Behind the Castle Walls with Adam, Head Gardener Blarney Castle

September was another exceptional month and it draws to a close with the first hints of autumn. The nights are drawing in and the trees around the arboretums are starting to change colour. I love this time of year in the gardens. It has been very dry here but as I write this the rain is teeming down outside. I think it’s truly the end of our wonderful summer. As a result of the lack of rain the rivers are extremely low for the time of year. I have a suspicion that this won’t be for much longer though. This is traditionally the time for cutting back, tidying and preparing for the winter. I have started to watch the overnight temperatures, as at some point soon we will have to protect, or move indoors, our tender specimen plants from the Fern Garden and Tropical Border. We have just received a delivery of hardy and semi-hardy tropical plants which will add even more interest to the beds. Our apple orchard performed very well this year and the crop has just been picked and has gone to make organic apple juice. Pick apples and pears as they ripen, and store them in trays with shredded newspaper, straw or cardboard liners (as used in the greengrocers). For storage the temperature needs to be cool but not frosty. Most homes will be too warm so it’s better to store them in a shed or garage, as long as they are rodent-proof. Windfall or bruised fruit is better used in desserts, jams or wine making. The seasonal jobs are starting to build up. We are expecting our main bulb delivery of around 12000 bulbs which will be planted throughout the grounds and gardens. We are planting more drifts of crocus throughout the gardens and a feature bed of ornamental onions. In addition we have our usual range of tulips, hyacinths and a few more unusual species for the herbaceous border and poison garden. Winter bedding will also be due to go out over the next few weeks. We use a lot of pansy and viola as I find them to be the most reliable in our unpredictable climate. In addition we will use mixes of skimmia, ivy, heathers and bellis. Last year we experimented with winter baskets at the main entrance and stable yard areas to keep a little colour over the duller months. These worked very well so we are going ahead with them again. Jobs for October include, tie in and cutting back of raspberry and loganberry canes if you haven’t already, bulb planting around the garden, apply autumn fertiliser to lawns, lift and divide herbaceous plants and cut back as they die down, stop feeding indoor plants now, tidy up beds, borders and glasshouses and make plans for next year. We are starting to plan our winter projects and as usual there are a few interesting developments in the pipeline. The lower rock close area is coming along nicely and the next stage will be the opening of the new boardwalk and forest trail. This will be followed by the planting up of the Garden of the Seven Sisters. This area should be a great new feature for next spring. Autumn is a wonderful time here in the gardens. Watch out for the trees starting to colour up and come to see our Lime tree avenue, which turns bright gold. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam