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Blarney Castle's Garden

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Blarney Castle's Garden

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.

Fern Garden

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.)

Poison Garden

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!

Belgium Beds

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.

Spring Colours

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.

Herbaceous Border

At the back of the lovely old Stable Yard buildings runs a 90 metre long double Herbaceous Border.


July's Journal

30 July 2015 14:26:22

July has been frustrating to say the least. I think we are all still waiting for our summer, or did I miss it somewhere along the way? Growth seems delayed and slower this year and our fruit is definitely lacking in flavor and quantity.

There are exceptions though….we are having a great year for raspberries and many of our young apple trees in the heritage orchard are set to give a good crop. On the ornamental side of things the roses have been great and the new growth in our bamboos in phenomenal. The herbaceous borders also put on a good show and are still happily flowering away.

We are in the process of summer pruning our fruit trees. Apples and pears can be pruned now to encourage fruit buds to form next year and also to maintain shape or train the tree into a shape. There are two periods for pruning, December/January and July/August. As a rule winter pruning encourages growth of new shoots and summer pruning discourages growth. We also prune stone fruits now, tipping back and tying in new growth on our wall trained plums, peaches and nectarines. Stone fruits should only be pruned in early spring or midsummer as this reduces the chance of silver leaf disease. Fruit pruning is not very complicated if you follow a few basic rules, and there are many helpful sites on the internet with step by step guides.

Our latest project, The Irish Heritage Plant trail is coming along nicely. We have partnered with the Irish Garden Plant Society to start a collection of rare Irish cultivars of plants that are in danger of being lost. These are often varieties that have been passed between private gardens and are not grown by large commercial nurseries or have fallen from grace. By creating a collection here in the gardens we ensure that these plants will be available for future generations to enjoy.

Ragwort is always a big problem at this time of year. It’s the yellow flowered plant that you see along all of the roadside verges driving into Cork. Ragwort is a highly poisonous plant when eaten and posses a particular threat to cattle and horses. Under the Noxious Weed Act local authorities and landowners are legally responsible for ensuring that the land within their control is clear of ragwort: Unfortunately due to lack of enforcement this is not the reality. We do our bit here in the estate to clear all ragwort every year, but as it is being left to seed freely along our roadsides and elsewhere there is always a new stock of seed ready to blow in.

A good tip that I can give is to plan your bulb order now. You can probably still remember how things looked in the spring. 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. This can lead to some nice surprises but often leads to disappointment. Bulbs, like any other plant, have certain preferences and it pays to do a little research first.

Blarney in Bloom was a great success this year despite challenging weather conditions in the afternoon and we raised a significant amount of money for the guide dogs. We have already set the date for next year as Saturday 2nd of July. The garden fair provides an opportunity for us to show the gardens to local people who may not have visited before. We have long been seen as just the castle, and a destination for tourists, but this has now changed. The gardens are a feature in their own right and visitors are coming specifically to see them. This is hugely satisfying for both myself and all of our gardening team and volunteers who have put in such hard work over the last few years.

I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam

Michelle finn Michelle finn 30 July 2015 14:34:37

i was blarney in bloom and blarney castle this year and really enjoyed it, my favourite was the woodland area and i was in heaven with all the ferns and trees, loved it all

Juggling Jobs in June

04 July 2014 12:45:30

I am slightly late getting to write my blog this month. It’s been extremely hectic and as the title suggests we have had to do a lot of juggling of work in order to try and keep everything going.

Growth has been phenomenal and the heat has meant a lot of watering was necessary. The warmer overnight temperatures have made all the difference, and features like the Poison Garden and the Herbaceous Border are looking great. The rose pergola that frames the Herbaceous Border is starting to fill in and at 80m long I believe it will be one of the longest in Ireland.

In the glasshouses our peaches have ripened and the nectarines, apricots and grapes are all coming along nicely. Pretty good crops all round. The new fruit cage has definitely helped our crop and the strawberries, raspberries and loganberries all look like bumper crops. There will be plenty of jam made this year!

Jobs for July will include pinching out tomatoes and cucumbers side shoots, thinning growth on our grape vines and also thinning the fruit to improve the overall crop. Ongoing watering and feeding is very important. We feed every second week with phostrogen for the ornamentals and seaweed for the vegetables. In this dry weather you should make sure the plant has been watered prior to feeding it so that it does not take up too much too quick. Hedge clipping will be a big job here over the next few weeks. It’s always nice to get the fluff back off and tidy things up a bit.

Now is a good time for taking cuttings in the garden. Many shrubs will root readily and it’s a good way of increasing your plants without the expense. I always encourage plant swapping and if you have a few spares then it gives you something to bargain with. We will be taking cuttings from a lot of our rarer trees and shrubs over the summer and autumn. Not only will it give us material for swapping with other gardens, but it will also act as a back-up stock should one of the mother plants die.

We have a new extension to our boardwalk currently being built. It will run into our woodland areas to create new walks and also link up to the upper rock close. This will be very much a wild area and should prove popular with our season ticket holders who use the woodland and lake walks regularly.

Blarney in Bloom is on Saturday 12th July from 10am – 5pm and promises to be a great event. There’s a huge amount going on around the estate including specialist plant nurseries, garden equipment and a farmers market, family orienteering, birds of prey, garden talks, arts and crafts demonstrations and children’s entertainment. It will be a great value family day out and of course all will benefit a very worthy charity, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam

Jacinta D Jacinta D 04 July 2014 18:05:53

Love the herbaceous border, Alan. But I especially love the Fern Garden.

PeterW PeterW 04 July 2014 19:50:25

Pictures look great Adam, hope bloom goes well for ye i will miss it unfortunately. Hope to be out in a few weeks for a walk around.

TheH (Hazel) TheH (Hazel) 04 July 2014 23:21:40

Can't get over how that Herbaceous border has filled out - and the pergola is a great addition!

Hope Blarney in Bloom is a great success - you and your team deserve it!

An Amazingly Colourful April

30 April 2014 09:58:28

I would venture to say that this has been the best year for a long time for Magnolias, Camellias, Rhododendrons and spring flowers in general. They have been exceptional this month with colour throughout the gardens.

The azalea beds that run from the Mansion to the Castle are coming into flower now and will be a sea of colour for the next few weeks. They are definitely worth a visit! We call this area the Belgian Beds as the original stock plants came from Belgium. We added four new beds this spring and are in the process of renovating some of the others.

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.

Our newest garden area in the lower rock close is beginning to take shape and expect to see some very interesting developments in the next few weeks. We feel that the design compliments the existing rock close gardens and are very excited about it.

Over the last few weeks we have planted around 1000 native primroses throughout the gardens. They were grown from seed sourced in Mallow so they are pure Cork natives. They will compliment our own Blarney Castle primroses and the rest of our collection of Irish cultivars.

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 is very effective! Now is the time to start thinking about staking herbaceous plants before they become too established. Dahlias can be planted out in the beds now and we will shortly be moving out our more tender ferns and tropical border plants. There is still a risk of frost though so be on standby with horticultural fleece.

We recently took stands at Fota Plant Fair and Clare Garden Festival to advertise the gardens and also this year’s Blarney in Bloom (12th 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: blarneygardens@blarneycastle.ie.  

I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam

andyf7 andyf7 30 April 2014 11:21:17

that bed in pic 2 is a stunner and as ever you are all working hard to maintain the best standard for your visitors, and the very best of luck in all your up coming events.

The March of the Magnolias

27 March 2014 11:29:59

March simply flew by and as I’m writing the sun is streaming through my office window. Finally!

In general we have had a raise in temperatures and this has triggered growth throughout the gardens. Everywhere you look there’s signs of new life; buds bursting, flowers opening and new seedlings emerging. This has to be my favourite time of year.

Over the next few weeks look out for our Cherry trees, Magnolias, Camellias and Rhododendrons. Some of our Magnolias are spectacular this year and our huge Rhododendron arboreum ‘Cornish Red’ on the Himalayan Walk is an amazing site. 

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.

We are finally starting to get to the end of clearing up from all the storm damage through the arboretums although there are still some major clean up jobs in the woodland areas.  One thing we are not short of this season is wood chips for our garden paths. We have nearly finished clearing the lower rock close area that was decimated by the storms. We have a blank canvas and plans are in progress to add a real wow factor to this area. All will be revealed in the coming weeks.

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 straw and 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. We will be planting ferns around it this year in the crevices and cracks which should make it look more established.

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.

We have recently submitted an application to build a small garden at Bloom this year, which is very exciting for us. It’s a postcard garden that measures 3m x 2m so the challenge is to fit all of Blarney Gardens into that little space. It will be a great team exercise and all of the lads have had a hand in the design and development.

Organisation of our own Summer Garden Fair, ‘Blarney in Bloom’ is well underway. It will be bigger this year and will feature some big names from the world of horticulture as well as more interactive garden, arts and craft areas. Mark the 12th of July in your diaries now!

