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

Garden Blog May 2019

Welcome back to our May Garden Blog from behind the walls of the Victorian Garden here in Kylemore Abbey.

The recent dry spell resulted in an explosion of plant growth within the garden walls and our automatic irrigation system supplied the needed water during early morning hours. Visitors are fascinated when we explain that all the water is coming from a natural lake ‘Lough Tougher’, situated on top of the mountain behind our garden. A men-made dam and kilometer-long cast iron pipes made it possible to supply fresh water to the garden and the Abbey since Victorian times. The same system is used for the garden nowadays, but the pipes have been replaced with more modern ones. Rainy weather, like today, means that our natural water reservoir is regularly filled up again. The surrounding bogland also acts as a huge filtration system before the water channels into the lake. So we can safely say that we do save and use rainwater for our garden irrigation, maybe not in a conventional but definitely in a very environmentally friendly way.

The Herbaceous plants in our double border seem to have grown overnight and the colour spectrum consists of many different shades of blues, purples, whites, and pinks. We add more plants every week at the moment to fill in gaps. Mainly annuals, biannuals like Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) or Mulleins (Verbascum) and also new varieties like Rock Knotweed (Plogygonum vaccciniifolium) to add to the display. Our Foxgloves give an especially great show this year. I have also noticed the abundance of wild Foxgloves everywhere in Connemara.

Pic1 Foxglove in our Herbaceous Border – Digitalis purpurea  ‘The Shirley ‘

I love the delicate blossoms of Irises, the flowers look like live-watercolor drawings. They are so easy to grow and don’t need much attention which suits us just fine! Fussy plants have a hard and mostly not very long life here in Kylemore! Once planted in the right spot they will grow for many years or even decades without getting too invasive. We feed our borders once a year with a topping of our own home produced compost and an additional feed of chicken manure.

Pic2 Lovey light blue Iris pallida – Dalmatian Iris

Another rather unusual late spring to early summer flowering  bulbous plant is Scilla peruviana or Portuguese squill.  Its low growths and big soft blue flower heads make it ideal for the front of borders and rock gardens. Even though it is a Mediterranean plant is seems to thrive well in our climate.

Pic3 Scilla peruviana or Portuguese squill


The growth spurt of the Vegetables has not been much behind the flowers. The first early potatoes are nearly covering the ridges by now.

We just sown our carrots and parsnips into prepared ridges. It is essential to sow them at the right time to avoid the Carrot Fly as much as possible. They have two life cycles and can destroy your whole crop! A surrounding bio-netting will hopefully keep the little creatures out.

Pic4 Potato ridges with first early varieties like ‘Sharps Express’


Pic5 Ulick preparing potato ridges for the last main crop


Our gardeners designed a new structure for our Runner- & French beans. It looks great and will be so much easier to put up and dismantle every year. For us it was important to have a strong frame so strong winds and storms don’t knock it over.

Pic6 Our new Bean supports


One of my favourite corners in the garden, although its quite hidden, is the area behind the restored Vinery. This place was originally also under glass and used as a fern glasshouse. The shaded side to the north was ideal to house different types of ferns and shade loving plants. Artificial rock work on the wall created grow pockets for smaller ferns. It must have been a fantastic setting back then, 130 years ago.

Pic7 Former Fernery glasshouse area behind the Vinery


Late spring and early summer is always the best season for our Fernery along the stream running through the garden. We added white Candelabra Primulas to the existing yellow and maroon ones.

Pic8 Candelabra Primulas japonica ‘Millers Crimson’  (maroon), bulleyana (orange) and japonica ‘Alba’ (white) in our Fernery


The wet days are used to clean, count, label and store the few thousand heritage spring bulbs which are laid out in the glasshouse to dry off. These bulbs will be replanted in October and newly bought ones added to the old bulbs to ensure a full display.

Pic9 Heritage spring bulbs laid out to dry off


I will be back with more news from the Walled Garden here in Kylemore Abbey & Garden in June. Until then, enjoy your early summer garden. Please find more tips for June gardening below.


Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke


Things you can do in your garden in June:

To Sow / Propagate:

~ Sowing of second batch of late summer flowering annuals as replacement plants like Nasturtiums, Calendulas or Tagetes

~ Take softwood cuttings of shrubs like Fuchsia

~ Re-sow every ten days Lettuces for ongoing supply


To plant:

~ Plant out pumpkins, marrows and courgettes; put straw around plants; we use cloches for wind protection

~ Plant out all potted plants, they do much better in suit then left in pots


To maintain & prune & feed:

~ Deadhead herbaceous plants and annuals regularly to prolong flowering season

~ Watering of new crops and bedding is essential in dry periods

~ Prune shrubs after finishing flowering (Deutzia, Weigelia…)

~ Fed lawns with a special summer feed (available in garden centers or nurseries)

~ Look out for pet and diseases caterpillars, green or black flies and signs of blight