Walking through this garden is truly a reminder that seeing a plant, touching and smelling are still the best ways to learn about a plants.
In the 1600’s, the engaging study of botany and plants, really depended on only 3 sources: herbals (such as Gerard’s), collections of plants (pressed, dried, glued to sheets of paper and labelled), and excursions to countries where teachers were learning from living plants. The challenge-some plants were being studied by looking at dead plants glued to a page. It just wasn’t the same as learning by growing a living plant, nor very diverse. So a group called the Apothecaries set out to find land in London just after the great fire, where they could cultivate rare plants and sow seeds and slips from plants that were being brought in from other countries.
And so begins the garden intended for study and the advancement of botany and not just a garden to grow plants used for drugs. The reputation of a garden for medicine is steeped in history. Because truly medicine men and healers became the only teachers of botany. Early descriptions of plants were written by them. Even digging deeper into history, a wonderful old book I bought at a bookshop at Hay-On-Wye, The Romance of the Apothecaries Garden at Chelsea (1928) states: Primitive man crawled out of his cave and had to “discover that the roots and leaves of wild cabbage were wholesome, but that the plant monkshood nearby would stop his breath” …and so the cave man became, of necessity a field botanist–a better one than many a modern Londoner.”
Today, a walk through this 4-acre plot that is surrounded by brick walls and iron gates to keep out the hustle and bustle of London is still following its original intent. A place to study, learn and experience useful plants. For me, it was truly a reminder that seeing a plant, touching and smelling it are the best ways to learn about plants.
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
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.)
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.
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.) Here 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
Next Travelogue: Going Herbal at the Physic Garden
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.
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.
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.
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 Artemisiaarborescens (large wormwood) and Artemisiaabsinthium (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.
Welcome to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It is another garden in restoration that makes you wonder how could an estate of that magnitude disappear into rubble? Money, time, loss of family traditions, a world war-in this case it was all of the above.
Hell eee gan, not misspelled, but more an attempt to phonetically write how our charming garden docent Graham told us it was pronounced. The emphasis, to correctly say it, is on the middle syllable. I shall always remember him politely chiding us, but I will probably forever say it wrong.
Welcome to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It is another garden in restoration that makes you wonder; how could an estate of that magnitude disappear into rubble? Money, time, loss of family traditions, a world war and a hurricane-in this case, it was all of the above.
Port Issac aka Portwenn. A picturesque fishing village made famous by the TV series Doc Martin.
I was told I should watch Doc Martin before I traveled to Cornwall. I don’t typically watch much TV (except for my Downton Abbey fix), so it didn’t happen.
Ok fine…what is all the fuss connecting this TV show with this seaside village? I logged into Netflix and ummm; is this what they call binge watching? I am hooked and I love seeing all the places I walked during our visit to Port Isaac aka Portwenn. For now, I am trying to stay away from the spoilers because season 7 is on. I am still in the episodes where Doc and Louisa barely know each other in season 1. Along the Rugged Cornish coastline
What a charming village tucked in the side of the Cornish coast. All the buildings stacked into the hillside to face the deep blue sea.
The main part of town is hidden until you round the corner down the walking path. A respite from garden touring, it was a beautiful spot to soak up the sun, and grab a Cornish pastie from the cute little bakery (which I suspect will show up in a future episode of the TV show). We behaved very much like American tourists, almost getting plowed by cars zipping through the narrow streets as we breezed in and out of little shops that I now see on the TV show. Every turn was a photo opportunity. Now I wish I had watched a few episodes and met the grumpy ol’ Doc so I could be like others and have my picture taken knocking on the door of “his” house.
From pit to paradise. Plants from all over the world have a home in Cornwall.
Somewhere around the year 2000, I read about a project in England that was a bit unusual. Was it a garden or was it a sci-fi movie set? This was not one of those classic English gardens of long historic reverence. This was a dream of Tim Smit who spearheaded the restoration of Heligan (upcoming post of a visit with the mud maiden, stay tuned). The Eden Project was a crazy concept to create a series of Biomes banked in the crevice of a giant china clay pit that scarred the beautiful Cornish countryside. His vision was to have massive greenhouses that allow people to see “…a living laboratory showing plants we depend on, seeing them as they grow in the wild together, a living demonstration…” I followed the stories of it’s building progress and read the controversy and challenges it has gone through. Satellite photos on the internet make it look like big pieces of bubble wrap tucked in the earth. It has always made me curious. The second bucket list check mark.
This was a treat to walk out of the visitor’s center and down into the large pit and say, I can’t believe I am seeing this for real . Yep, I am pretty simple to please! Give me a garden to visit and you’d think you’d given me a million bucks.
The best part of the Eden Project beyond those amazing Biomes is the education and sustainability mission. All the water used to keep the huge rainforest dome bathing in humidity and to flush the toilets is collected rainwater. Energy is generated from the huge wind turbines around Cornwall. Kids and families, were everywhere, walking through this learning lab of plants both inside and out of the domes. I want an Eden here to take my grand-babies to and share in the magic of growing plants and learning about flora from all over the world.
There is much more to say about this unique project and this post could get long, but probably best to let you catch these links later and fill this post with my photos.
A visit on the summer solstice to a garden lost in time. Aberglasney House and Gardens in Wales.
What is a bucket list? A list of things, whether written out or virtual, of places to go or things to do before you die. Mine is also known as the “someday” list and includes gardens I’d like to visit. I could walk through gardens all day, every day, but sometimes one I have read about captures my imagination. I think about what it would be like to walk in and get sensory overload just by being there. Touch, smell, feel-those things photos or the internet can never do. Aberglasney in Wales was added to my bucket list in 2007. I attended a lecture in Seattle given by the head gardener, Graham Rankin. It was a story of a garden lost in time (a book and BBC series) and its restoration. Just the idea of how a garden and home of that magnitude dating back 500 years, could simply disappear into rubble, was fascinating. Looking at the photos, I envisioned myself walking along the upper course of the Elizabethan cloister garden. Back then, I never thought I would get to Wales, so visiting this garden was on my list, but really almost forgotten. Fast-forward to 2015 and the planning stages of traveling with a group to the UK. I notice we will be staying in Abergavenny. My mind began to wonder, is it possible that Abergavenny is near the Aberglasney on my bucket list? Google maps said it was just over an hour drive away. It wasn’t on our itinerary, but I couldn’t get THAT close and not go! Uber, cab, bike, hitchhike, walk…I had to figure it out. Marianne, our tour planner, did some searching to add it to our itinerary and found out they were closed on our one free day in the area. NO! But, yes, with Marianne’s keen negotiation, Aberglasney was added for a visit on the longest day of the year with dinner included. Misty eyed
It was late afternoon in the lovely country side of Wales. As we drove up the coach parking, I felt lost. Was this the place I had seen in photos? It just didn’t look right. We started in the restored main entry of the house, and then walked through a door at the back of the room. It opened to the Ninfarium and that was the moment I recognized it from the photos that Graham Rankin had shown; I almost started to cry. Yep, that’s me (what a nerd), I had a moment of overwhelming gratefulness that I could travel and walk through this place that I had only seen in photos.
It was magical for us to spend the summer solstice walking the gardens with head gardener Joseph Atkin. Dinner was cooked from food grown in the lower walled kitchen garden and served on the terrace overlooking the pool garden as the sun was setting. The perfect way to check
this one off the bucket list. And yes, I finally got to take the walk I had only imagined, on the upper part of the cloister walls, what a view! If your journey ever takes you into the heart of Wales, you must go visit this place.
Gardens by a few degrees of separation: I visited a garden in LaMalbaie, Quebec, Canada, Les Jardins de Quatre-Vent, (checked off my bucket list in 2013) that has ties to Aberglasney. Frank Cabot and family, owners of Les Quatre Vent, gave money to help with the restoration of Aberglasney. Add the gardens of Les Quatre Vent to your bucket list too!