Garden Portrait: Erddig

Erddig Hall is a National Trust property on the outskirts of Wrexham, Wales. Located 2 miles south of Wrexham town centre, it was built in 1684–1687 for Josiah Edisbury, the High Sheriff of Denbighshire.

House from Canal

The garden and indeed the house, were in disrepair when the estate was handed over to the National Trust in 1973. Nothing but brambles, nettles and overgrown shrubs in this formal garden designed originally by Thomas Badeslade in 1740 in the Dutch style.

Now there is a crisp pattern of paths and lawns, avenues of pleached limes, pyramidal fruit trees, yews and hollies and clipped Portuguese laurels. Apples are grown in abundance with more than 100 varieties, many espaliered along the walled garden. In fact an apple festival is held here annually in October.

The walled garden is also home to one of the longest herbaceous borders you will see and this is a riot of colour in the summer.  Wide borders are filled with spring bulbs and old varieties of daffodils some dating from before the First World War. And the banks of the canal are colonised by the wild Welsh Lent Lily (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) in spring, followed by common spotted orchids in the summer which spread during the period of neglect in the garden.

Bedding schemes favour the Victorian flavour and more so in the small Victorian Flower Garden where pink ‘Dorothy Perkins’ roses and deep violet Clematis Jackmanii are strung along swags of ropes.

If you like walking there are 3 trails taking you through the extensive park where dogs are welcome on leads. This landscape was largely the work of the well-respected landscape designer William Emes, a contemporary of ‘Capability’ Brown, who worked at Erddig from 1768-1780. In 1779, Philip Yorke I put up the following notice at the entrance lodges at Erddig:

“Mr Yorke having at great Expense, and at the labour of many Years, finished the Ground and Wood Walks about Erthig, desires to acquaint his Neighbours, that they are extremely welcome to walk in the same for their Health and Amusement.”

Size: 13 acres (5.3 hectares)

  • Street: Erddig
  • Postcode: LL13 0YT
  • City: Wrexham, Clywyd
  • County: Gwynedd
  • Country: United Kingdom

Garden Portrait: Powis Castle

Castle with its terraces

The castle and garden is in Welshpool, Powys. The gardens are spread out over several Baroque terraces leading down through shrubs and giant cloud-shaped yew hedges to a large lawned area and a former kitchen garden and a woodland walk. All backed by a patchwork of fields, villages and hills of the Welsh border countryside.

Lower formal garden and lines of pyramidal apple trees

The terraces include an Orangery and an Aviary with the sheltering walls angled towards the south-west providing a mild climate in which a number of shrubs and climbers can be found. In spring pretty blue ceanothus spreads like a cloud and pale yellow roses pick up the tones of the red sandstone walls.

There are a number of lead statues in the gardens, most found on the grand terraces and from the workshop of the Flemish sculptor John van Nost. The lead used most likely came from the Powis family’s own lead mines at Llangynog, Montgomeryshire.

The Yew trees are magnificent. The fourteen specimen ‘tumps’ that sit on the upper terrace along with lead urns as well as the bulging hedge at the northern end were probably planted in the 1720s. Other evergreens include darker Irish yews and towering walls of boxwood.

Each terrace has its own theme. Drier conditions on the narrow Aviary Terrace allow for sun-loving Mediterranean, Californian and Southern Hemisphere planting including cistus, carpenteria, broom, lavender and iris and silver artemesia. The roof is draped in wisteria and troughs of creeping figs. Fuchsias are a speciality and often grown in the old basketweave pots.

Lead figure of Hercules on a stone plinth. Hercules is depicted wearing a lion-skin and slaying the hydra (carved in stone), using a club which is made of wood. Behind is the spectacular yew hedge.

Herbaceous borders on the third terrace leading to the lower garden

On the third terrace you find the Orangery and long, box-edged borders.

The bottom of the garden is now lawned (Great Lawn) and used for playing croquet. It used to be the kitchen garden, but now all that remains are the rare, old varieties of apple trees.

Ground cover, bedding plants, including hardy geraniums, roses and delphiniums stretch out from the half-timbered gardener’s bothy.

Here you can wander out of the formal garden and into a wilder woodland landscape, with a path curving towards the western ridge. This area is formed of acid sandstone in contrast to the limestone of the castle ridge and allows the planting of azaleas and rhododendrons.

The path leads to an ice-house and a Ladies’ Bath, both dating from the 19th century and you have views out towards the Long Mountain and Breidden Hills and across to the daffodil strewn paddock to the castle and terraces.

Returning to the western side of the castle we’ll have a peep into the courtyard and entrance to the castle (though I have yet to go inside as I always seem to spend my time in the gardens).

And a final look at the flowers in the woodland area, in springtime.

Size: 25 acres (10 hectares)

  • Street:        Powis Castle and Garden
  • Postcode:   SY21 8RF
  • City:            Welshpool
  • County:      Powys
  • Country:    United Kingdom

If you like a walk, long or short, then please visit Jo for her regular strolls in the UK and the Algarve and maybe you would like to join in too. She’s very welcoming.

garden photography: inside the glasshouse

In January I’m looking for a Winter Garden

(This month I want to see photos and stories about winter gardens. You can interpret this any way you want; a garden in winter, winter flowers, or plants in a glasshouse)

This is the Great Glasshouse at the Botanic Garden of Wales. The unusual raindrop-shaped design was the work of world-renowned architects Norman Foster and Partners and it is the largest single span glasshouse in the world.

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The plants come from six areas of the world: California, Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile, South Africa and the Mediterranean Basin and the glasshouse is used to protect and conserve some of the most endangered plants on the planet. Continue reading

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)