March is well on its way and with it the spring blossoms surrounding us here in the Victorian Walled Garden in Kylemore Abbey.
It seems to be a very late spring display this year, recent cold spells kept the plants well in their infancy stage. The Crocuses just finished flowering and our first Tulips, Tulip kaufmanniana, started to lose their petals. The next strong winds will carry them far away.
Pic1 Crocus ‘King of Striped’ beginning March
Pic2 Long lines of Daffodil’s and Fritillarias in our Ribbon beds at the moment
Pic3 Live is starting all over again in our Fernery
Springtime also means pollination time for many plants, especially fruit trees. In normal circumstances, the insects would do this important job. I had to take over this task for our peach blossoms, which are growing inside and outside the glasshouse, once again. The cold weather was just not in favour for pollinating creatures like bees. My home-made pollinating tool, made of Jenny’s tail hairs and the old flower stalk of an Allium came in handy again. The difficulty is to pick the exact time when the pollen is ripe. A gentle brush from flower to flower did hopefully the job. We should see in the coming month’s if there is any sign of fruit developments.
Pic4 The indoor Peach, growing in our restored Vinery, is getting hand pollinated. Jenny’s fine fur was very useful!
Pic5 The buds on the outside peach, growing along the south-facing wall, are not as advanced yet.
Another early bloomer is the ornamental cherry plum or purple-leaved plum tree, Prunus ceracifera ‘Pisardii’. Ours are growing as dot plants in the formal lawns in the Flower Garden. Most years the blossom does not hang on for too long, the delicate flowers are easily blown off. The young purple leaves look great in contrast with the grey-green shades of the lichens.
Pic6 The purple-leaved ornamental Plum in bloom
Our ‘Bird of Paradise’ flower Strelitzia reginae, is also in bloom, much earlier than in recent years it seems. This tropical perennial from South Africa is quite easy to grow, a non-fussy plant I would say as long as you have a glasshouse or conservatory. The plant is also called Crane Flower which is understandable if you look at the shape of the flower. If you are a fan of this plant you should try to visit Madeira, whenever this epidemic is over. I went there many years ago and was blown away by the plant diversity which is influenced by the mild gulf stream. It is an ideal Island for plant lovers. The Strelitzia is the signature flower of Madeira and one of the main export goods.
Pic7 Our Bird of Paradise Flower – Strelitzia reginae
The propagation glasshouse is bursting at this stage, every free spot is used to place potted seedlings. We sometimes have to move trays few times a week to cramp in more, like musical chairs. The more advanced plants are going outside into the coldframes which also have heating cables in case we get cold spells.
Pic8 Lettuce, Kale and Cabbage plants are getting hardened off in the coldframe.
It always amazes me how different seeds germinate and develop their root systems. I just potted on seedlings of Cerinthe major ‘Purpurescens’, or commonly known as Honeywort. The seeds were only sown two weeks ago and developed such long roots that I had to put them into deeper pots than I would normally do. It is also possible to nip a bit of the root as long as there is enough left.
Pic9 Strong roots!
It’s the time of year again where we put down our first potatoes. Long accurate ridges are build by our gardeners, added rotted manure, sheep wool and seaweed will help to nourish the soil and crops.
Pic10 The first potato ridges are built.
The first Broad beans also just got planted yesterday. The strong timber supports which we built ourselves, will support the beanstalks which can be quite heavy and easily break in strong winds. The gaps between the timbers allow for enough space to pick the beans when ready. The supports are built in segments and can be easily lifted and stored until the next season.
Pic11 Broadbeans between supports
This week is National Tree planting week, sadly without our school children. COVID made it impossible this year. So all gardeners got together and we planted over 30 native trees on our mountainside, which is classified as a temperate rainforest. Annual planting of these trees like oak, mountain ash, wild cherry trees, birch, scots pine or elm trees, will hopefully replace trees that fell or died off in recent years.
Pic12 Replanting native trees in our temperate rainforest
When closing up in the evening we always have to check where our garden cats are hiding so we don’t have a nice surprise the next morning like trampled seed trays. Jenny gave me a bit of a fright when she came out of one of our lockers where we keep garden essentials!
Pic13 Jenny is never short of surprises
Please find below the usual garden advice.
Your Head Gardener
Things you can do in your garden in April
To Sow / Propagate:
~ Sow pumpkins, courgettes, tomatoes & cucumbers indoors in heat boxes
~ Continue sowing annuals, biannuals and perennials ~ Sow/plant second early seed potatoes like ‘British Queens’
~ Plant out Broadbeans, Kales, Cabbages, Lettuces, Peas & Mangetouts, Spinach
~ New perennials or ornamental grasses for borders or rockeries
To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Feed and treat box hedges for blight (Try seaweed and Garlic spray!)
~ Clean and prepare Hanging Baskets for May planting
~ Continue lawn care like aerating and sanding, feeding and weeding
~ Prune early spring flowering shrubs after finishing flowering