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Garden Diary September 2015

It is nearly mid-September and the summer is coming to its end.
The bedding is holding out great, despite the weather. Few annuals like Tagetes tenuifolia are starting to go over. We spend a good while on dead heading each plant to encourage the last buds to develop into flowers before the season is over.

Pic1 Late summer bedding in our Parterre
Pic1 Late summer bedding in our Parterre

In the last few years I noticed that it is very much weather depending how strong the colours of the annual bedding schemes are. This year for example seems to be a very good season for all shades of blue and purple. One of our main bedding plants, Lobelia ‘Chrystal Palace’, got a lot of attention during the last few weeks.

Pic2 Lobelia ‘Chrystal Palace’ on the left
Pic2 Lobelia ‘Chrystal Palace’ on the left
Pic3 White and Blue Lobelia in our Diamond beds
Pic3 White and Blue Lobelia in our Diamond beds

Also the tones of oranges give great colour splashes at the moment. The wild Mombretia can be seen in full blossom everywhere around Connemara these weeks. It also adds a nice touch to our woodland walk up to the Head Gardeners House.

Pic4 Wild Mombretia near the Head Gardeners House
Pic4 Wild Mombretia near the Head Gardeners House

We nearly finished the summer pruning of the wall fruits. It is vital to do also a summer pruning of the pear trees to keep the trained shape of the trees and to encourage the development of new fruit buds. It is very time consuming but important to train them in the right way for a future success.

Pic5 Trained Pear tree
Pic5 Trained Pear tree

Our old apple tree ‘Golden Spire’, a dessert and cooking apple, is loaded with fruits. It had a ‘Year off’ last year so we are delighted that it is cropping so well. I will try to graft a couple of new Golden Spire trees later in the winter time.

Pic6 Apple tree ‘Golde Spire’
Pic6 Apple tree ‘Golde Spire’

Finally there are the first Runner and French beans to be seen. I am actually surprised that especially the French beans made it as far. The lack of sun and heat was totally against it. We never had the Broad beans in the plots as late either. We are still harvesting and also keeping few beans for the seeds for next season.

Pic7 Runner bean ‘Painted Lady’
Pic7 Runner bean ‘Painted Lady’

The courgettes and pumpkins are coming along slowly, too. The wet condition caused a lot of mildew on the leaves but the vegetables themselves grow along.

Pic8 Courgette
Pic8 Courgette
Pic9 Pumpkin ‘Golden Hubbarb’
Pic9 Pumpkin ‘Golden Hubbarb’

The Herbaceous Border is coming slowly to its autumn stage. Few perennials like Echinops are still in full bloom and the later varieties like Kaffir lily, Aster and Sedum started to bloom recently.

Pic10 Echinops and wild bee
Pic10 Echinops and wild bee

One of the strawberry seedlings must have found its own little pocket to develop and is growing right out the brick wall where it is sheltered, warm and dry. There are even few fruits on it. Vertical gardening seems to be the answer so!

Pic11 ‘Wall-Strawberry’
Pic11 ‘Wall-Strawberry’

Happy Gardening  and dry feet to everyone!
Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

Things you can do in your garden in September:
To Sow / Propagate:
~ Pot on and harden off spring bedding plants like Bellis, Forgetmenots and Wallflowers
~ Last chance to sow overwintering green manure in vegetable plots
~ Take semi ripe cuttings of shrubs
~ Sow new grass seeds after scarifying

To plant:
~ Shrubs and trees left in pots
~ Last of catch crops like lettuces and spring onions
~ New perennials in borders

To harvest:
~ Carrots, Celery, Beetroot, Spinach, Leaf beet, Lettuce, Herbs
~ Last main crop of potatoes
~ Runner and French Beans; let few of them dry for taking seeds
~ Seeds of flowers like Sweet pea or Petunia
~ Apples & Pears
~ Nuts

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Prune summer fruiting Raspberries,
~ Blackcurrants & Gooseberries after finish fruiting
~ Treat lawns for moss and scarify, rake out dead moss and sow new grass
~ Remove leafs of lawns and paths

Garden Diary August 2015

A very wet…. .
No, I can’t start this blog like the last one from July. I should really focus on the pleasant sides within the four walls of our garden, which we have plenty of. First of all we can spare water and electricity this year; it’s a while since we used our automatic sprinkler system! Surprisingly it seems to be a good climate for most bedding plants. Everything is in full bloom and the blossom seems to be more intense than usual. I have to say it is much easier to take pictures of the garden when it is overcast, photography with clear sunny skies can be a challenge, too!
Walkways double as ornamental water features in our Parterre, where the Monkey Puzzle Tree is mirrored in the puddles like a fourth dimension!

Pic1 Parterre during the ‘Rainy-Season’ with hidden Diamond Hill in background
Pic1 Parterre during the ‘Rainy-Season’ with hidden Diamond Hill in background

I don’t want to sound sarcastic with my recent comments but it is important to stay positive. My motto these days is: It could be worse!

Our main colour scheme within the formal garden consists of shades of yellow, blue, red and white this year. Especially Calendula ‘Orange King’, Antirrhinum ‘Night & Day’ (Snapdragon), Lobelia ‘Chrystal Palace’ and Verbena rigida give great contrasts like in our ‘D-beds’.

