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Blarney Castle's Garden
Blarney Castle is primarily famous for ‘the Blarney Stone’ but equally worth exploring are the beautiful grounds around the Castle and Blarney House. This includes acres of parkland, gardens, avenues, arboretums and waterways. Visitors often exclaim ‘We didn’t realise there was so much here and wish they had more time to explore!’
Blarney Castle’s arboretums and new Pinetum contain a collection of specimen trees, many of them rare and unusual such as the Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis, Foxglove Tree Paulownia tomentosa, Tree of heaven Ailanthus altissima and Scarlet Oak Quercus coccinea splendens. They were mostly planted in the 1980’s and 1990’s but some already existing mature trees such as Yews, Limes and Spanish Chestnuts are much older, maybe up to 600 years old. New specimens are being added every year to further enhance the collection.
The Rock Close and Water Garden
The Rock close is a mystical place, said to be on the site of an ancient druidic settlement. There is a unique atmosphere in here created by rock formations and the leafy canopy of the ancient gnarled Yew Taxus baccata and Holm Oak Quercus Ilex trees. A trail through this area passes over a recently built boardwalk, which takes the visitor through a new water garden where one can be soothed by the sound of the two waterfalls. Other features include the Dolmen, Wishing Steps, Witch’s Kitchen, Druids Cave, Druids Circle, Sacrificial Altar, Sentry post and Fairy Garden. The Rock Close is planted in the ‘Robinsonian style’, with large natural looking groups of plants such as the enormous leaved Gunnera manicata, Bamboos such as Sasa veitchii, Skunk cabbage Lysichiton americanus, Willow Salix spp. and many more.
Originally suggested by Sir Harold Hillier on one of his visits from Hillier’s nursery, as a ‘frost-free dell suitable for fern planting’ it now holds an extensive collection of ferns and rare woodland plants. The fern garden is a very tranquil place in the heart of the estate. It can be viewed from above from a limestone cliff and can be accessed from by following a grass path through a wild flower strip by the edge of the woodland. Alternatively you can enter from the bottom of the woodland walk, which avoids steps. The garden contains over 80 varieties of ferns, all of which are flourishing. These include an artfully positioned collection of tree ferns including Dicksonia antarctica, Cyathea dealbata and Cyathea australis. These are almost sculptural in appearance, and have been densely planted to create a leafy canopy, below which grow smaller species. The garden contains a 17-foot high Dicksonia antartica, the tallest of its kind in Ireland. (They only grow an average of one inch a year.)
Alongside the castle battlements, the new Poison Garden can be found. It contains a collection of poisonous plants from all over the world including Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Ricin, Opium and Cannabis. Many of these are labelled with information about their toxicity and traditional and modern uses. A large number of plants that we now know to be toxic, were once used widely as herbal remedies for all sorts of ailments. The old expression ‘It will either kill or cure you’ could not have been more apt!
To the side of Blarney house lie the ‘Belgian Beds’, so named because some of the earlier plants came from Belgium. They are filled with a collection of deciduous and evergreen azaleas which are quite spectacular when they are flowering in May and June.
In the springtime there are carpets of bulbs throughout the grounds. Particularly beautiful in are the two lime tree-lined avenues Tillia tomentosa petioralis. The older, front main avenue is under-planted with snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells. The newer Lime avenue is under planted with early daffodils Rijnvelds Early Sensation, which flower from New Year’s Day, before any of the other daffodils are out.
Woodland Walks, The Lake and Wildlife
The more adventurous visitor can take time to explore the many paths that run through the peaceful woodlands and also make a circuit of the Lake. There are a resident family of swans on the lake, and the quiet visitor may also be lucky enough to see Otters, Red squirrels, Jays and many other bird species.
At the back of the lovely old Stable Yard buildings runs a 90 metre long double Herbaceous Border.
29 April 2013 09:02:16
Anemone de caen mr fokker
I think April showers is an appropriate title! It’s been pretty damp and dreary overall but on the positive side the overnight temperatures have started to creep up and this has spurred things into growth. Anemone ‘Mr Fokker’ (see pic) is just one of many stunning flowers out at the moment. Our azalea and rhododendron beds are beginning to flower too.
We have just begun sowing our new wildflower areas around the estate. The seed we are using is all of local origin, and is wild collected. This will add significantly to the biodiversity of the grounds and gardens. It will provide food and shelter for numerous species of insects, birds and larger animals and should also look great when they all come into flower.
There have been a lot of ‘housekeeping’ jobs to do this month, including mulching beds, edging lawns, pruning and tidying shrubs and when possible a little bit of weed killing on the hard surfaces. I find if you get on top of things early, it makes it a lot easier later.
Jobs for the next few weeks: Plant indoor tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers if you haven’t already, start to tie in and pinch out growth on the grape vine, thin indoor peaches to ensure a good quality crop, sow herbs in six packs and then plant out when they reach a manageable size, this also works well for lettuce. Watch out for slug damage and check for greenfly both indoors and out. A good tip for dealing with greenfly is mix some washing up liquid and water in a jug to make a lot of foam, then apply this foam directly to the infested areas to completely cover the aphids. It works very well! Beer traps can be a good way of dealing with slugs, but personally I can never spare the beer! I still use slug pellets, but I put them in other areas of the garden well away from the vegetables.
The blustery weather saw a few smaller trees down around the estate and these have been put to good use making rustic benches. You can find them in various areas including the fern garden and riverbank walk.
We recently donated a new polytunnel to the local school in Blarney (Scoil Chroí Íosa) and I hope this helps to introduce a new generation to horticulture. There is a huge learning potential in gardening, from the basics of seed sowing and growing your own vegetables, right through to advanced biology and chemistry of being able to ‘micropropogate’ cuttings in test tubes.
