Friday, 18 July 2008


Salpiglossis sinuata "Bolero"

OOPS! I completely forgot to mention my trip to Wales. But as I have just realised that there is no Gardeners' World, again, I don't suppose I'll actually get in trouble for posting a few pix of a very nice garden visit. 

Now, okay, it does take a little while to get there. (And while people are prepared to troll down to Cornwall for Eden, they seem to be much less willing to tackle the M4 for the BGOW.)

But on the upside, it's a long straight road the entire way, apart from the last mile. And you pass M&S services along almost the entire route. And it has some spectacular infrastructure to gawp at- come on, admit it.

Bold Lucifer - just to prove it's not Eden (geddit?)

It's surprising to find a botanic garden that eschews neat rows of plants, but Wales just isn't like that. First, they took us to see a medicinal garden that included herbs written about in Druidical ceremonies (a certain Gold medal-winning garden designer took copious notes about that - perhaps considering a Getafix-style potion as a good luck charm for Chelsea 2009?). 

A beautiful, softly-planted order bed garden shows off the latest taxonomic knowledge without losing any elegance. Drifts of agapanthus, allium and kniphofia in the Monocot beds, all blending so cleverly.

In another bed, hot oranges and yellows from Alstroemerias and daylilies. 

And here, palms (they're monocots too) provide an exotic backdrop for turk's head lilies and others I don't recognise! 

A swoopingly stylish pond in lead in their tropical house.

Outdoors, a chain of eighteenth-century ponds finish in this deftly-balanced bog garden, with stately gunnera poised above many different leaves. Look how well the silvery willow works above, too. 

Then we came to the most beautiful meadows (where is Stag Beetle Boy when you want him?) overlooking the land that falls away towards a 500 acre organically-managed farm, now being set aside as working nature reserve.

Look at the variety of things growing in here - Lychnis, Oenothera, Verbascum - even peonies in spring. When they divide the herbaceous borders, they put whatever they don't need in the meadow. It works very, very well, as everywhere you look there are surprising dots of colour. 

And best of all? You get to go round by CHIP FAT POWERED comical train!!!!

Oh - with all that meadowing about, did I forget to mention there's a Norman Foster glasshouse? 

With South African-y, Mediterranean-y floras from around the world? (These are proteas.) 

And what about this totally James Bond quarry? The scale of the indoor space is something else. 

All in all, I thought it was a beautiful, modest, natural, tawny meadowy sort of a place, with great big ancient oak trees and stuff you'd never get in the wild clay pits of St Austell. It's not brash and bold like Eden, but I like that. Subtle, gentle, unostentatious. Anyway - if you fancy a real proper trip, this is a good one. 


Zoë said...

Its a good thing it seems to be recovering, wasn't it under threat of closure until recently?

Also am I deluded, or are we being swizzed with the number of Gardener's World episodes this year? I thought the Hampton Court coverage was reduced too. Everyone else is on gardening/grow your own overdrive and the BBC cuts back? Figures.How can they justify not having it on at the peak of the growing season?

emmat said...

It definitely was, and there are still lots of money issues, and lots of people who went to see it early on haven't gone back because it looked like such a building site, etc etc etc. But I think what they are doing is really interesting and wonderful. The one big criticism is that they could be making a totally Wisley-style plant centre and yet at the moment that side of things is all bought-in plants ( a job for Pete Free there I think).

I'm pretty sure that we always lose a couple of Gardeners' Worlds to the proms. I don't mind the Proms, in fact I love it on the radio. (I'm going to sound like Peter Seabrook here though) I just don't want it on TV with an interval feature about the new series of Dragon's Den. I like my Tv either really silly or serious, and not a bedraggled halfway in between.

VP said...

Glad you featured BDOW, it needs all the publicity it can get, especially as it isn't in trendy Cornwall.

However, I can't believe you were within 2 miles of my house on the way there and didn't drop in for a cuppa!!!!!!!!

Arabella Sock said...

Thanks for posting this Emma. I've always wanted to go and will certainly make time next time I'm in Wales. My parents went when it first opened and weren't so impressed but it looks like it has really come on since then and could do with some good publicity to bring the punters in now.

The only thing that puts me off is the little train! (There was going to be a rant about tourist trains here but I deleted it as it went on too long.)

The Black Finger Nail said...

"The one big criticism is that they could be making a totally Wisley-style plant centre and yet at the moment that side of things is all bought-in plants ( a job for Pete Free there I think)."

I was last there two years ago and if it wasn't for the frankly excellent Welsh lamb hot pot (and everything yummy else) in the main cafe I would have left in utter despair at the planting and the quite ridiculous "modern" take on half the walled garden (why not stick some Banksey works up in the crypt of St Pauls whilst they are blasting thru' lottery money I thought).

The "Wyevale" type garden centre is an overpriced (of Tunbridge Wells) disgrace.

I would have loved to buy Astilbe Montgomery but had to sneak back and dig them all up ;)

Well worth a visit - If you are a miserable old git with a moaning tendency.

emmat said...

See BFN may have had a point, but Stephen Anderton, who I was with, (Times gardening supremo) said he'd been three times now, and that it was much changed, so much better now etc. etc.

Not the garden centre! the whole garden....

In particular I didn't see any evidence of a modern take on half the walled garden - unless our ideas of modern are drastically different. It had clipped hornbeam circle in the middle and then radiating areas outwards with lush herbaceous planting, some demonstration veg patches, and a big glasshouse?

One thing I will say is that if people had such bad visits there as BFN's, it really will take a lot to get them to ever come back again.

emmat said...

PS VP!!! it would have been at 6.30am. Do you do pre-breakfast tea then? xxx

VP said...

That's normal getting up time here - hubby goes off swimming. I go blogging!