Welcome back to the May edition of the Garden Diary for Kylemore Abbey & Garden.
We have just experienced a new record here in Connemara for late April and early May; nearly twenty days without rain. Visitors from Germany were delighted to escape the cold and wet conditions on the continent. The amazing weather let the landscape shine in all its glory !
Many plants got a head start and the blossom on the rhododendron cultivars never seemed as plentiful. The old heritage varieties ‘Pink Perl’ and ‘Sapplo’ showed an especially fantastic display.
Pic1 Rhododendron ‘Pink Pearl’ with view to the restored Vinery
Pic2 The Head Gardener House with Rhododendron ‘Sapplo’ to the left
The dry weather also gave us a good head start in planting our summer display. The spring bedding and bulbs were taken out, bed by bed, like in every other year, and replaced with annual summer bedding such as Tagetes tenuifolia, Alyssum, Chrysanthemum multicaule or the ever famous Lobelia in different shades. The watering of these is essential in dry periods such as have just experienced and we even had to set our automatic irrigation system for a couple of hours during early morning hours.
Pic3 Our garden student Clothilde, planting Alyssum in the spiral beds
Nearly all tender plants have been moved outside by now and are brightening up the former glasshouse bases . Fuchsia arborescens in particular has an abundance of cerise pink flowers at the moment. This evergreen tree Fuchsia can grow up to 180 cm but needs to be moved inside during the winter month’s. We also use this type of Fuchsia as dot plants in our formal bedding layout throughout the flower garden.
Pic4 Fuchsia arborescens in full bloom
Our fernery is always at its best around May when most Primulas are in bloom. Different types of Candelabra primroses give a nice statement and in combination with the flowering wild garlic, blue bells, different ferns and other architectural plants like Astelia make this area in the garden one of my favourite places around this time of year.
Pic5 Primula ‘Millers Crimson’, wild Garlic, Iris and Astelia to the right with ferns in back ground
Pic6 Primula bulleriana in combination with Camassia
Pic7 Ostrich fern (left), male ferns (right), Blue bells, Arum and Bamboo in background
The ongoing work in our Vegetable garden seems to be endless at the moment. Every day new vegetable seedlings are ready for planting like French and Runner beans, Swiss Chards or tomato plants for inside the vinery. The first lettuces are also ready for harvesting.
Pic8 Lettuce ‘Red Winter’ and ‘Winter Density’ ready for harvest, Onions in background
The warm weather conditions were ideal for our strawberry plants and the first small fruits are already visible. Lets hope that they have a chance to ripen well. Coffee grinds will hope fully prevent the slugs from enjoying them before we get a chance to!
Pic9 Strawberry ‘Royal Sovereign’
Chive is another versatile plant; mainly grown for the leaves. The flower heads are very useful for decoration purposes or used as edible flowers and give a lovely splash of colour to the garden. Once they finish flowering we cut back the whole plant to the ground to let it grow on again.
Pic10 Flowering chives
During the last few month we have gotten a lot of maintenance issues sorted. One job would have been to restore the hooks for our hanging baskets. These will need to be painted with our typical Victorian green paint before we put them up on the baskets.
Pic11 Restored galvanised hooks for the hanging baskets
Timing is crucial when running a restored public garden like ours. I waited for about 9 month to get another prolonged dry spell to get all the outside painting jobs in the garden done. The two brothers, Hughie and Anthony, worked so effectively and quickly that they finised the many paininting jobs within a week, well done!
Pic12 Sun cream was needed!
Lets hope for the best for the coming few month; it would be a pity to turn back to the usual wet Connemara.
Your Head Gardener
Things you can do in your garden in May:
To Sow / Propagate:
~ Sow Carrots and Parsnips (end May to avoid Carrot fly)
~ Succession sowing of radishes and lettuces
~ Pot on more annuals as backup plants
~ Take softwood and non-flowering cuttings of Fuchsia and Pelargonium
~ Take softwood cuttings of shrubs
~ Plant out potted plants to prevent pot bound
~ Start to plant out summer bedding in final position and protect against slugs (try coffee ground)
~ Plant beans, chards and kales into final positions
~ Plant Tagetes and Calendula as companion plants between your crops to attract beneficial insects
To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Water plants and lawns well in dry spells, mainly in mornings or evenings
~ Prune spring flowering shrubs like Weigelia or Forsythia after finishing flowering
~ Trim formal hedges of Buxus, Fuchsia or Escallonia and feed them
~ Take out spring bulbs for usage in different spots for coming season
~ Put up supports on taller perennials, broad beans and sweet peas