The ancient principality of Wales contains within it several ranges of mountains, rushing rivers, deep lakes, Atlantic shores and a sophisticated capital city. Within all these settings are gardens to visit which take advantage of their special positions and associations. There are castles, woodland gardens with waterfalls and streams crossed with bridges, Mediterranean gardens with sun-loving pants, abundant wild flowers with attendant butterflies, dragonfly’s and birds; and topiary gardens of symmetry and order. Hundreds of miles of coastline surround Wales helping to create the soft climate and wonderful growing conditions.
Visits to Wales can be energetic and exciting or full of peace and tranquillity with echoes of the past everywhere in the buildings and historic landscapes and these characteristics are echoed in the gardens.
Just a few miles east of Carmarthen one comes across Wales' finest new bit of gardening 'kit'. It is the new 'National Garden of Wales' and is conveniently situated about an hours drive from Cardiff. It is set in the former 18th century regency park of Middleton Hall in Carmarthenshire, a 568 acre estate on the edge of the beautiful Tywi valley.
The Open Gardens of Monmouth and Usk are smaller scale, private gardens with individualistic planting ideas and design .These gardens have a more relaxed feel and informal style as they are often work in progress. The gardener is always on hand to share their trials, tribulations and their future aspirations. It’s an opportunity to borrow ideas, buy plants that have been propagated by the owner, to be given planting advice and growing tips that relate to your garden soil and climate. As these gardeners will have experienced the same late frosts, wet springs or dry summers which is reassuring when you hear it was a bad year for their roses or runner beans too! Further a field are the beautiful show case gardens of the RHS and National Trusts which have taken decades of hard work to perfect. The great sweeping herbaceous borders, use of unusual plants and perfect garden design is inspiring. However, it can be sometimes difficult to visualise how these great gardens relate to yours and what part to take and try back at home.
Monmouth is fortunate to border Gloucestershire and Herefordshire which have many gardens taking part of the National Garden Scheme. There are 10 gardens listed in each of the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire schemes which are only 30 minutes drive from Monmouth. This includes two lovely gardens which hold National Plant Collections; Green Cottage in Lydney holds one for peonies and the other for old fashioned pinks (dianthus) at Kingstone Cottages, Weston under Penyard near Ross-on-Wye.
National Plant Collections are held by individual garden owners but are brought together under the auspices of the NCCPG - The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens www.nccpg.com. The NCCPG began in the 1970s when there was an increasing risk of losing good garden plants, as the success of the garden centre trade was limiting the variety of plants available. There are approximately 450 collection holders with about 650 collections. Each collection is dedicated to a specific genus and the owner is responsible for collecting, growing and studying their chosen plant. Many of these collections are rare and endangered species. Therefore, by encouraging these plant collections or living libraries, the future of these cultivated garden plants is safe.
NATIONAL TRUST GARDENS
National Trust gardens preserve a very important part of our gardening heritage and over 100 of them are open in aid of the NGS. Where the National Trust property has allocated an opening day to the NGS which is one of their normal opening days, National Trust members can still gain entry on production of their National Trust Membership Card. On such days donations to the NGS will be welcome. However where the day allocated is one on which the property would normally be closed, then payment of the NGS admission fee will be required.
By gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen, the House and Grounds at Sandringham, Norfolk, will be open daily from 15 April to 20 July, reopening daily from 29 July to 29 October inclusive. (Coach drivers’ and visitors are advised to confirm these opening and closing dates nearer the time.) Picnics and dogs are not permitted inside the grounds. Sandringham has been part of the NGS Yellow Book Scheme since its inception in 1927. Donations are given from the Estate to various charities.
For more information contact The Public Enterprise Manager, Estate Office, Sandringham or telephone 01553 612908 during office hours. www.sandringhamestate.co.uk
Also by gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen, Frogmore House Garden, Windsor, will be open on Tuesday 16 May in aid of The National Gardens Scheme. In 2005, 60 years of opening in aid of the NGS was marked with the donation of a North American tulip tree (Liriodendron Tulipifera). The Royal Mausoleum, within the grounds, will also be open to those visiting the gardens. Frogmore House will be open in aid of the Royal Collection Trust via Frogmore House Garden. For more information see the Berkshire gardens listing or visit www.royal.gov.uk