Welcome back to the first garden blog for this year. Time seems to fly even faster then usual and its time to update our readers on the garden news and what happened so far.
The weather was very kind to us during the winter months, until February decided to send out the usual wet and stormy conditions. The recent cold spell put a hold on the advancing spring bedding for the last couple of weeks, but they are catching up again.
Pic1 Crocuses, Daffodils and garden cat Jenny enjoying the first warm rays of sunshine
One specific old variety of Daffodils, planted along the west facing red brick wall in between the pear trees last autumn, is Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’.
This Irish heritage variety, dating back to the 1880th, looks very different to your ‘normal’ Daffodil. Its star-shaped double flowers and low compact grows make them a show stopper in every garden setting. They are suitable for all kinds of soils and withstand typical Connemara weather conditions.
Pic2 Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’
One of the newly sourced heritage spring bulbs, planted also last autumn in the formal flower garden, is Fritillaria eduardii. This lovely variety is lower in growth then the normal Crown Imperial Fritillaria but similar in colour. It is odourless and its origin is in central Asia where it was discovered in the 1880th.
One of my winter jobs is the research of more old heritage varieties of Victorian plants and once a while I am succeeding in finding these treasures. Unfortunately, not many are available anymore, so it always feels like striking gold.
We will take out the bulbs once the flowers are finished and the leaves died back. The bulbs will be stored in a cool dark place until coming autumn when we will replant these in a different location.
Pic3 Fritillaria eduardii
The first of warm spring sun brought also out the first bumblebees. Spring flowers are not only lovely to look at but are also very important in supplying the first nectar to all types of insects.
The bumblebee below seems to bath in the pollen of Crocus ‘King of Stripes’. The contrast between the striped, purple flower petals and the dark yellow stamen containing the pollen is lovely and symbolise spring very much to me.
Pic4 Bumblebee feasting on Crocus ‘King of Stripes’ pollen
So, what else happened within the last few weeks?
Like every year, except the last two, we held our national tree planting week mid-March. Our local national schools and creche were once again joining us in replanting native Irish trees into the woods of Kylemore, replacing dead or fallen trees mainly around the perimeter of the woodland.
We planted around 20 trees in total with the schools and the gardeners planted a further 120 into areas which got cleared from the invasive Rhododendron ponticum last winter. This job is very labour intensive and not always easy in difficult terrain, especially if the weather is not playing along. It will take many years for these trees to establish but an important step is done.
Pic5 Recently cleared Woodland beside the Walled Garden
Pic6 Inez, our woodland specialist, is explaining the different parts of a tree and the importance of replanting the woodland to children from Lettergesh National School.
Pic7 Preparing the planting hole with children from our local creche. All planted trees were named by the children afterwards, so a ‘Muddy Pie’, a ‘Bella’ or a ‘Saileach’ are few of the very inventive creations!
We also started to put botanical labels on the main species of our estate trees. Not every tree will have one, but the most significant ones will be labelled like the tree below.
The labels will give the main botanical facts, like the botanical names which are worldwide recognised, the English common names, the country of origin and the plant family the tree belongs to. It is something I would always be drawn to myself when visiting Botanic Gardens in different countries.
Pic8 New botanical labels on our trees
The pear trees, which are trained against the sun faced walls, got a winter pruning in January. The warmth radiating from the brick stones is a great advantage for wall fruits. The blossom and the fruits are protected a lot more, especially in our harsh climate. Fruit trees like pears can be trained along walls in many different ways. It would be advisable to get a professional pruning book if you are considering doing it this way.
Pic9 Heritage varieties of pear trees
The plant propagation for our summer flower display and the vegetable garden is once again in full swing. The first of the vegetable seedlings are already potted on and are hardening off in our coldframes. Another two or three weeks and its time to plant the first broad beans and spring onions into prepared vegetable plots. Most summer bedding are not growing as fast as the vegetable seedlings and are more tender, so greater care is needed, also when it comes down to watering these. Damping off is often a reason why seedlings don’t do well or die off, often caused by overwatering or fungicides.
Pic10 Seedlings after potting on in our glasshouse
Pic11 Heritage varieties of vegetable seedlings like Kales, Lettuces and Broad beans are hardening off in the coldframes
Pic12 Our craft shop has a nice variety of heritage seeds of vegetables and flowers in stock if you think about growing your own supply!
That’s all from the Victorian Walled Garden for now, plenty more to come in my next garden blog!
Wishing everybody a great start of this years garden season!
Your Head Gardener