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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.
Aberglasney boasts many rare and unusual types of Magnolia. Amongst our visitors’ favourites is Magnolia ‘Felix Jury’. Bred in New Zealand by leading Magnolia breeders, Felix and Mark Jury, 'Felix' is a stunning new form which, once it reaches 5 - 6 years in age, will produce huge (up to 30cm across) bright pink flowers in early spring. Each flower is impressive in itself but as they appear in good numbers then the overall effect is really spectacular. It will perform best in a sunny spot with protection from strong winds.
Magnolia macrophylla is rare even in its native habitat of South Carolina, USA, and has the largest leaves of any Magnolia which can be up to 1 metre long, green above and silvery-grey beneath. Established plants have huge and fragrant creamy-white flowers, sometimes up to 30cm in diameter. With such bold foliage Magnolia macrophylla must be grown out of the wind in a sheltered situation and is susceptible to damage by spring frosts until mature. Once established it is fully hardy and a stunning tree. During the spring a map is available which will give you information on where to find all of our different Magnolia.
As a group, early flowering Iris have very different growing requirements to the moisture loving and woodland types we normally grow. They prefer open sunny spots in free draining soil. Generally we grow ours in south facing spots in the ‘Alpinum’ rock garden. Normally they are planted in clumps or closely packed drifts to give the best effect. The bulbs are planted just below the soil surface with a generous covering of gravel over the top. This reduces weeds and helps with drainage, we also find digging plenty of sand into the soil beforehand is a help.
Generally these types of Iris have rounded leaves rather than flattened fans and look very like onions or leeks. They tend to be short - about fifteen centimetres in height, although there are some types that grow to about a meter tall. They have typical Iris flowers and come in shades of blue, purple and yellow. Some also have a combination of colours or are two toned in the flowers. Most also have exquisite scents that are quite different from other perfumes, although they are subtle so you often need to be on bended knee to enjoy them.
Some of our favourite types are Iris bucharica and Iris reticulata ‘Joyce’. The taller types do tend to fall over in our rich soil but they are still well worth trying. Generally the first ones come into flower at the end of January and can often be seen poking through late snow falls, which like frost never seems to damage the flowers.
What horse chestnuts best offer gardeners is nice young foliage that is often tinged as red or pink as many an Acer. The foliage is followed by striking flowers, conkers and then good autumn foliage. All these different qualities make them really good garden plants.
A particular favourite at Aberglasney is Aesculus wilsonii which has very neat dark green foliage and huge white flowers. A better one for a small garden is Aesculus californica which spreads from the base and generally has no trunk with more flowers, although these are smaller. If you want something for a particularly small garden then any of the dwarf varieties work well, for example Aesculus pavia ‘Rosea nana’ which is only about two meters tall and covered in apricot pink flowers. There is also a purple leaved form that is even better. The parent plant Aesculus pavia is more of a shrub and fills a large space well.
So far all the types we have tried at Aberglasney have done well although we find it is best to keep them out of the wind. They seem fine on most soils and even take boggy ground. Buying them is not so simple and you will need to visit a specialist tree or shrub nursery as they are surprisingly uncommon.
We grow several different types of Hydrenga at Aberglasney. The first to flower are the climbing types which are soon followed by the serrata type which are miniature lace caps. From late July through to October the more typical lace caps and mop heads come into flower. There are also more unusual types like the velvety leaved villosa group or the dainty arborescens type. All of which make excellent garden plants especially as they flower in mid and late summer.
We have used them in an informal way at Aberglasney where they are dotted through different parts of the Gardens. They suit so many different areas including exotic woodlands, typical shrub borders, Asiatic borders and mixed borders. They also mix well with other shrubs especially spring flowering ones and therefore spread the season of interest. We have planted the sprawling Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’ next to large leaved yellow Azalea to particularly good effect.
Other types like the paniculata can be kept quite small - about a metre and a half, and are grown next to foliage plants like Catalpa. These types are useful in large borders near the front as they can add real impact.
The arborescens types are excellent in shade where the white heads light up the area in mid-summer when colour can be hard to find. These Hydrangea also stay quite short only getting to about a metre and a half and they require very little pruning.
