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Killruddery Farm shop is now open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am – 5pm.

Stocked with a bounty of fresh Walled Garden produce,  Killruddery orchard eggs, freshly baked bread from the Bakers Table , Lady Meath’s Marmalade, Killruddery jams and chutneys, Killruddery lamb, Rings farm organic chickens, Blackditch Farm free-range bacon, sausages and pudding, Wicklow Farmhouse cheeses, artisan crackers, books, fresh herbs, our own Walled Garden flowers and more!

Almost mid June, and the garden is fairing ok, and looking reasonable, though our work list seems to grow by the day. At this time of year, it’s always a huge challenge to get round everything we need to focus on, as well as absorb and navigate the usual things like events, staff holidays, the vagaries of our summer weather and of course the seemingly inevitable (and mounting) machinery break downs.

Maintenance is in full swing at this time – there’s a huge amount of weekly work, just to stand still really, other work, maybe needing attention every second week has to be crammed in some place, and it’s really a juggling act trying to get around everything. Between mowing (a little over 20 acres of grass) – much of it mowed twice weekly, weed control (losing the battle here, in places at least), maintaining edges and paths, pest control, hedges, watering and general plant care (all essential regardless of other demands), it can be a tough time of year. The maintenance side of things must be the priority during this period and any time for additional tasks is a welcome bonus.

On a more plant positive note – the weather has been pretty benign so far this summer – no particularly high temperatures yet, and it definitely feels like we’ve had a pretty decent amount of rain – I got a surly seeming text yesterday along the lines of ‘pouring rain, well… at least you’ll be happy…’ and they were right I suppose – I hope never again to see the conditions (and more so the impact on the garden) we experienced last summer, and statistically speaking, there’s little chance I will, but we do live in strange, changing and challenging times.

One area where I’m really seeing the benefit of the reasonable rainfall levels of recent weeks is where we’ve carried out remedial work on some of our old hedges, especially around the angles – visitors can look at the areas we’ve lowered and see the level of healthy re growth and new shoots for themselves. If a very hot dry summer followed work of this kind – which should be completed in winter time, recovery and regeneration would not be strong, and on some occasions – with very old and in some cases fragile specimens as is the situation here , their survival may be threatened.

Our under restoration for years at this stage Irish Yew are really gaining from our weather so far. I cut them pretty hard this year, somewhat more than I would have been planning, though you really never know until you are in front of the plant and working on it, but the regrowth and re shooting is really strong. That lovely lime green fresh foliage is easily visible on the trees – onwards and upwards for those. I felt it noticeable that they didn’t put on a particularly impressive amount of growth last year, I certainly don’t recall seeing the kind of growth currently visible. Our grass also is maintaining the kind of green that was all too absent over the course of last year. Combined with our continued use of seaweed concentrate as a lawn feed, and generally strong growth,our many acres of lawn are looking something approaching how they should – we just have to keep up the maintenance…

On the subject of lawn mowing, some of the keener eyed among our regular visitors may have noticed a bit of a change in some of our mowing regimes. Killruddery is of course first and foremost a formal garden and as such, we aim for a high standard of neat, mowing, complete where possible, with stripes in the lawns. The stripes are produced when the roller on the rear of the mower, following cutting, flattens the grass in a particular direction and has generally been dictated by the position of key features of the garden – ponds, rock, house etc. The mowing in alternate directions causes the grass to flatten at opposite angles, showing as dark or light stripes. Over time, when a mowing regime is unchanged – ie the areas where machinery travels/ the route taken when mowing, you will get what we call ‘tramlines’ and to a degree, the grass will grow in such a way as to try and avoid being cut. In part late last year, and much more extensively this year, we’ve changed entirely our mowing systems. I maintain that we tweak and alter work practices a little every year, but its fair to say that this was a bigger change than most, especially as it concerns an area of such labour intensiveness and indeed pressure at times. We are now mowing almost all areas at 45 degree angles, alternating the direction of cut with each mow. It certainly requires a little more concentration and thought…in fact, to use some modern parlance, it requires a certain level of ‘mindfulness’… The results have been outstanding – a much more consistent, smoother, more uniform cut – it’s something we should have done a long time ago.

The optimum time for the majority of seed sowing has now more or less passed, though I’ll keep at it for now, when the opportunity presents. This year, pretty much as always, I have a mixed bag of results – a few very interesting outcomes, some blanks, and lots ‘pending’. Seed sowing is immensely satisfying, particularly where usually difficult subjects are concerned, but even in the case of things that you would anticipate easy, high rates of germination. It’s definitely the case though, that the real excitement comes from things that you have little expectation of success with. There’s usually a few surprises along the way.

Planting around the garden has mostly been confined to the car park area – probably the last large amount of planting to take place here, and happened a little later than I would have preferred. I delayed things for a variety of reasons, including a hope that with certain material, I might see a bit more in terms of root production. Alas, it didn’t really happen, and the delay means things are slightly behind here – though it’ll soon catch up, and that we’ll have to watch that little bit more closely for watering if we have a prolonged warm, dry spell. This last area is a little like the area planted last year (as you approach the ticket office) in that it’s open, exposed and tends to get sun. It’s very early days for this planting, though I’d have to say it looks puny enough compared with the adjacent area,which really took off. It’s likely the case that as always, there will be a few failures, a few replacements, and some changes along the way.

So, all in all, busy times here in Killruddery. Soon, school holidays will be in full swing, and many of our regulars will I hope enjoy some long, lazy and fun days in Killruddery. There’s various exciting events planned, the ever popular Farmers market continues each Saturday. In the garden, our list, like the weeds and grass continues to grow…it seems at times to have a life all of it’s own…a guy could certainly get a little flustered…

Luckily for me, there’s some ‘mindful mowing’ on the schedule this afternoon…

Daragh Farren – June 2019

Spring is an exciting and busy time in Killruddery. Lots of planning underway in the various departments, events for the year ahead being organised and finalised and above all, preparations for our opening for the new season. We were fortunate enough with our Winter weather, experiencing few extremes of any kind, and although cumulatively over the weeks and months we’ve had a fair degree of wind, we’ve had little in the way of especially high or damaging gales. Quite a contrast to the first few months of last year, and frankly, it’s hard to argue with the view that we were due a lucky break.

We’ve had a few really good months in the garden since we closed last Autumn, and in fact probably achieved more than I thought we might. A lot of our Autumn and Winter programme may seem a little mundane to many, but it really is an enormously important time for us. We have all the usual maintenance related tasks to get through – pruning, mulching, re edging, an occasional mow here and there, and the general upkeep tasks that are ever present.

However, as vital as these things are – and they truly are, Autumn and Winter offers us an opportunity to spend some time tending to project type work, or remedial work on various aspects of the garden. Killruddery is of course a beautiful, old heritage garden, packed with history and also populated by a fair number of old plants. Occasional remedial work is fundamental to these kinds of plants and features enduring – an important part of what we do here in the gardens at Killruddery. Over the last few months, we properly began to carry out some of this kind of work on a lot of our hedges – so far we’ve made a start on some of the deciduous specimens in the Angles – (a significant feature of the 17th century design of the garden) by, in a nutshell, reducing their height. This must be carried out with care – each cut matters, and with some delicate plant material within, there is a considerable degree of finesse required. The process went really well, and already I feel I can see a response from what’s been completed so far. We won’t return to this task before December next, and in the meantime will carry out some monitoring and gentle feeding in the area.

The on going saga of the Florence Yews – (the 8 ageing specimens flanking the path from above the ticket office, to the Orangery) is entering year 5. At time of writing, I have completed this years work on 6 of the 8. On examination, I ended up removing quite a bit more material than I would have anticipated – testament to the progress of these specimens moving in an encouraging direction. There’s plenty of new growth on the interior of the plants, and of course more needs to be coaxed, while also removing heavier stems toward the outside of the specimens, all the while trying to as best as possible, retain the general shape of the trees. I’m pleased enough with the overall trajectory. The trees were in appalling condition when the work began, and while the individuals prospects vary, the improvement are huge. 

Maybe more noticeable to regular visitors, will be the work carried out in the Western Wilderness. This is the area of woodland below the long ponds, and is another of the old surviving features of the Baroque design of the garden. The idea, back in the day, was to create a grid pattern or formation with Lime trees. The pattern is very visible in many areas, though there are lots of empty spaces, and lots of very sizeable interlopers that have arrived over the years, decades, centuries… We realised last year, that we’d turned our backs for a little too long here… the area had received very little attention, allowing a colonisation of things like briar, ivy, laurel etc. in areas that had been under slightly better control, and a general accumulation of dead wood and debris. The work completed here is just a drop in the ocean of what we’d like to do, but in the limited window we’ve had, very good progress has been achieved – opening up the area somewhat, some key removals of individual specimens, and about 35 or so young Limes planted to try and begin the task of replacing some of the long gone originals. We hope to spend more time here over the coming year.

One of the things I personally look forward to each year is seed sowing during Spring. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to acquire some interesting seed types each year, due to one or two memberships of associations/ organisations. Just like most people who have an interest in plants, I have a hankering to try unusual subjects. It’s been a slow start this year, but I’m hoping to get into it properly over the next week or two. Again, small adjustments in various practices will likely be implemented – always chasing awinning formula, and always with some exciting results, and no doubt afew disappointments. I’m increasing my use of grit this year, particularly on the surface of seed trays. I’m hoping as a result to slightly reduce watering and weed growth, and have less disruption especially to small seeds during watering. Large seeds will get a sprinkling of grit after sowing, while small ones will be sown onto a gritty surface, and watered in, helping the seeds to ‘settle’. That’s my main seed sowing tweak this year…we’ll see how it goes.

We have some planting to complete soon – mostly around the car park, but also a few pockets around the garden. Most of the material we’ll use is in the nursery already, but in a few cases I’d like to see a little more root growth before we plant, but I think it will go ahead shortly. We also lost some small areas of planting last Summer, nothing major, but various replacements will be required here and there.

It’s also my intention that we’ll continue our increased use of seaweed as a lawn feed this year. We upped it last year, despite the lengthy period where grass growth stopped, and I feel it was really beneficial. Feeding, mowing, weed control and maintenance in general will ramp up over the next very short while – work that’s so important to the presentation of the garden for our daily visitors, and the many events over the season.

There have been other successes too and other works will hopefully go ahead, and in fact, looking around the garden, it’s hard to imagine it’s the same place that was burnt, bronzed and desiccated during much of last Summer. As always we’ll alter and adjust some of our practices, continually seeking better outcomes and an efficient use of time.

Some things are always a feature of this time of year, regardless of how well or otherwise the preceding few months have gone, something universal for anyone interested in plants and gardens – hope, optimism, expectation, even excitement – not bad components to your work day by any measure.

Daragh Farren

Head Gardener

 

Choose from 4 or 5 fun-filled days at either The Fruit Room or The Horse Stables studio, both located in the heart of the Killruddery. Children will draw inspiration from their natural surroundings such as the live farmyard animals, astounding trees, flowers and vegetable gardens. The camp will cover a wide variety of media, including painting, print, collage and clay workshops.

Summer 2019 Dates:

1-5 July (5 day camp)
8-12 July (5 day camp)
22-26 July (5 day camp)
29 July – 2 August (5 day camp)
6-9 August (4 day camp)
12-16 August (5 day camp)

10am-2pm each day
Open to ages 4-10

Prices:

4 Day Camps: €99 (or €110 for non Killruddery members)
€30 deposit will secure your place

5 Day Camps: €120 (or €135 for non Killruddery members)
€40 deposit will secure your place

T-shirt included for all camp attendees. 10% discount for second and subsequent siblings. Deposit required to secure place in camp. Balance is payable on first day of camp. Killruddery members are kindly requested to show member ID on payment.

BOOK HERE

www.meandthemoon.ie
@meandthemoonworkshops


01 202 1522 / 086 406 2690
www.meandthemoon.ie
facebook  /  instagram   /  twitter

 

·Fun,outdoor adventure camps for 7-12 year olds

·From Monday 15th to Friday 19th April 2019 in Killruddery

·Activities include Bushcraft Outdoor Survival Skills, Archery, Scavenger Hunt, Night Line, Nature Hike, Low Ropes, Treasure Trail, Team Building Tasks and HELL & BACK Experience.

·Cost = €160 per child with family discounts available

·Secure your place now with a €20 deposit – the balance isn’t due until 2 weeks before the camp starts

* New for 2019 * Early Drop Off / Late Collection service, enabling you to drop the kids off at 08:30 and collect them at 17:30. Cost = €25 per child.

Click for more information and to register

For more information, call Alive Outside on 01 2147355 or email info@aliveoutside.ie

Thursday the 11th of April at The Grain Store, Killruddery House & Gardens, Bray, Co. Wicklow

10.30am – 1pm

Free Entrance to the sale and car parking

Tea & Coffee €2.50

Killruddery Gardens open – €5 entry fee all proceeds to SSAFA

White Elephant, Plants, Raffle, Delicatessen, Cakes, Wood turning,

Jewellery, Tombola, Country Produce, Clothes, Books

(By kind permission of the Earl & Countess of Meath and Lord & Lady Ardee)

Head Gardeners Diary – Winter 2018

As 2018 nears it’s end, it’s been a year to remember. Every year is different in many jobs I suppose, but in Killruddery, each year most definitely has it’s ‘quirks’ and I think I could say nowhere more so than in the gardens. I recall as a student in the Botanic Gardens, joking with others about the monotony of some jobs – same thing for 12 months of every year, and the ‘boredom’ of a horticultural environment – continuously changing monotony 12 months of the year… No boredom here of course – (if only we had the time), but certainly constant evolution. The influences of work projects, weather, visitor events and so many other factors constantly conspire to create an ever changing set of routines and practices, ebbs and flows. For sure, 2018 has held it’s share of such times – and in hindsight, as trying as things were at certain points – crazy weather of every kind, busy events taking a huge toll on a stressed garden etc. etc., we can definitely say we’ve learned a lot, juggled, sifted and altered where needed many of our practices and priorities. And, as weary as at times we felt, the latter part of December sees the garden looking pretty much as well as I’ve seen it at this time of year. Very often, things can look really tired – I’m referring to the garden rather than staff, though true for both… The colour can be lacking, there is often an accumulation of scars and injuries evident, and things can look somewhat anemic for want of a better description.

This year, we had really good Autumn colour. Low temperatures in Autumn can be good for leaf colour (though will hurry leaf drop), but we didn’t really see many. However, the hot Summer temperatures led to a greater production of the various sugars etc. that conspire to produce the yellows, reds and oranges that will make for a dazzling Autumn display. This, coupled with a mostly calm, not very windy Autumn meant that things were very beautiful round Killruddery for a long period leading toward Winter. Heading into Winter, the ground was in reasonable condition, aiding our work and efficiency about the garden, allowing good progress. But, I think what I notice more than anything, is the colour of the lawns around the garden. Here in Killruddery, we have a large amount of grass – well in excess of 20 acres. Any visitor can appreciate the views and openness of some parts of the garden – the grass is the foil for all and therefore of great importance. This year, more than any I can remember, our December grass is an exquisite shade of green. Amazing, considering a few months ago it was copper brown and desiccated. There are quite a few areas where that damage persists, but overall the look is one of health, vigor and lushness. This year, we increased our use of seaweed feeds dramatically – a gentle, benign way to feed the ground – though very time heavy compared with granular type feeds as repeated applications are needed. The Autumn and Winter conditions have not been harsh, but it seems to me, that the increased use of Seaweed has provided great and enduring benefits.

Of course, speaking of Autumn colour, we don’t gaze into the tree canopies quite as much as maybe we should, our focus tending to be more on ground level for most of the day. The biggest single job we’ve worked on since closing for the season is the next and final area of the car park. Last March, we planted the area closest to the ticket office, and the area under preparation now is likely to complete 5 or so years of development work around the car parks.

We had a couple of options here, in terms of our approach to this work. During 2017 we fully re shaped and re landscaped here, in preparation for planting the Box hedge bordering the path, and the planting of the area opposite. At the time it was pretty tough work, and despite the amount of masonry type debris contained within the soil, we were reluctant to alter the levels too much although needing to address the fertility and general hospitality of the soil as far as any future planting maybe concerned. We ruled out the addition of topsoil – it would complicate matters, and decided instead to dig out and remove the debris by hand, with the intention of then adding organic material. I will admit, there were occasions I felt my ears burn – it really was tough work…huge amounts of material removed, loaded and trailered away. But, it got done, testament to the dedication, grit and brawn of some of the crew here. Subsequently, the addition of organic material, a large enough job in itself, seemed pretty easy, and was completed relatively uneventfully. Now, with some finishing touches in the area, and a few final tweaks and we should be ready to plant in Spring.

We managed also to address a range of other small but important jobs that had been on ‘the list’ for awhile. Little things like the removal of a couple of failing trees, including a pair of the Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ on Elizabeth’s walk. We’re unsure what caused these specimens to die – it occurred slowly but very apparently over the course of a couple of years, the trees gradually but noticeably weakening – fewer and smaller leaves being unmistakable signs of great stress. Sourcing the plants took a little while, but we have 2 replacements in situ now – very wee by comparison to their neighbours but of course laden with potential.

 

 

Paulownia pollarded mid AprilAnother gradually weakening specimen was the Foxglove tree – Paulownia tomentosa in the angles. In all my many years here, this tree has been weak and stunted, holding and accumulating much dead wood and showing obvious signs of stress and die back. We finally removed it a few weeks back,and will replace like for like. The replacement is in the nursery, picked out from a batch of 3 year old or so trees, grown on site from seed. Hopefully it will prosper… One of the best approaches to Paulownia is to cut very hard in Spring, which sees the tree respond extremely vigorously, making huge growth in the year following and leads to the production of truly massive foliage. I would advise not doing this in the first year after planting, but favour this approach from year 2. The effect is spectacular.

Paulowina Autumn following pollard

 

We have some ambitious and varied plans for our time after Christmas, including our usual maintenance related undertakings such as pruning, mulching, a small bit of bare root planting etc., as well as some bits of project type work – the slow slow task of lowering some of the several kilometers of hedges in the garden will continue, while we also have a considerable list to get through in the Western Wilderness – an area that has certainly fallen off our radar a little over the last few years. There has been a general accumulation of deadwood and related debris, while the once under (reasonable) control colonies of laurel and briars have really taken off and prospered while our focus was elsewhere…proof positive that if you turn your back for a year or three, mother nature will quickly take advantage and remind you who’s boss.

So, in conclusion, it’s been a fast year, then I suppose they all are. Looking back, certainly it had it’s ups and downs as will always be the case, however, we end the year with the garden looking pretty sharp, a full schedule for January onward, and a batch of hopes and plans for the very short few weeks before we open again later in Spring…

Boredom….monotony….tedium…not a chance…

A sincere thanks to all our visitors, partners and customers for 2018, wishing all a Happy and peaceful Christmas and a great new year from the Garden Department.

Daragh Farren

Head Gardener