‘Thrilling’ National Botanic Garden of Wales makes UK’s Top 500 hotlist

The National Botanic Garden of Wales is “hands down one of Britain’s most phenomenal gardens . . . wholly deserving of a full day’s exploration”.

This is what has been written about the garden by the world’s most iconic travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet.

Their latest title, the Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist – which is out today, Tuesday, August 13 – features the very best of Britain’s unmissable destinations.

It describes the National Botanic Garden as “a thrilling floral romp” which “commands sensational views” and features the biggest single-span glasshouse in the world.

The Garden’s head of marketing, David Hardy said: “We are very honoured to be featured in the ultimate UK travel hot-list. Lonely Planet is the world’s No 1 travel guidebook brand and sells guides and travel apps by the hundreds of millions so this a fantastic accolade for our attraction and for everyone who has helped make it such an unmissable experience.”

The new guide ranks “in order of their brilliance” tiny pubs, giant cathedrals, inky lochs, world-class museums, gardens and all things great about Britain. Each entry gives a taste of what to expect, plus practical advice for planning your trip. Mr Hardy added: “It is pretty special to be ranked here alongside the likes of the Lake District, Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall and Notting Hill Carnival.”

Set in the beautiful Carmarthenshire countryside, the National Botanic Garden of Wales is a fascinating blend of the modern and historic.

There you will find, along with the world’s largest single-span glasshouse, an inspiring range of themed gardens, the British Bird of Prey Centre, a tropical Butterfly House, play areas and a national nature reserve, all set in a Regency landscape which provides the stage for a packed programme of events and courses throughout the year. And you can develop your horticultural skills and knowledge with the Garden’s Growing the Future project, with a variety of gardening and beekeeping-based courses on throughout the year.

Other tourist honeypots in Wales included are: Snowdon, Llyn-y-Fan Fach, Skomer, Portmeirion, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, St David’s Cathedral, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Caernarfon Castle, Barafundle Bay, St Fagan’s and the Royal Welsh Show.

To find out more about the Garden, go to botanicgarden.wales, email [email protected] or call 01558 667148.

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Clyne Gardens, Swansea
The gardens offer a variety of plants set in beautiful parkland and contains the finest rhododendron collection in Wales. The gardens are beautiful to visit all year round.

Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan
With more than 55 acres, the Pompeian garden and other Edwardian features include a paved court, reflecting pool, theatre garden, Italianate terraces, cloister garden, rose garden, lavender court, vine walk, alpine garden and arboretum.

Margam Park, Neath
Margam Park and its Orangery, in 850 acres of historic parklands, is a tranquil picturesque garden of serenity. The park is open all year round.

National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire
The National Botanic Garden was created to develop a viable world-class botanical garden, dedicated to the research and conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable utilization, and to lifelong learning and enjoyment of the visitor. With prior notice they can offer behind-the-scene garden tours. Themes could include Sustainability; Horticulture, Education; Science; Library/Archive; History and Heritage; Farming. The British Bird of Prey Centre is also housed here with daily flying displays at 11.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm of kestrels, hawks, and eagles. Visitors discover a sense of calm when visiting the Japanese Garden ‘Sui ou tei’ which refers to the national flowers of Japan and Wales (the cherry blossom and the daffodil). The garden was given a permanent home here from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and was rebuilt here in 2001. Another highlight is the tropical Butterfly House inside the double walled garden, which is full of tropical butterflies from rainforests around the world.

Picton Castle Gardens, Pembrokeshire
Here there is 40 acres of magnificent gardens, including woodland and a walled garden, with an extensive collection of culinary and medicinal herbs.

Plantasia, Swansea
Situated in the heart of Swansea, this impressive tropical hot house has a computer-controlled environment, houses a horticultural box of delights. Three distinct climatic zones take visitors from tropical rainforests to deserts.

Upton Castle Gardens, Pembrokeshire
The garden has a number of gardens all rolled into one. With 35 acres of garden there’s plenty to see. The arboretum is surrounded by woodland leading down to the tidal Cleddau estuary.

10 Welsh secret gardens that you must visit this year

They may not be as widely known about as our stunning National Botanic Garden of Wales, but across the nation there are dozens of incredible gardens to visit, lovingly nurtured by gardeners who want to inspire others. Rachael Misstear looks at 10 wonderful Welsh gardens that deserve a visit this year

1. Dyffryn Fernant, Pembrokeshire

Dyffryn Fernant garden is a wonderful surprise. Six acres of garden tucked into a valley in the lee of the Preseli uplands just before they plunge into the sea at Dinas Island in North Pembrokeshire.