It is however the very large villosa types that steal the show as they create tremendous impact with their purple lace caps and hairy leaves. We find these do best in sheltered woodland areas at the back of the border and they also seem to hold a respectable flower head for about two months.
By using different types of Hydrangea through a large area or a whole garden you can create a striking effect. We find it best not to plant them together as is traditionally done; by planting them separately they can be admired individually. These splashes of colour also look good from a distance especially as you always seem to see more than one clump.
One of the highlights of spring at Aberglasney is the Tulips. Probably their biggest strength is that they come in a range of colours that are easy to mix. It is not often you see two or three Tulips that don’t match. They also work well with other spring bedding plants which means you can create good displays by mixing Tulip colours that suit the other plants that are in flower.
In traditional bedding displays we mix Tulips with wall flowers that are usually cream in colour on the parterre. In other parts of the Gardens we mix Tulips with blue Forget-me-nots which look great in large pots or traditional displays. Tulipa ‘Anthracite’ and many of the other maroon varieties look good with forget-me-nots. Although these are not the only spring bedding plants they can be mixed with, combining Tulips with Pansy and Primula can also work well. These types of bedding displays do not need to be formal but can also be inter planted between herbaceous plants and removed and cut back as they finish. This is especially effective in borders that are late into leaf where some early colour is needed.
One of the best ways of using Tulips is in a border where they mix with early flowering perennials like Pulmonaria, another plant they compliment. We have many different colour combinations at Aberglasney in various borders where they increase the season of interest. You should however always be careful that the colour of the Tulips matches the colour display of the perennials in case they clash.
Elsewhere in the gardens we have planted wild Tulips called Tulipa sylvestris in the grass in the Cloister Garden. The grass must be left uncut after flowering to allow the bulbs to die back which is an inconvenience but worth it while they flower. There are also many early flowering species of Tulips that are great for the rock garden. We use them in the Alpinum where they are planted in natural drifts. This is something that can be done quite easily at home in a sunny spot.
One of the best uses of Tulips is in pots and this is something new we have experimented with this year. We plant the bulbs in layers with the tallest at the bottom and the shortest at the top followed by the spring bedding plants. All Tulips really need is free draining soil and a sunny spot and they have a multitude of uses making them excellent garden plants.
Bolt upright flower spikes of star-shaped, blue or creamy flowers push through the grassy leaves of this elegant bulbous perennial in late spring. It's vigorous enough to use in a wildflower meadow but does need damp soil. Bulbs can be planted in autumn, arranging in drifts for a natural effect. The leaves die back soon after flowering. Camassia leichtlinii and Camassia leichtlinii Semiplena are two beautiful new additions to our woodland areas.
No matter what the weather they seem to give a good display from late May into early June with certain varieties flowering later in June. What is especially good about them is the wetter the weather the longer they seem to flower.
In recent years we have done a great deal of work with roses - building a rose arbour and planting a huge rose wall. This has led to us looking at how we can use roses in other areas of the Gardens, primarily by mixing them into other mainly informal displays. Over the years we have found that the more common Tea roses are both hard to grow and use. This is due to the climate at Aberglasney and the type of Gardens we have. As a result we have had to try more unusual or wilder roses which unlike Tea roses we have found to make excellent garden plants.
The great advantage of these roses is that they suffer less disease. Many also have attractive foliage, nice hips and sometimes autumn colour and this means they can be mixed with other shrubs. Another bonus is that many flower in midsummer, a time when it is often hard to get flower in the shrub border.
The Rugosa types are extremely useful plants as they flower all summer and make a good foliage plant with hips and autumn colour. They make excellent hedges or screens, we often use them at the back of borders to add height too.
We also grow many ramblers which provide a wonderful burst of colour as well as scent in early summer. As they are so vigorous they make a big impact and are excellent for covering large walls. They can also be grown as free standing shrubs but they do take up a huge amount of room.
There are some excellent shrub roses that are much more manageable, we grow the Gallica roses in the formal cloisters where mixed with Lavandula angustifolia and Erigeron karvinskianus put on a wonderful display.
