Behind the Castle Walls with Adam, Head Gardener Blarney Castle

May brought a rise in night temperatures and even a few sunny days! 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. Our rhododendron and azalea beds have been amazing so far this year. There is still good colour there and it’s well worth popping in to see them. 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. The four new Belgian beds have flowered well for their first year. We are in the process of planting up all of our display beds with mixed bedding and have hung our hanging baskets. 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 looking full and we have peaches, nectarines, apricots, grapes, strawberries and assorted vegetables all coming along nicely. There was good bloom in our new heritage apple orchard this year, so we are hoping to improve on last year’s crop. The Fern Garden is also coming along nicely, and all of the tree ferns are currently throwing up new fronds. We have recently planted out around 300 new ferns. These will significantly add to the overall lush look of the garden as they mature. Some of you will have been observing the development of our new garden area in the lower rock close. This is to be called ‘The Garden of the Seven Sisters’ and its centrepiece is a Neolithic style stone circle featuring seven standing stones and two fallen. This being Blarney there is a great story as to how this came about. The gardens will be gradually planted around this central feature, which has already become a focal point for tourists. Jobs for June will include sowing outdoor vegetables, pruning grape vines and pinching out tomatoes and cucumbers side shoots and start to feed with seaweed feed or similar. Spray the potatoes for blight if necessary. Keep an eye out for pests as the weather warms up. We introduce biological controls for aphids and mealybug in our glasshouses. Spray roses for blackspot and aphids or use soap suds if it’s a small infestation. Plant out bedding if not already done; keep up to speed with watering both in and outside. Newly planted or potted plants are especially prone to stress from drying out. Our annual Summer Garden Fair ‘Blarney in Bloom’ is on the 12th of July. There will be a lot of additional features this year, with a programme of gardening talks from expert speakers, interactive arts and crafts displays, specialist plant nurseries, the birds of prey returning, live music and children’s entertainment and a hog roast. 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: blarneygardens@blarneycastle.ie

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