Sculptures and Jellyfish
August was a very busy and interesting month for us here in the gardens. We launched this year’s sculpture trail, introduced a new pop-up garden featuring jellyfish, and harvested a bumper apple crop, all while dealing with the extreme drought.
Our sculpture trail is an annual event here, and this year we have 50 unique pieces placed through various areas of the gardens. There are some old favourites and some brand-new additions, some are well hidden and waiting to be discovered so a little exploration often rewards. My particular favourite is the White Bengal Tiger by Nigel Connell Bass. You can find him hunting in the long grass on the riverbanks below the castle. With such a range of styles and artists there is certainly something for everyone and it’s well worth a visit just to view them.
A second new addition is the Jellyfish Fantastic pop-up garden in our Court exhibition room below the castle entrance. The concept was developed jointly by UCC scientist Dr Tom Doyle, award winning botanical artist Shevaun Doherty and myself. The aim of the garden is to ‘take jellyfish out of the sea’ and place them in a very different environment, a garden, where we can compare them with plants and flowers so that the viewer sees them in a different and positive light rather than just fear them. The project is funded by the SFI Discover Programme. The garden is framed by six 2-metre-tall artworks and a kreisel aquarium with live moon jellyfish in it. A jellyfish inspired rock garden is in front of the artwork and aquarium with plants specifically chosen because their shapes, colours and symmetry are similar to jellyfish. Some plants look like seaweeds and other plants are suspended from the roof to mimic jellyfish tentacles. It is proving very popular and is certainly getting people talking.
The apple harvest has been exceptional this year and our cider apple trees have finally started to produce enough fruit to seriously have a go at a proper batch of organic cider. We hope to have our usual juice plus the new cider for sale in the café and shop next year.
The very dry summer has proved a real challenge for us, as we have had to devote a large amount of resources to watering. That said, the gardens have performed well under the stressful conditions, although now the borders are starting to fade in places, and we have to start tidying and cutting back as required. We are also taking cuttings of a lot of our more tender plants as insurance against possible winter losses. A good number of our borderline hardy plants in the tropical border and jungle areas will survive our typical winter but there’s always a risk of a particularly cold snap. There are quite a few plants that we must overwinter in our glasshouses and polytunnels, and I will be watching the weather carefully in the coming weeks as I hate to lift them prematurely but equally can’t take a risk that they will be killed by frost.
It’s the time of year for pruning hedges, mulching beds and general tidying up. In the vegetable garden we have been cutting back our old raspberry and loganberry canes and tying in the new ones for next year’s crop. We have dug up the last of the potatoes. Lifted shallots, garlic and onions and planted out brassicas and leeks. Now is the time to sow spinach, winter lettuce and rocket to take you through to the autumn.
I hope this wonderful weather lasts a few more weeks, but perhaps a little overnight rain would also be very welcome!