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Garden Diary March & April 2020

Welcome back to our spring edition of our monthly garden blogs for the Victorian Walled Garden here in Kylemore Abbey & Garden.

Strange and uncertain times hit us here the same as everywhere else.

The closure of Kylemore Abbey & Garden to the public did not stop the spring flowers here in the Walled Garden to show their nicest display. Recent cold spells kept many flowers back but the sun in the last week really opened up most Tulips. We incorporated a lot of Muscari bulbs, commonly known as Grape Hyacinths, into our spring display for the first time and the effect together with Bellis, Tulips and Fritillarias is really nice. The blue long sturdy flower heads are perfect in between taller Tulips and Narcissus and create this mass planting effect the Victorians liked to create.

Pic1 Mix-planting of Muscaris, Bellis and Tulips in the Parterre with the Diamond Hill in the background

 

Pic2 Snakes Head Fritillarias and Muscaries

 

The dark orange Tulip ‘Prince of Austria’, dating back to 1860, also gives great contrast to Narcissus ‘Butter & Eggs’ and Fritillaria pallidiflora. Narcissus ‘Butter & Eggs’ is probably one of the oldest Daffodils still available, dating back to 1777. The name of this variety really describes the look of this very rich “buttery” yellow blossom.

Pic3 Tulip ‘Prince of Orange’, Narcissus ‘Butter & Eggs’ and Fritillaria pallidiflora in front of the glasshouses

 

Another great and long lasting plant we use every year in different varieties is  Wallflower. The one below is the best variety we can grow in our glasshouse from seed. It is Erysimum ‘Cloth of Gold’, a biannual which will flower for several weeks, even months and will come back next year if you want to leave it in the same spot. We will take ours out to make room for the coming summer display. The red and  yellow of the tall Tulip ‘Keizerskroon’ works very well with the Wallflowers.

Pic4 Wallflowers, Bellis and Tulips

 

One of the earliest Rhododendren flowering here within the garden Walls would be Rhododendron ‘Hodgsonii’. It is one of the most hardy, big leaved Rhododendren and the bell-like flower heads are just spectacular. This tall shrub was originally collected by J.D.Hooker at one of his expeditions from the Sikkim valley in the mid 19th century.

Pic5 Rhododendron ‘Hodgsonii’

 

Now is a crucial time in any garden; growing plants from seed the way we do it, is very time consuming but essential to keep a garden like ours in cultivation. Most seeds are bought in from other seed companies since we cant produce our own heritage seeds in a good enough quality. We save only few seeds every year like the one below. The seeds are quite big and look like sleeping beetles! These are the seeds of Ricinus communis gibsonii, the Castor Oil plant. We grow them most years as an ornamental plant used between bedding arrangements or as solitary plants in terracotta pots. They are also great in Borders and give a very interesting aspect with its red architectural leaves.

Pic6 Seeds of the Castor Oil plant

 

The vegetable garden needs great attention at this time of year, now is the time to sow and plant! Potatoes, Broad beans, Peas and Onions, Lettuces and Radishes, the list is sheer endless for the varieties which can be planted now. Kales and Cabbages are also due for planting and a good feed of seaweed will help to establish them. It is important to stay on top of the weeds, especially now before they develop into bigger ones. A quick shallow hoeing on a dry day will cut the roots of the weeds and then can be left on the beds to dry off. If this is done on a regular base it should be easy enough to stay on top of it.

Pic6 Kales and Cabbages waiting to be planted

 

The lower part of the 2.5 acre Kitchen Garden will be mainly turned into Green Manure plots for this year to cut down on work. You are also giving the soil a bit of a rest after growing crops for the last few years. Pest and diseases could be decimated this way, too.

 

It is time for home made Rhubarb crumbles again! Our Rhubarb seems to do always very well in the early season. The plants got a nice layer of seaweed during the winter months and the stalks look healthy and strong. It is great to involve kids in the preparation of Rhubarb cakes since it is an easy vegetable (yes it is not a fruit!) to prepare. The brave ones will even eat the young stalks raw.

Pic7 Fresh Rhubarb

 

Like every year we held our annual Tree planting week once again beginning March.

This year, the tree planting week also started our centenary planting of 100 native trees in commemoration of the arrival of the Benedictine Nuns to Kylemore 100 years.

School children from all local schools and the creche took part and planted mainly Sessile Oaks, Rowans and Birches in areas which were cleared of the invasive Rhododendron ponticum last year.

It is very rewarding to teach these children the importance of the native woodlands. Especially the small Creche kids were astonished by the sizes and ages of our specimen trees.

Pic8 Happy tree planting with the children from our local creche beginning March

 

I wish everybody happy gardening, enjoy nature as much as possible, especially in these times!

 

Your Head Gardener

Anja Gohlke

 

Things you can do in your garden in April

To Sow / Propagate:
~ Continue sowing potatoes
~ Sow pumkins, courgettes, tomatoes & cucumbers indoors
~ Start to harden off summer bedding plants like Calendula or Lobelia

To plant:
~ Plant out Kale, Cabbage, Lettuce, Peas & Mangetouts, Spinach
~ New perennials or ornamental grasses for borders

To maintain & prune & feed:
~ Feed and treat box hedges for blight (Try seaweed and Garlic spray!)
~ Clean and prepare Hanging Baskets for May planting
~ Continue lawn care like aerating and sanding, feeding and weeding
~ Prune early spring flowering shrubs after finishing flowering