Travelogue: Check mark off the bucket list: Aberglasney

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.

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The Ninfarium,  the central ruins of the house covered with glass to create an atrium.
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The Cloister Garden
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All the lovely angles of ancient stone in the Cloister Garden
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A look back at the house from the Upper Walled Garden
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A walk through the Yew tunnel planted in the 18th century.
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The Kitchen Garden

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.

 

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The Upper walled garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse

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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!

Next Travelogue: Visiting Eden

Pumpkins from garden to table

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I love this time of year and all the piles  of pumpkins in stores and the u-pick farms.

It’s time for fall harvests and pumpkins are everywhere.  In the garden, nothing delights kids more than to see bright orange fruits peeking out from under a vine.  Growing pumpkins is not for every garden. The sprawling vines take over, under and all around a garden space. In my small Potager, (kitchen garden) in the midst of everything else I want to grow, I always make room for a pumpkin plant or two. This year, I had one vine dangle over the top of the fence with a small pumpkin hanging on for dear life!

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Even though it is out of season to talk about growing them, here are some tips to consider when planning your next growing season.  To help reign in the long pumpkin vines here are a few tricks I use to conserve space. As soon as I see a softball sized fruits forming, I cut off any new growth beyond that fruit. This allows it to grow bigger and ripen, rather than have the plant continue to put energy into forming more. I also gently move the vines as they are growing and start to form a large spiral (without breaking them) rather than allow the vines to take off in all directions. Turn growing pumpkins occasionally to avoid them being lopsided. Leave them on the vine as long as possible if they are still green to promote ripening. Harvest pumpkins when the vine begins to die out and the pumpkin is showing its full, rich color.

Pumpkin varieties vary from good carving to the sweet varieties for eating. Carving pumpkins are typically grown for size and not for baking. Carvers to grow include “Howden”, “Racer” and “Connecticut Field”. For baking choose, the Cinderella pumpkin “Rouge VIF D’Etampes”, “Small Sugar” and “SnackJack”. Unique novelties to grow are “Lumina” (white skinned, yellow flesh), “Baby Boo”, “Jack-B-Little” and “Jarrahdale”

Harvest and enjoy!

Recipes to try:

Pumpkin Mush

Pick the sweet varieties for baking. The pulp can be used in pies, soups, cakes and cookies.

Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds and fibers. Place the cut halves on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350° oven for 20 to 60 minutes (depending on the size). The pumpkin is done when the skin is brown and you can easily push a fork through it. Allow to cool and scoop the flesh out of the skin. Puree or mash it. It should have a consistency of pudding. To preserve, pack into freezer bags in 2 cup quantities. Two cups of mash will equal about a 16 ounce can. Use in pies, soups, and cookies.

Pumpkin Soup

This brings back memories when I was little girl in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We once had a Thanksgiving dinner at the Old Salem Inn. As a kid the thought of pumpkin soup sounded weird, but the taste was good!

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin

3 cups half and half milk

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules

½ teaspoon pepper

1/8th teaspoon powdered allspice

1/8th teaspoon ginger

Salt to taste

In a saucepan, melt the butter, and then add the pumpkin. Stir well and add remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Serve in bowls or mugs. If desired,  top with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, croutons, a dollop of sour cream,  fresh parsley or small snips of chives.