Well what a mixed up month it’s been! The weather has been all over the place with plenty of flooding but very mild and spring like. The poor plants don’t know what to do with themselves. We have daffodils, crocus and even rhododendrons out much earlier than usual. There is a sea of snowdrops on the Front Avenue, as well as assorted varieties in flower in the winter border. It’s always one of the first real signs of spring for me. The daffodil avenue is also in full swing with over 40,000 flowers! December was pretty hectic in the gardens as well as at home. There is a pressure to finish projects in time for Christmas, even though it will all still be there afterwards! Things went well in 2015 and we have achieved a great deal. We have continued to grow and develop the gardens and are currently in the process of replanting some of the beds inside the main entrance. This is an area that receives the most visitors and as such should look impressive. The new boardwalk and forest trail are proving popular with walkers and the creation of the Seven Sisters garden, which includes a circle of Neolithic standing stones and new prairie style borders, has added a new focal point in the lower Rock Close. I am particularly pleased with the way this area is maturing. The coming weeks will be a busy time for our tree surgeons as they try to complete all the winter pruning work while the trees are still dormant. It has been a difficult few weeks for them with all the storm damage and wet conditions. There are a lot of jobs to do over the next few weeks in preparation for spring. We have already put in our indoor early potatoes and are about to start sowing seeds including tomatoes, peppers, indoor salad crops, leeks, sweet pea and assorted bedding plants for this year’s displays. Put in shallots and garlic now if you didn’t do it in the autumn. We have just pruned our grape vines and also applied a winter wash made from sulphur, lamp oil and soap. This helps with pests and diseases. Winter pruning of fruit trees should be finished as soon as possible. Do not prune stone fruit such as plums or peaches in the winter. Leave this for spring and summer. Roses should also be pruned back soon before they come into growth. Our glasshouses are also due for a major clean, not one of my favourite jobs! It’s never too early to mow the lawn if weather permits, but watch out for emerging spring bulbs. Herbaceous plants can be moved or divided as the soil dries out and bare root plants can still be planted for the next few weeks. If you have a tree or shrub that’s in the wrong place then now is the time to move it. Dig around it carefully and take as much root as you can then stake it in its new position until its roots take hold. We are in the process of planting up another area of orchard which includes 32 varieties of Irish heritage apples, which is an important conservation project in its own right. As a bonus we will have more apples! We are looking forward to 2016 as another great year in the gardens. We would like to wish you a happy new year from all of us here.
We hope to see some of you in the gardens. Adam