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31 AUG

August ends with a hint of Autumn

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As we exit August, I can feel the first hints of autumn in the air. Night temperatures have started to drop and there are the beginnings of colour changes in the arboretums. I hope we still get to see a little sunshine in September.

The borders are starting to fade in places, and we have begun 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 semi-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. We are planning a major tidy of our glasshouses in the autumn, so are in the process of cleaning out and rearranging. I hope to set up a new propagation area in our heated atrium, but a good clean is needed first to ensure potential pests are removed.

Our orchard has had a mixed year. Late frosts caused havoc with some of the blossom, resulting in the complete loss of fruit in some trees. Others have done quite well though, so we still have some fruit. We will be using most of the apples to make our own juice which is very popular in our cafe, but we always keep a little for some in house cider production. Last year we also made cider vinegar which was an interesting project! Most of the trees in our orchard are old Irish heritage varieties and it is very interesting to compare the differences between them. We also have honey from the walled garden. We installed two new hives in the spring and our busy little friends have produced a nice few jars, which are now for sale in our shop. Very exciting times!

It’s not too early to start thinking about bulbs. Bulb planting can be started in the next few weeks. The fresher they are when you plant them, the better they perform. Make a few notes as to where you would like some extra colour in the garden, then select bulbs that suit. Too often bulbs end up as an impulse buy that get stuck in a corner and forgotten about, so don’t forget to label them. We add to our collection every year and this year’s main project is to plant large drifts of narcissus under our Cherry Walk to compliment the spring blossom. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam

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