I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam 

Rachel Rachel 27 March 2014 17:01:22

I look forward to seeing your garden at Bloom and, yes, there is loads to do at the moment, especially in a garden the size of Blarney.

fran m fran m 27 March 2014 18:13:10

Best of luck for the Bloom garden ;)

Jackie Jackie 27 March 2014 18:20:24

You certainly have your work cut out!...good luck with the garden at Bloom and I too look forward to seeing it all :)

andyf7 andyf7 27 March 2014 23:37:17

you are kept very busy for sure, the weather is critical in your situation as its a business  

with its pleasures too of course. i hope you get the weather in July for your Blarney

bloom fair.  that cornish red is just massive! best wishes for the season.

kindredspirit kindredspirit 28 March 2014 19:53:12

Marked the Glorious 12th into my diary. :)

February Frustrations

27 February 2014 12:05:14

I won’t lie and say it’s been a great month in the gardens. To put it mildly would be to say ‘It’s been challenging’. The seemingly non-stop storms have wreaked havoc through the grounds and gardens and we have lost a large number of trees, as well as having more minor damage on literally hundreds. What I will say is we have been very lucky. Nobody was hurt, there was very little damage to property, and the trees seemed to fall in all the right places (in general).

On a positive note spring finally seems to be here and the increasing numbers of flowers throughout the gardens are testimony to that. The daffodil avenue is a sea of yellow at the moment.

Obviously the cleaning up work has caused significant delay to our usual work schedule but we finally seem to be getting on top of it. One particular area in our lower rock close has suffered the most. Our planned woodland garden was all but ‘clear felled’ by the wind so we now have a rather different space to work with. Plans are underway for a whole new garden in this area once the waterlogged soil dries out and we can begin work.

Operation Transformation came to Blarney Castle during February, and over 3000 people converged on the estate. It was a great success and we received many positive comments about the gardens which is always great to hear. Hopefully some of these people will return for a proper look around.

Despite the clean up, there is still other work going on in the gardens. We recently replanted the bed by our coffee hut with a selection of rhododendrons to add spring colour to the area and our new Azalea beds are finished and give a better sense of balance to the mansion drive.  We are lifting and dividing many plants in our herbaceous border, we have just pruned our roses and as soon as the ground dries out we will be starting grass cutting.

We have many seedlings in the glass house now and at this time of year it’s one of my favourite areas. I always get huge satisfaction from watching the seedlings emerging, especially if it’s something rare or unusual. I’m quickly becoming a bit of an obsessive collector of rare trees, and there’s nothing more satisfying than having grown it yourself from seed. The problem is finding space in the gardens for them all!

Jobs for the next few weeks include, pruning your bush roses and feeding, general tidying up and re-edging of beds, moving and dividing herbaceous plants, plant potatoes as the soil dries out, sow seeds of bedding plants, tomatoes and peppers and plant out onions, garlic and shallots if not already done. Pollinate peach, nectarine and apricot trees with a small paint brush. Ours are just coming into flower now.  Pruning of apples and pears should be finished now. We are starting off our begonia tubers in the poly tunnel. They provide a mass of summer colour to our tubs and baskets around the entrance, and are remarked on every year.

One very important job after the recent high winds is to check all of your plants for wind rock. A loose trunk or stem should be heeled in and staked up if necessary. We have had to go through all of our newly planted trees and shrubs and many needed a little steadying.

Enjoy the start of spring! I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam

fran m fran m 27 February 2014 13:46:52

Adam you have said it all in your first few lines. Gardening is challenging at any time, this year has tested us all, but, and it's a very big but your garden is on a rather large scale.

Glad to hear that you are getting to grips with things, best of luck to all the team.

Rachel Rachel 27 February 2014 16:59:21

Good tip about trees. I need to get on it.

Jacinta D Jacinta D 27 February 2014 17:37:31

Never a dull moment, eh?  But you and the team are well on top of everything.

Clara Clara 27 February 2014 17:38:49

Adam all 3 photos are beautiful ....great to have so many people visiting the garden and  great  way to let people see your wonderful garden ....

PeterW PeterW 27 February 2014 21:41:27

Lovely photos Adam and the gardens are a delight and so far each time i visit they are just getting better and better and look forward to this summer visit. Kepp up the good work

andyf7 andyf7 28 February 2014 00:00:37

you certainly won't allow any weather setbacks to get on top of you and your team, takes a lot of hard work running that estate to maintain standards. the daff avenue looks great too, hope to see it some day. good luck this season.


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