I saw many wonderful gardens during my brief sojourn in Wales and have already featured two of the large, well-known properties that are extremely well publicised and much visited, so for my final post on Wales, I am going to focus on three gardens not so much in the public eye and all currently being restored, re-planted and improved - so expect to see changes if you visit.
Time and distance would not allow you to visit them all in a day, but you might want to make a special visit to my first entry - Cae Hir - because it is a truly charming garden! You won't find huge glasshouses, extraordinary specimens or restored cloisters, but you will find a garden planted with love by a Dutchman, Wil Akkermans, who has passed his extensive love and knowledge of plants to his two children. This is a garden to wander slowly round, and sit on one of the many benches, looking at the plants and the trees - it is extraordinarily peaceful.
Covering just six acres, the main garden is behind the house and on a hill - this part has reached maturity and is filled with beautiful trees and plants, but still retains an informal air. You wander from room to room and each vista brings new plants, but it still feels like a secret garden and you constantly emerge from trees to see another view. There is also another large area, under development (above), with ponds and streams and this has the potential to be another Beth Chatto garden - so watch this space!
Another garden that I visited briefly was Upton Castle - way over in the West of Wales, and you'd have to make another trip unless you combined it with Picton Castle or Colby Woodland garden. This is a haven for walkers and is approached by a winding pathway through a magnificent wood. Very much under development at the moment, but the rose garden is lovely and I know that this will be a real gem in years to come and I shall visit again.
The third garden that really surprised me was St Fagans Castle in Cardiff. Hidden away behind the National Museum of Wales, this garden is unusual because it's free! You walk through a charming hilly wooded area to access the castle grounds and suddenly see the most magnificent vista before you - stepped terraces with statues and water pools in the valley below.
Walk up the steps the other side of the valley (right) and you arrive in a different world! This is not the domain of coach parties, observing vignettes of Welsh life, this is a garden, which feels as though it's been overlooked. But it's charming and uncrowded and is like a secret garden, hidden from the crowds visiting the museum.
This is an historic garden under restoration with terraces; a Victorian rose garden that has has recently been replanted; an avenue of bleached limes, a tunnel of hornbeam and a box parterre. This is another property under development and will, I'm sure become top-rated in years to come. At the moment, it has an air of being forgotten, and this is part of its charm. The castle - which is actually a gabled 16th century house - looks slightly run down, but forms a good backdrop to the formal gardens (below).Don't be put off by the crowds when you arrive at the Museum here - it really is worth walking through to St Fagan's Castle to see the gardens - they are delightful!