We are also trying a great number of old fashioned and wild roses in different areas of the Gardens. This is really exciting as they allow for new combinations and add interest at different times of the year. Generally roses need a fair amount of sun and therefore what you grow with them needs to have the same requirements. When you use shrub roses in borders there is the opportunity to plant next to and under them to give a long season of interest. So far we have tried snowdrops and Hellebore for early spring, Narcissus and Tulip for mid spring and Allium ‘Purple sensation’ for late spring. By this time the roses come into flower and with some variety you will have blooms all season. Cranesbill, Delphinium and Hollyhocks will make great midsummer companions.
For all the rare and unusual pants that we grow at Aberglasney there is still something special about our bluebell woodlands. Bluebells are a British native that are dear to most people. With good management they make an excellent native plant display in most woodland but in Beech woodland they are especially good.
At Aberglasney we try to keep as many as possible and integrate them with our woodland plant schemes. This does often mean that we have to lift and transplant large numbers when they spread too far. You will either be a gardener who has to weed them out or coax them along. At Aberglasney they are either an aggressive invader or well behaved depending on the spot.
We find Trollius and Ranunculus to be particularly good partners which is no surprise as these are close relatives of the common buttercup. Both these plants form dense mounds of leaves that disguise the unsightly old leaves of the bluebells.
There are many more plants that you can mix with bluebells and it usually depends on how wild you want your garden to be. One thing to remember is that mulching will not reduce the amount of bluebells you have in fact it will probably help them multiply. One easy way to keep bluebells in check is to dead head them after flowering. This won’t get rid of them but rather slow down their spread. It really is up to you what you do with bluebells but you can have a good combination of native and exotics that is both tidy and good for the environment. Really it’s a case of the old saying ‘A weed is just a plant in the wrong place’.
Autumn colour at Aberglasney is about so much more than the vast number of trees in the Gardens and although it is a time when we start putting the greater part of the garden to bed it is also a time when some good plants come into flower. Putting the tender Dahlia and Salvia to one side there are some good hardy plants that are at their best in the autumn.
One of the stars is Clerodendrum bungei which despite its name is a great plant. It is a suckering shrub unlike almost anything else with dark green leaves and heads of pink and darker pink flowers from September through to the first frosts. Growing to about two meters in height and being bolt upright makes it really useful for the back of the border. We grow a large stand of it on a south facing slope and it does absolutely fine even coming through hard winters unscathed.
There are also a great number of late flowering bulbs that really brighten up the autumn. Nerine make excellent late summer interest. They look like bright pink Agapanthus and are a real show stopper. There are plenty to choose from and in our view they are the most spectacular autumn flowering bulbs.
The trick to growing them is to plant them in as sunny a spot as possible in rich soil without too much competition around them. Getting them into flower can be a problem but a good watering in midsummer seems to help them. When planting them keep the neck of the bulb above ground, if it’s too low they won’t flower.
Another spectacular bulb for the autumn is Colchicum which also needs a sunny spot. They will flower without leaves and do this because they produce the leaves in the spring they are then dormant until flowering in the autumn. Planted in big clumps they put on a striking show and there are plenty of different types to choose from.
In the parterre area we have a huge Parthenocissus or Boston Ivy which is a vivid purple, red colour in Autumn. It combines well with the purple and orange Dahlia in the bedding border. What is particularly good about this combination is that it lasts right up until either the leaves drop on the Parthenocissus or the Dahlia is cut back by frost.
Many of the late flowering perennials such as Aster, Rudbeckia and Helenium flower well into November. This allows you to combine them with climbers or shrubs that have good autumn colour. We have one area where a combination of Pyracantha with orange berries mixes with Aster and Rudbeckia.
Elsewhere in the garden we find combinations of shrubs can create good long seasons of interest. We have a Koelreuteria ‘Coral Sun’, a golden leaved Judas Tree and a Purple Acer which are all at their best during the autumn but they also add colour through foliage from the summer to late winter.
At the top of Bishop Rudd’s Walk we have a large stand of different exotic shrubs that make a great mid and late season display. Here the purple flowers of Clerodendrum bungei and the golden leaved Catalpa are very impressive. This area also contains the purple leaved Catalpa and rare Hydrangea relative Kirengeshoma all of which combine to great effect.
When bedding is mentioned most people automatically think of summer bedding and not spring bedding. However some of the very best bedding displays are in the spring not summer.
More often than not what is sold as winter bedding only really comes into its own in the spring. This has been the case at Aberglasney where the combination of alabaster wallflowers and Tulips look fantastic in spring.