Pic2 The D-beds in full bloom
Pic2 The D-beds in full bloom

The main bedding plants for yellow are Tagetes tenuifolia ‘Golden Gem’ and Tropaeolum ‘Golden King’ (Nasturtium). Some of these plants are getting replanted at the moment so they will last until the end of the season.

Pic3 Our Circle beds at the South Slope
Pic3 Our Circle beds at the South Slope

Its pruning time for many shrubs as flowering has finished. I noticed that our Weigelias have flowered very late this season and the shrubs are still covered with blossom.

Pic4 The flower of Weigelia coraeensis
Pic4 The flower of Weigelia coraeensis

Jan, one of our garden students has just trimmed back our ornamental Cherry trees (Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii’), planted as dots in our south slope. This way they won’t outgrow too much and we keep a balanced picture.

Pic5 Pruning the ornamental Cherry
Pic5 Pruning the ornamental Cherry

I might have discovered another invasive plant here in Connemara. Leycesteria formosa, the Himalayan honeysuckle, seems to spread quite a lot outside our garden walls. The very attractive shrub was also important by the Victorian plant hunters from China back in the 19th century and now it seems to escape like many other species before (eg. Rhododendron, Gunnera). Investigating a bit more I came across an article about the ‘Beast or Beauty’, meaning this shrub is a beauty when it’s not spreading invasively like in New Zealand. It is declared as a pest plant over there and our climate here in Connemara seems to be very similar to the island south-east of Australia. So we better watch out and start to control it.

Pic6 The flower of the Himalayan honeysuckle
Pic6 The flower of the Himalayan honeysuckle

The fruit production has had its ups and downs this season, too. The white currants were overloaded with fruits whereas our black currants are only half covered with small black berries. We have hardly any plums but the pear trees are full. Also our only peach tree, planted originally by the Benedictine Nuns many years ago, is having a good year. Unfortunately most fruits will split open with the heavy rain fall before fully ripe.

Pic7 White Currant ‘White Versaille’
Pic7 White Currant ‘White Versaille’
Pic8 Peach
Pic8 Peach

It is now safe to say that we have seen better years for vegetables; our French beans might be ready for picking, if at all, in October. They need sun and heat to do well, something very rare this season. A local man just told me this morning that we have probably experienced the coldest summer in weather recording, I believe it.

Pic9 Our French and runner beans
Pic9 Our French and runner beans
Pic10 Declan is cutting back bolting vegetables
Pic10 Declan is cutting back bolting vegetables

Please find below our usual garden tips.

Happy Gardening to everyone.

Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in August:
To Sow / Propagate:
~ Start to sow spring bedding for next year like Bellis, Forgetmenots, Stocks
~ Take cuttings of non flowering shoots of Fuchsia, Pelargonium and Hydrangea
~ Last sowings of overwintering crops like leaf beet, beetroot, mizuna

To plant:
~ Plant out more catch crops like lettuce and spring onion
~ Plant and water shrubs or perennials left in pots

To harvest:
~ Onions, Garlic
~ Courgettes and Marrows
~ Last of Potatoes
~ Lettuce, Spinach, Leaf beet, Cabbage, Kale
~ Plums

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Dead head summer bedding and herbaceous plants once a week
~ Cut back bolting vegetables like Spinach, Leaf beet, Kales etc.
~ Prune summer fruiting raspberries (cut out this year’s fruiting stems, leave new shoots)
~ Summer pruning of apples and pears, especially wall fruits
~ Pruning of Plums and Cherries (Don’t prune in winter to avoid silver leaf disease)
~ Clear first leaves of lawns and paths

Garden Diary July 2015

A very wet welcome back to our high season July edition from the Walled Garden in Kylemore Abbey.
Giving a talk about the resurrection of the Victorian Walled Garden in Kylemore last weekend at the Galway Garden Festival I realised that we are in our 15th year since reopening in 2000 after restoration work was finished. Time just seems to fly and you nearly forget to count the years; being constantly busy with seasonal work. I had to go through pictures from restoration times to prepare for this talk and the changes still amaze me since I was not there myself to witness it.
To give a better picture of the changes I have inserted two images below, one from the herbaceous border before completion and one from the formal flower garden just after restoration started in 1995. To compare the changes I have also added two recent pictures of the same areas.

Pic1 Herbaceous Border 1997
Pic1 Herbaceous Border 1997
Pic2 Formal Flower Garden 1996 with ruin of Vinery in the back
Pic2 Formal Flower Garden 1996 with ruin of Vinery in the back
Pic3 Herbaceous Border now
Pic3 Herbaceous Border now
Pic4 Formal Flower Garden last yer September with restored Vinery
Pic4 Formal Flower Garden last yer September with restored Vinery

We must be one of the wettest regions here in Ireland this year. Daily rainfalls of 15 to 30ml are common enough at the moment, today it will be around 40 ml I guess. Every bit of sunshine is welcomed with a big relieved smile, like something from the good old times!
So at the moment we need plan A’s and plan B’s for the gardeners. Dry spells are used to mow, edge and weed as fast as possible, the B’s are reserved for indoor jobs like potting, sowing backup summer bedding, repairing tools or cleaning and maintaining glasshouses.
The interior of the vinery iswiped down with an anti-fungal solution, which is very important especially in these damp conditions.

