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Right now, Summer feels like a long time ago. For me, it passed in a blur, as it does most years, but this year, very definitely it feels as though it really flew by. We were of course pretty busy here in the Garden Department, but I think coped reasonably well with the demands of high season.

We had the usual incidents of a machine breaking down from time to time, occasional flurries of unseasonal weather, the scheduling of various events to navigate, but I feel this year, we had our work running fairly smoothly.
Summer is of course largely about maintenance, keeping lawn areas mowed and clipped, edges looking sharp, watching for watering, keeping on top of weed and pest control, ensuring nice crisp hedges and numerous other weekly/ bi weekly tasks. In summer, apart from at the very peak of maintenance time, you attempt to find little bits of time for non routine work, a pocket of planting here of there, a little bit of regeneration or freshening up in someplace or other…
I would be tentative enough about doing much planting during the summer months – anything planted at this time needs particularly careful monitoring, and so, planting tends to be minimal enough through summer, and takes place in key, easy to watch areas.

We did however get a couple of pockets of Meconopsis (M.grandis, M.betonicifolia) planted in early summer, as well as squeezing a small number randomly through some things like hostas, hellebores etc, allowing them to peep through foliage, producing their superbly striking blues. A few bit and pieces went in along the Venus walk too, woodland perennials mostly.
Like any garden, we have some problem spots where we’ve struggled to establish planting, and I dare say we have more than most. One such area is located above the old pump for the Rock, behind a large Rhododendron. It’s a bit dry, pretty shady, not especially large, but is in it’s own way a high profile spot, passed by many visitors. We have now planted this area with Strobilanthes, a sub shrub native to Asia. Not a particularly showy plant, but possessing of a certain charm, producing it’s slightly salvia like purple flowers late in the season. I’ve found it to be an adaptable plant, easily propagated by cuttings and asking little in terms of maintenance. I hope it will survive here… I feel somewhat hopeful, but time will tell.

At time of writing, the first of the Autumn colours have well and truly begun. A nice day in Autumn can really show the beauty of this time of year, and, when they fall all those leaves are of course of great value to your compost heap. Autumn of 2016 was a particular spectacle – we had some low temperatures, which really activated the pigments involved in producing good autumn foliage, and many dry, bright days, without many high winds, all of which conspired to allow a lasting, and very beautiful display.


Autumn foliage colour is a very variable thing. Sometimes, a plant that is known for it’s autumn foliage, may not produce the display you would hope for. Climactic conditions (as mentioned above) and in particular high rainfall, and environmental factors can be at play – for example higher nitrogen or high rainfall levels may inhibit pigment production, good sunlight will help produce vibrant colour. In fact, it’s speculated by some, that climate change will lead to much more spectacular autumn colour in a climate like ours – warmer, drier summers leading to greater sugar levels, leading to enhanced colour. Of course, the counter speculation is that this may be to an extent offset by milder, damper winters…

Genetic factors can enter the equation also. For example a group of plants raised from seed will have variation within their number. Some members will quite simply show over a period of years, that they produce superior colour to some of their ‘siblings’. Of course, knowing that sexual plant production – (seed), produces variation, and vegetative propagation (using a piece of a plant – cutting, division etc.) produces an identical clone to the parent plant, one should select the best performing subjects within a group, and if possible, use perhaps cuttings to raise new material.

We of course, hope for a beautiful autumnal display, while waiting with rakes, blowers, collectors to gather as many leaves as we can for composting. Leaves are one of the very few materials that will produce a really good end product without the addition of any other ingredient. A mass of only grass clippings becomes a sodden, smelly mess, toxic too. A mass of only leaves will produce a dark, friable, healthy compost. It’s also advisable to collect leaves for reasons of plant/garden husbandry – a wet, thick mat of leaves spending weeks on a lawn may kill and will certainly weaken grass, while excessive amounts of leaves entering a pond for example, may lead to a build up of decomposing organic material, promoting an unhealthy environment for plants and fish. Paths too will be more likely to become treacherous underfoot if a layer of soggy leaves adheres to the surface, particularly in the case of paving slabs or concrete.

