Gosh, it’s been ages since I added a post to my blog – and so it’s time to put this right and what better way than by sharing our experience of the gardens at Aberglasney, a historic garden set in Wales’s Tywi valley.
The garden has undergone a magnificent restoration over the last 30 years with its dramatic journey being featured in the 1999 BBC television series ‘A Garden Lost in Time’. The series was accompanied by Penny David’s book of the same name and chronicled the garden’s history over the centuries, portraying its decline and more recent rediscovery in the late 20th century.
Aberglasney is unique in that it is home to the only surviving Elizabethan cloister garden in the UK – now fully restored and our first stop.
A cloister garden, also known as a ‘garth’ is historically recognised as an ordered pattern of closely cut grass within a square courtyard and enclosed by a covered walk. The cloister garden at Aberglasney is surrounded by an arcaded terraced walkway but had been lost to a jungle of overgrowth, including the destructive and invasive knotweed. Once discovered, the subsequent restoration work certainly appears to have achieved the original purpose of offering a tranquil place for quiet meditation. Simple but effective!
Above the cloister garden, our second stop revealed a contrasting feast of colour in the marvellously fragrant Rose Garden. A delicious mix of roses and herbaceous perennials, including the statuesque delphinium ‘Jill Curley’ underplanted with roses, peonies and and geranium ‘Patricia’. Constructed at one of the highest levels, this pocket of beauty also boasts wonderful views over the gardens and adjacent countryside.
Designed by Penelope Hobhouse, today’s Upper Walled Garden benefits from panoramic views over the countryside beyond. Marked out by formal box hedges and conical yews, the wonderful mass of perennial planting is cleverly designed to provide colour, interest and beauty throughout the year. The characterful wall is topped with a walkway, which is such a bonus as it allows a view across the gardens.
Today’s Head Gardener, Joseph Atkin clearly has vision. When we first visited almost ten years ago, he must have just started – it was an enjoyable day out, but the development since then is just amazing. Originally 9 gardens over the 10 acres of land, there are now 20 – with more planned.
The Jubilee Woodland Garden completed in 2012 didn’t exist when we visited in 2010, but there was evidence of development – and what a result!
Such an impressive change, with a powerful mass of colour provided by the gorgeous primulas and iris offset by every shade of green imaginable in the rodgersias, gunneras, hostas and ligularias, all subtly lit by dappled shade under a canopy of the pre-existing trees. An incredible achievement and we spent a considerable time taking it in – me with my camera and Chris enjoying a peaceful moment.
50 shades of green!
Next stop was the sunken garden, another relatively new construction with William Pye’s dramatic water feature and it’s steely mirror central to a brick walled courtyard. With cool planting, it’s a great spot for peaceful reflection…..
Lunch (Chris described it as the best he’s ever eaten at a garden cafe) was taken by the tranquil pool garden. We had only planned a half-day visit as Ollie wasn’t allowed in and had to stay home, but we’ll be back – it certainly won’t be another 10 years!
On our way out and past what was thought to have been a Victorian folly, more recent research has revealed that this structure was originally part of a gatehouse, very quirky!
We so enjoyed our time in this garden, and would recommend a visit if you’re in Wales. For a year round view, the portfolio of photographs by International Garden Photographer of the Year competition winner Tim McCall is also recommended – he has an extensive, fabulous collection of pictures of Aberglasney on Instagram
#Happy Garden Visiting!