Pic5 The vinery
Pic5 The vinery

Despite the heavy rainfalls most summer bedding plants have started to flower by now. It will be a very late season which might come in handy in around September/October.

Pic6 The formal Flower Garden
Pic6 The formal Flower Garden
Pic7 The Parterre
Pic7 The Parterre

The side effects of this wet season are more visible on the vegetables. Our potatoes are very slow and not as good as in recent years. Also the cabbages are lacking the usual strong growth. We are just in the process of preparing our own liquid comfrey fertilizer which will help especially the greedy Brassicas to perform better. The peas are still small, first the Mangetouts and then the Broad beans are harvested.

Pic8 The Brassica plot
Pic8 The Brassica plot

The herbaceous border is also a bit behind but looks lovely at the moment. Strong shades of purple, yellow and pinks dominate the colour scheme.

Pic9 Herbaceous Border beginning July
Pic9 Herbaceous Border beginning July

But what’s the point to complain and mourn every day, there is nothing we can do about it, just trying to adapt. The question I ask myself recently is whether I would prefer the heat waves of 40 degrees and severe droughts like in England or on the continent. I know what I would choose!

Happy Gardening to everyone.

Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in July:

To Sow / Propagate:
~ Take cuttings of non-flowering shoots of Fuchsia, Pelargonium and Hydrangea
~ Pot on the last of this year’s summer bedding as backup plants
~ Start to sow spring bedding like Wallflowers and Bellis for next year’s spring display end of this month and beginning August
~ Sow spring cabbages like ‘April’ or Curley Kales for over wintering

To plant:
~ Replace summer bedding if necessary
~ Plant out more catch crops like lettuces and spring onion
~ Sow Green manures into empty plots, for example in recently harvested potato plots
~ Plant squashes, pumpkins, marrows and courgettes & feed regularly

To harvest:
~ Soft fruits like Raspberries
~ Mangetouts, Peas, Broad beans
~ First Potatoes
~ Lettuce, Spinach, Leaf beet
~ Herbs for drying or for fresh herbal teas like Sage or Mint

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ 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 Buxus hedges

Garden diary for June 2015

Welcome back to our June edition of the garden blog of the Victorian Walled Garden in Kylemore.
This year must be a bumper year for birds. In all my years here in Kylemore (nearly 13!) I never saw and heard so many birds in our garden. They are very busy looking for worms and other tasty creatures to feed their chicks and every dug over bed is a welcome opportunity to get a handy food supply. I just walked through the garden to take pictures for this blog and a song thrush was sitting on top of the tallest tree in the garden and singing a lovely song to the rest of Kylemore. These little birds also play a big part in keeping down our nearly endless supply of midges and other bugs.
The very unsettled and cold weather is a bit of a challenge for us at the moment. Nearly all beds are planted up with summer bedding by now, what’s missing is a bit of sun and heat which is expected within the next few days (fingers crossed!).

Pic1 Taking out spring bedding
Pic1 Taking out spring bedding

The top dressing with our own rotted compost and an extra feed of chicken manure really helped our herbaceous border to bring on the growth. I try to incorporate new, old varieties into the border each year, for example Verbascum bombyciferum, the Giant Silver Mullein. This biannual plant gives great structure to a border due to its height and the silvery wooly looking leaves are a great contrast to your normal shades of green. I saw children touching the leaves to see if it is alive!

Pic2 Giant Silver Mullein
Pic2 Giant Silver Mullein

Also the blossom of the oriental poppies are fully open now, lets hope the next storm is far away so the petals are not blown away.

Pic3 Oriental Poppy
Pic3 Oriental Poppy

Our climbing plants like Wisteria, Clematis and Jasmin are also starting to cover pillars and walls. The very early flowering Clematis‚ Nelly Moser‘ with its huge light purple flower heads is giving a nice colour splash to the Parterre at the moment.

Pic4 Clematis‚ Nelly Moser‘
Pic4 Clematis‚ Nelly Moser‘
Pic5 Still closed flowers of Wisteria sinensis
Pic5 Still closed flowers of Wisteria sinensis

Our spuds were mounded up twice by now, they are still a bit behind last years growth. As soon as we get the first blight warning we have to spray them. Our heritage varieties would not be resistant like many newer varieties.

Pic6 Potatoes starting to cover ground
Pic6 Potatoes starting to cover ground

The french and runner beans, planted two weeks ago, are starting to get a grip on the bamboo supports. It is very time consuming to put these up every year so we are looking for a more permanent structure which is easy to move around the following year.

Pic7 Runner & French beans
Pic7 Runner & French beans

The best time for our Rockery is early summer; most plants flower around now. A mix of groundcover plants like Erigeron and taller shrubs like Rock roses flower in different shades of purple. Evergreen solitaers like Phormium or Conifers are also providing structure to this natural Rock Garden.

Pic8 The Rockery
Pic8 The Rockery

Each year we are trying to improve areas of the garden, especially from the visitors point of view. Just today we finished putting new signs on the ruins of the original glasshouse bases so the visitors are able to identify and picture the former main focal point of the garden themselves, the  21 glasshouses.

Pic9 New sign for the former Palm Glass House
Pic9 New sign for the former Palm Glass House

Beginning June we started our free guided tours of the garden again. Everybody is welcome to walk the garden with a trained guide to get the main facts of the Walled Garden and it’s unusual history. The meeting point is just outside the Tea house at 12 pm each day.

Pic10 Sign for the free guided tour of the garden
Pic10 Sign for the free guided tour of the garden

Happy Gardening to everybody.

Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

 

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

~ Continue sowing and planting lettuce for succession planting (every 10 days)
~ Thin out carrots and parsnips, protect against carrot fly
~ Take softwood cuttings of shrubs
To plant:
~ Plant out pumpkins, marrows and French / Runner beans
~ Plant more radishes and Spring onion

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Morning watering of new crops and bedding is essential in dry periods
~ Feed annual bedding plants and baskets
~ Start to deadhead herbaceous plants regularly
~ Summer feed lawns
~ Look out for caterpillars, green or black flyes and signs of blight

Garden Diary for May 2015

A few days ago I gave a talk to the Clifden Garden Club about our Walled Garden in Kylemore. It was very satisfying to see a good turn out and to get a very positive feedback from the club which I am not a member of myself at the moment. I would say nearly all members visited Kylemore Gardens at this stage and it’s interesting to see that people always find new undiscovered details within the walls of the six acre garden. It is also good to talk to other gardeners about horticultural problems like the threatening box blight.

Pic1 Birds eye view of the Walled Garden of Kylemore
Pic1 Birds eye view of the Walled Garden of Kylemore

The spring display is slowly coming to an end and we started to deadhead  the Tulips, Bellis and Daffodils. That will prevent the development of seed heads which will only take the energy away from the plant or bulb itself. It will also encourage bedding plants like Bellis or Wallflowers to prolong their flowering time.

Pic2 Deadheading Bellis
Pic2 Deadheading Bellis
Pic3 The last of the spring display in our Parterre
Pic3 The last of the spring display in our Parterre

Most of our summer bedding is ready for planting into the formal flower beds; therefore we started to take out  the spring flowers and to plant Calendulas or annual Chrysanthemums in individual planting schemes. When left too long in trays they can get a set back or the flowers can peak too early which means the total flower display will be shortened for the summer. It is always a bit of a challenge to time this right. We depend a great deal on the weather.

Pic4 Taking out spring bedding to make room for summer bedding
Pic4 Taking out spring bedding to make room for summer bedding

Our tree surgeon on site is tackling the deadwood in the old trees at the moment, a lot of timber has to be taken out. This will reduce the risk of fallen branches and also distress to the tree itself by reducing its crown.

Pic5 Taking out dead wood on old Cypressus Macrocarpa trees
Pic5 Taking out dead wood on old Cypressus Macrocarpa trees

The work in our herbaceous border is nearly finished; dividing, replanting, top dressing and feeding are the main jobs which need to be done annually. The updating of the herbaceous border leaflet is always the final thing for me to do.

Pic6 New willow support in our herbaceous border
Pic6 New willow support in our herbaceous border

The crops in the vegetable garden are slowly starting to cover a bit more ground. The growth is very slow this year due to the cold weather. Occasional hail showers  did not help either.

Pic7 Broad beans
Pic7 Broad beans

The blossom on the fruit trees is just amazing this year. Cherries, Pears, Apples and Plums were and still are covered in pink and white flowers, much to the delight of butterflies and friends. Let’s hope that it is a good sign for the coming fruit development. Late frosts and storms can go against it, as we all know.

Pic8 Old apple tree ‘Golden Spire’ covered in blossom
Pic8 Old apple tree ‘Golden Spire’ covered in blossom
Pic9 A pair of Peacock Butterflies on pear tree flowers
Pic9 A pair of Peacock Butterflies on pear tree flowers
Pic 10 Crab apples in full swing
Pic 10 Crab apples in full swing

The season is getting busy so let’s hope that the west of Ireland is getting its good share of sunshine.
Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

Things you can do in your garden in May:

To Sow / Propagate:
~ Harden off later vegetable seedlings like pumkins, marrows and beetroot
~ Sow French and Runner beans
~ Sow Carrots and Parsnips
~ Take softwood and non-flowering cuttings of Fuchsia and Pelargonium
~ Take softwood cuttings of shrubs

To plant:
~ Start to plant out summer bedding in final position and protect against slugs
~ Transfer leeks outside into final position
~ Plant Tagetes and Calendula as companion plants between your crops to attract beneficial insects

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Trim formal hedges of Buxus, Fuchsia or Escallonia and feed them
~ Dead head flowers of spring bulbs like Tulips for strong flower displays next year
~ Watering of new crops and bedding is essential in dry periods
~ Put up supports on taller perennials, broad beans and sweet peas
~ Prune spring flowering shrubs like Weigelia or Forsythia after finishing flowering
~ Aerate and sand lawns if not done earlier

Garden Diary for April 2015

Easter came and went like an early summer’s breeze and close to three hundred little girls and boys were chasing after clues throughout the walled garden and beyond. At the end of the hunt they received a well deserved chocolate bunny. It was great to see the older siblings helping the younger ones with more tricky questions but they all made it in the end. I had to run after my children to keep up with their pace!

