I must apologise in advance: this is the first of two rather long posts! We spent a glorious day last weekend at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, which celebrated its 10th birthday this summer.
This is a hard time of year for many gardens to excel, with the herbaceous borders ragged and colourless under flat skies, punctuated by only a few bright blooms that have survived the first frosts, autumn colours already fading, swept away by the strong winds, while the winter colour of dogwoods and willows is still dampened by the brackish remains around them… and yet despite all this we were utterly enchanted by these gardens.
We began by walking up the Broadwalk from the Gatehouse where we entered, with the start of the lake alongside us. Here grasses and dogwoods shone in the low sun against the dark waters.
Coots and ducks glided serenely along beside us in the cool water, and a white barked birch gleamed in the sun.
We passed through the Japanese garden, which comprises a gravel garden and a less formal garden where a stream meanders through the borders.
Beside the tea house, fallen acer leaves became part of an unusual water feature in an old pot, with flowers floating on the unbroken surface.
From these gardens, we passed into the double walled garden, which is divided into four quadrants.
At the centre a dipping pool is surrounded by a ring of pleached trees, which in turn are enclosed by a narrow rill.
The kitchen gardens still held a few cabbages, kale, sprouts and other over wintering crops, but you can imagine that this area was teeming with produce a few months ago – much of which is used in the restaurant.
A small tropical house was opened a few years ago within the double walled garden, and this houses a glossy collection of bromeliads, palms, orchids and other tropical plants. Outside, the large wheels of agapanthus heads dripped with black seeds, and magnolia trees held aloft fat buds, some already showing the rich pinks and mauves of the petals within.
An avenue of white-stemmed silver birches lead up towards the cobbles of Millenium Square, around which the old stables and other outbuildings house a shop, gallery, restaurant and theatre.
Here we stopped for a lovely homecooked lunch (and slice of cake!). And here I too shall pause, to be continued in another post…