Behind the Castle Walls with Adam, Head Gardener Blarney Castle

I’m sure it’s not just me that wonders where the year has gone. The nights are already drawing in and the night time temperatures are dropping. September brought the first real hints of autumn with trees around the arboretum starting to colour. This is traditionally the time for cutting back, tidying and preparing for the winter. I have started to watch the overnight temperatures, and we have already moved most of our tender specimen plants from the Jungle Border and Fern Garden into their winter homes in our glasshouse and poly tunnel. Our next job will be the wrapping of fleece on our tree ferns. We just received our main bulb delivery of around 22000 bulbs! This sounds a lot but we are planting large drifts of bluebells and wood anemones which go into the ground in 100’s. We are trying to establish more native bulbs throughout the woodland and riverbank walks. This will add to the spring colour and go alongside the primroses that we have already planted. In addition we have our usual range of tulips, hyacinths and a few more unusual species for the herbaceous border and poison garden and some species tulips for naturalising in the grass areas. One I particularly like is Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’. Winter bedding will be planted out over the next few weeks. We use a lot of pansy and viola as I find them to be the most reliable in our unpredictable climate. Skimmias provide a good Christmassy look with their red berries and we generally mix in a few other things just to add to the interest. We also have winter baskets at the main entrance and stable yard areas to keep a little colour over the duller months. Our apples have just been picked and have gone to make organic apple juice which we will be selling in the cafe and shop. It has proved to be very popular with the tourists and locals. Next year we might venture into cider! Pick apples and pears as they ripen, and store them in trays with shredded newspaper, straw or cardboard liners (as used in the greengrocers). For storage the temperature needs to be cool but not frosty. Most homes will be too warm so it’s better to store them in a shed or garage, as long as they are rodent-proof. Windfall or bruised fruit is better used in desserts, jams or wine making. Our grapes are now ripe and we are squeezing them on site. The leftovers make a great base for wine making and I expect to have a few bottles ready for Christmas. As growth starts to slow in the gardens we get chance to look at new projects and landscaping work. We will be renovating a few areas that have been neglected and continuing to develop the gardens. Our tree surgeons will be busy this autumn with pruning and in some cases removing diseased or dead trees. Dutch Elm disease is back and we have lost around 30 semi-mature Elm trees around the estate. All of these will need removing over the next few months. Jobs for October include, tie in and cutting back of raspberry and loganberry canes if you haven’t already, bulb planting around the garden, apply autumn fertiliser to lawns, lift and divide herbaceous plants if you need to, and cut them back as they die down, stop feeding indoor plants now, tidy up beds, borders and glasshouses and make plans for next year. Autumn is a wonderful time here in the gardens. Watch out for the trees starting to colour up and come to see our Lime tree avenue, which turns bright gold. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam