Gardens

Visitors to Aberglasney can explore more than 10 acres of magnificent gardens, from the historic Elizabethan Cloisters to a productive kitchen garden and our unique Ninfarium.

The Alpinum

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.

Plants you can find in this area include Ilex crenata ‘Dwarf Pagoda’ Japanese hollyTaxus baccata ‘Green Column’ yew coniferRhododendron 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, 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 there is interest throughout the year. During winter, the appearance of colourful ‘Witch-hazel’ is a highlight, alongside Sciadopitys verticillata ‘Umbrella Pine’. Spring sees the appearance of Rhododendron, Camellia flowers and Azalea shrubs.

Summer brings displays of rare hydrangea, in mid-summer, a stunning collection of Asiatic lilies, known as ‘Toad Lilies’ bloom. While in autumn you will see rare berrying trees such as the Tibetan Whitebeam Sorbus thibetanus.

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.

This garden is one of the most functional at Aberglasney and is filled with fruit and vegetables as well as a large variety of cut flowers in summer. We have to pack all our productive plants into the Kitchen Garden, therefore we spent a lot of time working out how to make the most of the space. 

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.

This unique garden was completed in 2005 and houses many sub-tropical and exotic plants. The glass atrium is built above the ruinous central rooms of the mansion.

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 orchidsAristolochia 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 approach to the house has seen the passing of many generations. No one knows what the house looked like in its early days but in Victorian times its windows gazed out over the North Lawn’s archery butt and croquet lawns. The Yew Tunnel is thought to have been planted by the Dyer Family in the eighteenth century and is a glorious fusion of thick tree trunks.

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.

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.

A meadow surrounding a quaint little stream which offers a contrasting garden experience to Aberglasney’s more formal areas. The Stream Garden runs into a 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.

This is another garden that has been given a new incarnation in recent times and emerged from a sea of overgrowth.

The eminent garden designer and historian Penelope Hobhouse is responsible for its new layout.

Pigeon House Wood

A secluded area of deciduous trees. It is named after the ‘Pigeon House’ cottage which sits further up Grongar Hill.

Jubilee Woodland

The Jubilee Woodland is one of the newest additions to the gardens at Aberglasney completed in 2012.