The last days of November are approaching fast and the countdown to Christmas is getting updated on our Blackboard in the craft shop every day.
A lot of winter preparation has happened in the Vegetable Garden in the recent weeks. We have concentrated on covering empty plots with different types of materials this winter. Straw, our own leaf mulch and seaweed from the shores are amongst the natural materials we use. Also the coverage with black polythene was done once again. It might be not the prettiest way of dealing with the issue of preventing nutrients getting washed out of the soil but it is definitely very effective. We are also looking at the option of ‘No-dig gardening’, something which sounds very very appealing! We just have to work out if it would be a suitable option for our type of garden but we are always very keen on trying out new methods. That’s also the way the Victorians were, always working and progressing in many ways; they were constantly hunting for new ideas and inventions, not all successful I have to say! ‘Trial and error’ is a good motivation I think!
Pic1 A thick straw cover, weighted down with rotted manure on an empty plot; the straw will slowly rot down improving the soil structure and feeding it at the same time
Pic2 A heavy layer of seaweed between the spring cabbages
Pic3 Leaf mulch spread between newly planted Comfrey plants along the south wall; Morello cherries are growing along the wall
We also use our own rotted compost to top up planting areas like those below at the Red Currants. Again, it will feed and mulch at the same time. Heavy rainfalls will lead to a lot of erosion, especially since the North side of the garden is very sloped.
Pic4 Red Currants top dressed with rotted Compost
There are still plenty of crops left in the ground and many of them will overwinter nicely until the new season begins.
Celery gives a very fresh look to the rest of the plots with its green and golden leaves. The variety below is called Celery ‘Golden Self-Blanching’ and is a very old Heritage variety dating back to 1883. In one of the original seed catalogs it was described as:
“The stocks grow vigorously, with large ribs, very thickly and closely set. It is entirely self-blanching, without any banking up or covering whatever, even the outer ribs assuming a yellowish-white color of a very fresh and pleasing appearance.”
Mizuna is another great crop that lasts here in Kylemore throughout the winter. It is a Japanese brassica with very decorative glossy leaves.
It will regrow when cut back, has a mild mustard flavour and is mainly used in salads, stir fries or soups.
Pic5 Row of Celery ‘Golden Self-Blanching’
Pic6 Japanese Mizuna Greens
Winter time is always a lovely time to show off the decorated branches of deciduous shrubs which are not too visible when covered in leaves during the main season. Dogwood (Cornus) or Willow (Salix) have many different varieties, many with different coloured bark. Our willow, which we use for making natural plant supports, is quite attractive with its yellow-greenish bark against the grey limestone wall behind.
Pic7 Our willow nursery during dormant season
All tender plants like Agaves, Bananas, Fuchsia or Tree ferns are tucked in nicely in the Vinery where low heat is keeping them frost protected. Daily ventilation is vital to reduce the risk of fungus’s. Palms like Trachycarpus are left outside since they are quite hardy and can withstand light frost. One of the Yucca palms outside the Visitor Centre is in full bloom at the moment, a bit off season I would say but it also shows clearly that the seasons are changing!
Pic8 The Vinery during winter month’s
Pic9 Variegated Yuccas in bloom
We also started on the next area to clear the endless amount of the wild Rhododendron which is covering a great area here in Kylemore. We are concentrating on the region around the Gothic Church and the Mausoleum which was nearly invisible behind these huge plants.
Pic10 Rhododendron are cleared in the woodland to open up the view to the Mausoleum
In the Head Gardeners House is a hint of festive feeling in the air and the Christmas tree is bringing a warm atmosphere into this cosy room, which was once the study room of the Head Gardener. The original bay window gave a perfect overview to the grand design of this six acre Walled Garden.
Pic11 Former study room in the Head Gardeners House
Our animals or better said ‘garden pets’ are enjoying the dry spells in between heavy showers. Jenny, the white fluffy cat is presenting herself well in front of the former tool shed to make sure she gets the attention and maybe few strokes of the visitors.
Pic12 Jenny nearly camouflaging with the white wall of the former tool shed
Pic13 Gloria is watching the little Robin closely to make sure nothing of her breakfast disappears but Robin was faster in
With this I will finish the last edition of the Garden blog of the Victorian Walled Garden here in Kylemore Abbey for this year.
I wish all my readers an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas with a little rest from the never ending garden work! I will spend ‘Weihnachten’ in Berlin, my former home town once again.
Please join me for more news of our garden in January 2019!
Below the usual garden tips for December.
Your Head Gardener
Things you can do in your garden in December
To Sow / Propagate:
~ First indoor sowing of Broad beans and Lettuces
~ Sow Pelargonium seeds for the coming season
~ Grafting of apples etc.
~ Plant bare-rooted trees, roses and fruit trees
~ Divide and replant herbaceous perennials, make sure weeds like scotch grass is removed before replanting
~ 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 coldframes 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 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
~Plan next year seasons,eg. crop rotation plans