A modern garden, made since 1996, it ranges from richly planted high colour and exotic planting in formal areas, journeys through a bog garden to wild marsh, pond and stream. Then it meanders through large blocks of ornamental grasses making sound and movement in the wind.

The wide variety of environments and the abundance of seating invite you to take your time and to investigate this place from different angles and perspectives, to bring your own beliefs, thoughts and feelings to your experience of the garden.

2. Erddig, a National Trust property on the outskirts of Wrexham

Shrouded in brambles and nettles when the National Trust first took over in 1973, the skeleton of the early 18th-century walled garden at Erddig could just be seen. In one of the largest garden restorations of its time – a total of four years – the garden has been restored to its original 18th-century design, with some later Victorian additions.

So what is it that makes the 13.5-acre walled kitchen garden so special? Maybe it’s the extensive statement lawns sprawling in front of the spectacular Victorian parterre, the trained fruit trees (there’s 148 different apple varieties grown at Erddig) reaching around one of the longest herbaceous borders in Wales, says the garden’s Lorraine Elliot. Or perhaps it’s the tranquil canal and pond water features inviting you to sit a while or the double avenues of pleached limes, Tilia, where ladies once walked in the shade.

3. The Veddw, Monmouthshire

The garden is set in the wonderful countryside of the Welsh border above Tintern. There are two acres of ornamental garden and two acres of woodland.

Good things about Veddw? “The amazing view over the hedges when you arrive; the dark black reflecting pool which either makes people very sombre or very giggly; the grasses parterre, where ornamental grasses in box hedges echo the surrounding countryside, or the reminders in the garden of the previous inhabitants in their turf and mud huts,” says the owner Anne Wareham.

“The garden is part living sculpture and part a celebration of the colours and forms of plants. Old unploughed grassland is now conserved as meadow and the garden features robust plants, happy mostly to look after themselves, living together in mild disorder but made effective by their containment in the strong lines of hedges and paths. It’s a country garden, comfortable in its setting.”

4. Clyne Gardens, Swansea

Since William Graham Vivian, the son of a wealthy industrialist, bought the Clyne Castle estate in 1860, some of the historic figures to have visited include Neville Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin and King Edward VIII.

But it was William’s nephew, Algermon, the estate’s owner from 1921 to 1952, who had the greatest influence on the gardens as we see them today. This is because he sponsored collecting expeditions overseas, including many of the internationally-famous rhododendrons that still bear their original collector’s numbers. His influence can also be seen in the landscaping, which features a Japanese Bridge, the Admiral’s Tower and the Gazebo that once gave a spectacular view of incoming ships to Swansea Bay.

At this time of year, the heather beds come into their own by providing bright early spring colour. Near the beds is a large lime tree planted by Princess Mary of Teck to commemorate her visit to Clyne Castle in the latter part of the 19th century.

5. Norwood gardens, Llanllwni, Carmarthenshire

Norwood Gardens extends to nearly three acres and consists of nine linked themed gardens. There is plenty to interest the keen gardener or the casual visitor throughout the season. The Bamboo Garden is home to a wide variety of architectural plants whilst the Mediterranean Garden evokes the hot gardens of Southern France (although weather to match is not guaranteed!).

Owner Michael Oliver said:“The Quiet Garden is cut off from the rest by a high privet hedge. Here the visitor can sit and enjoy relative seclusion.”

6. Plas Yn Rhiw, Pwllheli, Gwynedd

A woodland garden, a stone’s throw from the sea, protected by the formidable slopes of Mynydd Rhiw, The National Trust’s Plas yn Rhiw garden boasts a vast array of flowering trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Borders are framed with established box hedges, gravel and grass paths meander their way past exotic and unusual species that thrive in this unique microclimate.

Gardener Llifon Jones said: “There is something for all seasons, with the snowdrop woodland being a well-known local favourite in winter; magnolias, camellias and rhododendron dominating spring; hydrangeas, fuchsias and herbaceous perennials creating a sea of cool summer tones is followed by nature’s own fireworks display of autumnal reds, orange and yellows.

“Woodland walks, passing through a wildflower meadow leads to the recently planted native fruit orchard containing more than 30 different varieties of Welsh throats. The view over Cardigan Bay from the orchard is breathtaking.”

