Behind Castle Walls with Adam Whitbourn

You will forgive me for repeating much of last month’s blog, but July has been even more about ongoing watering. It started with all of our newly planted areas, but over the days and weeks was gradually extended to encompass the whole estate. Obviously we can’t water everything, so the lawns and larger trees have had to fend for themselves. Our one saving grace is that we have several wells on site that we can draw water from. But even those are running low and I find myself desperate for rain, which is never something I’d have imagined happening in Ireland! With that said, I am happy to report that the gardens are still looking pretty good overall, if you ignore the parched lawns, and the extended sunshine has meant that visitors to the castle are staying much longer in the grounds and gardens, which is definitely a positive side effect.

I would honestly say that the last 12 months in the gardens are the hardest time I’ve ever experienced in my career. Managing the estate has been exceptionally challenging and was only possible due to the highly talented and versatile individuals that we have on our team. I hope that this pattern of unsettled weather is not something we have to get used to, but I’ve a feeling it’s definitely becoming more usual. Fingers crossed things do settle down.

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, Jungle and Fern Garden that are all thriving in this heat. 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.

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 hope we get some decent rain soon and that I’m not still writing about drought at the end of August! But it is wonderful to have a proper summer for once…..

I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam