Behind the Castle Walls with Adam, Head Gardener Blarney Castle

Autumn in August? Last year in August I was talking about sunshine and the general lack of rain. Hmm, not an issue this year! It seems as if the trees are already starting to colour up and night time temperatures are dropping. The one thing I can say is that growth has been great this month, and a lot of our new plants are thriving. I just hope we get a glimpse of sun before autumn really sets in. We have just tied in our willow tunnel and the extension into the new boardwalk area has done very well. It’s still full of coloured pom-poms from Blarney in Bloom which are holding up well. They add an extra dimension to the whole experience of walking through the tunnel. The herbaceous borders are starting to fade in places and we are dead heading and tidying as required. Overall it has been a good show this year and we are very pleased. We plan to add some new varieties before next spring to increase the diversity. One project we have ongoing is our plant labelling. It has proved very popular with visitors and we plan to extend the labels to cover most of the newly planted areas. The only problem we have is that some people prefer to take the label with them rather than write down the name. Obviously this gets frustrating and expensive. It’s the time of year for pruning hedges, mulching beds and general tidying up in the vegetable garden. We have been cutting back our old raspberry and loganberry canes and tying in the new ones for next year’s crop. We have dug up the last of the potatoes. Lifted shallots, garlic and onions and planted out brassicas and leeks. Now is the time to sow spinach, winter lettuce and rocket to take you through to the autumn. Our Irish orchard is cropping well again this year. I was worried that it would suffer with the strange mix of weather that we had over the spring. We will be using most of the apples to make our own juice. All of the trees are heritage varieties and it is very interesting to compare the differences between them. Other fruit yields have also been good and we have a freezer full of raspberries that will shortly be transformed into ice cream. It’s not too early to start thinking about bulbs. Bulb planting can be started in the next few weeks. The fresher they are when you plant them, the better they perform. Make a few notes as to where you would like some extra colour in the garden, then select bulbs that suit. Too often bulbs end up as an impulse buy that get stuck in a corner and forgotten about, so don’t forget to label them. We add to our collection every year and this year’s order will include more miniature narcissus and tulip varieties that I hope to naturalise in some of the grass areas. We will have to start thinking about winter protection of less hardy plants over the next few weeks. Some of our tree fern varieties and specimens in our tropical border will have to be lifted and brought indoors for the winter months. Others will be protected with straw, fleece or heavy mulch. We will then pray that we have a mild winter. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam