Behind the Castle Walls with Adam, Head Gardener Blarney Castle

November or not? November has been an odd month in many ways. Temperatures have been fairly high and grass is still growing. The end of the month saw the first real winter storms and a little damage in the arboretums. Fingers crossed this doesn’t continue. The colours in our arboretums and woodlands have been exceptional this year and there are still many trees holding their leaves. I hope some of you got to see. We have yet to put our tree ferns to bed. Usually by now they are well wrapped up to protect from the elements. Dicksonia antarctica is the common tree fern and is generally hardy in light frosts. The crowns of our tree ferns are protected by first stuffing with straw, which is then wrapped in horticultural fleece. We will be doing this as soon as the first heavy frosts arrive. For anyone who has a couple of specimens in their garden though, my advice would be to bring them indoors in a pot, and not take the risk. Christmas is approaching fast and the hustle and bustle and general madness is definitely upon us. Work in the gardens has become very typical for the season, with emphasis on tidying, cutting back and mulching. We have also started planting bare root trees, including new apple varieties in our orchard which will add to our range of traditional Irish trees. We intend to explore cider making in the new year! A big job for us this time of the year is leaf collection. We compost a lot of our leaf litter, as it’s a free source of extremely good mulch for plants. Let’s face it the natural ways are usually the best! We do not however collect up the leaves from our main Lime tree avenue. These are pushed back under the trees to provide a protective mulch and feed for the snowdrop and bluebell bulbs that live there. December is always a month where we aim to finish up projects etc, but I have learnt to be fairly realistic. Life goes on in January! Other work for the month includes wind lopping roses to prevent wind rock, roughly digging over vegetable beds, tidying up and disinfecting glasshouses, planting or moving bare root trees and shrubs, sorting out compost bins and spreading on the surface of vegetable beds, tree surgery and general housekeeping. I was lucky enough to spend the first half of November in Vietnam, studying native plants as part of a 4 person expedition. It was wonderful and hugely informative and this has provided great inspiration for future projects here in the gardens. We have had a great year here in the gardens and I feel that things have progressed very well. The new Seven Sisters development has proved very popular and I can’t wait to see how the newly planted grass beds mature. It’s very exciting to be part of this historic site. We have a progressive and energetic team here and I would like to express my gratitude to everyone involved in the grounds and gardens. It really is a wonderful place to be! All of us here would like to wish everybody a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. We hope to see more of you in the gardens next year. Do make use of the season passes, as they represent excellent value for money. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens in 2016. Adam