Pic1 Solving one of the clues – How many Easter eggs are hanging on the apple tree?
Pic1 Solving one of the clues – How many Easter eggs are hanging on the apple tree?
Pic2 Two little bunnies enjoy the sun in the Walled Garden
Pic2 Two little bunnies enjoy the sun in the Walled Garden
Pic3 Eithne who organised the egg hunt is petting the tired Easter bunny after a long day
Pic3 Eithne who organised the egg hunt is petting the tired Easter bunny after a long day

The weather was all what you could ask for; even so Easter was two weeks earlier then last year. The intense sunshine brought out the first of the many different types of tulips and Co.

Pic4 Tulip sylvestris
Pic4 Tulip sylvestris
Pic5 Anemone de Caen
Pic5 Anemone de Caen
Pic6 Fritillaria max.’Lutea’
Pic6 Fritillaria max.’Lutea’

The vegetable garden is getting very busy. Nearly every day crops are getting planted. The peas and mangetouts are going in today for example. Last week most of the kales and cabbages were planted and the last of the potatoes will go into the ridges next week probably. A careful record keeping of the varieties, planting times and amounts is important to keep track and also helps with next years plans.

Pic7 Planting out the Cabbages and Kales
Pic7 Planting out the Cabbages and Kales

I am always amazed how long crops can stay in the ground, our Beetroot still looks good and even tastes quite good. Just last week we took out last years leeks.

Pic8 Last years Beetroot still standing strong
Pic8 Last years Beetroot still standing strong

It seems to be a bumper year for Rhubarb. I saw it seldom so strong and healthy growing and it just tastes fantastic. The Benedictine Nuns like to make lovely desserts using the Rhubarb. People often forget that Rhubarb has only a short harvesting period, mainly from April till June. So now or never! And when harvested early the stalks don’t need to be peeled either, since they are not stringy yet.

Pic9 Rhubarb on its high
Pic9 Rhubarb on its high

The cuttings of the Blackcurrants I took last year are setting they first flowers already. It is wise to take them off until the plants establish a bit more and the root system is fully developed. Otherwise too much energy is used for the fruit production, which has still time until last year.

Pic10 Blackcurrant cuttings
Pic10 Blackcurrant cuttings

There is also a lot going on in our Herbaceous Border; dividing and replanting, top dressing using our own well rotted compost and a feed of Chicken manure. Also the Herbaceous Border leaflet needs updating after all the changes which takes a good bit of time. A  few taller growing plants need to be staked before the main growths starts; we will use our own willows and also metal supports for this.

Pic11 Herbaceous Border beginning April.
Pic11 Herbaceous Border beginning April.
Pic12 Fritillaria persica is always giving a great show
Pic12 Fritillaria persica is always giving a great show

The ferns are enrolling their first fronds and for me it is one of the highlights each spring to see them doing it in such an elegant way.

Pic13 Fernery
Pic13 Fernery

The weather seems to be having it’s ups and downs at the moment; hot summer sun and snow on the mountain within three days! The gardener’s joy!

Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in April

To Sow / Propagate:
~ Continue sowing potatoes
~ Sow more Vegetables like carrots and parsnips later in month
~ Sow tomatoes & cucumbers indoors
~ Start to harden off summer bedding plants like Calendula or Lobelia

To plant:
~ Plant out Kale, Cabbage, Lettuce, Peas & Mangetouts, Spinach
~ New perennials or ornamental grasses for borders
To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Feed and treat box hedges for blight (Try seaweed!)
~ Clean and prepare Hanging Baskets for May planting
~ Continue lawn care like aerating and sanding, feeding and weeding
~ Start to trim formal hedges
~ Prune early spring flowering shrubs after finishing flowering

Garden Diary for March 2015

The Irish spring is finally here, well at least today. The sun is warming up the soil nicely, which is very important for us to be able to plant the first potatoes in a couple of days. Saying that, there is another cold front on its way so it is still too early to move tender plants outside from their cosy winter home.

Pic1 Kylemore Garden covered in snow two weeks ago
Pic1 Kylemore Garden covered in snow two weeks ago
Pic2 The Mountain range surrounding Kylemore estate
Pic2 The Mountain range surrounding Kylemore estate
Pic3 Fuchsia arborescens still kept indoors
Pic3 Fuchsia arborescens still kept indoors

Last week’s National Tree Planting Week went very well here in Kylemore. We invited all four local National Schools and also our local Crèche. The pre-schoolers put on a brave face when planting in the midst of a hail storm and were very happy when enjoying their well-deserved homemade rice crispy bun in Mitchell’s Café.
We planted all Irish native trees like Mountain Ash, Sessile Oak, Beech and Elm. All children will receive a tree planting certificate from us and every tree is labelled so the children can identify the trees when coming back to us. These are very important first steps to reforest Kylemore.

Pic4 Our little helpers from Tigh na nN’Og Creche in Letterfrack
Pic4 Our little helpers from Tigh na nN’Og Creche in Letterfrack

The first flush of spring colour is nearly gone, especially after yesterday’s storm. The very delicate Crocus ‘King of Striped’ is brightening up the path up to the Vinery once again; also the first Tulips are starting to flower.

Pic5 Crocus ‘King of Striped’ along the path
Pic5 Crocus ‘King of Striped’ along the path
Pic6 A close up
Pic6 A close up

One of the earliest flowering spring bedding plants would be the Hyacinth. We have two varieties in our spring bedding scheme planted this year. Hyacinth ‘Ann Mary’, a strong pink flowering variety, just opened up last week. The strong scented bulbs can also be forced for indoor use but you need to be prepared to experience a nearly overwhelming fragrance, too much for my taste. Hyacinth bulbs are very expensive, we keep ours for a couple of years and replant them in different spots every year.

