On the Road Again (aka Always)

After our week at Westbury Court Garden, we headed to Cardiff in the south of Wales to explore for the weekend. We stayed in a popular hostel, allowing us to make some friends from around the world (and a few that weren’t so far from home). It’s always interesting hopping from place to place. I have spent the past 9 nights away from Hidcote in 4 different places. We are certainly living the suitcase life and the car looks a bit like we’re hoarders… However, the experiences we have while on the road are irreplaceable and absolutely worth carrying around a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter to feed ourselves!

With less research than usual, we settled upon two gardens to visit on Friday that were close together. As we headed out, we wondered what we would find at these places, though they had come recommended. What we ended up finding we’re two different, but very impressive gardens that I would include amongst my favorites we have visited thus far.

Our first stop was at the National Botanic Garden for Wales. Being the home of the largest free span conservatory in the world at its time of construction, I expected this to be the highlight of the experience, but the surrounding gardens were truly exceptional. Here, there were interesting cultivars around every bend and top quality horticulture throughout.

The view upon entry to the Welsh Botanical Garden is certainly dominated by the impressive conservatory. This water feature is filled by a small canal that weaves all the way down the hill before spiraling to the center

The view upon entry to the Welsh Botanical Garden is certainly dominated by the impressive conservatory. This water feature is filled by a small canal that weaves all the way down the hill before spiraling to the center

Beautiful borders with interesting combinations

Beautiful borders with interesting combinations

Tropical Conservatory

Tropical Conservatory

Rock garden

Rock garden

Impressive poppy meadow

Impressive poppy meadow

Under the grand conservatory

Under the grand conservatory

The second stop we made was at Aberglasney Garden. A garden discovered in ruin, Aberglasney is fairly “new” in that it was just renovated and opened to the public a few years ago. The mansion and garden have an obvious history, but much of it is shrouded in mystery as few records have been found. Today the garden continues to evolve as new evidence is found.

View of the main garden structure at Aberglasney. This is the part of the garden that was first discovered in ruin. Exactly what resided in this space originally is unknown

View of the main garden structure at Aberglasney. This is the part of the garden that was first discovered in ruin. Exactly what resided in this space originally is unknown

Cloister Garden

Cloister Garden

Upper walled garden

Upper walled garden

A wide variety of top notch hydrangeas

A wide variety of top notch hydrangeas

Stepping into the indoor garden, the Ninfarium, was nearly breathtaking. I was alone in this space and the quiet exploration was an entirely new garden experience

Stepping into the indoor garden, the Ninfarium, was nearly breathtaking. I was alone in this space and the quiet exploration was an entirely new garden experience

Ninfarium

Ninfarium

Ninfarium

Ninfarium

Ninfarium

Ninfarium

Sunken Garden

Sunken Garden

The pool, which is now a pond, is constantly flowing as water enters it from the many canals surrounding it. These canals are fed by springs and a stream that are all piped under the property

The pool, which is now a pond, is constantly flowing as water enters it from the many canals surrounding it. These canals are fed by springs and a stream that are all piped under the property

P.S. Another interesting thing to note. The UK is fighting boxwood blight just as we are in the United States. With no cure yet found and with no viable resistant cultivars, the blight is a major issue in formal gardens. This obviously poses a problem to many gardens, with Hidcote being no exception. Aberglasney was working on a few alternatives that I thought were worth sharing:

First alternative to box: Ilex cranata has a similar look to box, but a bit wilder of a habit. This will be shaped in a similar manor as boxwood once it has grown a bit more. The leaves of this have a bit of shine which differs from the matte finish of box

First alternative to box: Ilex cranata has a similar look to box, but a bit wilder of a habit. This will be shaped in a similar manor as boxwood once it has grown a bit more. The leaves of this have a bit of shine which differs from the matte finish of box

Second alternative to box hedging:

Second alternative to box hedging: “step over” fruit trees which are espalier pruned to make a low border in the kitchen garden

Less than 4 weeks remain of our English experience so we must absolutely make the most of it!

– James

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