The real star of the bedding is the Tulip as they form the bulk of the display in the parterre, terrace and Kitchen Garden. What is great about Tulips is the range of height, colour and flowering times available. There is also a huge range of flower shapes to choose from with singles, doubles, frilled parrot and many others to choose from. They also combine well with other spring bedding plants such as Wall flowers, Pansies, and Bellis (ornamental daisies). The colour choice also makes life easy when choosing a scheme.
Wall flowers are an excellent partner for Tulips as they act as ground cover before the Tulips come through, as they have a completely different leaf and flower shape they contrast really well. They also add interest before and after the Tulips start. Buying them bare root in the early autumn is a good idea as they are so much cheaper and of course peat free. The only problem is they can be damaged in very hard winters.
Every year we combine reliable performers with a few new experimental varieties. We have used different quantities of different varieties to give us different colour blends and heights throughout the display with most of the plants set out informally.
We often use pink or white Cosmos and Cleome to give height and colour at the backs of borders with Dahlia ‘Blue Beyou’ which is pink and purple for medium height. We also like Castor oil plants, Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita Pink’ in the main displays, and choose the red form in borders as its leaves are ornamental in appearance and contrast well with the other foliage. When we need shorter plants we often grow a combination of white Bizzy Lizzy or Impatiens, green flowered Moluchella or Bells of Ireland, scented Heliotrope and Cerinthe.
The green spires of Moluchella break up the blue and white of the Heliotrope and Impatiens. The Heliotrope also gives you the added bonus of an excellent scent as does the foliage of the Cleome. However the plants that have really impressed are the Ricinus and the Impatiens as they have proved to be excellent plants for interest all through the season.
The Ricinus are planted out at the beginning of June and just get bigger and better as the season goes on. Do remember that all parts of this plant are highly poisonous and extreme care should be taken when using it. Between the foliage, flowers and seed heads there is always something to look at and the pink form goes well with the other plants. Elsewhere in the garden we have added the red form to the hardy displays where it has done equally as well.
The Impatiens have been a real success. Like many other people we had stopped growing the waleriana type due to the mildew problem. Then we tried the Sunpatiens which are a hybrid that has the New Guinea type as a parent. We have had absolutely no problem with mildew so far and they are happy in sun or shade. What we like about them is that they grow quite tall - about forty centimetres, and they flower all season.
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.
At Aberglasney we have to pack all our productive plants into the Kitchen Garden, which seems quite big, that is until you start to list all the things you want to grow. We have therefore spent a lot of time working out how to make the most of the space. There are a number of different ways of doing this and despite having technical names most are very simple tasks that just require some planning.
The first is crop rotation which simply means not growing the same plant in the same place; this allows you to change your layout throughout the year. New plants can then be tried and manuring and mulching can happen all year round. The second is crop succession which is closely linked to rotation and basically means replacing each crop with another one for later in the year. A third method is intercropping which is basically growing two crops in the same place and one comes out when it’s ready and then the other matures. The fourth is catch cropping which is growing a quick to mature crop. This involves growing a crop between main crops which is usually salad leaves or radish. We also use another trick which is a version of edible hedges these can be espaliers, step over fruit trees or seed grown crops. These make excellent use of boundaries or can make boundaries in themselves. It is important to remember that flowers can also be used in these displays to add colour and for ground cover.
We use all of these methods in the Kitchen Garden at Aberglasney and have found a few really good combinations of these methods. The first is to let Verbena bonariensis seed around in the herb garden. The herbs are just as good as always and you get a wonderful display of colour as well. The gaps between the herbs get filled and it reduces weeding. We find planting rows of Narcissus for spring works well for colour and interest and these are followed by Brassica’s in June or July. What is great about this combination is that you can add manure after you take the Narcissus bulbs out. Most Brassica such as Kale or Cabbage start small and fairly slow so there is the opportunity to either plant salad leaves or annuals such as marigolds under them. What we like about this combination is that if you use Calandula you can also eat the petals. Step over fruit trees make excellent hedges and the ground underneath them can be planted up with vegetables or flowers. Our main catch crops or intercrops are salad leaves and radish and our main intercrops are the same but with the addition of flowers. Courgettes are another plant where you can do intercropping or catch cropping and succession can be easily achieved with a combination of spring bulbs, annual flowers and whichever vegetables you want to grow. We find that it is very little extra work and the benefits to the production patch are huge.
