The year 2015 is well on its way and it feels like the winter has only started. The thermometer outside our vinery read minus four degrees Celsius this morning; saying that it does not feel as cold with the sun shining lovely and no wind at all. The light ground frost will break up the soil nicely in the vegetable plots and will hopefully help to decimate the population of midges. We also had the first bit of snow about two weeks ago; it was not enough to build a snowman, though.
Cold & frosty weather is good for many plants and helps to prepare them for the next season.
We finished pruning our passion flower and the indoor vines at the beginning of January and the cold spell came just at the right time.
The vinery is getting a make over at the moment. We have to use the quieter winter months to do important maintenance jobs like white washing the walls and deep cleaning the frame of the glasshouse itself. Not the most pleasant job but an important one!
The winter job list is always endless, probably too ambitious sometimes. I know that a few areas will only get a light touch up but it is good to have enough jobs planned ahead; we might get around at some stage!
We just started to tackle our Fernery. It is time to thin out areas where hardy ferns like the Chilean Hard-Fern (Blechnum chilense) have slowly taken over. Weaker varieties and groundcover plants like primroses or smaller ferns have a tough time to compete with the stronger ones. We will transplant the ferns into other suitable woodland areas outside the garden.
As mentioned last February already I am always delighted to spot the snow drops planted three years ago. Many will think that it is a very common plant to see but for several reasons not in our garden. Anyway, they survived another year and I hope to divide and transplant a couple of them into other areas after finishing flowering to build up our precious ‘stock’.
The first trays of Lettuces, Spring onion, Curley Kale and Broad beans are sown; all in modules indoor.
The tender plants are keeping well in the propagation glasshouse, a couple of green flies were in a ‘natural way’ disposed of!
Winter means also a lot of office work for me. Updating supplier lists from recent years, planting schemes of different areas like the Rockery or Shrub border or completing the tree planting scheme with exact positions etc. including labelling of all trees within the garden takes a lot of time. But if not done now it will never be done!
Our conifer area in the Rockery looks lovely at the moment, especially today with the winter sun glittering through the evergreen branches. The different shades of green are brightening up this spot during the rather grey winter month. These conifers, like different types of low growing Chamaecyparis, Juniperus or Thujopsis, are slow growing and need hardly any attention, which suits us well to be honest!
The stream which divides the garden naturally into two parts is also more visible between the leafless trees at this time of year. You only notice it when standing on the bridges during the summer months and the sound of the running water is normally absorbed by the surrounding greenery and the chatter of our visitors. Winter month are not only grey and dull in the garden, they can also open up new views from different angles.
Last but not least, our Whooper swans are back, not two but five this winter. The black and yellow beaked swans are staying on the lake and are very shy. It is nearly impossible to get a proper close up picture with the camera, unless you have a super lens! They had a nice chat (‘honking’) when I approached them, either to scare me off or maybe to talk about the long journey ahead. They will stay in Ireland till about April and then fly of to Iceland to their breeding grounds. Ireland has 20% of the total European population of Whooper swans, so it is nice to see the numbers increasing here in Kylemore, too. I just reported our small colony to ‘Bird Watch Ireland’ which does a national count of the whole population every few years.
Please read below the usual garden tips for February.
Your Head Gardener
Things you can do in your garden in February
To Sow / Propagate:
~ Craft apple trees onto suitable root stock
~ Start to sow summer bedding and vegetables seeds in modules indoor, don’t over water
~ Start Dahlia tubers in pots
~ Move first early seed potatoes into light for chitting
~ Plant bare-rooted hedges and trees but wait until ground frost is gone
~ Continue to lift, divide and replant herbaceous plants
~ Transfer and plant Snowdrops after flowering
~ Plant roses, prepare ground before
~ Curley Kale, really nice after it got frost (Also very healthy in smoothies!)
~ Last of Spinach, Parsnips, Leeks, Swedes and Beetroots
To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Powerwash patio areas etc. before they get too mossy and slippery
~ Prune woody plants like Buddleja hard back
~ Fertilize roses and vine plants with well-rotted Farm Yard Manure
~ Maintain, sharpen and repair tools etc., clean pots and trays
~ Prepare ridges in vegetable garden for first crops
~ Lawns could get first mow if ground is suitable and not too wet or frozen