Pic7 Hyacinth ‘Ann Mary’
Pic7 Hyacinth ‘Ann Mary’

We had to take out our Santolina or Cotton Lavender a couple of weeks ago. The plants were about 15 years old and got too woody. The bed, situated in the Parterre,  needs to be dug over and top dressed with new organic matter. The new plants are waiting to be planted; they are a perfect size at the moment. We normally don’t let the Santolina go to flower and we prune them back each year. The greyish leaves look very decorative, especially when planted as a border to frame beds and paths. The plant likes dry and sunny conditions, so if you want to plant any make sure the spot is not water logged or shady.

Pic8 Cotton Lavender – Santolina incana
Pic8 Cotton Lavender – Santolina incana

The clock is ticking and it is only a couple of weeks until the Easter Bunny comes back to Kylemore. I hope we will experience last year’s gorgeous weather again, or will it be rather a ‘Snow Bunny Hunt’?

 

Below are few more tips for your garden in March.

Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in March

To Sow / Propagate:
~ Sow first potatoes when soil is warm enough, use Seaweed dust as fertilizer, make sure you rotate on a  four year rotation system
~ Move seedlings of Broad beans, Lettuce or Kale into cold frames to be hardened off
~ Continue sowing summer bedding plants and pot on when big enough
~ First sowing of green manure into prepard plots  like Phacelia or Mustard
~ Take cuttings of non-flowering shoots of Pelargonium or Fuchsia

To plant:
~ Last chance to plant bare- rooted trees (Much cheaper than potted trees!)
~ Sow/plant Onions, Shallots and Spring Onion directly into prepared beds
~ Divide, plant or transplant perennials in borders
~ Divide & replant chives (also great in borders and good for black flies on roses)

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ 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
~ Feed Spring Cabbages with Seaweed powder

Garden Diary February 2015

The year 2015 is well on its way and it feels like the winter  has only started. The thermometer outside our vinery read minus four degrees Celsius this morning; saying that it does not feel as cold with the sun shining lovely and no wind at all. The light ground frost will break up the soil nicely in the vegetable plots and will hopefully help to decimate the population of midges. We also had the first bit of snow about two weeks ago; it was not enough to build a snowman, though.

Pic1 Snow on our glasshouse
Pic1 Snow on our glasshouse
Pic2 Winter morning sky over Kylemore
Pic2 Winter morning sky over Kylemore

Cold & frosty weather is good for many plants and helps to prepare them for the next season.
We finished pruning our passion flower and the indoor vines at the beginning of January and the cold spell came just at the right time.

Pic3 Indoor vine after pruning
Pic3 Indoor vine after pruning

The vinery is getting a make over at the moment. We have to use the quieter winter months to do important maintenance jobs like white washing the walls and deep cleaning the frame of the glasshouse itself. Not the most pleasant job but an important one!

Pic4 Vinery ready to be cleaned
Pic4 Vinery ready to be cleaned

The winter job list is always endless, probably too ambitious sometimes. I know that a few areas will only get a light touch up but it is good to have enough jobs planned ahead; we might get around at some stage!

We just started to tackle our Fernery. It is time to thin out areas where hardy ferns like the Chilean Hard-Fern (Blechnum chilense) have slowly taken over. Weaker varieties and groundcover plants like primroses or smaller ferns have a tough time to compete with the stronger ones. We will transplant the ferns into other suitable woodland areas outside the garden.

Pic5 The Fernery
Pic5 The Fernery

As mentioned last February already I am always delighted to spot the snow drops planted three years ago.  Many will think that it is a very common plant to see but for several reasons not in our garden. Anyway, they survived another year and I hope to divide and transplant a couple of them into other areas after finishing flowering to build up our precious ‘stock’.

Pic6 Snowdrop ‘Flore Pleno’
Pic6 Snowdrop ‘Flore Pleno’

The first trays of Lettuces, Spring onion, Curley Kale and Broad beans are sown; all in modules indoor.
The tender plants are keeping well in the propagation glasshouse, a couple of green flies were in a ‘natural way’ disposed of!

Pic7 Our indoor plants
Pic7 Our indoor plants

Winter means also a lot of office work for me. Updating supplier lists from recent years, planting schemes of different areas like the Rockery or Shrub border or completing the tree planting scheme with exact positions etc. including labelling of all trees within the garden takes a lot of time. But if not done now it will never be done!

Our conifer area in the Rockery looks lovely at the moment, especially today with the winter sun glittering through the evergreen branches.  The different shades of green are brightening up this spot during the rather grey winter month. These conifers, like different types of low growing Chamaecyparis, Juniperus or Thujopsis, are slow growing and need hardly any attention, which suits us well to be honest!

Pic8 Evergreen conifers in the Rockery
Pic8 Evergreen conifers in the Rockery

The stream which divides the garden naturally into two parts is also more visible between the leafless trees at this time of year. You only notice it when standing on the bridges during the summer months and the sound of the running water is normally absorbed by the surrounding greenery and the chatter of our visitors. Winter month are not only grey and dull in the garden, they can also open up new views from different angles.

