Behind the Castle Walls with Adam, Head Gardener Blarney Castle

April has been exceptionally dry this year and we have had to resort to watering a lot of our newly planted beds. Thankfully the last few days have provided us with more ‘normal’ weather. I’m probably one of the few people who were actually happy to see a bit of rain! Magnolias, Camellias, Rhododendrons and spring flowers in general have been exceptional this month throughout the gardens. The frosts did damage a few of the earlier flowering varieties but the others have more than made up for the loss. The azalea beds that run from the Mansion to the Castle are coming into flower now and will be a sea of colour for the next few weeks. They are definitely worth a visit! We call this area the Belgian Beds as the original stock plants came from Belgium. The grass borders in the Seven Sisters garden are now planted and I am impatient to see how they will look by midsummer. I hope to achieve a very soft and flowing feel which will contrast with the standing stones and hopefully add texture and colour. Another ongoing project is our Irish Primrose collection. We are in the process of planting around 1200 primroses of various types in drifts throughout the grounds. Keep your eyes open on the riverbanks and under trees as they are popping up everywhere. The idea is to encourage them to naturalise in the wilder areas of the estate. There have been a lot of ‘housekeeping’ jobs to do this month, including mulching beds, edging lawns, pruning and tidying shrubs and when possible a little bit of weed killing on the hard surfaces. I find if you get on top of things early, it makes it a lot easier later. Jobs for the next few weeks: Plant indoor tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers if you haven’t already, tie in and pinch out growth on the grape vine, thin indoor peaches to ensure a good quality crop, sow herbs in six packs and then plant out when they reach a manageable size, this also works well for lettuce. Watch out for slug damage and check for greenfly both indoors and out. A good tip for dealing with greenfly is mix some washing up liquid and water in a jug to make a lot of foam, then apply this foam directly to the infested areas to completely cover the aphids. It works very well! Beer traps can be a good way of dealing with slugs, but personally I can never spare the beer! I still use slug pellets, but I put them in other areas of the garden well away from the vegetables. Now is the time to start thinking about staking herbaceous plants before they become too established. Dahlias can be planted out in the beds now and we will shortly be moving out our more tender ferns and tropical border plants. There is still a risk of frost though so be on standby with horticultural fleece. We recently took stands at Fota Plant Fair and Clare Garden Festival to advertise the gardens and also this year’s Blarney in Bloom (11th July) and while there picked up quite a few rare and interesting plants. Blarney in Bloom is shaping up well. Each year it keeps growing. There will be a lot of features this year, with a programme of gardening talks from expert speakers, the birds of prey returning, interactive arts and crafts displays, specialist plant nurseries, live music and children’s entertainment. It is all in aid of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Anyone wishing to take part please drop me a line at I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam