I would like to start the August diary of the Victorian Walled Garden here in Kylemore Abbey with writing about our Subtropical Border which is situated just below the restored Head Gardeners House.
This Border was established about 18 years ago, mainly with seedlings of all types of mainly subtropical and textured plants. The seeds came from as far away as South-Africa or New Zealand. I remember propagating and planting different types of Acacias, Eucalyptus and Euphorbias. I love this border since the leave textures are so interesting, versatile, unique and just very bold. It also stands in great contrast to the more formal and rigid flower garden. We had to re-sow and re-plant many times over the last decade. Climate changes, wetter and stormier weather were not favourable for growing these types of plants which often need hotter and dryer summers then we experience here. One plant, Tetrapanax papyrifer or the Rice-Paper plant, planted two years ago and made our border its new home and seems to be happy out. It is originated in Taiwan and used in Chinese medicines. The massive deeply lobed leaves look great in any setting but work especially well between different types of Cannas like in our border. All Cannas we grow, like Canna ‘Annei’ or Canna ‘Ehemanii’, are again old Heritage varieties first bred in the 19th century.
Pic1 Tetrapanax papyrifer, Canna ‘Ehemannii’, Canna ‘Annei’ and Lupinus arboreus (to right)
Pic2 Subtropical Border below the Head Gardeners House – Blue flowering Lobelia gerardii, evergreen leaves of Beschorneria yuccoides (left) and Hedychium gardnerianum (Ginger lilies) in the back ground.
The flowers of the Ginger lily or also called Kahili Ginger are a lovely shade of lemon yellow and are also scented. We have a few growing in our Vinery to give a bit more protection and heat, the plants are about 6 feet tall. This plant comes originally from the Himalayas in Nepal, Buthan and India. It still astonishes me how all these exotic species ended up over a hundred years ago in our spheres and somehow adapted.
Pic3 Flower spikes of Hedychium gardnerianum
The grapes are nearly ripe in our restored Vinery. Growing along the curvilinear side of the glasshouse, they have the perfect conditions for growing and ripening.
We are growing three different heritage types of grapes, ‘Buckland Sweetwater’, Black Hamburgh’ and ‘Grizzley Frontignan’. They all have different grape colours and tastes. Planted in around 2000, just after the restoration of the Vinery was finished, it took a while for the plants to establish.
Pic4 Muscat Vine ‘Grizzley Frontignan’, grown for white winemaking mainly in the south of France
The origin of this white wine grape variety is considered to be very ancient. This grape variety is said to be originated in the region of ancient Greece. After its origin in Greece, it was believed to be expanded in the form of cultivation in the areas of France and Italy during the Roman times. Every few years we are taking cuttings of theses plants in case we have to replant.
Our heritage tomatoes are also doing quite well this year. All types of shapes, colours and sizes are within our range.
Going from the biggest to the smallest we have for example Tomato ‘Brandywine’, Tomato ‘Pineapple’, Tomato ‘Pear Shaped’, Tomato ‘St.Pierre’ or Tomato ‘Redcurrant’. It is easy enough to save seeds of tomatoes, just scrape out the seeds of the ripe tomato and puts them on a bit of kitchen roll for drying. Once they are dry put the seeds in a paper bag in a dark cool place for the coming season.
Pic5 Tomato ‘Pineapple’ from 1874 (back), ‘Yellow Pear shaped’ from 1805 (front left) and ‘Red Currant’ from 1795 (front right)
We are growing over 30 different old apple varieties here behind the walls, a mixture of Irish and English varieties.
It seems to be a good season for apples, better then last year. Unfortunately the recent storms and torrential rains resulted in an early fall of apples. Most of them are still usable for jams and pies, though. The nuns making their own apple sauce from the apples.
One variety which did really well this year is ‘Worcester Pearmain’, an English variety from Worcester, introduced in 1874. It was once the most popular variety grown for early autumn harvesting. The medium sized apples are crunchy and juicy, supposedly with a strawberry flavour…..well I did not taste Strawberries but they still have a lovely taste!
Pic6 Apple ‘Worcester Pearmain’
The same counts for the pears. Plenty of crop this year. We had to take a good few pears off already since the cropping was too heavy and not all fruits would ripen. A light summer pruning will also encourage the ripening process. The main pruning is happening during the winter month.
Pic7 Pear ‘Emily d ‘Heyst’
The Vegetable Garden is undergoing its second planting season at the moment. Newly propagated spring cabbages are getting planted into cleared plots where peas or broad beans grew earlier on. A nice feed with home brew Comfrey and Seaweed will strengthen the plants for the winter.
Our fennel had a good growth in one of the top plots. The delicate leaves are very attractive and look great between bolder looking vegetables. The combination with Sweet peas will bring a bit of colour into the beds and creates a type of cottage garden theme.
The runner and french beans in the background, growing along the black trellises are doing rather slow this year which means we will have a later harvest, probably closer to mid September.
Pic8 Fennel ‘Sweet Florence’ and Sweet peas
Last but not least few words about our Formal Flower Garden. Many visitors commented on the vibrant colours this summer and I have to say that it astonished me, too. My explanation is the sunny and warm spring we experienced. It could go back much further. I am not a biologist but it would be interesting to analyze this topic a bit more.
Anyway, it seems like that especially the blues, reds, pinks and oranges are doing particularly well.
The summer its coming to its end and a good few summer bedding plants started to go over. Once they are turning brown or wither we took take them out.
Beginning October we are starting to clear out the summer bedding plants and replant with spring bedding and spring bulbs.
I just sent out our bulb order, lets hope I can get all heritage varieties I am looking for.
Pic9 Amazing amount of Red Hot Poker flower heads, I counted over 30 on one plant! Surrounded by Persicaria affinis, Hydrangea serrata ‘Bluebird’ in background
Pic10 Our D-beds with an array of colours
I will be back with more news at the end of September. All the best to all gardeners and non-gardeners!
Your Head Gardener
General Garden tips for September:
~ Take cuttings of perennial Dianthus
~ Last chance to sow overwintering green manures
~ 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
~ Hardy Lettuces like ‘Brown Winter’ or Winter Purslane,
~ Last plantings of Spring Onions, Spring Cabbages and Beetroots
~ Re-sow lawns after scarifying
~ 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