Bad Tempered Gardener?

A garden that is more like walking through rooms of an art gallery with works from an abstract artist. The hedges behaving like picture frames all around to bring it together.

Travelogue Wales: South of Abergavenny, just over an hour drive past Raglan Castle  was a visit to a private garden. We walked down a small gravel lane off the main highway to a gate almost hidden under a tree. A hand-written sign led into the garden of Anne Wareham author of the book, The Bad-Tempered Gardener.  Prior to our visit, I did wonder what a bad-tempered gardener’s place would look like (I had not heard of the book.)  I don’t remember being bad-tempered in any garden, even when stuff dies, explodes (yep, a hose), overtakes (horsetail, ugh!), and just flat-out defeats me after a day spent in it.
Veddw House Garden

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The artistry of hedging at Veddw

We were greeted near the small conservatory by Anne’s husband,  Charles Hawes, a talented, well-known photographer. He mentioned she wasn’t home (I won’t spend too much space here telling who I later saw sneaking out the back door, while I was alone photographing one of the back gardens.)

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A peek inside the Conservatory

Charles gave us a warm welcome and spoke about the garden before he let us explore on our own. His described it as “a garden with edges being rough and ready”, which is a good visual for the way the lush planting borders threaten to spill over and have the run of the place. I did like his description  of simply letting the plants “have it out”. As I looked around, it made me think how I’d love to pursue that garden method.

“I have seen gardens gardened within an inch of their lives. I have seen gardens so “tidy” it makes your soul cringe. The kind of garden where the lawns are “edged” with a special tool, designed to keep the grass and the plants forever apart and weeded to death. Such gardens prickle with discomfort and control.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener
Yes, the plants were let to go wild, reseed, spread and fill every inch of soil, but the intricate maze of hedges somehow made it feel less rough. It was more like walking through rooms of an art gallery with works from an abstract artist. The  hedges behaving like picture frames all around to bring it together.

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Hosta en masse
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“Florist Cardy” (Cynara cardunculus)  with a side of Heuchera
“I have met gardeners who make the sign of the cross at the sight of Alchemilla. This is because it seeds itself so generously. Well. be grateful that there is such a beautiful essential plant that does that for us and then find a good use for it.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

After our visit to the garden, I had a lucky find-out of thousands of  used books crammed on a shelf in a little book shop at  Hay-On-Wye (a village famous for books. The streets are lined with dozens of used and antiquarian bookshops.)  IMG_8657Here area  few snippets from the book:

What do you think? Bad tempered?
“Gardening is boring. It is repetitious, repetitive and mind-blowingly boring, just like housework. All of it-sowing seeds, mowing, cutting hedges, potting up, propagating is boring and all if it requires doing over and over again. If there are enjoyable jobs they’re mostly enjoyable for the result, not the process.”   Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

Or simply telling it like it is

“The very best trick is to try things and see. Experiment; take risks, particularly if they involve less work. This way innovation rises and innovation is badly needed in the gardening world. If a job seems exasperating, expensive or boring, stop and think whether there might be an easier way. Plants want to grow; they are on your side as long as you are reasonably sensible. If they don’t like what you offer, offer them something else quickly and see if it suits better.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener


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veddw wood edging

Next Travelogue: Going Herbal at the Physic Garden



Travelogue: In Ruins

How can one go to Wales and not see (or stay) in a castle?

How can one go to Wales and not see (or stay) in a castle?

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Peacocks roamed the grounds lending a romantic yet noisy atmosphere.

Our first stay was at Ruthin Castle as we made our way to the upper coast of Wales.  A hotel and spa surrounded by the shadowy remnants of a fortress dating back to the 1200’s.

Ruthin Castle and Hotel

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Scenes from Ruthin Castle

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A medieval themed wedding was taking place one of the nights we stayed at Ruthin. When I was out taking photos,  I spied a little boy dressed in a knight costume having a sword fight with an imaginary foe. He was happy to pose for me showing his knightly fierceness.

Raglan Castle
If these wall could talk, they would reveal much. A walk through the grounds of Raglan conjures the visuals you see in the movies- knights in armor and raucous candlelit meals spread out on long wooden tables. In the ruins there are just enough outlines of  windows, walls and rooms of this castle that it lets your imagination run. You can almost see heavy tapestries and ornate fixtures dripping with the wax of lit candles hanging on the walls.
Touching the stone was like a vibration of its past. It is fascinating to see ancient stone that has stood for generations, solid, yet crumbling down.
The misty rain on the day of our visit, helped to create the perfect setting to walk and be drawn away into history.  Just imagine how many generations passed through the stately entry.

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Raglan Castle
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The ruins of Raglan Castle

Powis Castle

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A panoramic view from the great lawn at Powis Castle in Wales

Powis is a fortress and country manor that remains one of the few castles in Wales kept carefully preserved throughout its 700 year history. At first glimpse the gardens around the castle grounds seem nondescript, but as you weave your way down along the elegant baroque-style balustrades and terraces, the gardens become more magnificent. Mixed plantings, massive billowing yew hedges and lush shrub borders are the immense framework  that beautifully overwhelm the huge castle grounds. Every terrace, as you work your way down, shows different design influences. They weave to Italianate style, making way to the original orangery and then stepping down to the classic Edwardian herbaceous borders. Powis castle collage.jpg

The view from the terraces to the formal garden and croquet lawn. 


The veg and fruit gardens have been renovated to be more formal and decorative than productive.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’
This silvery leaved perennial was introduced by the head gardener of  Powis Castle in in the 1970’s. In 1993 the plant received the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ is believed to be a hybrid between the Artemisia arborescens (large wormwood) and Artemisia absinthium (absinthe wormwood). The Genus is named for Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon. Hint, hint…plant this in a moon garden to illuminate the garden by the light of a full moon. IMG_1061 artemesia.jpg

Next Travelogue: The Bad-Tempered Gardener

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