Welcome back to the May edition of my monthly garden blog from behind the walls of the Victorian Walled Garden here in Kylemore Abbey & Garden.
Experiencing the driest April ever, well at least in the last 20 years, with only 31.4 ml of rain, we were able to get a good head start on the summer planting of the flower and vegetable garden. It is essential to water the trays with seedlings before planting out and also to have the automatic sprinklers on during dry spells. If not watered regularly during these conditions, the newly planted, young plants like Lettuce will bold or annual bedding plants will set flowers too early in order to produce seeds. This symptom is due to an increased stress level in the plant in order for reproduction. Plants won’t last as long as under normal conditions.
Pic1 Record of rainfall for April 2020; recorded daily in the Walled Garden and send to Met Eireann
We are getting our water supply for the garden from a natural lake on top of the Druchruach Mountain, which is bordering the Walled Garden to the North.
Built by Mitchell Henry in 1867, the original irrigation set up is still in place, only the cast iron pipes were replaced by modern ones within the last 30 years. The engineering back then was of top quality and very advanced for its time. Natural gravity feed was used wherever possible. Copper taps, attached to the original brick and limestone walls, show evidence from these times.
Pic2 Original copper tap on cast iron pipe attached to a brick wall in former Peach Glasshouse
Pic3 Another tap, attached to the Limestone wall in our Shrubborder
As mentioned before, we are right in the middle of planting our annual summer display. It seems endless; thousands of plug plants need to be planted in specific Victorian patterns. Before planting, all beds need to be cleared of the former spring bedding, bulbs dug up, the beds weeded, dug over or tilled, top dressed with our own produced compost and finally reshaped, also after specific designs. The planting out is actually the easiest and fastest part of this complex procedure.
Pic4 Bedding and Vegetable plants in waiting position for planting out
Pic5 Corner bed in the Parterre with new summer bedding in place; they should start to flower within the coming two to three weeks, all weather depending of course!
Our Herbaceous Border started to bloom within the past three weeks. Bistort (Persicaria bistorta ‘Superbum’), the perennial Cornflower (Centaurea montana) or Chinese meadow-rue (Thalictrum delavayi) are always one of the first ones to bloom in the border.
Pic6 The Herbaceous Border beginning May
Pic7 Perennial Cornflower (Centaurea montana) to the front
One of the nicest spots in the walled garden to get an idea about the scale and also the unique setting is in the top corner at the Herb Garden. Especially on a nice sunny day like during the recent weeks, it is a pure joy to take pictures of this place.
Pic8 Wide-angled picture of the Walled Garden with view over the Herb and Vegetable Garden and the Diamond Hill to the back, beginning May.
Our potatoes settled well and the new stalks needed mounding already. The first early variety ‘Epicure’ is probably one of the nicest early heritage varieties we grow and always gives a good reliable crop.
Pic9 Heritage ‘Epicure’ potatoes in our ridges, dating back to 1897
Shaded areas like in our woodland or the Fernery have something on offer at the moment too.
Rhododendron ‘Pink Pearl’ is always a showstopper in our woodland, which divides the flower garden from the vegetable garden.
This particular Rhododendron is again an old heritage variety, dating back to pre-1897. It has huge pink flower heads and is a very strong growing variety.
Pic10 Rhododendron ‘Pink Pearl’
Pic11 Candelabra Primroses ‘Millers Crimson’ (crimson), ‘Alba’ (white) and bulleyana (yellow-orange) in our Fernery
Tulips are always at its best when in full bloom. I think that a few varieties, like ‘Keizerskroon’, are also attractive when the flower heads fading or drying when kept indoor. This particular variety developed a lovely maroon shading from the original bright red and the relief on the petals makes it nearly look like a drawing by one of the old dutch masters from the 17th century.
Pic12 Faded flower heads of Tulip ‘Keizerskroon’, a Heritage variety dating back to 1680
I know spring is over but I had to upload this image of yet another old Tulip variety ‘Sansparaille’. The flower head broke off and when inspecting it more closely I could not resist to take a close up.
Pic13 Tulip ”Sansparaille’
Last but not least news from our garden cat Jenny. She recently got a nice hair cut and is enjoying her freedom of not having to deal with a mat of tangled fur. She is very observant at the moment, including watching for when is her best chance of sneaking into the glasshouse.
She also likes to check on the flower garden once a while to see if we are keeping up the standard!
Pic14 Jenny on the watch out!
I will be back with more news from the Victorian Walled Garden here in Kylemore Abbey in June, below are the usual garden tips.
Your Head Gardener
Things you can do in your garden in May:
To Sow / Propagate:
~ Harden off later vegetables like pumpkins, marrows and beetroot
~ Sow Carrots and Parsnips end of the month
~ Take softwood and non-flowering cuttings of Fuchsia and Pelargonium
~ Continue sowing lettuce for succession planting (every 10 days)
~ Take softwood cuttings of shrubs
~ Plant out French and Runner beans
~ Start to plant out summer bedding in final position and protect against slugs (coffee ground…)
~ Plant leek seedlings into plots
~ Plant Tagetes and Calendula as companion plants between your crops to attract beneficial insects
To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Trim formal hedges of Buxus, Fuchsia or Escallonia and feed them
~ Watering of new crops and bedding is essential in dry periods
~ Stake taller perennials, broad beans and sweet peas well
~ Prune spring flowering shrubs like Weigelia or Forsythia after finishing flowering
~ Aerate and sand lawns if not done earlier