Castle notes header as last month page 31 whilst the rain hammers against the windows. It has become a very familiar sound over the last couple of weeks and has certainly taken its toll on the gardens. We always expect rain at this time of year, but the extreme conditions have led to several periods of flooding and resulted in us having to close the gardens on more than one occasion. I believe that these ‘extreme weather events’, are likely to become more common, and we will have to adjust our future plans to suit. Even with all the wet though, the gardens are still holding up, which is a credit to all our excellent staff who go above and beyond to maintain the different areas. Autumn colour is creeping into the arboretums and woodlands around the estate and there are still remnants of late summer colour to be found in the borders. 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 am in the final stages of packing for my upcoming expedition to Vietnam. We are part of a joint expedition between several European gardens. 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. Many of the seeds collected on the expedition will be germinated and grown on in our walled garden. Some have already been planted out from previous trips, and if all goes well these new collections will be added to our own Vietnamese Woodland in the spring, as well as being shared with other gardens throughout Europe. Unfortunately, we are in a race against time with many of these plant 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. 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! I look forward to seeing some of you in the gardens on my return.