Welcome back to my late autumn garden blog here from the Victorian Walled Garden in Kylemore Abbey & Garden.
We experienced a couple of nice weeks in October. It must have been a bumper year for wild mushrooms. Everywhere you looked on our estate there was a fungi peeping through layers of leaves, moss or grass. Old tree stumps or dead trees were also laden with all different types. I am not an expert on fungi and would only pick a handful of species I am familiar with. We did a few foraging sessions with experts before but could not do it this year due to the COVID restrictions.
Pic1 A ‘Shaggy Mane’ growing outside the garden walls; it is an edible mushroom when picked young (I still have to try this one!)
Pic2 Old trees are ideal habitats for fungi and give a nearly architectural structure to it – nature at its best!
Mushroom growing was quite fashionable in Walled Gardens back in Victorian times. Underground chambers, sometimes heated, were used to grow this fruiting fungus. The dark setting was ideal since no light was needed. The gardeners here in Kylemore did the same and grew them in build-up rooms below the glasshouse complex and work sheds, sometimes with the aid of ultraviolet light. If time allows us to do so we might give it a go again!
The weather was perfect for the preparation of the flower beds for the coming season. Several thousand spring bedding plants and bulbs were planted like every year into the formal beds in the Victorian fashion. The dry spell meant that we were able to work and plant the beds without sinking into heavy muddy soil which is not great, either for the plants or for our spirits! You can also plant twice as fast into dryer, looser compost then into squishy boggy soil. As always, we mixed a nice bit of our own rotted compost into the flower beds.
Pic3 The ‘D-beds’ are cleared, top dressed and re-shaped with the very Victorian formal edge of about one foot between the lawn edge and the planting edge
Pic4 The ‘Shamrock beds’ are also ready for planting, first with spring bedding and then with spring bulbs in Victorian style
We did our last Vegetable sale in October, a mixture of kales, carrots, chives, beetroots and leaf beets were among it.
I especially like Kale ‘Red Russian’ (or also known as ‘Ragged Jack’ or ‘Sweet Red’). It is a heritage variety dating back to 1818 and is probably one of the nicest and sweetest kales. It does not require the endless cooking time as other varieties do. I used it in the traditional Irish dish Colcannon just recently and even my children liked it! The plant is also very decorative when used in mixed borders, it is definitely worth a try, even in non-Victorian gardens!
Pic5 The last crate with Vegetables for sale
Pic6 Kale’ Red Russian’, will overwinter quite well in our region
Pic7 More overwintering crops
This year is also a ‘Mast Year’ for Oak trees, which means the acorn production was on its high! This only occurs about every four years and means that we were able to collect acorns of the original oak trees here in Kylemore, which are well over 150 years old.
Pedunculate and Sessile Oak are the two main oak varieties here and every year we are re-planting these trees in cleared areas. This is part of a much bigger picture in view of re-establishing the unique woods here in Kylemore.
Grown from our own acorns on-site makes the trees more adaptable to our climate and soil and should succeed better. It is also very comforting to know that the parent trees are part of the estate history, going back probably several hundred years. The acorns are sown quite close since not all acorns will probably germinate. Once they reach a height of about 20 cm they will be transplanted.
Pic8 Sowing acorns of the Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) into outside seed beds
I am right in the middle of one of my busiest times of the year and very much bound to my garden office. Pre-planning the coming year, going through old records, drawing up planting schemes and lists, counting and sorting leftover vegetable-, flower- and herb seeds, researching heritage varieties in old books and plant lists, writing up seed orders…. the list seems endless but needs to be done on an annual base. Without this footwork, we would not be able to start our propagation of seeds coming year. It takes about six to nine months of pre-planning for specific areas.
We are also selling a small selection of heritage seeds in our craft shop which is unfortunately closed at the moment but the seeds can be ordered online. The Kale variety ‘Red Russian’, which I mentioned earlier on, is part of our Victorian Vegetable Collection. These gift boxes are lovely Christmas presents for garden lovers!
Pic9 Our Heritage Victorian Flower and Vegetable Seed Collection which are available online
Indoor work is quite high on our work agenda at the moment, especially on wet and stormy days like today! There is no shortage of work and important areas like the glasshouses are getting a proper scrubbing down. All timbers and glass areas are wiped down and treated with an anti-fungal solution. It is very important to do this work annually to prevent diseases and to maintain the glasshouse structure. We had a problem with Red Spider Mite on our wall trained indoor Peachtree this year and can hopefully prevent it in the coming season. Biological controls are good alternatives and few plants like Eucalyptus is beneficial to problems like the Red Spider Mite.
Cuttings are playing an important part in our plant propagation. We successfully propagated new herb plants from cuttings just recently. Lemon balm, Rosemary or Thyme are among them. Kept in hot boxes and individually covered reduced the transpiration and kept the plants moist. They are ready for potting on and will be planted out into the Herb Garden coming spring.
Pic10 Cuttings ready for potting on
Last but not least a few words about our boarders! Jacky and Jenny, our two garden cats, are doing great and are enjoying the warmth in the glasshouse ( where they should not be….). Saying this, they keep down the mice population big time so they deserve a bit of luxury!
Pic11 Two relaxed cats
Our other two boarders are Gloria and Ken, the very hairy Kune Kune pigs.
They survived these strange times pretty well so far, the healthy breakfast of rolled Barley would be on the top of their daily agenda. They also like their naps and can sleep up to 12 hours in their comfortable home which is the former Herdsman Bothy. A big outside run leaves enough room for exercise and digging roots!
Pic12 Gloria is enjoying her breakfast, with a smile I think!
These are all the news for now, please find below more seasonal garden tips.
Your Head Gardener
Things you can do in your garden in November / December
To Sow / Propagate:
~ First indoor sowing of Broad beans and Lettuces
~ Sow perennial seeds and sweet peas
~ Plant bare-rooted trees, roses and fruit trees
~ Divide and replant herbaceous perennials, make sure weeds like scotch grass is removed before replanting
~ Kale & Cabbages
~ Leeks, Spinach or Leaf beets
To maintain & prune & feed:
~Frost protect water taps, move watering hoses indoor
~ Clean and tidy potting sheds, tool sheds, propagation trays, pots etc.
~Build coldframes for raising early crops under glass
~ Start winter pruning of Apple & Pear trees
~ Prune deciduous trees and shrubs after flowering for a balanced shape
~ Prune climbing roses by half
~ Check on stored Potatoes, bulbs and fruits for diseases and dispose of affected ones
~ Check Apple and Pear trees for a sign of canker and cut out if occurring
~ Prune Grapevines, leave about two to three buds of laterals (side shoots of this year’s growths)
~ Clean up Herbaceous Borders, cut down old growths
~Plan next year seasons, eg. crop-rotation plans