marrows and pumpkins


We are nearly finished with our extensive spring bulb planting scheme for this year. Thousands of heritage bulbs like Tulips, Narcissus, Snow Drops, Fritillarias, Crocuses or Gladiolus were planted inside and outside the garden walls.

We also started a bulb planting scheme on the vast grounds along the garden avenue to the Walled Garden in an area which was cleaned from the invasive Rhododendron ponticum few years ago. Lets hope the birds wont dig up too many this winter, one of the problems we have had during the last few years. We planted close to 5000 bulbs in this area. If this proves successful we will continue next autumn and pick another cleared area.

Pic6 Tulip and Gladiolus bulbs laid out and ready for planting in one of the formal bedding schemes in the Walled Garden



Pic7 The last of our spring bulbs which are kept upstairs in our Bothy


One thing which always strikes me here in Connemara is the autumn colour of the surrounding landscape. Taking pictures on a regular base means few challenges, especially during the summer months with the glaring sun. The low sun during the off season helps in capturing natures best.

Pic8 View from the National Park over to Kylemore Abbey


Near our main entrance to the Walled Garden are these two stunning looking trees, a Monterey Pine and a Monterey Cypress. Both are well over 140 years old and the most fascinating detail for me is the ancient looking bark, covered in lichens and moss. These trees were planted during the establishment of Kylemore Castle and the Walled Garden around 1870. Both varieties are non native conifers imported from the Monterey County in California close to the Pacific .

Pic9 Monterey Pine (front) and Monterey Cypress


We were holding our traditional Halloween event once again at the end of October within the garden perimeters. The weather could not have been better and young and old were celebrating ‘Samhain’, the Celtic  New Year.

Pic10 Traditional  carving of turnip lanterns which is a bit tougher then carving pumpkins



Pic11 The wise  woman in our Bothy



Pic12 The widow cooking potatoes for Colcannon  and also for handing them out against evil spirits


Pic13 Our two story tellers created thrills and few chills….



Pic14 Fiona, our last garden student and also a professional florist created lovely autumnal bouquets for the visitors


Pic15 The highlight of the event, the Bonfire at the end with traditional music, sean nos dancing, pucas and a bit of craic!


I will be back with more news from the Walled Garden here in Kylemore in December. We will stay busy until then, slán.


Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke


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

~ First indoor sowing of Broad beans and Lettuces
~ Sow perennial seeds

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 Blog September 2019

Welcome back to our September edition of the garden blog for Kylemore Abbey.

There is nearly no way around then to start with the most important topic here in Ireland, the weather! We must have had four (or even five…) different seasons within the last two weeks. Temperatures reached up to 26 degrees Celsius mid September. The scenery here in Connemara with the autumnal display surrounding us, is absolutely stunning these days. It is actually a challenge to dress appropriate for these weather changes. From too cold to too hot, and all this within a span of  two or three hours can be a bit irritating sometimes.

Pic1 Indian summer here in the Walled Garden in mid September


Pic2 View from the Head Gardeners House over the eastern part of the Flowergarden with the mountain range of the Twelfe pins  in the background


We experienced subtropical conditions in our Vinery, one of the two restored glasshouses. Good ventilation and early morning watering  is vital these days. Tree ferns and Bananas thrive in humidity and need to be sprayed off with water daily. The passion flower, growing on the back wall, will get a hard pruning when finished flowering. It even produced a couple of fruits this year.

Pic3 Lush greenery in our Vinery


Our succulents did quite well this year. Propagated from seeds in April, they grew amazingly well for the first season. Succulents like Echeverias or Aeoniums were used to create typical Carpet Bedding schemes in Victorian times. It could be quite tricky to re-create these schemes with our ever changing weather conditions. Most succulents like dry and warm conditions in sandy or gritty free draining soil.

Pic4 Different types of Aeoniums in our propagation glasshouse


Pic5 Aeonium arboreum, a perfect rosette of succulent leaves


Our little artificial rockery, planted up in an old wheelbarrow, also enjoyed the heat wave. You could nearly watch the plants growing and few even produced lovely flower heads.

Pic6 The Mini Rockery in our Vinery


We just harvested the last of the potatoes and also held the last Vegetable sale for this year.

One old potato variety, ‘Black Bog’, grew well this season and produced enough potatoes to sell few in the Vegetable Sale. It is a very old variety, originally grown in the midlands and suppose to be blight resistant. We always keep enough seed potatoes for the coming season.

Pic7 Heritage potato variety ‘Black Bog’


A fresh layer of Seaweed was just put around our spring cabbages. This natural fertilizer will also act as a mulch and will prevent the small plants from uprooting during strong winds or storms. You definitely get the hint of the Atlantic when passing by, it always reminds me of my summer holidays on the Baltic Sea when I was a child in Germany.

Pic8 A fresh layer of seaweed on the plot with the spring cabbages with a lovely view over to the Diamond Hill


The late sun in September is bringing out the autumn colour of many shrubs and trees. They can hold on to the leaves for a long time when planted in sheltered positions. One nice shrub with lovely autumn colour is Euonymus oxyphyllus, the Korean Spindle Tree. It s growing in a very sheltered spot in our shrub border along the south wall of the walled garden. The vibrant red of the leaves works to well with the small round fruits  which are also dark red.

Pic9 Autumn colour of the Korean Spindle Tree


The bees are making the most out of the last of the flowers like the second flush of Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’. There is still quite an activity within the insect world here in the garden. The close up of the bumble bee shows the delicate anatomy of the wings.

Pic10 Bumble Bee on a Clematis ‘Nelly Mopser’ flower


Staying in the animal world, our two wholly pigs are also enjoying the last heat of the sun during their afternoon nap. Gloria, to the front, was a bit smarter then Ken in the background and positioned herself actually in the sun!

Pic10 Gloria and Ken on napping time!


Please find the usual hints and tips for gardening in October. I will be back with more news coming month, until then good gardening to everybody!


Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke



Garden jobs you can do in October:


To Sow or Propagate

~ Sow fresh seeds of perennials

~ Take semi-ripe cuttings of shrubs

~ Pot on rooted cuttings of Hydrangeas or Fuchsias


To Plant

~ Hedges, Fruit trees and bushes

~ Annual spring bedding and spring bulbs


To Harvest

~ Everything what’s still out there!

(Nuts, Pears, Apples, Carrots, Parsnips, Leeks, Cabbages, Beetroot…)

~ Leave crops like Turnips or Leeks in ground for another while


To Maintain

~ Autumn feed lawns, scarify if necessary

~ Keep on top of fallen leaves, rake or leave-blow regularly

~ Power wash slippery surfaces

~ Clean Gutters, could be a big build up of leaves

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 my previous garden blogs, 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 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 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