In line with public health advice, Kylemore Abbey is currently closed.

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