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Wednesday, 07 December 2022

Head Gardener's Blog October & November

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Winter has landed in Kylemore Abbey, this morning we had a refreshing temperature of two degrees Celsius and lovely sunshine. Sunshine was a rare occurrence within the last two months. The month of October was a total washout, and too mild, and November didn’t turnout much better. Let's hope that December will be better.

Pic 1 The first sunshine in nearly two months was very much welcomed 

Tender plants like Agaves, Ginger Lilies, Banana plants or our Tree ferns were moved into their cosy winter home in our restored Vinery. Low underground heat will make sure that these precious plants will survive the colder winter months unharmed. It is important to open windows and vents regularly to aerate the glasshouse, even on the colder days, to make sure fungicides and greenflies don’t get too comfortable. Also keep the watering to earlier in the day so the humidity doesn't not build-up too much which would support the build-up on fungus.

Pic 2 Sunshine is a great natural source of heat during the Winter months in our curvilinear Vinery

Pic 3 Succulents like Aeoniums will stay in our propagation glasshouse over the Winter 

There are several entrances into our garden, including the two main gates on the east-west avenue. These are not only doors or access points, but also features of old Walled Gardens like ours. Each is giving a different view and perspective into a refined space. When visiting other Walled Gardens, I always have a lookout for interesting features like these. The skilled craftsmanship from past times are still visible when looking closely. Nothing was spared and you can easily identify the rank of importance of the entrances.

The Main gate would have been the first point of entering the Walled Garden and was therefore a very important feature. The side gates in the Vegetable Garden on the other hand, were used for the garden staff to bring manure, crops and machinery in and out of the garden and had less features and ornaments.

Pic 4 The Westgate with a view into the garden and leading out into our Flora, Fauna and Nature Trail 

Pic 5 Side gate into the Vegetable Garden

One of the last jobs done by our horticulture students before going back home was pruning and training our cherry trees. That job needs to be done before it gets too cold, so not later than September.

The Sour Cherries or also called Morello cherries, are not as strong growing than the sweet cherries and are just a bit easier to train against the wall. The walls give great protection and retains the heat.

There are still an abundance of original steel nails in the walls, which were also used to tie wires for training fruits like Cherries, Plums, Pears or even Crab Apples.

Pic 6 Our garden student Kerstin tying in a cherry tree

Pic 7 Sweet Cherry after pruning and tying

One of the main jobs before Christmas is planting all the hundreds of spring bulbs and spring bedding plants into previous cleared beds. The cleared-out summer bedding is going straight onto our compost bays. The wet weather didn't really help and made the task just a bit more challenging.

Before planting spring bulbs, they needed to be sorted and counted out for each specific bed. We planted a total of over 6000 heritage spring bulbs like Tulips, Daffodils, Grape hyacinths, Snowdrops, Corydalis and Fritillarias. That a lot of sorting, laying out and planting.

Pic 8 Bulbs counted and ready for planting

Sorting out our own harvested seeds, all from heritage plants grown in the Walled Garden, was another quite time-consuming job, which took a good bit of patience and good eyesight. A few of these seeds are tiny little things, a fraction of the size of a Green Fly.

We use different sized sieves for separating the husks from the seeds and a diamond scale to measure the total weight of the seeds at the end. We store the seeds in metal presses where they stay dry, dark, cool and safe from little creatures like mice.

Pic 9 Separating the seeds husks from the seeds of Salvia 'Oxford Blue'

Pic 10 Vegetable & flower seeds bagged and ready to store away until needed in the coming season 

All seed heads look different on plants, and you might be surprised how interesting sometimes. When taking out the small black seeds of one of our heritage varieties of Snapdragons, Antirrhinum 'Defiance’, I noticed few faces looking at me……they could have been straight out of a Halloween movie! The size of the heads were only half an inch.

Pic 11 Definitely material for a movie! 

There are still a many crops growing in our Vegetable Garden, we just topped up the paths in between the rows with our own shredded wood chippings.

Fresh Fennel, Spinach, Celery, Mizuna and herbs were recently used for a banquet dinner in our Abbey. 

Pic 12 The root plot with Celery and Celeriac

Pic 13 Freshly harvested Mizuna, Japanese greens, with a light mustard taste

Pic 14 The flowers of Fennel are equally as tasty, like the leaves, and are decorative at the same time

Time is running at an immense speed as usual, and I can’t believe it is already six weeks ago that our last two garden students finished their horticultural placement with us.

Our students always have great impact, are highly motivated and thirsty for knowledge. They also bring in different views or work methods they might have learned in their colleges which can be based in France, Germany, Denmark or Ireland of course. It is always a pleasure wo work with them, and we are recruiting new students next year again.

Pic 15 A farewell to Kerstin from Germany and Josh from Denmark!


Your Head Gardener,

Anja Gohlke