We are lucky at Aberglasney to have huge walls where vigorous plants such as rambling roses or Wisteria can be given the space to go mad. However in certain areas, as is often the case in home gardens, there is not the space for these monsters and careful thought is required in choosing the right spots as well as the right plants.
Generally smaller climbing plants are the most practical thing as they are more manageable and more than one type can be planted in a spot. There are some great tricks we’ve used be used to make our rose arbour in particular look very colourful for a long period.
Planting two or three different varieties on the same pillar is one of the most effective methods for a long season of colour. We plant one rose that is vigorous and flowers once, another that is early flowering and a third which is repeat flowering. We have also chosen varieties with both slow and medium rates of growth which will not out grow their frame. We also add annual sweet peas for further scent and colour over a longer period. These plants work well together as the roses can be pruned after the sweet peas have died out for the winter. By doing this we have cut back on the amount of maintenance needed and made life a little easier for ourselves.
Another favourite in the Rose Garden are Paeonia. In the right position they have many great attributes and each year will give you a display that is seldom rivalled. It is not uncommon to see a clump that is fifty years old, they will often out live trees and may have numerous owners during their lifetime. So they are a plant that needs careful positioning and planting, in fact as much care should go into positioning and planting a Paeonia as a tree.
The right place will have a fair amount of sun and be in a fertile position with some shelter from strong winds. The important thing to remember is once they are planted it will be very hard to move them so future shade problems should be considered as the garden will change many times over their life span. However once they are planted they should settle in quite quickly as long as they are planted very shallow. Paeonia resent having their crowns covered and this is often the cause of poor flowering. Once they are planted they need very little care other than staking for the large or double flowered cultivars.
The inspiration behind this feature came from years of battling overgrown rambling roses in many different gardens. Rambling roses are a type of rose that is often overlooked or shunned as people are quite correctly afraid of its triffid like growth. However they are one of the easiest types to grow if you have the right spot. In our case this is a hundred meter long wall that has been planted with a collection of over thirty different varieties. Many of these will grow three meters a year and each year we prune them severely but carefully to keep them in check.
As a group rambling roses get very little black spot and always seem to thrive, they are great for the Welsh climate and often have wonderful hips as well. Generally they only flower once but when they do, it is a sight to behold. As they are so large they create huge displays that are really sensational and most are popular with bees and other pollinators. We grow them beside a wet bulb meadow that doubles with wild flowers to give the bees a large and long feast which is no bad thing. Historically rambling roses are steep in history and heritage with many hailing from China, they have been grown and bred in Britain for a very long time.
Aberglasney’s Malus sargentii Arbour is one of the Gardens most striking features when in full flower. This stunning Crab Apple from Mororan in Japan is situated in Aberglasney’s Lower Walled Garden and is a wonderful sight when it is alive with bees and hums like some kind of natural electric motor. The single white flowers are followed by small cherry-like fruits, which last well into the autumn.
As a feature it is one of the most asked about in the Gardens and people are always fascinated about how you achieve something like this.
In fact building features with fruit is quite easy and they can last for a very long time. The important thing is to start with a good solid structure. We nearly always go for galvanised steel or wrought iron as the structure needs to last longer than the tree. The next thing to do is select a suitable fruit tree, in our case we have used an ornamental crab apple but many varieties will work depending on what you want to achieve.
The next step is to choose the right rootstock for the variety you like; this will determine how quickly it grows. This is important as if it’s too slow it won’t cover the structure and if it’s too vigorous it will outgrow the structure and you will be forever pruning it. The best way to make these decisions is to speak to an expert fruit nursery so that you get the right thing; they can even make one up to order within twelve months.
Planting is also important as you want the stem close to the upright of your structure, so make sure they don’t have huge footings. Use really good topsoil and then annually mulch with manure so that the tree gets away to a good start. The next thing to do is train the tree up the upright by tying in with string. If you have an arch the stems should be flexible enough to bend over it once they have ripened. Prune off all the shoots that go in the wrong direction to three buds and train side shoots along your cross bars. Then each year in summer and again in winter spur prune (back to three buds) all the one year old growth, keep training the main shoot where you want it to go.
