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For a welcome assurance that the brighter days of spring are on their way, look no further than snowdrops, Galanthus. They are surprisingly varied in height, flower size, shape and even colouring. Given a moist soil they will multiply into drifts. Plant freshly-lifted snowdrops when the foliage is just dying back in late spring. If it is not possible to plant in late spring, buying just after flowering when the leaves are still green (‘in the green’) is the next best way of establishing snowdrops. Plant snowdrops in a partly-shaded position in a moist, but well-drained soil with ‘leafmould’ or garden compost incorporated. It is important that the soil does not dry out in summer.
Crocus are one of the best early bulbs for bridging the gap between the snowdrops and Narcissus. At Aberglasney we grow a range of different ones and use them in many different ways.
Crocus ‘Vanguard’ is one of the best performers and is a real stand out in the genus or group that is called Crocus. It is a vernus type and has much larger flowers than the tomasinianus types that we grow a great many of. However what is great about this one is that it is so early, nearly three weeks before other vernus types. The combination of large flowers early in the season means that they stand out far more than the other Crocus. The other advantage is that they flower before the grass really starts to grow so you don’t have issues with mowing.
Today there is a huge range of Hellebore (x hybridus types) available in a range of colours from black to pink to yellow; you’ll even find spotted types within the Gardens. Unlike many plants Hellebores are mainly grown as strains from seed not named cultivars. This means that each one is an individual and will have its own colour or markings. Once planted Hellebore flower from December through to May in some cases and provide lush green foliage that makes good ground cover for the rest of the year. At Aberglasney they are one of our favourite plants and we use them throughout the Gardens.
As a group Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) are one of the best early flowering shrubs for flower and scent. The flowers appear before the leaves, usually in January, and last until March which means they really stand out. They come in a range of colours from red to orange or yellow and also have great autumn colour. Their growth habit can also be useful as they are quite wide without getting too high which avoids concerns about shade and health and safety.
This characteristic also makes them great for screens or filling corners. When placed next to a dark evergreen leaved shrub the flowers and autumn colour are also set off really well. Equally when backed by blue sky the flowers look fantastic and usually have excellent scent.
Aberglasney has developed a comprehensive collection of Daffodils with representations of all of the different sub-sections of plants in the Narcissus genus. These are seen around the Gardens in galleries and walks. The collection currently contains nearly four hundred different types including rare varieties such as Narcissus ‘Segovia’ and will continue to grow over the coming years. The Narcissus or daffodil is the National flower for Wales hence we feel we should have such a large collection. They also have a flowering period which starts in November with Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ and finishes in June. In season a map is available which will give you information on where to find all of the different Narcissus in our collection.
The Yew Tunnel is thought to have been planted by the Dyer Family in the eighteenth century. This glorious fusion of thick tree trunks will live for centuries if looked after properly. Taxus baccata can be old or merely look old – and often defy dating. Experts had been fooled into thinking the half dozen or so that make up Aberglasney’s Yew Tunnel were over 1,000 years old. In 1999 dendrochronology put the trees at just a quarter of that age.
The Victorians in particular were fascinated by these strange trees and their magnificent shaping and many visitors to the house came to admire the Tunnel. It was maintained constantly throughout the 18th century and beyond, until the 1950’s that is, when it was then neglected for many years before being carefully restored to its former glory.
The Ninfarium was completed in 2005 and houses many sub-tropical and exotic plants thanks to a glass atrium having been built above the ruinous central rooms of the mansion.
Amongst the most striking plants on display are Gloriosa Superba ‘Climbing Lily’, Phaleonopsis orchids, Aristolochia gigantea ‘Dutchman’s pipe’, Magnolia champaca yellow jade orchid tree, Stephanotis floribunda ‘Madagascar jasmine’ and Musa coccinea ‘Banana’.
This award winning garden is an idea derived from the gardens at Ninfa, located at the foot of the Lepini Mountains, south of Rome. There the whole of the medieval village has been imaginatively planted. The gardens at Ninfa were created by the Caetani family who gave financial support to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
The Cloister Garden is widely considered to be Aberglasney’s “most extraordinary and legendary feature”. The garden is bounded by a three-sided arcaded walkway made of solid stone. This parapet walkway is the only known surviving structure of its kind left in the UK.
It is believed that the Cloister Garden originates from Bishop Rudd’s time at Aberglasney during the 1600s. Almost every instance of other formal raised terraces that we know were popular in this period have disappeared having succumbed to Civil War depredations or the eighteenth century landscape movement when formal enclosures were swept away to make room for a more open parkland setting.
Plants to look out for here are Fragrant Rosa gallica var officinalis which grow along the walls during mid-summer and the Orange trees planted in lead pots. Lonicera periclymenum ‘Honeysuckle’ blooms beside the flight of steps leading to the parapet walk.