Well November passed by in a blur. I spent the first half of it in Vietnam on a plant hunting expedition, and the second half trying to catch up! Autumn pretty much passed while I was away, and I returned to the typical damp and chilly Irish climate. On the plus side I brought back with me a treasure trove of seed collections that we will be introducing to the gardens in the coming years. This year’s expedition saw us partner up with Kew Gardens and the Millenium Seed Bank in the UK. It’s extremely important that these rare plant species throughout the world are conserved for future generations. 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. This trip to Northern Vietnam enabled us to collect seed from several plant species that are highly endangered in the wild. We hope to establish populations in botanic gardens around Europe, as well as preserving some seed in the Millenium Seed Bank’s vaults. We also visited conservation projects that are underway in the local areas in Vietnam and made some financial contributions towards establishing nursery areas and replanting young trees back into the now protected forest park. It’s very encouraging to see the local government starting to embrace plant conservation. I just hope that it’s not too little too late.
Despite the dreary weather there is still autumn colour hanging on around the gardens, and the low sun creates some dramatic light when it does grace us with its presence. Work in the gardens has become very typical for the season, with emphasis on tidying, cutting back and mulching. A big job for us this time of the year is leaf collection. We compost a lot of our leaf litter, as it’s a free source of extremely good mulch for plants. Let’s face it the natural ways are usually the best! We have bought a new leaf mulcher this year and it’s proving extremely popular. We do not, however, collect up the leaves from our main Lime tree avenue or in the arboretums. These are pushed back under the trees to provide protective mulch and feed for the snowdrop and bluebell bulbs that live there.
We started planning our orchard extension and I’m expecting a delivery of apple trees and other fruit for our Kitchen Garden beds in the next few days. All the new fruit is intended for use in ice cream, juices and jams for sale in our café and shop. We made our first large scale batch of cider this year, and I’m delighted to report that the first bottle was opened last week and lasted approximately 2 minutes, I should point out that it was shared between 12 people! Anyway, it got great reviews and we are looking forward to the staff Christmas party for the second chance to sample it. Hopefully we will be able to make it available to visitors in the future.
All of us here in the castle and gardens would like to wish everybody a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. We hope to see more of you in the gardens next year. Do make use of the season passes, as they represent excellent value for money.