Our bulb planting will as usual take place over the autumn period. I always buy through an Irish supplier, a wide array being easily available each year. I always feel that with the really reliable spring bulbs – there’s nothing more reliable than a daffodil…you will get some of the best value for money you can spend on your garden. Daffodils are virtually impossible to fail with…ok, so they could rot if damaged pre planting, or if they’re in an overly damp area, but by and large, they have an enviably low failure rate. Some of the lesser known bulbs you might see in a catalogue will have much more exacting requirements, and may not be for the out and out novice, but the trusty daffodil is always a good bet. I personally tend to favour ones that are a little more muted than some, leaning toward varieties with paler colouring or perhaps an elongated trumpet and more interesting structure. There are some really good multi headed options available too, and a range of flowering times and stem heights – these are the kind of considerations you might allow for when making your choices. Many bulbs will bulk up pretty quickly, producing little offsets or babies after a couple of years in the ground. Depending on bulb type and variety, the length of time till flowering size maybe achieved varies quite a bit from perhaps 2 or 3 years, to maybe 6 or 7. Best practice is to, perhaps every 3 or so years, dig up and divide your clumps, replanting without delay – maybe the simplest bit of plant propagation any of us could do. Do this after flowering has finished, or before bulb growth begins – i.e. by late summer/early autumn.

Other reliable spring bulbs that may well feature in my soon to be placed order are things like Cyclamen – very beautiful, pretty tough, and depending on species choice lots of different flowering times, Erythronium – look this one up, they’re fairly reliable and are excellent in a woodland type setting, Fritillaria – I’ll probably go for some F. meleagris but may also treat myself to some of the larger (and sometimes a little pricey) F. imperialis. I probably won’t be able to resist some Eranthis hymalis while I’m at it…the winter aconite will vie with the better known snowdrop as first flower of the new year.

Our Autumn work will also include some of the usual turf care operations, and vital tasks such as mulching. Already we’ve been highlighting some of our many specimen trees, particularly in the angles, by making more generous circles in the turf beneath – in a nutshell, removing the turf close to the trunk. This is something that really shows the tree off beautifully, but in addition, is advisable in order to avoid damage when mowing and to aid establishment and continued health, reducing competition for available nutrient and water, much of which will be absorbed by grass growing close to the base of an immature tree. Mulching is then more effective, and should be applied roughly equal to the spread of the outside of the canopy. Avoid piling organic matter against the base of the trunk – this can encourage disease and sometimes suckering.

Within a couple of days, as I write, we will close for weekdays, leaving just the weekends in October. It’s been a good open season for the garden, and on behalf of my staff – Ken, David and Vincent, and I, we’d like to thank you for visiting and hope you enjoyed your time here. Each year we try to improve the garden, getting it more right on some occasions than others, but always in the hope that our visitors, regular and otherwise get a little pleasure, peace or whatever they need on a particular day or visit, and hopefully leaving each time with a little more of an appreciation of what makes Killruddery the special place it is.

Daragh Farren – September 2017

The House and Gardens are open Saturdays and Sundays in October. The Gardens are open from 9.30am to 6pm, with last entrance at 5pm. House Tours are available at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm each Saturday except for the 1st and the 8th of October.

The Estate walks remain open to Killruddery Members Only on weekdays and weekends.

The Tea Room is open on Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am to 5.30pm.

The Farm Market is every Saturday from 10am to 3pm.

Thank you.

During September we are open daily house for tours at 1pm, & 3pm, with the exception of; Wednesday 6th, Thursday 7th, Friday 8th, Friday 15th, Wednesday 20th, Friday 22nd, and Friday 29th. The House is closed on these days. The Gardens are open as normal.

Thank you for your understanding and our apologies for any inconvenience caused.




We are all looking forward to Groove Festival this weekend. It’s going to be tremendous fun. It does also mean that there will be some disruption to life at Killruddery for the next week or so.

Monday 14th – Thursday 17th

House tours are  at the usual times of 1, 2 & 3pm, but will begin at the Orangery. There is no access to the forecourt this week, and there will be other disruption to access to parts of the Garden throughout the week. We and the Groove team do our best to minimise the disruption but some is unavoidable.

Visitors attending Off the Ground’s Around the World in 80 days on Thursday evening will have the usual access to the Sylvan Theatre and Gardens. Please be aware that the Tea Room will not be open for this performance.

Friday 18th

The House and Gardens are closed. Members can still access the Walled Garden and walk on the Estate.

Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th

Groove Festival!! Those attending the festival can find out more by scrolling down here.

The House, Gardens and Estate are all closed to the public and Killruddery Members for the weekend. There is only access to Killruddery for Festival goers.

Monday 21st

We will be back open as normal, but with some disruption for breakdown. House Tours will begin at the Orangery door. Our heritage week addition will begin on Tuesday. Normal entrance will apply.

During August we are daily house for tours at 1pm, 2pm & 3pm.

To book a private tour or group tour of the house please contact us.

There will be no house tours on Wednesday 9th of August, Saturday 19th, Sunday 20th, and Friday 1st of September.

On Sunday 6th August are house tours at 1pm and 2pm. The tour at 3pm is unvailable due to the performance of Yeats’ Women in the Orangery.

House Tours in July


There will be no house tours on

On Sunday 16th of July there are house tours at 1pm and 2pm. The tour at 3pm is cancelled.

