Architect, garden-lover and North Wales native, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, famously wrote that everyone should have ‘a happy awareness of beauty about us’ and we can’t help but wonder if this was at the forefront of his mind when he designed his own intricate and world-famous gardens. Best known as the creator of the delightful and exotic Portmeirion near Penrhyndeudraeth, but rather less well-known for the equally stunning gardens at Plas Brondanw (the place he called home), the horticultural legacy left by Sir Clough is the reason many garden fans visit North Wales in the first place.
It may surprise you to learn, then, that our wild and mountainous region is home to over thirty fabulous formal gardens, all meticulously planned and laid out by gardeners as dedicated and passionate as Sir Clough. We are absolutely privileged in North Wales to have a diverse range of gardens that pay homage to, quite possibly, every type of garden ever conceived. The stately homes and country houses of North Wales host an array of orangeries and orchards, water features and exotic flowers, shady walks and fairytale dells, meadows and croquet lawns. Some have always been carefully tended, while others were sadly lost or neglected, but all were designed for enjoyment so it’s only natural that most are open to the public today.
Whatever the weather, spring is a really wonderful time to wander North Wales gardens – bright blocks of rainbow colours can be seen everywhere and everything is so fresh and new, it’s invigorating! Now, as then, North Wales gardens are waiting to delight, inspire and surprise you, so why not come along and explore them resplendent in the first trappings of spring?
Whether you’re a keen gardener or just love spending family time in the great outdoors, we’ve selected three of our favourite gardens; two well-loved and well-known, and one less well-known but absolutely unmissable.
Bodnant Garden, Tal Y Cafn
One of the most famous gardens in Great Britain, Bodnant needs little by way of introduction. Seat of the Aberconwy Family for hundreds of years, the estate is now managed jointly by the family and the National Trust, and is one of the most stunning spring gardens to be viewed anywhere in the UK.
As well as all the usual spring favourites of tulips, crocuses, primulas and snowdrops, visitors will be treated to an early season show by some of Bodnant’s more exotic residents, including the garden’s wonderful collection of magnolias, cherry blossom trees and rhododendrons. Right now, the Campbell’s Magnolia that presides over the Croquet Terrace is a sight to behold, sporting heavy pink blooms, while the carpet of daffodils clothing the Old Park Meadow will have you spouting poetry!
Over the Easter break Bodnant is hosting a range of fun events; it’s rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the most family-friendly Trust properties in the area, and a visit is a great way of introducing youngsters to the wonder of plants. Full details of Easter events can be found here.
Plas Cadnant, Menai Bridge
The ‘hidden’ North Wales gardens of Plas Cadnant are so-called because they were not rediscovered until 1996 when the sixteenth century house and estate was purchased Anthony Tavernor. He and his team of dedicated gardeners and volunteers have spent the past twenty years painstakingly coaxing the gardens back to their former glory. And glorious they are!
Despite suffering severe damage during winter storm, Eva, on Boxing Day 2015 the gardens will be open to the public from 23 March, so there’s still plenty of time to enjoy them in their full spring splendour. Plas Cadnant is made up of, not one, but three gardens: the walled garden, the upper woodland garden and the secret valley garden, and each are charming and fascinating for different reasons.
At the moment all three gardens are awash with spring flowers, notably the estate’s fine collection of azaleas and camellias, and you may just catch a glimpse of some late season snowdrops – the estate is famous for them but storm damage meant the gardens sadly couldn’t open for their celebrated Snowdrops Days this year.
Why not take a look at some of the upcoming events at Plas Cadnant?
Plas Brondanw, Llanfrothen
The delightful North Wales gardens at Plas Brondanw were created by the same mind behind Portmeirion, Porthmadog’s unique Italian village-by-the-sea. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis was an avid gardener and architect and campaigned for the preservation of green spaces his whole life. His love of the great outdoors is evident at both sites but Plas Brondanw is a little bit special, being his family home.
The gardens at Plas Brondanw cleverly combine the formal and the wild; with the dramatic Snowdonia Mountain Range forming the backdrop to most of the panoramic spots around the garden. Sir Clough’s design skills are also apparent in the precisely laid out terraces, hedges and beds of the garden, which form a series of outdoor ‘rooms’.
On the 26 March Plas Brondanw is holding an Easter Egg Hunt and Plant Fair. This event offers the perfect excuse for curious garden lovers and families alike to experience this wonderful garden for the first time. The first of many we’re sure!
All of the gardens we’ve featured, plus many, many more, will be participating in the very first North Wales Festival of Gardens. This exciting event will take place between 28 May and 5 June 2016, featuring a host of events at gardens across North Wales. The festival will have something for everyone – lectures, open-air concerts, workshops, plant fairs, activities for children, theatrical performances, photography classes, guided tours and art exhibitions are just a few of the things planned – and, together with some dazzling late season displays, promises to make for a memorable gardening break in North Wales.
IMAGE: (© Copyright Raymond Knapman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)