7. Gelli Uchaf, Rhydcymerau, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

Visitors to this garden under the National Gardens Scheme (private gardens open for charity) often describe it as magical and inspiring, which is how the owners feel about this special place in upland Carmarthenshire. Centred around an old longhouse with spectacular views, the sloping site has allowed several different garden areas to be created. Masses of insect friendly flowers are used to create a garden alive with colour, interest and biodiversity throughout the seasons. There’s even an exhibition of butterfly and moth pictures and some of Julian and Fiona’s artwork inspired by the garden for visitors to explore. If you can’t visit in person, then share the experiences, innovative ideas and views with Julian and Fiona through their fascinating garden blog and website: https://thegardenimpressionists.wordpress.com

8. Glansevern Hall Garden

Over 25 acres of glorious gardens surrounding a Greek revival house on the banks of the River Severn, the gardens are a mixture of formal planting, lawns, a huge lake, as well as many unusual and ancient specimen trees, not to mention spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.

There is little record of the original layout, except that the Walled Garden is known to have been planned to its present dimensions in 1805. Its interior was entirely remodelled in 2001 to offer nine separate “rooms” including “The Roses” and “Fairytale”.

The impressive Rock Garden and Grotto is said to date from around 1840, and there is a garden plan of 1880 signed by Edward Milner, father of Henry Ernest Milner who wrote ‘The Art and Practise of Landscape Gardening’ in 1890.

9. The Dingle Garden, Welshpool

The Dingle Garden is a secret gem hidden in the beautiful mid-Wales countryside just a few miles west of Welshpool.

A stunning four-acre garden, making imaginative use of the dramatic deep valley and connecting small lakes. A network of paths meander down through an informal mix of shrubs and trees with thoughtful underplanting offering unexpected and stunning views of the main lake and the hills beyond.

A garden for all seasons with colour co-ordinated beds offering the visitor realistic and achievable ideas for their own gardens. Many of the plants grown here are available for sale in the large nursery alongside.

“Autumn is probably the most stunning time but any season will give you a chance to relax in this peaceful place,” said Jill Rock at the garden’s nursery.

10. Colby Woodland Garden, Amroth, Pembrokeshire

Steve Whitehead, head gardener at the National Trust garden, said: “One of the joys of working in a garden all year round, is the chance to watch the seasonal cycles of nature at close quarters. It’s a source of constant amazement, how the same view slowly takes on a different mood with the growth of one plant, the flowering of another, the seed heads of a grass opening, or the slow turning of leaf colour. There’s a whole valley full of colour and constant change at Colby, but the walled garden is the part of Colby most

of us see most often, and it gives us a concentrated, constantly renewing microcosm of the changes happening outside in the wider landscape.

“Perhaps that’s why gardens appeal to us. They root us firmly in natural cycles that deep down we know we are still tied to.”

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National Botanic Garden of Wales visitors ‘up 45% in two years’

Image copyright PA Image caption The Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Visitor numbers to the National Botanic Garden of Wales have increased by 45% in the past two years, it has revealed.

The attraction in Llanarthney, Carmarthenshire, said its income had increased by 23% in the same period.

Director Huw Francis said the garden’s appeal had been “broadened” by new features, including water zorbing and a tropical butterfly house.

It was previously feared that funding cuts threatened the garden’s future.

Its outgoing director Dr Rosie Plummer, who left the post in January 2016, said she had been running the garden “on a shoestring”.

At the time, the Welsh Government had announced it was reducing future annual funding to the garden by 11% to £581,000.

Carmarthenshire council also said its contribution would decrease from £70,000 in 2015 to £30,000 in 2017-18.

A Welsh Government-commissioned review of the attraction’s finances in 2010 found the garden needed at least £700,000 a year in funding to operate.

Image caption A new butterfly house opened at the garden in July 2016

Mr Francis believes a “more family-orientated” focus and new attractions have helped boost visitor numbers.

He said 94,929 people visited the garden in the first eight months of this year, up by 45.4% from 65,285 for the same period in 2015.

The increased footfall has also yielded a 23% rise in turnover, up from £1.2m in the first eight months of 2015 and a surplus of £144,000 to almost £1.5m and a surplus of £227,000 during the same period this year.

Mr Francis said: “The garden has been working hard at broadening its appeal and new developments are proving a big hit with local people and tourists alike.

“The target is for 10% year on year increases in visitors over the next five years.”

The garden plans to introduce “glamping” next year in parts of its 568-acre (230 ha) site, which is host to more than 8,000 species of plants.

National Botanic Garden of Wales: a botanical blast from the past

However, during this century, its fortunes have risen again. In the Nineties the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust realised the value of the landscape, and the spectacular site was chosen to become the National Botanic Garden of Wales, which was opened in 2000.

