I had a mixed reaction to Aberglasney which is located in Carmarthenshire in Wales. It is interesting as my reaction to the various bits of the garden helped me to understand my growing preference to certain styles of gardens and plants.
Aberglasney came into being in the mid 1600s and for the following four centuries the property went through highs and lows following the fortunes of its owners. By 1995 the house was derelict and the garden overgrown. However the Aberglasney Restoration Trust stepped in and over the last decade the property has slowly been restored.
The Trust is restoring certain parts of the garden as per any historical records they can find and it does give an interesting glimpse into our gardening history. The first area you encounter by the house is the Cloister Garden
. This is surrounded on three sides by a arcaded walkway. These aren’t actually Cloisters in the monastic sense but a rare example of formal raised terraces which were popular at the end of the Elizabethan period. This area is kept simple with some topiary and the grass squares have dainty bulbs planted in them – copying a style from an early 17th century picture where the grass was ‘enamelled’ with flowers punged into it. I suppose this is sort of a pre-cursor to the meadow gardens I love – food for thought.
We then moved onto the Pool Garden. The history of this Garden is un-known but originally it was probably used for stocking fish for the dining table.
You work your way down the slope past a very nice looking cafe to the Stream Garden. This was more my thing and given the heat of the day the shade of the trees was most welcome. The ground is damp due to the overflow from the Pool Garden and this has lead to a stream and bog garden being created. There are Skunk Cabbages and other moisture loving plants. Above the stream is more woodland planting with bluebells, fritillaries, wild garlic and erythoniums. All very pleasant and tranquil.
Back up the slope you find two walled gardens. One is a working vegetable and fruit garden. Sadly, as it was mid April there wasn’t that much to see although we were rather taken with the amazing pattern of trained apples trees on the wall. The other is ornamental and was designed by Penelope Hobhouse along the lines of a Celtic Cross. There is a lot of clipped box in this area, something that just does nothing for me. However, I suspect they might have a case of box blight as it was almost bare in places right through which is a pity as to remove the box will seriously affect the integrity of the garden, even if it isn’t to my taste.
From the walled gardens, both of which were used to produce food in the past, you go past an aviary and then you come to one of my favourite areas (the other was the Ninfarium which I wrote a
bout earlier). This is an area which works it way up the slope around the back of the house. It is divided into areas but to be honest the divisions are that clear which I think is to its benefit. There is an Alpinum, Bishop Rudd’s walk (named after the first owner of the propery) which is full of woodland delights such as massed plantings of Trilliums and Erythroniums and then the Asiatic Garden which amongst other things has Azaleas and Peonies. These gardens are arranged along the bank of a stream so you also have some very good stream side planting.
It would be interesting to visit in mid to late summer to see what the planting is like then and to see the Kitchen Garden at full throttle.
Aberglasney is a garden being awoken by a hard working team of volunteers and I hope it continues to go from strength to strength. However, as with many gardens run by a group or organisation for me there is lack of personality or spirit and I increasingly feel that gardens which are cared for or overseen by their owner have that extra something – but this is just a notion of mine and many would probably not agree.
I would recommend Aberglasney to anyone visiting Carmarthenshire – it is a lovely place to spend some time.