Behind Castle walls with Adam Whitbourne

Magnolias in March March has been another busy month in the gardens and we are well into spring. The colours around the garden are breathtaking at the moment. Emerging leaves form vivid spreads of reds, yellows and orange which compliment the endless drifts of spring bulbs and impressive displays from our magnolias, cherry’s, rhododendrons and azaleas. It really lifts your spirits! Our giant rhododendron arboreum ‘Cornish Red’ is in full flower at the moment and well worth a look. A lot of our more recently planted magnolia species are coming into flower for the first time this year, which is very satisfying. We have another new project underway in our kitchen garden. We are building a bee observation house which will offer visitors an opportunity to look into our kitchen garden and see working bee hives. There will be information on bee keeping, as well as on conservation and biodiversity. We hope to have this open by midsummer. There have been a lot of ‘housekeeping’ jobs to do this month, including mulching beds, resurfacing paths, feeding and scarifying 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. April is usually a very active month in the gardens. Everything is coming into growth and the regular maintenance work starts to come online and eat into our available time. Jobs for the next few weeks include sowing sweet corn, runner beans and outdoor salad crops, carrots, parsnips and beetroot. Plant out onions, shallots and potatoes if you haven’t already. Plant indoor tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and tie in and pinch out new growth on the grape vines, hand pollinate indoor peaches to ensure a good quality crop, sow herbs, check for greenfly both indoors and out. A good tip for dealing with greenfly is mix some washing up liquid and water vigorously in a jug to make a lot of foam, then apply this directly to the infested areas to completely cover the aphids. It works very well! I have recently organised a talk in Blarney Castle Hotel on Friday 21st of April at 7.30pm titled ‘Collecting Hardy Plants in Northern Vietnam’ by Bleddyn Wynn-Jones, who is a veteran plant hunter and specialist nursery owner. It’s a rare opportunity to see him speak and the evening will also be the official launch night of Botanic Network Ireland which I have recently been involved in setting up. There is a drinks and snacks reception on arrival and a rare plant raffle afterwards. Entry is 25e on the night. For more details email: Our recent trip to Vietnam has proved to be extremely rewarding and we have around 150 new plant species growing in our glasshouses. There are even several possible new discoveries in amongst them. As these plants are established in the grounds and gardens, they will provide a conservation life line for the future. Many of the species are endangered in their native range and it is increasingly likely that ex-situ conservation may be the only hope to ensure their survival. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam