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

Garden Diary for December 2016

Welcome back to our last garden blog for 2016.

What a year it was! The weather in the last four weeks was absolutely amazing; much better than what we had experienced the previous four month! With around 90 ml of rain this was one of the driest Novembers we have ever  had .

This frosty, sunny and very clear weather is a dream for every photographer (counting myself as only an amateur!). The colors are come out so much better with the low sun. The topography of the garden and surrounding landscape means that especially during the winter month the low sun won’t get into all parts of the garden which creates very interesting patterns. It also means that few areas are getting more ground frost then others and wont thaw at all during the day in cold spells.


Pic1 A frosty morning in the Walled Garden



Pic2 Light ground frost in the Parterre with Hemp Palm

A few plants like the subtropical Hemp Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) can withstand temperatures as low as minus 7 degrees Celsius. If we  experience colder weather then this, we would wrap them in fleece to protect in particular the base or heart of the palm.

Other tender looking plants like Fatsia japonica are even more hardy and can be left unprotected to as low as minus 12 degrees Celsius. We would never wrap ours and the frost coated leaves and flowers give a very Christmassy effect.


Pic3 Fatsia after frosty night


A few days ago we found this little Robin, or ‘Santa’s Birdy’ my four year old daughter would say, just outside our glasshouse. He probably flew against one of the many windows and was a bit knocked out. After few minutes of intensive care, which meant mainly to keep him safe from our two bold cats and few drops of water, he took off again!


 Pic4 Our little rescue friend!

The recent ground frost played an important role for the soil structure in our garden, especially in the Vegetable garden. The empty plots were dug over recently and the frost could break down the soil nicely which is very important for the next growing season. Nothing is worse then wet and compacted soil. We do as much as possible to prevent this as naturalyl as possible.

A layer of our own Farm Yard Manure was spread on the plots afterwards and  a few plots were covered with black polythene, which is not the most attractive material but will help to prevent washing out important nutrients from the soil during the coming winter month.


Pic 5 Freshly spread Farm Yard Manure



Pic 6 Black Plastic prevents washing out important nutrients in soil

All of our roses got a pruning within the last two weeks, too. A layer of compost and manure around the base of the roses will protect and feed at the same time.

I also planted two ‘new’ old heritage varieties of roses in one of the formal beds ( Bourbon rose ‘Boule de Neige’ from 1867 and the Gallica rose ‘Belle de Crecy’ from mid 19th century). Six plants of each variety should cover the circle bed nicely in the coming season. When you plant roses it is important to plant the grafting point below the soil level to protect it.


Pic 7 Rose bed after pruning


Visitors and non-gardeners always ask us what we  do during the winter period, well here is the answer: Our main jobs at the moment are  mainly of cutting back perennials, roses and overgrown shrubs, taking out invasive plants, dividing herbs and perennials,  preparing beds for the next year, improving drainage, tidying and cleaning corners which were left unattended during the busy season, tidying the glasshouses etc. etc..  There is no shortage of work and maybe we will be lucky this winter and get a bit more of the recent weather conditions!

I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas and all gardeners a well earned rest. I will be back with more news from the Walled Garden of Kylemore Abbey in February 2017. Below are few more images of the last two weeks and also the usual gardening tips.

Nollaig Shona Dhaoibh!


Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke



20161123_091035Pic8 Parterre with view to Diamond Hill


20161123_090920Pic9 Verbena rigida after a frosty night


20161123_091156Pic10 Frosted Georgian red brick


20161123_091236Pic11 Victorian planter with Forget-me-nots


20161123_092658Pic12 View from the Herb Garden



Pic13 Kale ‘Black Tuskany’


20161123_093339_001 Pic14 View over the North Slope after sun rise


20161126_094352Pic15 Side entrance into the Vegetable Garden



Pic16 View over the Vegetable Garden


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

~ 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:
~ Plant bar-rooted roses and fruit trees
~ Plant and divide herbaceous in borders and herbs
~ Plant bare-rooted trees and hedges to replace old or dead ones

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

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Start winter pruning of Apple & Pear trees
~ After flowering prune deciduous trees and shrubs for a balanced shape
~ 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