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

Garden Diary December 2017

A warm welcome back to our last Garden Blog for this year. I have just browsed through last years December blog and it was quite interesting to see that the cold spell started nearly on the exact same day. Heavy hail showers battled our little spring bedding plants in the beds but no major damage was done. The biggest threat to the many planted spring bulbs is actually  from birds at the moment. A daily inspection of the beds shows that many bulbs are getting taken out ‘very neatly’. One of the challenges a gardener has to face!

Pic1 Spring bedding in a frosty grip


Now is a good time to transplant herbaceous plants. Its a very time consuming job but also very rewarding since you are reproducing your own plants for nearly nothing! Today I started to divide and replant Phlomis russeliana, commonly known as Turkish sage. The root system is very neat and a fork can easily split bigger clumps without damaging the plant itself.

Pic2 Dividing Russian Sage


The list of winter jobs can be endless,  and time is running by very quickly . Before we know it, it will be time to order and sow next years crops. Right now every day is  being used to cut back old growth and to clear overgrown areas and to transplant perennials and shrubs and to update data bases  etc..

The Herbaceous Border is nearly cut back and a fresh layer of our own compost will cover and feed the soil and plants and prepare the border for the coming season.

Pic3 The Herbaceous Border in mid winter – the south-facing side is getting much less sun then the north-facing side


All plots without any crops left were covered with black plastic again, like every year. This technique proves very successful in our garden and a layer of seaweed or rotted farm yard manure will slowly break down and feed the plot under the plastic. The result is a lovely rich and dark soil which is so important in a Vegetable Garden.

Pic4 Rob and Bobby covering a plot


Pic5 Declan digging in green manure before covering the plot


Most plots would are still covered with all types of crops like leeks, leaf beets, spring cabbages or parsnip. They are used up bit by bit until the next growing season starts.

Pic6 Leeks and Leaf Beets


Pic7 The curly Parsley is still lovely green and used by our chefs


All the tender plants were moved inside a couple of weeks ago and enjoy a warmer climate in the heated glasshouses. The gauge is set on a low temperature of about 6 to 8 degrees Celsius since our tender plants are not used to tropical heat. A daily aerating of the glasshouses is vital to avoid fungus, mould and green flies. It is lovely to see that our Strelitzia in the Vinery is flowering the second time this year. It seems to be the right conditions for the plant.

Pic8 Strelitzia – ‘Bird of Paradise’ in bloom at the moment


This time of year is also the time we tackle our extensive Rhododendron problem here in Kylemore! We cleared a lot on the lower ground along the estate avenues in recent years and new tree saplings have finally a chance to develop into nice trees. A recent purchased wood chipper makes the whole process more manageable and the chips will be either be spread straight back into the woodland or used as a light cover on borders.

Pic9 Rhododendron clearing


The Christmas feeling  has really kicked in here in Kylemore Abbey and all the facilities around the estate are decorated in a festive manor. The dining room in our Head Gardeners House is set up for the Christmas dinner and the baking preparations are on the way in the kitchen next door.

It is a special time of year and I love to stroll through the old buildings; after all these years it still feels very unique!

Pic9 The dining room in the Head Gardener House


Pic10 Ready for baking Christmas treats!


Pic11 A bit of decoration in the Workmen’s Bothy


When I walked up to the Abbey yesterday I had to capture this moment. It is very rare to see snow here in Connemara and the contrast with the Cordyline tree in the front seems quite spectacular!


I wish all my readers a warm Christmas and a good start into the New Year. It will be interesting to see what the new season will bring.

I will be back with News from the Victorian Walled Garden in February 2018.

Nollaig Shona Duit!


Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke


Things you can do in your garden in December and January
To Sow / Propagate:

~ Grafting of apples etc.

~ Start to sow first vegetables like lettuce indoor in modules
~ Sow first Garlic outside in suit if ground suitable
~ Grafting of apples etc.

To plant:
~ Divide and replant herbaceous plants

~ Plant bar-rooted roses and fruit trees when danger of ground frost is gone
~ Order & plant bare-rooted trees and hedges

To harvest:
~ Last of Carrots and Parsnips
~ Leeks, Spinach or Leafbeet

~ Curley Kale

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Winter pruning of Apple & Pear trees
~ Prune climbing roses by half
~ Clean and tidy potting sheds, tool sheds, propagation trays, pots etc.
~ Check on stored Potatoes, bulbs and fruits for diseases and dispose affected ones
~ Check Apple and Pear trees for sign of canker and cut out if occurring
~ Prune Grape vines, leave about two to three buds of laterals (side shoots of this years growths)
~ Clean up Herbaceous Borders, cut down old growths