Saturday 8th and Sunday 30th July. There are no house tours on Fridays.

Thank you for your understanding.


Usually, in the production of this seasonal blog, we aim to provide a small insight into some of the work carried out here in the gardens at Killruddery – the (sometimes mundane) aspects of regular maintenance, the less usual development or rejuvenation works that are carried out, perhaps new planting completed, some of the techniques we employ, and of course the complications we may encounter.  

 For the visitor to Killruddery, be they first timers from far away, unlikely to return for some time, or some of our very regular and familiar faces, it must be difficult to imagine what a place you enjoy during your leisure time is like as a workplace.

In an effort to give some small approximate idea of the kind of day to day occurrences that might crop up, this entry will hope to bring some light to what a particular day in my own role may entail.

What time do you start/finish your day?

We begin work, year round at 7.30, our finishing time is either 3.30 or 6.30 depending on the day.  There is no such thing as a typical day.  Of course we have peak times, obvious to most, but we never have quiet times, and never have anything other than a long list of jobs to do.  It’s true to say that some of the items that feature on this list are a little aspirational on my part, and some items can take literally years to get to.  A big part of my job, and one of the most crucial aspects of this department – there are 4 of us in total, is quite simply, being organised.  In essence, this is of course very simple, and if we manage it well, it mostly is…

What is the closest to a typical day that you can describe?

I would have a clear idea of what work I would want us to achieve over any period of a few weeks at a time.  For some parts of the year, a lot of time is spent on weekly or bi weekly maintenance, all the fairly routine stuff.  In many ways, as long as nothing unforeseen crops up (unforeseen things crop up all the time….pretty much every week…) this is work that we’re all well used to and familiar with and will progress without many difficulties.  The remaining time in any given period, and whether or not we can be clever and creative about how we complete our routine tasks, decides what additional works maybe possible.  And so, being organised, looking for efficiencies, and generally using our time well, and honing or altering our work practices – we do that to some degree every year, is  hugely important.  The first few minutes of every day, is spent organising and discussing amongst ourselves the general shape of the day, and what needs to happen.  Everyone has input….but, as I often say, this garden is not a democracy…

There is a lot of checking and monitoring too.  Recent plantings require regular scrutiny – look for signs of pest or disease, physical damage, and whether watering is required.  Other than with newly planted material (first year or so) we try to avoid watering.  We’ve got a fair bit of relatively recent additions about the gardens just now – the car park area of course, Thirty 1 metre or so Bay plants added at the Sylvan Theatre, some Primula, oddments in the Rockwood, Elizabeth’s walk and even a new tree or two.  The early months are crucial to plants that you hope will have a long life in the gardens, and if the correct plant choices have been made, contribute as best they can.  

What plants are your favourites?

While I’m up in the Rockwood, I won’t miss a chance to wander in the direction of some of my own favourites – Mysotidium hortensia, Dodocatheon media, some of the Primula, and a couple of young Magnolias, putting on their first reasonable show of flowers this year – Magnolias will often take a few years to flower well. I’m personally fond of and proud of the Rockwood, as it represents the largest area of new development in the garden in many years, really the only entirely new area added in generations.  It went from an area of heavy over growth to a reasonable and sizeable woodland garden over the course of a few years, and still is tweaked a little each year.

Another couple of favourites to check in with on my way back to the walled garden would certainly include the recently planted Meconopsis grandis and M. villosareferred to commonly to Himalayan poppies.  This group of plants, not true poppies, have a reputation for being tough to grow, requiring careful citing, and are difficult to produce in the nursery.  We seem (I’m happy to say) to have cracked it over the last couple of years after many many attempts I have a good number of different species and cultivars in the nursery awaiting homes around the garden, and more seedlings germinated this year.  It’s sometimes challenging to arrive at a decision as to where particular plants might end up, but for sure I’ll look to get more Meconopsis planted in the near future. While I’m at this spot, I’ll say a quick hello to another favourite, Polygonatum verticiliatum, a subtle plant, with a relaxed feel – this is most certainly a plant I intend to acquire in greater numbers, and plant in more locations.  I think it’s a beauty, a real plant lovers plant, though, these things are entirely subjective I suppose…

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Nursery work and plant production is one of my favourite parts of my job, something I’ve always loved.  This year, I’ve decided to begin growing some shrubs and maybe trees in the nursery to larger sizes.  Although plants will generally establish more readily when young, there’s a need sometimes to have larger specimens to hand.  With our increased footfall, establishing or rejuvenating areas of planting has potentially one or two added complications.  Because of this slightly different approach, I’m in the process of potting selected specimens on, and altering very slightly some aspects of the layout of the nursery.  We’ve also had another great year of seed sowing, and so right now I’m feeling pressure of something of a back log of nursery work.  When time presents over these weeks, I need to put a lot of effort into this area.  Its always a bit of a juggling act at this time of year, but I hope that later today, and certainly this week will see some time allocated to this.

