Behind Castle Walls with Adam Whitbourne

There are definitely the first hints of autumn in the air. Night temperatures have started to drop and there are the beginnings of colour changes in the arboretums. I hope we still get to see a little sunshine in September. The borders are starting to fade in places and we have to start tidying and cutting back as required. We are also taking cuttings of a lot of our more tender plants as insurance against possible winter losses. A good number of our borderline hardy plants in the tropical border and jungle areas will survive our typical winter but there’s always a risk of a particularly cold snap. There are quite a few plants that we have to overwinter in our glasshouses and polytunnels, and I will be watching the weather carefully in the coming weeks as I hate to lift them prematurely but equally can’t take a risk that they will be killed by frost. We will shortly be building a new polytunnel in our walled garden to help house our growing collection, as well as providing much needed propagation space. It’s the time of year for pruning hedges, mulching beds and general tidying up. In the vegetable garden we have been cutting back our old raspberry and loganberry canes and tying in the new ones for next year’s crop. We have dug up the last of the potatoes. Lifted shallots, garlic and onions and planted out brassicas and leeks. Now is the time to sow spinach, winter lettuce and rocket to take you through to the autumn. Our Irish orchard is finally starting to mature and we have a huge crop this year. We will be using most of the apples to make our own juice which is very popular in our cafe, but this year we are starting experimenting with in house cider production. It will be an interesting project! Most of the trees in our orchard are old Irish heritage varieties and it is very interesting to compare the differences between them. We also have honey from the walled garden for the first time. We installed two hives in the spring and we will shortly be finding out just how much our busy little friends have produced. Very exciting times! It’s not too early to start thinking about bulbs. Bulb planting can be started in the next few weeks. The fresher they are when you plant them, the better they perform. 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, so don’t forget to label them. We add to our collection every year and this year’s main project is to plant large drifts of narcissus under our Cherry Walk to compliment the spring blossom. We are also planning our winter projects at the moment, which include some planting of semi-mature trees. I will be taking a trip to Nangle & Niesen tree nursery in the coming days to select specimens from their substantial stock. It is much better to see the trees while they are in leaf and select the actual ones you want, than to simply order from a list.

I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam