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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


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.


01 202 1522 / 086 406 2690
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·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

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

Roisin Pierce


Róisín Pierce is an Irish textile designer who graduated from the National College of Art and Design (Dublin, Ireland) with a BA Hons in Textile design in 2016. Led by experimental textiles and sculptural forms, Róisín explores fabric manipulation using her own method of manipulating the material to create different layered textures by combining innovative 3D fabric manipulation and traditional textile techniques. Her latest S/S18 collection is a continuing exploration of textiles, construction and sculptural silhouettes for a contemporary audience.

For me, and for the gardens at Killruddery, the weather during 2018 and more particularly it’s resultant effects has been most extraordinary. We began the year in a reasonably benign fashion (bar a storm or two), but by late Winter as we all recall we were experiencing some very challenging conditions. Come Spring – a very late one this year, and cool too, we were seeing massive fluctuations in day and night time temperatures, bringing particular problems to the nursery side of our activities. But, surprisingly, the greatest difficulties were probably brought about by the very warm and prolonged dry spell in Summer, causing firstly a halt in growth, followed by scorched, hardened ground, cracks appearing in our clay soil, lawn margins shrinking back from kerbs…the list goes on.

Of course we watered, though in a very targeted fashion. Despite the obvious lack of growth around the gardens – (for example Box hedging here is always clipped twice yearly, sometimes getting a third clipping, this year it was clipped once), and the equally obvious stress on plants generally, we seem to have lost very little, although there are pockets of dead plants here and there. One of the more positive and interesting observations is the new planting (completed around March) near the ticket office, which fared surprisingly well. This area was planted with a good many species tolerant of the open, sunny site we had, and true to type, needed little watering, especially for newly planted material. Roses certainly enjoyed the heat and the dryness, little evidence of some of the usual fungal attacks and good rates of flowering in general. Of course, any watering we did do, was against the backdrop of our reservoir here in Killruddery dropping daily…another cause for concern. Thankfully, now around mid September, we’ve had some rain (not enough…) and things are greener, the pull on water supplies a little less, and I suppose we’ve ‘weathered the storm’ if I may use that phrase. However, for me, it’s something of a lost year in many respects, with growth having been so poor. Also, it saddened me to see the gardens burnt up and browned, looking so far from their best. Every cloud though, has it’s silver lining…it was pointed put to me, that the blue of the Geranium ‘Rozanne’ – flowering away as always, contrasted beautifully with the brown of the grass…

Another positive has to be the early signs from our initial forays into reducing the heights of some of our hedges. This is something that will take several years to complete across the various areas. The purpose of carrying out this work is to encourage some lower growth on some of the very old plants, and to reduce the weight in their upper regions – this reduces vulnerability to wind damage, increases light to lower parts of plants, and hopefully eases or simplifies a punishing maintenance schedule. Our window in which to work on these type of jobs is limited, through consideration to good practice, as well as pressure of other work, be it maintenance or development. It was the intention to make a more significant start on all this last Winter, however due to external factors,we were able to allocate only the briefest of openings, particularly in terms of the deciduous specimens. We did manage to complete one row of Carpinus in the angles – very old plants, some in poor condition. Considering the state of some of the individual specimens, the manner in which the response has occurred is most heartening. Also completed were one side of the Yew hedge bordering the Angles and Elizabeth’s walk. This too is looking pretty good. There would have been much more regrowth but for the very dry summer, and in the medium to long term I feel confident this rejuvenation will be a success. There’s at least 2 or 3 more stages in this hedge, to be completed over 2 or 3 years. Completing jobs of this kind in stages not only makes them more manageable in terms of a work programme, but very importantly, spreads the ‘shock’ on the plants, allowing a degree of recovery before the next onslaught…

