Last updated: 02:34 PM ET, Mon May 04 2015

Opinion Home | Why Wales? Discover Britain's Road Less Traveled!

  • Visit Wales Staff Writer | May 4, 2015 2:34 PM ET

    Secret Gardens of Earthly Delights: Wales a Paradise for Horticultural Travelers

    Secret Gardens of Earthly Delights: Wales a Paradise for Horticultural Travelers

    If Frances Hodgson Burnett wasn't thinking of Wales when she wrote "The Secret Garden," she should have been. Wales has more than 60 gardens for horticultural enthusiasts to visit. Many of these, like the one in "The Secret Garden," have been lovingly cultivated for centuries.

    Some gardens, such as the National Botanic Garden, also offer the pleasures of greenhouses attached to them, so no matter what time of year you visit, you will see something in bloom.

    Garden-loving visitors to Wales will also be able to wander through the many historic homes attached to public gardens – making for a full afternoon spent amongst the flowers. Take Plas Newydd on the shores of the Menai Strait in Anglesey – the gardens surrounding this historic 18th-century house blossom in spring. In early summer, the rhododendrons make a stunning backdrop to the mountains of Snowdonia. Take a stroll through the gardens before touring the property’s estate where you will find the largest painting by artist Rex Whistler.

    Another garden that opens to vistas of Snowdonia is Bodnant Garden. This 80-acre property was lovingly created by five generations of one family – the Lord of Aberconwy. Much of the shrubbery growing here was originally brought to Wales from far-flung plant-hunting expeditions that took place over a century ago. At the center of the garden is The Poem, an atmospheric and haunting family mausoleum built by garden lover, Henry Davis Pochin. He created The Poem so that he and his family would never have to be parted from their beloved garden.

    Inside, the memorial contains ornate, stained-glass windows that echo the array of colors outside amongst the flowers. Bodnant Gardens is also home to fine examples of Sequoia sempervirens, the tallest tree of its kind in Britain, as well as its famous Laburnum Arch; this walkway of golden flowers blooms in the early summer months.  

    After a long day exploring Bodnant Garden, travelers can dine on authentic Welsh cuisine at Bodnant Food Centre. The center is a multi-award-winning, foodie paradise made up of a wine shop, restaurant, tea room, farm shop and cookery school. This culinary haven is a fantastic place for both individual travelers and groups to experience a wealth of tastes from all over Wales.

    Individual travelers and groups alike are welcomed at Colby Woodland Garden in Pembrokeshire, which is home to a walled garden, much like the one in The Secret Garden. It was originally designed as a kitchen garden but was restored in the 1980’s to include herbaceous plants, shrubs and magnolia trees. Colby Woodland also features a gazebo that is open to visitors for the perfect image of an Edwardian-era summer all year round. The Woodland Garden at Colby has eight acres of National Trust land covered in rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and Japanese maples.

    Acreage is also on spectacular display at Dynfryr Gardens, an 18th-century landscape park, which conceals centuries of Welsh history. Wynford Vaughan Thomas wrote, “If you take a handful of the soil of Dinefwr and squeeze it in your hand, the juice that will flow from your hands is the essence of Wales.” The garden’s history dates back to the Romans and today’s garden was designed in 1906 by architect Thomas Mawson.

    Visit the property, located just 6-miles from Cardiff, the bustling capital of Wales, for an excellent example of an Edwardian garden design — including its intimate garden rooms, formal lawns, and Arboretum, featuring trees from all over the world. 

    While Dynfryr has trees from all over the world, the National Botanic Garden of Wales has plants, shrubs, trees, and flowers from around the globe. Secret medieval, medicinal gardens are just one intriguing exhibit at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Europe’s youngest botanical garden. A recreation of a Welsh plant healer's home, is just one of several specialized gardens on display that make the National Botanic Garden a potential day-long outing for visitors. The garden includes over 8,000 different plant varieties as well as the world's largest single-spanned glasshouse designed by Lord Norman Foster.

    You can also spend a day or an afternoon out at Aberglasney House and Gardens, which has been named one of the UK’s top 10 formal gardens to visit in 2015 by the Royal Horticultural Society. It features no less than three walled gardens as well as a mystery and a ghost, who is supposedly the spirit of the surgeon that opened the property in the 1800s. No one knows the estate’s exact origins but the gardens have been in existence since 1477. There are many horticultural wonders at Aberglasney including an Elizabethan garden, a Jacobean garden and a Ninfarium garden, which is filled with exotic species that most likely keep the ghostly surgeon lingering here to watch them bloom.

    Another garden that can make up a full afternoon or a part-afternoon trip is Swansea's Singleton Park Botanic Garden. Hothouse wonders as well as outdoor blooms are on display at a property that was transformed into its current layout in the 1920s by Daniel Bliss, who trained at Kew Gardens. Spectacular herbaceous borders, huge glasshouses, a Japanese bridge, and a rock garden are just some of the delights here. At Christmas time, the garden’s staff tends over 200 blooming plants to herald the coming holiday season. Singleton’s city location makes it an easy journey for South Wales-based travelers who can combine an afternoon amongst the flowers with day trips to Dylan Thomas' house by the sea.  

    The gardens of Wales fill every corner of the country, which means that no matter what time of year you come, you'll find something in bloom – from the country’s famous daffodils to ancient trees. Wales says Croeso! (welcome) to passionate gardeners or just people who love the beauty of nature.


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Visit Wales Staff Writer Why Wales? Discover Britain's Road Less Traveled!

Visit Wales Staff Writer Visit Wales is the New York-based government tourism office for Wales, one of four countries that make up the United Kingdom. A land with 641 castles, 870 miles of walkable coastline, three national parks and award-winning cuisine, Wales offers travelers a variety of activities and different landscapes to explore. The country's Celtic history and ancient language make it a distinctive British destination. For more information on Wales travel, trade can visit and consumers can visit
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