Aberglasney: A Garden Lost in Time

Aberglasney’s garden only began in 1999 when Graham Rankin, gardener and director of operations took over the restoration of this forgotten garden. Once the diggers and archaeologists had departed he was able to get to work.  It’s not a big garden and it is still a work-in-progress, but there is enough now to interest plantsmen to pay a visit. During Easter 2012 we stayed in one of the holiday cottages on the site, appropriately named Gardener’s Cottage, located in a quiet part of the gardens close to the Sunken Garden and its water feature. As we had free access to the grounds it meant we could wander through them at any time, including after closing time. As this was an early and cold Easter, there wasn’t a great deal  flowering in the garden, though what was on show was interesting. I would like to visit again in summer when the perennials will be flowering and the beds filled with colour.

In contrast to many of the gardens I visit, Aberglasney has both more formal and natural landscaping areas, several dictated by the structures that were excavated, and you have a huge sense of history and romance. Situated on a ridge between two hills and overlooking the Tywi Valley, an area of great historical interest, it is a place to slow down and relax in, to contemplate and view the rolling Welsh countryside which is almost a part of the gardens.  The mansion, the terraces, the cloister range and the parapet walls were all in a state of decay and hidden beneath years of overgrown vegetation before the restoration.  Now it is a testament to the hard work, skill and dedication undertaken.

The mansion is believed to be sited where once stood a medieval building, and a poem by 15th century Welsh bard Lewis Glyn Cothi  wrote an ode to Rhydderch (an early owner of the building) describing his home:

He has a proud hall, a fortress made
bright with whitewash,
and encompassing it all around
nine green gardens.
Orchard trees and crooked vines,
young oaks reach up to the sky.

There may not be nine distinct gardens today, but there is plenty to satisfy the visitor to this remarkable garden. Almost lost to us.

(click on a photograph to join me in enjoying this garden)

Garden Portrait: Barrington Court Gardens

For December I am making a change to this Blog. Instead of posting a plant/nature flower each day (according to the season) I am going to publish a few posts about some of the lovely gardens I have visited in the UK. I hope you enjoy them!

Well worth a visit in May/June. Information about the property is from the National Trust website – link below.

Barrington Court garden dates from the early 1920’s. It is laid out in a series of contrasting “rooms” inspired by a very grand design by architects Forbes and Tate with planting suggestions from Gertrude Jekyll despite the fact that she was in her late seventies and had poor eyesight. The structure and style and the Arts and Crafts details still remain intact and this garden is believed to be one of the best preserved of her gardens. Separate colour themes now identify the individual “garden rooms”. The former bullstalls  (Buss-stalls) provide a planting wall for fragrant roses and other climbers.  There is also a magnificent kitchen garden with produce used in the restaurant.

The Court House built by William Clifton in 1552 is a typical Elizabethan E-shaped design in mellow Ham Stone. William Strode added the red-brick Strode House in 1674. Originally the farm buildings it now houses the restaurant and shop. The property is surrounded by cider orchards which are used to produce award-winning cider and apple juice.

Barrington Court is near Ilminster in Somerset in a very rural location and is looked after by the National Trust. My visit was in early June when the garden was full of late spring and early summer flowers, including many roses. Fortunate to have a sunny day it was bliss to wander through the various displays in the Rose and Iris Garden and the Lily Garden which follow the principles of Jekyll’s colour teaching.  Mellow yellow Tudor brick paving, which changes pattern every few metres from block to diamond, herringbone to circle to square, leads you thorough the faded oak doors into the White Garden still very much Edwardian crammed with irises, phlox, roses, cosmos and others. Lavender and box line the patterned brick paths. I cannot describe the heady perfume.

The featured image (top) is Strode House (built by William Strode in the 17th century) which was originally a stable and coach block and is now used as the restaurant. The kitchen garden provides produce for the restaurant; this includes all types of fruit and vegetables. We ate lunch there, a freshly cooked salmon quiche and salad with local apple juice. It was delicious. And within this building is a beautiful inner courtyard with a pond. To the side of the honey-coloured mansion is a wild-flower meadow, complete with beehives.

If you are in the area, don’t miss a visit to this beautiful garden.

(Click on any photo below to walk through this garden with me.)

Heaven Scent

A romantic seat in the walled garden at Mottisfont Abbey where the scent of roses hits you before you even enter. Go there during one of the late evening openings in June. Enclosed here, in three rose gardens covering four acres, are 700 varieties. Their combined perfume is extraordinary.

Commandant Beaurepaire

Commandant Beaurepaire 2An old rose (Bourbons) with large double, fragrant light-pink flowers striped and flecked with deep-pink, purple and scarlet.

This Bourbon rose is named for Nicholas Joseph Beaurepaire, a retired colonel in the French army who, after the Revolution and on the invasion of France by Prussia and Austria, was called to defend the town of Verdun with a few hundred untrained conscripts against 60,000 Prussians. Refusing all calls to surrender, even from the town council and his own officers, the Commandant declared “I prefer death to life under despots” and promptly shot himself.

Verdun surrendered, but Beaurepaire became a national hero. This glorious striped rose was dedicated to him in 1874 after another war with Prussia left France in need of her heroes.

Rosa’ Complicata’

This is one of the finest single roses. It is probably a hybrid of a Gallica Rose and R. canina, although it is very much a wild rose in character. R. ‘Complicata’ bears large, single flowers, about five inches across, of brilliant pure rose-pink, paling to white at the centre.

Rose Complicata watercolour

Belinda

Hybrid Musk. Literally covers itself with large trusses of lightly fragrant, bright pink, 1 inch semi-double flowers. One of the best Hybrid Musks for hedgerow use, or as a fountaining pillar, supported by a post.

Belinda

Graham Thomas

Another double flowering English Rose from David Austin. Their colour is an unusually rich, pure yellow. There is a medium-strong, fresh tea rose fragrance, with a cool violet character typical of its colour group.

Graham Stuart Thomas OBE (3 April 1909 – 17 April 2003), was an English horticulturalist and garden designer, best known for his work with garden roses, his restoration and stewardship of over 100 National Trust gardens and for writing 19 books on gardening, many of which remain classics today. It is Mottisfont Abbey – a creation that he himself described as a “masterpiece” – where his rose collection found its final home, and where his garden design skills can be best appreciated.