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30 JAN

January's gone!

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I’m always amazed by how fast January goes by. We seem to be barely up to full speed before it’s over and we are into February. Our biggest focus is now preparing for the coming tourist season. This is the time that we get chance to bring in larger machinery and complete construction and maintenance jobs that would be impossible to do during the rest of the year. Recent visitors will have seen a lot of action around the grounds as we renovate paths, put in drains and services and complete construction work.

We are also very busy with more garden specific projects, including the new edging in the Poison Garden and the construction of our Carnivorous Courtyard, which is now almost complete. I’m very excited to see it planted up in the spring. It will be a fantastic addition to the gardens.

One of our Yew trees, The Witch’s Yew, won the Irish Tree of the year competition last year and we are about to put up a plaque at the tree to commemorate this. This particular Yew sits above the Witch’s Kitchen in our mystical rock close gardens. You can access it via the wishing steps and in my opinion it’s worth a visit to the gardens just to see this 600-year-old veteran. It will now be going forward to compete for the title of European tree of the year. Voting is online at treeoftheyear.org. It would be great to see the public support us.

There’s some good early colour around the grounds, with drifts of snowdrops and cyclamen popping up, but our daffodil avenue is currently stealing the show. It’s planted up with over 30,000 Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation', a classic yellow trumpet-type daffodil and one of the earliest blooming. It can tolerate cold, snowy weather and it has a long blooming period. We even had a few up in December.

There are a lot of jobs to do over the next few weeks in preparation for spring. We have already put in our indoor early potatoes and are about to start sowing seeds including tomatoes, peppers, indoor salad crops, leeks, sweet pea and assorted bedding plants for this year’s displays. Put in shallots and garlic now if you didn’t do it in the autumn. We have just pruned our grape vines and also applied a winter wash made from sulphur, lamp oil and soap. This helps with pests and diseases. Winter pruning of fruit trees should be finished as soon as possible. Do not prune stone fruit such as plums or peaches in the winter. Leave this for spring and summer. Roses should also be pruned back soon before they come into growth.

It’s never too early to mow the lawn if weather permits, but watch out for emerging spring bulbs. Herbaceous plants can be moved or divided as the soil dries out and bare root plants can still be planted for the next few weeks. If you have a tree or shrub that’s in the wrong place, then now is the time to move it. Dig around it carefully and take as much root as you can then stake it in its new position until its roots take hold. The important thing is to remember to keep it watered over the dry summer months.

Although it’s not the best weather, there is still plenty to see in the grounds and gardens. I love walking around the lake at this time of year and watching all the birdlife. I’m looking forward to the spring, and to seeing life renew itself all around the gardens. Adam

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