Pic9 The stream
Pic9 The stream

Last but not least, our Whooper swans are back, not two but five this winter. The black and yellow beaked swans are staying on the lake and are very shy. It is nearly impossible to get a proper close up picture with the camera, unless you have a super lens! They had a nice chat (‘honking’) when I approached them, either to scare me off or maybe to talk about the long journey ahead. They will stay in Ireland till about April and then fly of to Iceland to their breeding grounds. Ireland has 20% of the total European population of Whooper swans, so it is nice to see the numbers increasing here in Kylemore, too. I just reported our small colony to ‘Bird Watch Ireland’ which does a national count of the whole population every few years.

Pic10 Over wintering Whooper swans
Pic10 Over wintering Whooper swans

Please read below the usual garden tips for February.

Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in February

To Sow / Propagate:
~ Craft apple trees onto suitable root stock
~ Start to sow summer bedding and vegetables seeds in modules indoor, don’t over water
~ Start Dahlia tubers in pots
~ Move first early seed potatoes into light for chitting

To plant:
~ Plant bare-rooted hedges and trees but wait until ground frost is gone
~ Continue to lift, divide and replant herbaceous plants
~ Transfer and plant Snowdrops after flowering
~ Plant  roses, prepare ground before

To harvest:
~ Curley Kale, really nice after it got frost (Also very healthy in smoothies!)
~ Last of Spinach, Parsnips, Leeks, Swedes and Beetroots
To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Powerwash patio areas etc. before they get too mossy and slippery
~ Prune woody plants like Buddleja hard back
~ Fertilize roses and vine plants with well-rotted Farm Yard Manure
~ Maintain, sharpen and repair tools etc., clean pots and trays
~ Prepare ridges in vegetable garden for first crops
~ Lawns could get first mow if ground is suitable and not too wet or frozen

Garden Diary for December & January 2014

It is hard to believe we are in the month of December, the sun is shining into my office for a change and I can enjoy the last bit of autumn colour of the surrounding woodland. A good few leaves are still clinging on trees like Oak, Beech or Birch and it looks amazing especially when the sun starts to set around 4pm at the moment.

Pic1 Sunset in the Walled Garden
Pic1 Sunset in the Walled Garden

The birds are picking away on all sorts of berries, they still find plenty of food at the moment and there is no need to give additional bird food yet! A point I have to argue a lot (I know the birdies don’t say NO to lovely scones!).

Pic2 Berries on the Holly
Pic2 Berries on the Holly
Pic3 Berries and lovely autumn colour on Cotoneaster horizontalis
Pic3 Berries and lovely autumn colour on Cotoneaster horizontalis

Next week is promised cold, so we moved in all tender plants, emptied terracotta pots and stored them in a frost-free place (in coldframes for example) and started to wrap and protect our subtropical border with a netting. Another thing we learned from previous cold winters is to wrap all outside water connections and to take off the sprinkler heads of the automatic irrigation system.Many were damaged during very cold spells in recent years.

Pic4 The protected Subtropical border
Pic4 The protected Subtropical border
Pic5 Banana, Alocasia & Co. have a cosy spot
Pic5 Banana, Alocasia & Co. have a cosy spot

We also sieved our own compost, which is well rotted by now. The nice dark soil is used to top dress beds and borders for several reasons. First of all, it is a natural source of plant food (One of the best ones!) but it also protects tender plants like our Fuchsia ‘Tom West’ or Cannas from frost when the soil is heaped up around the plants. The same could be done with roses to protect the grafting point during the winter months.

Pic6 Fuchsia got a ‘winter dressing’
Pic6 Fuchsia got a ‘winter dressing’

It is this time of year where you can start on jobs which you normally would not get around in the busy high season. New permanent edges along borders or raised flowerbeds, for example, give a simple but clean finish to the bed and blend in quite well when painted dark like the soil. It prevents washing away the soil on our sloped beds and protects the edge.

Pic7 New timber edge
Pic7 New timber edge

Winter months are pruning months – a job I love to do. We just finished pruning our gooseberries and white currants. The soft fruits can easily grow out of control and will look unkept if this is not done on a regular base every year. We also started on our apple trees. We have mainly M26 root stocks so trees should not grow taller then around 10 feet. This means that a good few trees will get a harder pruning this winter to keep the shape of the tree and to encourage the development of fruit spurs.

Apple-tree-before-pruning-dec-2013
Pic8 Apple tree before pruning
Pic8 Apple tree before pruning
Pic9 Apple tree after pruning

Christmas is coming close to Kylemore, too. The Head Gardeners House looks lovely from the outside when its getting dark and the lights are on. Just a bit of snow is missing. Did you know that the Christmas tree was probably invented by the German religious reformer Martin Luther in 1536?

Pic10 Christmas delight in the Head Gardener House in dawn
Pic10 Christmas delight in the Head Gardener House in dawn

This issue of the garden diary will be for December and January and I will be back with more from ‘Behind the walls of Kylemore’ in February 2014.

To all my readers a Very Merry Christmas, enjoy the festive days.

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

Things you can do in your garden in December and January

To Sow / Propagate:

~ Start to sow first vegetable seeds like lettuce for indoor sowing

~ Grafting of apples etc.

