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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