Behind castle walls with Adam Whitbourne

September was a pretty good month but with the fall in night temperatures came the autumn, with trees around the arboretum starting to change colour. As things start to slow down we get the opportunity to move from a lot of our regular maintenance jobs to more seasonal work and specific projects. One of this year’s projects is the new Winter Borders which we have just started to plan. They will take the form of several drifting beds running alongside a recently created path that cuts through our upper arboretum. We have already placed an order for the main bulk of the plants, and will commence planting later this month. I’m looking forward to seeing how it shapes up. This is traditionally the time for cutting back, tidying and preparing for the winter. I have started to watch the overnight temperatures, and we have already moved most of our tender specimen plants from the Jungle Border and Fern Garden into their winter homes in our glasshouse and poly tunnel. This is also the time for bulb planting and we just received our main bulb delivery of around 88000 bulbs! This sounds a lot but we are planting large drifts of narcissus along our cherry walk and thousands of Camassia leichtlinii in our riverbank meadow. We are trying to establish more native bulbs throughout the woodland and riverbank walks. This will add to the spring colour and go alongside the primroses that we have already planted. In addition we have our usual range of tulips, hyacinths and a few more unusual species for the herbaceous border and poison garden and some species tulips for naturalising in the grass areas. Winter bedding will be planted out over the next few weeks. We use a lot of pansy and viola as I find them to be the most reliable in our unpredictable climate. Skimmias provide a good Christmassy look with their red berries and we generally mix in a few other things just to add to the interest. We also have winter baskets at the main entrance and stable yard areas to keep a little colour over the duller months. Our apples have just been picked and have gone to make organic apple juice which we will be selling in the cafe and shop. It has proved to be very popular with the tourists and locals. Pick apples and pears as they ripen, and store them in trays with shredded newspaper, straw or cardboard liners. For storage the temperature needs to be cool but not frosty. Most homes will be too warm so it’s better to store them in a shed or garage, as long as they are rodent-proof. Windfall or bruised fruit is better used in desserts, jams or wine making. I kept our first batch of cider apples which I have mixed with a few of our other old Irish cultivars to produce around 20L of juice which will go to make our first ever batch of cider. I’ll report back on how this goes. Jobs for October include, tie in and cutting back of raspberry and loganberry canes if you haven’t already, bulb planting around the garden, apply autumn fertiliser to lawns, lift and divide herbaceous plants if you need to, and cut them back as they die down, stop feeding indoor plants now, tidy up beds, borders and glasshouses and make plans for next year. Autumn is a wonderful time here in the gardens. Watch out for the trees starting to colour up and come to see our Lime tree avenue, which turns bright gold. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam