Behind the Castle Walls with Adam, Head Gardener Blarney Castle

July has been fairly reasonable by Irish standards. We have had our fair share of sunny days and the rain has been noticeably absent at times. The heat has really brought on our fruit and vegetables and a lot of the new planting is simply leaping out of the ground. Overall I am delighted with the way things are going. There are certain areas of the gardens that deserve a special mention this time of year. If you are visiting in the next few weeks make sure to see our Tropical Border and Fern Garden that are both looking very jungle like. The Herbaceous borders, Poison Garden and the Seven Sisters are also well worth seeing. There is good colour throughout the grounds and gardens though, and a little exploring often pays dividends. We are in the process of summer pruning our fruit trees. Apples and pears can be pruned now to encourage fruit buds to form next year and also to maintain shape or train the tree into a shape. There are two periods for pruning, December/January and July/August. As a rule winter pruning encourages growth of new shoots and summer pruning discourages growth. We also prune stone fruits now, tipping back and tying in new growth on our wall trained plums, peaches and nectarines. Stone fruits should only be pruned in early spring or midsummer as this reduces the chance of silver leaf disease. Fruit pruning is not very complicated if you follow a few basic rules, and there are many helpful sites on the internet with step by step guides. This year’s Blarney in Bloom was a great success. As a new feature for this year we built a Show Garden in conjunction with the Irish Garden Plant Society. ‘The Forgotten Garden’ featured Irish Heritage Plants and once the show was over we dismantled the garden and incorporated the plants and materials into various areas in Blarney. As a result, our Irish Heritage Plant trail is coming along nicely and we have significantly added to our collection of rare Irish cultivars that are in danger of being lost. These are often varieties that have been passed between private gardens and are not grown by large commercial nurseries or have fallen from grace. By creating a collection here in the gardens we ensure that these plants will be available for future generations to enjoy. Ragwort is always a big problem at this time of year. It’s the yellow flowered plant that you see along all of the roadside verges driving into Cork. Ragwort is a highly poisonous plant when eaten and posses a particular threat to cattle and horses. Under the Noxious Weed Act local authorities and landowners are legally responsible for ensuring that the land within their control is clear of ragwort: Unfortunately due to lack of enforcement this is not the reality. We do our bit here in the estate to clear all ragwort every year, but as it is being left to seed freely along our roadsides and elsewhere there is always a new stock of seed ready to blow in. A good tip that I can give this month is to plan your bulb order now. You can probably still remember how things looked in the spring. 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. This can lead to some nice surprises but often leads to disappointment. Bulbs, like any other plant, have certain preferences and it pays to do a little research first. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. AdamAdam Whitbourn