To plant:

~ Continue to plant roses and fruit trees

~ Plant  or move herbaceous plants in borders

To harvest:

~ Leek, last of Radishes, Curly Kale, Cabbage ‘Red Drumhead’

~ Lift celery before strong frosts and store

To maintain & prune & feed:

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

~ After flowering 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

~ Check Apple and Pear trees for sign of canker, 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

Garden Diary for December 2014 & January 2015

A Welcome back to the final garden diary for this year.
I have to admit that it is sometimes a challenge in itself to find quieter moment to write these diaries. I also have to look back at the last year’s blogs so I don’t repeat myself too often. And then there is the challenge with the right grammar and wording.  Whoever follows these diaries will probably have noticed that I sometimes use uncommon or let’s say strange word combinations (Not out of intention of course!). I put it down to my ’East-German’ roots. English was only secondary after Russian, which does not mean that I am able to speak or write it very well either. Eithne & Dolores, please keep up your correction inputs!
Ok, that’s enough about the formal part of this blog; so what has happened in Kylemore Gardens lately?
Well, finally we managed to put all spring bulbs and bedding down, the mild and mainly dry weather helped a great deal. Unfortunately a few little creatures like mice thought we just buried their share for fun and to our dismay a couple of bulbs were dug up during the night.

Pic1 The Flower garden in winter mood under the evening sun
Pic1 The Flower garden in winter mood under the evening sun

All tender plants like the very spiky Agaves are moved into their winter home in the vinery and more hardy palms like Trachycarpus got a fleece wrapping and a top dressing with our own rotted compost around the base of the plant.

Pic2 Agave in winter sun before moving indoor
Pic2 Agave in winter sun before moving indoor

We have to check the surrounding garden walks regularly for safety, especially as the old trees in the woodland are prone to storm damage. I noticed the abundance of fruits on the Beech and the Alder trees this year. The paths were covered with the triangle shaped and edible Beech nuts. We used to eat them as kids each autumn, sometimes too many which resulted in bad belly pain… . They are also great for arts and craft work for children, especially the shell of the Beech nuts. They are ideal to use as hats for self made figurines.

Pic3 Beech nuts
Pic3 Beech nuts

The dark brown cones of the Alder trees are full of seeds and the next strong wind will spread them into the surrounding landscape. The bark of the Alder is often covered with lichen which creates a very distinctive pattern of white and grey markings. There are also foliose and fruticose types of lichens found on a good few Alders around here. They can be very decorative when used in Christmas wreaths for example.

Pic4 Brown cones of the Alder tree
Pic4 Brown cones of the Alder tree
Pic5 Foliose & fruticose Lichens on same Alder brunch
Pic5 Foliose & fruticose Lichens on same Alder brunch

The southern part of the walled garden is the disadvantaged side during the winter month when the sun is standing low. The tall trees surrounding the walls let only a bit of sun through to the lower part of the garden whereas the sloped and sun facin North Slope will really warm up during the later morning hours. This fact was very important for the original positioning of the extensive glasshouse complex and meant that the natural source of heat could be used very efficiently.

Pic6 Sun & shade
Pic6 Sun & shade

Below are few more images from the outside of the garden wall; areas which are also quite interesting for visitors to look at and away from the main focal points within the garden walls.

Pic7 The willow nursery outside the south wall
Pic7 The willow nursery outside the south wall
Pic8 One of four doors
Pic8 One of four doors
Pic9 Former herds man bothy
Pic9 Former herds man bothy
Pic10 Woodland surrounding the garden
Pic10 Woodland surrounding the garden

I will be back with news from the Victorian Walled Garden in Kylemore in February 2015.
Please find my usual garden advice for December and January just below.

There is only one more thing for me to mention: ‘Merry Christmas’ to all my followers and a special ‘Schoene Weihnachten’ to the German readers.

Your Head Gardener
Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in December and January

To Sow / Propagate:
~ Start to prepare the seed order for the coming propagation season
~ Sow Sweet peas in deep pots in January
~ Start to sow first vegetable seeds like lettuce for indoor sowing

To plant:
~Plant bare-rooted trees, trim tips of roots before planting, water afterwards
but avoid planting during heavy frost
~ Continue to plant fruit trees and shrubs
~ Divide herbaceous plants, pot on or replant immediately afterwards in newly prepared spots; label or mark in planting scheme to avoid later confusion

To harvest:
~ Brassicas like Curley Kale or Cabbage ‘Red Drumhead’
~ Lift celeriac before strong frosts and store in moist sand for later use;
Same could be done with carrots and parsnips
~ Dig up Jerusalem artichokes and store in dry and cool place

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Prune roses, leave five ca.one feed long & strong shoots; prune tall roses by half (harder pruning follows in spring)
~ Start winter pruning of Apple & Pear trees, get advice if you are not sure
~ Prune deciduous trees and shrubs for a balanced shape
~ Cut back ornamental Vines and other strong growing climbers
~ Clean and tidy glasshouses, propagation trays, pots, sheds, etc.
~ Wrap outside water taps, move in hoses and sprinklers to prevent frost damage, turn off water if pipes are not frost protected
~ Check on stored Potatoes, bulbs and fruits for diseases and dispose affected ones
~ Check Apple and Pear trees for sign of canker
~ Prune Grape vines, leave about two to three buds of laterals (side shoots of this year’s growths)
~ General tidying of all garden corners which were neglected throughout the year!

And last but not least: read few garden books or magazines; something which always comes to short (I also have it on my wish list!)