Best response of all has come from the Viburnum tinus hedge, bordering the water stops. A funny ol’ hedge…some of the plants within are growing out of the low stone wall here, and a lot of gaps and variable growth throughout. We took a couple of feet off the height, and removed a small amount of lateral growth on the outside of the hedge, provoking a really positive response. The ideal here, (only with a strong, vigorous specimen) would have been to cut the hedge down far harder, even to a foot or two from ground level. This method, timed correctly would ensure a strong, uniform response, however, in our case, we needed to maintain the cover and structure provided by the hedge. Every hedge is different, and at times, a cautious approach is best. Generally speaking though, deciduous specimens should be tackled in Winter (when dormant), evergreens in Spring when coming into growth. In the case of evergreens, feed in advance, watch for watering, and remember to do in stages. In most cases, best advice is to remove the top first, getting light and air to the centre of the specimens in question, tackling the sides in subsequent years.

Right now, it’s seed harvesting season, running roughly from late summer to early Winter, depending on species. With some plants, collecting the seed is very straightforward. Timing is an issue – too early and you’ll get unripe seed, too late and you may find it’s been dispersed already. A good example, that many will relate to is the poppy. We’ve all seen the brown, dried up seed heads, almost like little drumsticks. Shake them and you’ll hear the seed rattle around – this is ready and very simply harvested. Any harvested seed should be cleaned and stored in paper bags or envelopes, ahead of sowing. Making sure it’s well dried before cleaning – I then use sieves, tweezers, the tip of a knife etc. to remove any bits of leaf, seed pod or general debris. This is best done before storing, as any foreign material present may encourage mouldy conditions, thus compromising the viability of the seed. Remember to label seed when collecting.

Also in the Nursery, we’re approaching the end of our time for taking cuttings. Most of the propagation by cuttings that we carry out is done from mid summer, to late summer/ early autumn. I’ve always enjoyed all forms of propagation, generally planning ahead with a couple of years in mind, depending on where in the garden may need some freshening up, or of course a quick cover up of a previous failure… There’s always a bit of time for some experimentation regarding propagation attempts…and the occasional indulgence. Sometimes too, a particular plant that you previously paid little attention to might resonate with you, and prompt a desire to produce afew additional clones. This year, exactly this happened for me with 3 different Philadelphus shrubs, planted many years ago, in a very tucked away spot and somewhat neglected in recent times. They flowered beautifully, and so, I returned to them to collect cuttings. Unfortunately, due to the previously mentioned neglect these specimens had suffered, there was no usuable material at all – the best cutting material is derived from younger shoots and stems with energy and vigour. As a compromise, I’ll take seed instead, and prune the plants pretty hard to encourage a pro

liferation of growth, hopefully usable in 12 months or so as cuttings….again planning ahead…

Soon enough, we’ll be bulb planting. Garden centres, and I suppose some supermarkets are now stocking all the usual suspects. I’ve yet to place my order, buy I’ll have to keep it a little smaller this year, as pressure of work for the coming period is already making time noticeably tighter. I’ll stay with my – some classy (never gaudy!) daffodills, some Allium, and maybe a couple of others…it’s always hard to resist more Erythronium or Cyclamen.

Of course, sitting here this morning, lots of wind outside right now, it’s impossible to overlook one of the more mundane, and repetitive of annual tasks. Leaf collection can be a nice burst of physical activity, or it can be the greatest nuisance…I suppose it’s a matter of outlook. I would reiterate the usefulness of leaves in terms of composting – they are of course excellent in the compost heap, and are one of the very few materials that can on their own make great compost, without any other constituents. Also remember to avoid the danger of damp leaves piling up on paved areas – a definite slip hazard.

In fact, speaking hazards, as I complete this entry, I see various items flying past the office window…a tree has come down in the nursery, crushing a large number of pots and plants grown for a specific area…our plans for today are in tatters, similar to the tear in the roof of the tunnel, flapping loudly in the breeze….

Oh well… at least things are never too predictable here at Killruddery…

Daragh Farren

Head Gardener

September 2018