National Botanic Garden of Wales – Part 1

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


11 thoughts on “National Botanic Garden of Wales – Part 1

  1. Oooh, thank you, I’ve been looking forward to this! I love the picture of the grasses against the water, stunning! Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust use a lot of dogwoods and willows and they too are stunning in low autumn light against the water, it is a wonderful way to plant and really makes the winter garden come alive. I love the kitchen garden, I have full-blown jealousy issues, though I’d never be able to manage such a large space. Looking forward to part II!

    • Thanks Janet, Writing about the garden makes me want to be back again already, it really is a wonderful place. I haven’t been to Slimbridge but it sounds like somewhere to add to the to-go list also…
      I enjoyed the winter gardens at Anglesey Abbey when I lived in Cambridge; have always loved the colourful cornus and salix stems coppiced and glowing in the winter light.
      Yes I too covet that kitchen garden. In fact the entire double walled garden. Just the phrase “walled garden” conjures up images of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden… It would be rather wonderful to have a walled garden, and fill it with orchards and blowsy perennial borders around a lawn and a kitchen garden with neat rectangular beds and gravel paths…

  2. Hi Sara – just goes to show that the Autumn palette is not dull and you’ve captured the garden aspects so well. Yes the silvery grasses shimmered beautifully but was also taken with the image of the cobbles – figuring out the pattern. Look forward to part 2

    Laura x

    • Hi Laura, I was so impressed that the gardens would still be so captivating at this time of year… and the pattern of the cobbles caught my eye too! I can’t wait to go back again, in the winter and the spring and… 🙂
      I shall try and write up the rest of our visit in the next couple of days.
      Sara x

  3. No need to apologise for a long post — we love reading them! Great photos too — I like the one of the white Birch, and the semi-circles of paving-stones, which I suspect normally go unnoticed by most visitors.

    • Thank you, Mark. We were spoiled for subjects! I love finding patterns in things – don’t you find that the more pictures you take, the more you see around you?

  4. Pingback: National Botanic Garden of Wales – Part 2 « Hillwards

  5. Lovely to be able to visit the gardens this wayout of season when we cant get to Wales from Cornwall. Lovely pictures

    • Thank you. It was certainly a pleasure to visit! And I hope to visit beautiful Cornwall again before too long… though I suspect not before Spring.

  6. What an absolute fantastic place to visit, I can hardly wait. The first time I visited was 2004, so I can hardly wait to see the changes! We’ll see you on the 23rd of November!

    • I hope you have an amazing visit, and the weather holds for you. Alas I’ll be trapped indoors behind a computer tomorrow – drat having to work for a living…

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