Over time this will develop into a really good garden feature giving you fruit and interest, it will also really impress the neighbours!
One of our newest projects has been the development of a Wisteria Arch which is truly a long term project. It would be no surprise if the Aberglasney gardeners were still pruning it in one hundred years time. A great deal of thought went into the design of the area and especially the choice of Wisteria. After much deliberation we decided to go for the most flamboyant type which is Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys’ which has arguably the longest racemes of flowers. These huge tassels of blue pea like flowers can get to over a meter in length. However it will be a few years before the plants make full maturity which is when flowering will be at its best.
The arch, which is more of a tunnel, is just short of thirty meters long and inspired by the famous Wisteria tunnels seen in Kawachi Fuji Garden in Japan. The under planting is a continuation of the Sunken Garden’s hot colour scheme. The idea being that the visitor will work through the cool blue colours and then be greeted by the vibrant oranges, reds and yellows of the Sunken Garden. The adjacent west facing wall is also planted with late flowering Clematis for a second burst of colour latter in the year.
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 Alpinum is found to the east of the Aviaries. There was originally a small pond in this area that dried up during the summer months. In 2007 it was transformed to accommodate diminutive or dwarf plants including Ilex crenata ‘Dwarf Pagoda’ Japanese holly, Taxus baccata ‘Green Column’ yew conifer, Rhododendron serpyllifolium ‘Thyme Azalea' shrub and Double flowered Colchicum.
The path through the Alpinum is made of limestone selected from a local quarry and is typical of the stone used in the locality for building. The stone contains a number of fossil invertebrates and so is of paleontological interest.
The term Alpinum is derived from the name of a similar garden feature created by Thomas Johnes at Hafod near Aberystwyth in the 18th century.
Situated on a small hill near the house, this garden was created in 2004 and offers views down the valley beyond Merlin’s Hill to Carmarthen in the distance. The garden boasts a collection of plants that originate from various parts of Asia including China, Japan, Tibet and Nepal.
The plants here have been carefully chosen so that once again there is interest throughout the year. During winter, the appearance of colourful ‘Witch-hazel’ is a highlight, while mid-summer brings with it a stunning collection of Asiatic lilies, known as ‘Toad Lilies’.
As well as ‘Witch-hazel’ in bloom during January and February Sciadopitys verticillata ‘Umbrella Pine’ is grown throughout the winter. Spring sees the appearance of Rhododendron, Camellia flowers and Azalea shrubs. Summer brings displays of rare hydrangea while in autumn you will see rare berrying trees such as the Tibetan Whitebeam Sorbus thibetanus.
This garden, like many others at Aberglasney, is always evolving and more choice rare plants are being added all the time.
Stream Garden Meadow
This meadow surrounding a quaint little stream offers a contrasting garden experience to Aberglasney’s more formal areas. The Stream Garden runs into woodland leading towards the mysterious Grongar Hill which was a source of inspiration for the young John Dyer when writing his famous poems.
The meadow is not natural but has been cultivated over several years. The Trust has planted thousands of Narcissus bulbocodium “the hoop-petticoat” daffodil, which are not native to Europe and the meadow needs to be cut at precise moments in the year in order to encourage the growth of seedling bulbs.
Look out for Fritillaria meleagris lily. The Malus x atrosanguinea apple tree produces some beautiful colours in the autumn. Also in this area are Camassia and Siberian and Japanese Water Iris.
The Sunken Garden has a water feature created by William Pye, renowned for his imaginative water sculptures, at its centre and whilst its appearance was originally inspired by Japanese gardens that used subtle evergreen plants the planting scheme is now as colourful as anywhere at Aberglasney.
The inspiration for the ‘new look’ Sunken Garden was drawn primarily from the gardens of Crec’h ar Pape in Brittany and Great Dixter in the United Kingdom. While the evergreen structure remains true to the original vision, the new planting adds vibrancy and colour. Tulips in hot reds and oranges mixed with maroon leaved Euphorbia kick off the season; dark blue Camassia comes later as a contrast to the hot colours. The perennial colour scheme is also one of vibrant colours with plants such as Kniphofia and Agapanthus taking centre stage.
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.