How about your least favourite?

There’s lots of machinery here in Killruddery…most regular visitors have I’m sure on many occasions had their tranquillity/ peace shattered by some of our many work vehicles intruding in whatever part of the garden they may be enjoying.  Good machinery is obviously essential, particularly considering the scale and kind of garden we have here, and we clearly could not manage without the fairly extensive range of equipment we have on site.  Of course, the drawback is that machinery doesn’t always co operate…occasionally things become moody and erratic…things will break…parts will wear out…occasionally inexplicable events will occur…things an insurance company may describe as an ‘act of God’…  All part and parcel, but dealing with machinery problems is probably the part of my job I like least.  We do well by and large, routine maintenance, careful operation by skilled users, and general care and attention means that we don’t suffer more than our fair share of problems, and it’s an area that we’ve improved on over recent years.  It does happen though, and only a couple of weeks ago two of our most important machines were out of action at the same time  – most unhelpful at this time of year.  This morning though, we had a problem with one of our ride on mowers and when almost reaching the point of giving up, hit upon the necessary adjustment, (involving a solenoid valve and a no.14 spanner).  It’s greatly satisfying to resolve these things without calling in a pro, and we do get the occasional result in this area.  Still though…worst part of this job… 

Alongside the frustration of machinery difficulties, there’s plenty of satisfaction in managing and working in a fine garden such as Killruddery.  Achieving our usual tasks to the correct standard is always gratifying, and to boot, we have the pleasure once in awhile of getting through a project that may have been ‘bubbling’ away for a considerable time.  

What are your future plans for the gardens?

I hope next week, that we will put the finishing touches to the realignment and replanting of the Ribbon garden.  This is a really challenging area, one of the most irritating parts of the garden over a period of years, as I feel to date, I’ve not really got it right.  It’s subject to a lot of foot traffic, severe compaction both of turf and beds has conspired to create tremendous difficulty.  These are ongoing issues, and it will be necessary for us to manage this as best we can, but there were other problems here too.  For years I’ve been looking at the alignment of the beds, urns and granite in this area, the lines all wrong, the layout so askew as to be embarrassing.  All the years spent looking, while simultaneously trying to ignore…  Over the last while, we set about re-cutting all the beds, re aligning the various features, and making widths and positioning of the key aspects consistent and (mostly) correct.  This is now finished, and today we begin digging the area.  Organic material will be incorporated and then our new plants will go in.  We’ll plant formally, using a line to achieve correct positioning.  We have over 200 Geranium ‘Rozanne’ ready to go, enough for everyone who worked on this technically challenging task to sate themselves on the more obviously pleasant concluding component.

How much of a challenge is it to maintain the gardens, particularly with our famous Irish weather?

All jobs have their high and low points I’m sure.  Thankfully more ups than downs in this job.  Challenges are many, pressure a constant, and the drive and desire to achieve our best ever present. Naturally, things like weather bring a variable over which we can hope to have little influence, but we can to a good degree, forward plan.  Correct equipment and sufficient skill throughout our team, ensures that at short notice, having consulted a weather forecast, we can tear up our existing plans, and mobilise to quickly complete particular jobs that perhaps in a couple of hours will be impossible.  There’s always an amount of indoor work, machinery cleaning and maintenance, nursery work etc., and some sheltered areas of the garden where certain work maybe carried out even in especially poor conditions.  Whatever the weather, there are things to be done, and while our wonderful, temperate climate is bound to cause difficulties at times, mostly, good planning and a lengthy ‘wet work’ list allow us to muddle through.

I’m immensely proud of the gardens here at Killruddery, immensely proud of the estate too, and the part that my department and I play.  It really is an honour to be in some way a custodian of these fabulous, and relevant gardens, and to have a role to play in this wonderful piece of heritage and history that is Killruddery. The professionalism of our colleagues outside the garden department is awe inducing, and regularly I see them in action and am reminded of their talent and dedication, in aspects of Killruddery about which I have no skills or knowledge.  They’re inspiring, and frankly its easy to bring your best to this job, whatever that might be.  Due to the more personal nature of this particular blog, I’ll take the opportunity to thank my own 3 close colleagues – Ken, David and Colm. I guide and organise, occasionally grumble and moan, but these 3 guys are the ones on the ground day in day out, the guys that implement my various whims and notions.  They do so with utmost commitment and pride in their work and in ‘their’ garden, and (mostly) in good humour and with minimal griping.  And 3 finer colleagues I could not have.

Daragh Farren – May 2017