Behind Castle Walls with Adam Whtibourne

If you have chance to visit the gardens in the next few weeks then just do it! Our rhododendron and azalea beds have been amazing so far this year and the colours are spectacular. We have planted huge numbers throughout the grounds over the last three years and it’s very satisfying to see them starting to fill out and put on a display. Our Belgian beds area is breathtaking at present. The woodlands are also stunning, with endless drifts of bluebells and wild garlic carpeting the ground and crisp new green leaves emerging on the trees. It’s truly a magical time of year. The regular maintenance work of grass cutting, strimming, edging and weed control is now taking up a large portion of our available time and it really is a question of juggling jobs to try and keep things tidy. Although it is hectic, it is also the time of year when you start to see a lot of results from your winter and spring projects. April has been exceptionally dry this year which has meant that a lot of our time has been spent watering our newly planted trees and shrubs. This hasn’t stopped the weeds from growing though, and it’s always a challenge to keep on top of everything. We are planting up all of our display beds with mixed bedding in the next few weeks and will soon be getting our hanging baskets ready. In the beds we generally use a mix of begonias, petunias, lobelia and geraniums. The secret to a good display is regular watering and feeding. We use phostrogen plant food every second week through the growing season. We also use the largest baskets possible as they are so prone to drying out. The glasshouses are already looking full and we have peaches, nectarines, apricots, grapes, strawberries and assorted vegetables all coming along nicely. There is good bloom in our new heritage apple orchard this year, so we are hoping to further improve on last year’s crop. I have bought a new apple press with the intention of experimenting with cider making later in the year. 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! 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. Our annual Summer Garden Fair ‘Blarney in Bloom’ is on the 9th of July this year. We have a programme of garden talks from expert speakers, interactive arts and crafts displays, specialist plant nurseries, a farmers market, children’s entertainment and a fun dog show. It is all in aid of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and should be a great family day out. Anyone wishing to take part please drop me a line at: I hope to see you in the gardens. Adam