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

Garden Diary December 2019

Welcome back to my last garden blog from the Victorian Walled Garden here in Kylemore Abbey for this year.

We are in full swing with the winter preparation of the garden.

The first frost appeared last night and it’s time to wrap up things like the outside water connections and taps for example. We are using bubble wrap which gives a good layer of insulation.

The roses in the different areas of the garden were pruned and got a good layer of rotted manure and our own compost around the base.

The leftover seeds are counted, weighed and recorded in specific lists. This information is important for the preparation of the new seed order beginning in 2020. This task is one of the main annual jobs for every Head Gardener, and also one of the most important ones. There is a lot of preparation going on before the seed orders are finished. The whole garden year needs to be planned, the requirement of seeds and plants for each section in the garden has to be in place by then. We are usually sowing over 50 000 seeds between the Flower Garden and Vegetable Garden so it is essential to get this part right.

As mentioned in my previous blog we are harvesting a few of our own seeds where we know that the quality is good. Beans are one of them and since these varieties are all old Heritage varieties we can assure that we are getting the same ones in the coming year.

The French Beans are well dried now and are ready for storage in a cool dry place.

Pic1 Dried French Beans


Dusk and dawn can be spectacular around this time of year and are great picture opportunities for pictures. When I closed the Head Gardeners House a few evenings ago I captured the image below which shows the side of the Bothy with the garden wall in the background and the surrounding mountain range. It highlights clearly the elevated side of the Head Gardeners House from where I took the picture.

Pic2 Approaching dust in the garden


Wintertime is digging time in our garden.

One of the important areas we tackled this season is the drainage in the flower garden. Recent wet conditions and compaction of the soil resulted in the suffering of our annual bedding plants.

We dug up 3 feet of soil and put special drainage stone, fleece and new topsoil into the beds. It was very exciting when we found original open drains from 150 years ago, built up from red brick.  It seems that they are still fully operating which shows excellent craftsmanship from Victorian times once again.

Pic3 Getting the new drains ready in the formal flower garden


Wintertime is also a good time to power-wash hard surfaces and to clean the glasshouses from inside out. This is a very challenging job and requires a bit of patience. A good power-wash from outside can get rid of the build-up of green slush, especially in difficult areas where the glass meets timber.

Pic4 The propagation glasshouse and cold frames after power-washing the outside surfaces.


We also started to clean along the outside of the north wall which is situated right against the mountainside.

Rhododendron and tree seedlings of Ash, Hazel and Sycamore are growing quite substantial once again and closing into the brick wall.

This job needs to be repeated every few years to stay on top of it. It is a vital maintenance job in a place like ours.

We also started to clear Rhododendron in another area on the grounds near the Gothic Church. The former boathouse was choked by the invasive Rhododendron ponticum.

Once the area is cleared we can plant native trees again.

Pic5 The outside of the north wall of the Walled Garden


The Christmas decoration of the buildings within the garden like the Head Gardeners House and Bothy was another point on our recent agenda.

It is always a lovely job to do, it creates a feeling of the festive season straight away. We are taking only natural material from the garden. The mantlepiece over the fireplace in the Bothy got a mixture of dried Hydrangeas, the dried heads of Allium, Holly, Japanese Ceder, Eucalyptus and branches of the Korea Fir.

Pic5 The Christmas decoration in the Bothy


It is lovely to see that the swans are back to us. A family with 3 signets and 3 adult swans enjoy the quietness of the Maladrolaun Lake on the way to the Walled Garden, opposite the Diamond Hill. I tried to get closer to them to get a better shot but did not succeed. They are very shy and swam straight out onto the open lake.

Pic6 Maladrolaun Lake with swans


I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas, in peace and full of joy. Enjoy a bit of rest from the garden work. Hopefully the weather invites for nice long winter walks.

I will be back with more news from behind the Walls of Kylemore Garden in the New Year.


Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke


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


~ Sow hardy Garlic cloves in suite

~ First indoor sowing of Broad beans and Lettuces for early planting

~ Grafting of apples and pears

To plant:
~ Plant bare-rooted  trees, roses and fruit trees
~ Divide and replant herbaceous perennials, make sure weeds like scotch grass is removed before replanting

To harvest:

~Turnips, Parsnips
~ 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 cold frames 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
~ 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