Behind the Castle Walls with Adam, Head Gardener Blarney Castle

It’s been a funny spring with a lot of false starts and gardening has been very difficult over the last few weeks. I’m hoping we are finally getting some settled weather and can start to move out some of our more tender plants. The show must go on though, and luckily the plants have figured out that it is actually spring. Our azaleas and rhododendrons are starting to show their colours and we have some lovely magnolias stealing the show at present. 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. Our new entrance area is complete and the timing was perfect as our Prunus shirotae came into flower just as everything was complete. It is really a show stopper and quite possibly the best entrance tree in Ireland. The new courtyard area frames it very well. There’s also a lot of new planting in the surrounding beds which I’m looking forward to seeing establish. Our Blarney Castle Roses are back after a temporary move to the walled garden for the winter. I hope they aren’t too upset by the disturbance. It’s the time of year for pre-season housekeeping jobs such as 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. Other 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 (10th July) and while there picked up quite a few rare and interesting plants which will be planted out around the gardens shortly. 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, interactive arts and crafts displays, specialist plant nurseries, and a dog show. Visitors to the show will have free entry to the gardens for the whole family and it is all in aid of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind which is a very worthy cause. Anyone wishing to take part please drop me a line at: blarneygardens@blarneycastle.ieAdam Whitbourn