Head Gardener’s Summer Blog 2019


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