Behind the Castle Walls with Adam, Head Gardener Blarney Castle

July has been another dry month overall and it’s been a struggle to keep up with the watering. The borders are all looking great now though, and the fern garden is coming into its own after a slow start. As usual there’s lots going on and it’s often a case of juggling jobs to keep up with everything. Special thanks to our students and volunteers, who are making the difference between success and failure. Our indoor grapes are ripening up nicely and we had a great crop of plums, peaches, nectarines and berries. Our new fruit cage has proved extremely effective and we have nearly doubled our crops from last year. We are just about to start 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. Ragwort is always a big problem at this time of year. It’s the yellow flowered plant that you see along all of the roadside verges driving into Cork. Ragwort is a highly poisonous plant when eaten and posses a particular threat to cattle and horses. Under the Noxious Weed Act local authorities and landowners are legally responsible for ensuring that the land within their control is clear of ragwort: Unfortunately due to lack of enforcement this is not the reality. We do our bit here in the estate to clear all ragwort every year, but as it is being left to seed freely along our roadsides and elsewhere there is always a new stock of seed ready to blow in. A good tip that I can give 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. Blarney in Bloom was a great success this year and we have already set the date for next year as Saturday 11th of July. The garden fair provides an opportunity for us to show the gardens to local people who may not have visited before. We have long been seen as just the castle, and a destination for tourists, but this has now changed. The gardens are a feature in their own right and visitors are coming specifically to see them. This is hugely satisfying for both myself and all of our gardening team and volunteers who have put in such hard work over the last few years. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam