Category Archives: Visiting

Back to autumn at Cadnant

In the spirit of experimentation – and optimism, and hoping that time has worked its magic on WordPress – I’m having another go at posting about Plas Cadnant in autumn. (Er, incidentally, time had not. But it’s a Safari glitch, only affects inserting a space after a photo gallery – at which point it wipes the entire post, arrrrrrggghhhh – and everything seems to be working in Firefox. Fingers crossed. Oh, no it isn’t. It’s something to do with image galleries, but I know no fear and at least in Firefox it only wipes out the gallery.)

Right, plants. Gardens. Sunshine.


I had planned a second visit, just to catch the last of the garden before it shut its doors for the winter – tomorrow is the last day of opening – but work got in the way. Boo and also hiss. I’ll have to want until the snowdrops, and hope that this winter’s inevitable storms don’t undo all the fantastic repair work which has been happening at Cadnant since the devastation of last December. Personally, I think it’s going to be better than ever, and is almost there.

It was a beautiful autumn day when we visited, just perfect. A little chill in the air, but not enough to stop us having lunch outside in the sun. And some of the plants seemed to be basking too, taking in the last certain warmth.


Of course the stone walls – the top part of the garden is surrounded by high walls as well as being broken up by lower ones – do help to retain the heat, and they also give the plants a beautiful backdrop.

I’m not really an aster fan, but I think I may be changing.

For me, asters – or to be precise, Michaelmas Daisies – are inevitably associated with the return to school and an extremely boring harvest festival to which I went under protest, and clutching a giant bunch of stinky, shedding, purple, you-guessed-its. Ergh. BUt I can see their appeal – just not the purple ones. Well, not the paler purple ones.

Another thing I have a problem with is the hydrangea. Or rather the hydrangea I had in my garden until I emitted a great shriek and finally gave in to P’s desire to mattock it out (the root was about as big as the house and the resulting new bed is metres and metres wide and deep). It did not pay its way. The ones at Cadnant, however, do. Even the paler ones like mine:


Oh, sigh.

The woodland at Cadnant is what I really, really love, though. It’s like a tropical forest down there… no, maybe it’s more like… oh, I don’t know. But there are enormous and beautiful tree ferns and gunners, and water and huge trees and mosses and lichens and odd fungi at this time of year and remarkably few visitors (but then it was a Wednesday).

I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to attempt to add another gallery of photographs, so I’ll just leave with another few shots at full size, which neither browser seems to find objectionable. Cadnant is so worth visiting, and by the time we came out the car park – ok, field – was chocka. Somehow the garden just seems to absorb people; until emerging we had no idea it was so busy.

geranium on tree

Yes, it’s a hardy geranium growing on a tree. There were many.


Stunning colour combinations with the bright red and the almost acid green behind, and a farewell from Plas Cadnant (and a bit of log store envy).

Cadnant walls

Incidentally, their containers are always good – casual and relaxed, but lovely. I’ve got container envy too.


Autumn at Cadnant

Having a few problems with WordPress at the mo. Trying to write a proper post about yesterday’s visit to the wonderful Plas Cadnant, but it keeps nuking my posts and not saving drafts. So this is a holding post, as it were. A taster. I’m going away for a few days, and hopefully whatever glitch this is will be sorted when I get back. So hello, Cadnant:


and farewell for a brief while…!

Oh, what a garden – Plas Cadnant

I know, I should be tree following, but I forgot. Zooooomed up there for a quick look, not much change except fewer leaves. But I have visited the most lovely garden, and it has lots of trees in it, even if I’m not following them specifically…

Excuses, excuses. Understandable? Look at this:

Plas Cadnant 1

This is Plas Cadnant on Anglesey, just over the Menai Straits from Bangor. I had a business meeting, but since the web designer concerned also happens to be a keen gardener (hello, Janet aka Plantalicious, whose post on the day was considerably more prompt and rather more professional), guess where we decided to meet up? Guess how long we spent on business? Yup, about five minutes. Possibly less than we spent on cake. Certainly much, much, much less than we spent on the garden.

It’s stunning, and it’s right up my street, and I couldn’t (as is obvious) stop taking photographs. The planting, particularly in the less-wild parts of the woodland areas, is so intelligently unobtrusive and so much in harmony with the extraordinary setting that it blew me away. I also love ferns, which helps.


and rocks, and mosses, and silent pools reflecting the planting, and lichens…


Did I mention tree ferns?

tree ferns

Huge tree ferns. Tree ferns you can walk under easily.

Then there’s colour. Colour, bright in contrast with the formal planting:


autumn colours in the shade of the woodland,

baby leaves

and which are even more startlingly bright when backlit:

acer colour

I don’t know, I give up. Plas Cadnant almost left me speechless – suffice it to say that I upgraded my entry into a season ticket, and that we’ve already made arrangements to meet here at the end of October.

In the meanwhile – and do visit Plas Cadnant’s website as well as Plantalicious for more actual, real, hard information as opposed to the blogging equivalent of someone going ‘WOWZER!’ – here is a gallery of some of the things that had such an impact on me. Wonderful place.

PS: The cakes are pretty good too!

Surprised by cake (and plants)

Sometimes I like to put coherent thought into things – no, really, I do. And sometimes things just happen. So it was with Sunday, when I found myself a) baking a cake – I may be a food writer and editor but I freely admit that I am rubbish at cakes – and b) giving some of the cake away. I know, I know.

table 2

It’s all the fault of VP, aka Michelle of Veg Plotting, who came up with the idea of a bloggy contribution to the Chelsea Fringe – The Bloggers’ Cut – enabling gardeners all over the place to join in with Chelsea-related fun no matter how far they might live from London (or, in my case, however allergic they may be to formal flower shows).

No, that’s not entirely accurate. It wasn’t all VP’s fault. Some of it was down to Karen at the Artist’s Garden, who thought it would be a good idea to participate and alerted me to the possibility of cake plus gardens, always a winner. On 2 June participants were to have tea in a garden, basically, and blog about it, and then all the posts would be linked over on VP’s site. Karen added her own element, though: that we would go to her garden, which has suddenly gone PING as gardens do at this time of year,

K's garden

do a little light weeding (!!!) and then have cake. I opted out of that adaptation on the grounds that bakers don’t weed. Particularly other people’s gardens. Plus I had other friends over for lunch. So the cake was made; the cake – predictably – sank; the cake was iced lavishly to hide the fact that it had sunk; chocolate was sprinkled over the top on the grounds that chocolate is always good. (Of course it helped that it was a chocolate cake, ahem, from a recipe given to me by my friend Caroline and her daughter Ellen, then eight years old, when I explained I couldn’t make cakes. Ellen was appalled and demonstrated that she could make cakes beautifully. The recipe is called the ‘can’t go wrong cake’. Oh yes it can…)

When I got there I was quite glad that I had baked a cake and thus got out of weeding, because Karen is doing a lot of work on her garden this year and there had been some dramatic activity, especially around the big pond:

weed mountain

and amazingly the weed stank of the sea. Why, I wonder? I know we’re not far from the coast, but the stench of rotting seaweed was marked, even though none was involved. Very odd. Happily the table was well away, and what wind – correction, gentle breeze, a most unfamiliar sensation – there was blew in the opposite direction.

So much work has been going on, and not just with the pond. A wall has been pulled down and rebuilt to curve in the opposite direction which works much better, for example,


and, all in all, I think everyone rather deserved their tea (with the possible exception of Muggins the messy-cake maker). Strangely, Dobby seemed rather reluctant to stop weeding, but then it does sometimes get you like that: there is an certain addictiveness about clearing an area. We did manage to persuade her to stop, which was just as well as the sun wasn’t exactly helping the cake improve – but I am not complaining about sun, no way, nooooo.  Idyllic, really. No rain. No snow. No sleet. Hats stayed on, rather than needed to be chased all over the garden. Sunglasses – whisper it low – were even required.

And the cake was fine – having served its purpose in getting me out of pond clearance, and making the fact that I was given this mug more or less ironic, hee hee:


(I think I need one that says ‘keep calm and fill the dent in the middle of the cake with icing’ – except that might not fit on a mug.)

Now, Karen sells plants. Lovely plants. And so I deliberately left my purse at home. The best laid plans… As a result of all the clearing and replanting, I came home with a large punnet full of wild garlic in need of a new home and a pot of self-sown erigeron plantlets. Dobby then provided me with a big clump of forget-me-nots (mine are most disappointing this year for some reason, and these should provide me with a fresh supply of seed), and three large lilies – of which she has an excess, due to an highly successful propagation drive.

A lovely way to spend a late Sunday afternoon. That’s it, this is definitely summer, so here’s one more shot of the backdrop to our tea to prove it:

fennel etc

and to make up for my lack of industry, I have spent this morning weeding (in my own garden). But I did leave the remains of the cake. Monday breakfast?

Garden visiting – and not visiting…

Yellow book

If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s visiting NGS gardens. There’s always been an element of voyeurism – at last we can see what is going on over this wall – but that was more present when I lived in London. And there what was over the wall could sometimes be quite startling, particularly for some reason in Putney, and not always in a good way.

Happily, it’s not the same here. For one thing, you often know the garden or the gardener, and NGS day is a chance to see the garden at its best. And then you can often see into a garden beforehand; there’s not the same tendency to high walls topped with razor wire and broken glass that you find in south London.  This is true of one garden near here, and it was open under the NGS on the same weekend as the Crug Farm Plant Fair – an embarrassment of riches.


It’s located between the road and the estuary, down in a dip with a stream running down one side. When you’re driving along you can see the tops of trees and some tantalising glimpses of cultivation, but when you actually visit Tanybryn you realise that there’s a lot more to it than that. For me, with my meadow and tree-shadowed areas, this garden was inspirational. And it did leave me with a deep desire to grow a tree heather…


The movement was what sold it to me, even if it did make it difficult to photograph. Still not tracked one down, but I will. I will.

And then there was the wild planting under the trees:


and the meadow areas which included some Solomon’s Seal as well as spreads of wood anemones. The latter may not take with me, but boy have I got some Solomon’s Seal I can shift about. There were also areas with a stunning combination of euphorbia and daffodils, which really worked.


I particularly applaud the lack of obsessive neatness, and I certainly plan to follow an example of tree management I saw here – removing lots of lower branches on the silver birches. It makes seeing the bark easier and, as P pointed out when I told him about it, it will make mowing the paths in the meadow a lot less painful. I’m not sure my budget would extend to planting the ground below with trilliums, though. But there was another idea I plan to adapt:


I have quite a few tall slate slabs (left over from path removal – not removal by me, but by the Western Red Cedar that came down last year), and this got me thinking about how we might use them. Not like this – I’ve only got four – but maybe in the beds. Not informed P of this idea yet (guess who’ll be doing the lifting), but I will. I’ll have to, now I’ve said it here!

And then I found some lovely things in the more formal beds. This particular delight was on a steep slope, where it ended in a wall. Lovely. And that’s from someone who doesn’t like pink.


The garden is open again under the NGS at the end of the month. I will definitely be going…


And then there was the weekend just past.

Very frustrating, what with one thing and another – a complete contrast to the last one. Partly this was due to the weather and the return of winter, complete with hailstorms and thunder, and partly due to – well, one NGS garden.

I set off to visit a couple of nearby gardens quite early as the weather was supposed to deteriorate (and it did). Found first garden, uphill and along single-track road – but car park shut. Garden definitely open – could see plants sales area, signs, etc – but not car park. Single track road. Cannot park in passing places. Dumped car in road, tried to open gate into field signposted as car park. Gate not shiftable. Rain start. Return to car, drive down to main road, turn round and try from other direction, in hope someone lovely has opened gate. Hope unfounded. Rain worse. Gate even less inclined to respond to physical violence. Boots leak. Drive to other garden. Feet steam in warmth from car heater. Rain now so heavy have to use double-speed windscreen wipers. Give up completely and go home.

Now I do appreciate that the NGS cannot control the weather (bechod – shame), but I do think that if you advertise a car park, you should at least make sure it’s accessible. Grr. Oh, enough already – there are many more weekends to come to make up for it, and it can’t rain on all of them, can it? I’ll be there anyway, no doubt…

What a way to spend a Sunday!

I started by calling this post ‘Garden Open – not mine, phew’, and then decided against it (I was never a sub, they’re the ones who are hot with headlines), but that does convey something of the essence of Sunday.

The Artist’s Garden was open for charity under the NGS (National Gardens Scheme, aka the ‘yellow book’), and I was one of the friends roped in who volunteered to help.

I am so relieved it wasn’t my garden (not that mine would make the grade, especially in its present denuded state). There’s the agony over the weather, and Sunday opened with rain and mist and general unpleasantness. Mind you, Karen’s garden still looked lovely.

I played hooky from my kitchen duties for a few minutes to take a few shots – be warned, this is an image-heavy post – before people came surging through the gates. The paths were a little slippery but the rain was slacking off and temperatures were rising, and before long the slates were completely safe.

Walking down to the studio at first, though, was an exercise in how often you could get water down the back of your neck from overhanging grasses. But the raindrops on the grasses were spectacularly lovely, and it was good to be able to appreciate their undisturbed beauty.

Soon visitors began to arrive…

One of the interesting comments which was overheard again and again was about  attention to detail, and not just in planting. I don’t find it surprising; Karen is a textile artist, and the principles of layering and detail are equally as evident in the garden as they are in the studio. Below, for instance, you can just see a couple of contrasting stones placed on the rock just right of centre, and the blue glass globes in the foreground (as well as some lovely plants – that pink is a huge lily).

I think we’d better have a close up of the lily:

I have to get this. I don’t mean I ‘want’ it (after all, ‘I want never gets’), or that I would like it, but that I have to get it. Ahem. Back to non-plant detailing.

There are ceramics too, and interesting pieces of wood:

here forming a background to Echinaceas ‘white swan’ and purpurescens, and a rudbeckia. And the colour combinations, oh, the colour combinations – like the Echinacea purpurescens again but with a grass this time:

But my duties called me back, and soon we were essentially running a tea and cake production line. Elegant tea cups, delicious cakes, no rain: perfect. I think the double gazebos for shelter were a brilliant idea – if they’d not been there, I’m sure it would have rained all day…

Relatives of the cake maker (and of two of the waitresses), these three knew that the lime tray bake was well worth choosing. Delicious – but there was soon a distinct shortage. Sigh. Man, and particularly this woman, cannot live by Echinacea purpurescens alone, that’s what I say.

As the afternoon wore on it got warmer and warmer – quite sultry, in fact (and not just in the kitchen, either). The demand for teas dipped, and again I was able to zoom around. The medlar is fruiting nicely, and though it is some time off being ready, I have my foodie eyes on it.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty to go round. That’s a hint, by the way.

There were a huge number of insects, including lots of bees, all encouraged by the sudden appearance of sub-tropical conditions on the coast of west Wales – another thing that many visitors commented upon. I was especially taken by one which was coordinating so beautifully with its favoured plant,

a yellow and black bug on a yellow and black rudbeckia.

I fell terribly in love with some of the colour combinations. I’ve been doing quite a bit of natural dyeing lately, and I was especially taken with the subtlety of this Eryngium plenum matched with a pale yellow grass (I’m no good at grasses – I can identify about three – so please forgive me):

Hmm, can’t think how I would get anywhere near that – but I’ll bear it in mind… and extraordinarily I met three other spinners, and I only knew one of them. Either a textile artist’s studio being open had drawn them in, or there is a deep link between spinning and gardening. I’m opting for both. Ahem. Back to the garden.

And then there are those plants whose colour combines well not with another plant, but with their surroundings:

This is Lobelia Russian Princess. It’s not subtle, but against the grey of the stone wall it really works. For me this is a plant to be used with care – it could so easily overwhelm and clash with others. Lovely here, though, and it lights up a dark area.

There are plants where I fell in love with the form:

I’ve always liked the flower heads of echinacea (yup, sorry, that again). They almost look as though they should be soft, but of course they’re not. Very, very tactile though…

And there are plants where the dipping light gave them rather special quality, like these pelargoniums (‘Mystery’) in a container.

By now the clock was moving remorselessly towards 5 p.m. The cakes were running out, the kitchen staff were only able to crawl and Karen had developed a sore throat from talking to visitors. It was time to close the gate, take down the road signs and indulge in the traditional open-garden-helpers’ perks:

Apparently these ran out at about two in the morning, and if it isn’t a tradition, it certainly needs to become one. I’m an old hand now: got pinny, will make tea and cut cake, can be hired again for extortionate minimal fees, not to mention the traditional helpers’ perks. Phew, until next year – or the year after, since Karen will only be open by appointment next year. Well worth seeing…

And farewell from Digger too, who guarded the veg all day and didn’t get as much as a sniff of a helpers’ perk. The Gnome Liberation Front will be meeting next Monday at the village gardening club.

What do you do…

when it’s a Bank Holiday weekend and it’s freezing and you’re snowed under with work?

You garden, of course.

Because there was the annual plant fair at Crug Farm Plants, and a trip was planned. Unfortunately not so planned was my ability to take everything I needed, and I managed to leave my spare camera batteries behind. So there are no pictures of Helen (The Patient Gardener), Karen (Artist’s Garden) or Jane (garden blog commentator extraordinaire), or exciting plant stalls. Or cake.

I was even quite sensible. I had a budget and, astonishingly, managed to stick to it. I even managed to hold back a little as we were calling at a garden centre, the wonderful Fron Goch, on the way home. My purchases were rather ordinary compared to the others (though why Helen needed anything, I’m not sure, as the mantra for the day was ‘I’ve got one of those,’ with which we all took to joining in, and even saying of plants in our own gardens). But she did buy some wonderful plants.

So did I, even if they weren’t so – um, unusual. As you can see:

There’s a big Salvia pratensis in front which I bought at Fron Goch in defiance of my ‘don’t mess with the meadow’ ethos. I vaguely remembered a tiny mention in Christopher Lloyd’s Meadows: ‘We saw a good deep “blue” form of Salvia pratensis. I wish I could get hold of that. Its colouring is so often weak and muddy.’ Well, I’ve had the weak and muddy before – in my last garden – but I thought this one looked promising; I’d love a blue in the meadow. It was also huge, and I thought it could be split. It has been, and is now installed in place. We’ll see on the weak and muddy front.

Behind it are some of the other purchases from Crug – a pyrethrum (I’m so predictable), some lovage (my seeds didn’t germinate), and the thistle head of Cirsium rivulare atropurpurescens which I bought from Special Perennials, who had a wonderful stall. I also bought an iris from them – the old intermediate, Braithwaite. Deep purple velvety falls. Let’s hope it flowers this year…

And I bought this little lovely:

An Erodium trifolium. Isn’t it gorgeous? I just want to admire it!

I’m keeping it safe in the greenhouse at the moment, because we are still getting some nasty cold nights. And that’s a task I haven’t got round to – no, not arranging the weather, arranging the greenhouse. It is a bit of a mess, I admit it. There’s a backlog due to the horrible overnight temperatures. The plants in the cold frame should have gone out; the ones in the greenhouse should have gone into the cold frame, and they haven’t; the seedlings in the house badly need pricking out and moving into the greenhouse. And the tomatoes need planting up.

Is there a warm weather version of  a rain dance? Please?