The new jungle border is starting to come together, but there’s still a long way to go yet. We recently took stands at Fota Plant Fair and Clare Garden Festival to advertise the gardens and also this years Blarney in Bloom (13th July) and while there picked up quite a few rare and interesting plants.
Speaking of Blarney in Bloom, it’s shaping up well. There will be a lot of additional features this year, with a programme of gardening talks from expert speakers, the birds of prey returning, interactive arts and crafts displays, specialist plant nurseries, live music and children’s entertainment. It is all in aid of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Anyone wishing to take part please drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam
19 April 2013 15:24:18
Heres a few of our Kennedy Irish Primroses. You can see the rest (with names/ref numbers) at:
28 March 2013 12:19:48
The Castle lit up green!
March has been a bit of a mixed month weather wise, but I think we have got off pretty lightly in relation to the rest of the country. Never the less a few ‘early developers’ have been badly burnt by frost, and we have lost all of the flower heads on some of our large magnolias (for the second year running).
The weather did improve in time for the traditional start of our tourist season, Saint Patrick’s week, and the good weather brought a lot of visitors to Blarney. Let’s hope it’s a sign of things to come.
On the negative side, we were recently victims of vandalism here in the grounds. Our newly renovated toilet block had several windows smashed and some spot lights were also damaged. There have been a number of smaller incidents in the recent past, but this was a blatant and ignorant act. The garda are investigating.
National Tree Week, which is organised by the Tree Council of Ireland and supported by Coillte, took place this year from 3 - 9 March 2013. The theme was ‘A Feast of Trees’, to remind people of the role of trees in providing food for humans, birds, bees and other wildlife. We donated trees to Blarney Tidy Towns to be planted around the village and in the grounds of the schools. We are also continuing to plant native trees back into our woodlands around the estate.
The new riverbank walk is now officially open and runs from below the castle by the badgers cave all the way to the back drive where it links up with the woodland walk. It’s a lovely peaceful area which you get to share with the estates wildlife.
Uncovering all of our tree ferns in the fern garden is always a difficult decision. They are protected from heavy frosts over the winter with a layer of polystyrene wrapped in horticultural fleece. I took the decision to remove it all before Saint Patrick’s weekend. They look a lot happier to be free of it. The waterfall really does add a whole new dimension to the area and the ferns set it off nicely.
The new jungle border will be planted up in the late spring after the danger of frosts has passed. I am getting extremely impatient to get on with it, but as a lot of the plants are being shipped from more sunny shores, I simply have to wait for the appropriate weather.
April is usually a very active month in the gardens, and there are a lot of jobs to plan out. These include feeding the lawns, seed sowing including sweet corn, runner beans and outdoor salad crops, carrots, parsnips and beetroot. Plant out onions, shallots and potatoes if you haven’t already. Repot houseplants, plant indoor tomatoes, check for pests such as aphids in the glasshouse, start to spray roses for black spot and weed through beds.
I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam
25 February 2013 12:35:21
February has seen the real start of spring here in Blarney. The bulbs are popping up everywhere now, and as I said last month, they are a welcome splash of colour around the gardens. It’s really a great time of year to be out and about as there is something new to see every day.
We are continuing with our tidying and mulching jobs around the borders and getting everything ship shape for the coming season. A couple of trees came down in the woods and have provided a lot of fresh chippings for the paths in the fern garden and woodland areas. All of the azalea and rhododendron beds are a priority at the moment as they will be the focus for visitors in the coming months.
We have been hedge planting around the estate using mixed native varieties to fill in gaps in our existing hedges. They are an important wildlife resource and should therefore be looked after. We have also donated hedging to Blarney Tidy Towns, who are doing a tremendous job. These will be planted out along the Blarney to Tower road over the coming weeks.
The waterfall in the fern garden has been an ongoing project for the last two months but I am pleased to announce that it is finally completed. It really adds to the atmosphere and will also benefit the ferns by providing a more humid microclimate. All that remains is to plant up the little nooks and crannies in and around it. We are expecting a delivery of new ferns in the next few weeks. We already have frogspawn in it, which was a welcome discovery as it promises a new frog population to keep the slugs at bay.
The peach, apricot and nectarine trees in our glasshouses are now coming into flower. We use a little paint brush to help pollinate them, as there is very little insect activity so early in the year. This helps to ensure a reasonable crop.
Seed sowing is well underway and we have lobelia, petunia and bedding begonias emerging in our heated propagator along with peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and brassicas. We have also started off dahlia, begonia and gloxinia tubers in pots and crates of compost. It is important not to overwater these or they will rot. In a separate little propagator we have some unusual varieties of banana growing which we hope to establish in the new Jungle border. The jungle border will be planted up in the late spring after the danger of frosts has passed. It’s proving to be a very interesting project.
Another new project is our Primrose display bed that we have just completed at the main entrance. It is planted with 25 different varieties from the Kennedy Irish Primrose range. What makes these special is that they are all of Irish origin. The centre of the bed will be planted up with a blue rose named ‘Blue for You’ which should add a splash of colour in the summer months.
The new facebook group ‘Friends of Blarney Castle Gardens’ is proving to be a success with its members. Please join if you have an interest in gardening or want to keep up with the latest news from the castle. I update it most days with photos and information. There is a lot going on at the moment. I look forward to seeing you online or in the gardens. Adam
19 February 2013 14:39:55
Fern Garden Waterfall
The new Fern Garden waterfall is up and running. All that remains is to plant up a few ferns through the cracks in and around it.