It has been in the capable hands of curator Simon Goodenough since 2011. He and the trustees are planning to slowly restore the lakes so the landscape can be returned to the splendour of its heyday. He is inspired by the garden’s patron, the Prince of Wales, who keeps a watchful eye on it.

“A lot of his principles are at the forefront of our minds, and are in keeping with what His Royal Highness espouses,” Simon says proudly. It’s a good job, too, as Simon could well be in trouble at home if he strays too far from royal ideals – he is married to the Prince’s own head gardener, Debs Goodenough.

To have a marriage of head gardeners is extremely unusual, but to have them responsible for two such innovative and outstanding gardens must be unique.

Their own garden, in the Isle of Wight, is no doubt a sight to behold in its own right, but it must play third fiddle to such gems.

The couple met while training at Kew, and I cannot believe it when Simon says that Debs “is a far better gardener than me”. They are clearly different types of gardeners, gardening two very different gardens with different uses, but both are truly brilliant in their own way.

Few men have been entrusted with such a project as Simon has. His is the first botanical garden to be built in Europe for more than 100 years.

It is very different from the first botanic garden in Britain, which was created at Oxford University in 1621. Back then interest was focused on economic crops, as new plants were imported from outside Europe. As the classification of plants developed, beds became arranged in an ordered system similar to a library, with rows of labelled specimens collecting families of plants together.

As glasshouse technology developed in Victorian times and more exotic plants arrived, the collecting and grandstanding mentality took off, with massive displays showing what we could grow from the expanding empire.

Sadly, last century, particularly in the Sixties and Seventies, these “stamp collections” of plants were seen as rather boring and a bit of an anachronism, with many falling out of favour.

Now, though, as we are realising exactly how many plants we are losing, and just how important many are to our survival, botanical gardens are enjoying a revival, fulfilling a very different role for us, and often benefiting from far more exciting layouts.

The garden in Wales is a case in point. In addition to having an extensive and ordered collection of plants, this new botanic garden is used for the study of plants, working alongside universities and commerce.

The research is fascinating. Wales is the first nation to have DNA-coded all of its native plants, allowing scientists to identify the exact plant from a pollen grain or tiny speck of plant. They are also investigating which nectars and pollen make the best honey, examining plant hormones and natural fertilisers, and experimenting with using timber – previously used for pulp (such as larch thinning) – to create inexpensive, sustainable housing that can be erected overnight.

Apart from the research there is much to see, as it is also designed as a pleasure garden, laid out to appeal to the general public as much as to the keen horticulturist or botanist. A historic double-walled garden (two layers of walling for extra protection) of about three acres has systematically arranged beds for plants in a decorative, less-traditional layout. Sweet peas bloom, and pleached trees frame borders interspersed with sitting areas encouraging you to linger while you study, admire or relax.

The herb garden is undergoing a massive change. It contains 600 plants of known use, but Simon wants to rearrange them so plants that work on different parts of the body are grouped together: one area will be devoted to plants that affect the reproductive system, another the respiratory system, the skin, the mind and so on.

Perhaps the best-known feature of the 120-acre formal garden is the massive Great Glasshouse designed by Norman Foster. The largest single-span glasshouse in the world, it sits comfortably yet dramatically like “a giant raindrop” in the 18th-century landscape, housing some of the most endangered plants from all over the world.

The formal garden is bordered by 420 acres of farmland – a less intensive area where the team is looking to recreate the old wood pastures in places, where low densities of livestock can be farmed among trees, allowing the cropping of timber.

It is just another glimpse of the new old-fashioned future they are imagining for us, and one I am keen to keep an eye on. A garden well worth visiting, and I, for one, will definitely return.

National Botanic Garden Of Wales

The remarkable National Botanic Garden of Wales is a very special place. The largest single-span glasshouse in the world designed by Norman Foster, poised in the landscape like a giant raindrop, is home to some of the most endangered plants on the planet from six Mediterranean climate regions, Western Australia, Chile, the Canaries, California, southern Africa and the Mediterranean basin. It helps protect and conserve what is considered to be the best collection of its kind in the northern hemisphere.

The hot and steamy Tropical House is now home to a kaleidoscope of hundreds of exotic and colourful butterflies from across the tropical climes around the world plus the Garden is now host to the British Bird of Prey Centre, offering amazing encounters and daily flying displays – and is open every day.

The Garden lies on land that was once a magnificent Regency water park, many of the original features having been restored. Discover lakes, ponds, walks; licensed restaurant; shop; gallery; bog garden, apiary; Physicians of Myddfai Exhibition; Apothecaries’ Garden; and children’s play area. Land surrounding the Garden has been designated a National Nature Reserve.

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