October is the month that brings dramatic changes throughout the grounds and gardens. We’ve had the inevitable drop in temperatures that heralds the changing season and our arboretums have transformed into their autumn coats which come in so many wonderful colours and shades. There are the buttery yellows and vivid reds, copper, bronze and purple shades which combine to form a rich tapestry. That’s just the start of it though. It’s the sign of the coming winter, and many other changes are taking place. Plants are entering their dormant periods and we are busy cutting back, mulching, digging out, dividing and protecting where necessary. If you look after your plants now they will reward you next year. This time of year also signals the end of our busy tourist season. Summer usually passes in a blur, and generally involves a great deal of maintenance work. It’s always a challenge and often a juggling act to manage everything. I feel like I can breathe again now and it’s time to get our teeth into some new projects. Our fruit and vegetable areas are currently undergoing their autumn tidy. We are organising our beds for next year and planning where to plant what. We have a crop rotation system in place, which helps prevent pests and disease and keeps the nutrients in the soil more balanced. We will shortly be planting out garlic and shallots and sowing sweet pea indoors for next year’s crops. We are currently keeping glasshouse vents open overnight to encourage leaf fall on our indoor fruit such as peaches and grapes. The grape vine needs to be fully dormant before we start to prune it. Other jobs we will be doing over the next month include: lifting and dividing herbaceous perennials, wind lopping roses, spreading compost and digging over vegetable beds, leaf collection to form next year’s leaf mold, lifting dahlias, begonias to overwinter inside, fleecing tree ferns and tender plants to protect from frost, and the planting of new bare root hedging and trees. I’m writing my blog a little earlier than usual as I am in the final stages of planning our expedition to Vietnam and will shortly be heading off. We will be plant hunting in the high mountains of northern Vietnam close to the Chinese border. The high altitude creates similar climatic conditions to what we experience here in Ireland, which means many of the plants that we find are suitable for planting in our own garden. We will be working with a group of Vietnamese botanists to try and identify and catalogue these plant species, as well as collecting seed which we then hope to bring back to Ireland. If all goes well these new collections will be added to our own Vietnamese Woodland as well as being shared with other gardens throughout Europe. Unfortunately, we are in a race against time with many of these planet species, as their habitats are being destroyed by the continued expansion of humanity. Activities such as cardamom farming, fish farming, road building, hydroelectric dams and the general push to develop the countryside are destroying what are often irreplaceable habitats. Unfortunately, it may be the case that gardens such as Blarney will end up being the final refuge for many of these rare and special plants. Hopefully we can do our bit to help!
Come and see us in November! Adam