Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The National Botanic Garden of Wales

Following a week away in West Wales the return journey seemed like a perfect opportunity to visit Wales' most popular garden. With 8000 different plant varieties, set in 560 acres, the National Botanic Garden of Wales is a plant lovers dream.

We had visited before, a couple of years ago, I think on that day the incessant rain had rather ruined the visit for us. We ended up rushing around not really taking it all in so having the chance to visit again was a real treat.

Due to the size of the site you often get the pleasure of feeling like you have it all to yourself. Long walks around the lakes, surrounded by wildflowers, or a detour along a woodland path will lead you away from the main drag and present you with a wealth of different plants and habitats.

Of course the main attraction of the garden in the great glasshouse right in the middle of it all. This is the largest single span glasshouse anywhere in the world and also boasts the largest collection of Mediterranean plants in the Northern hemisphere. Although it is a huge man-made structure, due to the design it doesn't look at all out of place in the rolling Welsh countryside in which it sits.

Of particular interest to me, as followers of this blog will know, was the vegetable garden. As a keen grower myself it's always fascinating to see other gardens throughout the seasons; not just to see what they are growing but how, where and when they are growing it. You're guaranteed to learn something and take inspiration from what others are doing. Whether that's looking over the fence at somebody else's plot on the allotment or visiting a garden as fabulous as this, there's always something to take in.

The vegetable gardens didn't disappoint; spread over multiple areas everything you could imagine was being either grown or harvested. The 'Growing  the Future' garden was particularly good with great examples of what can be done in smaller spaces and an absolute abundance of fruit and veg just waiting to be picked. The brassica collection in the Wallace garden was also a sight to behold and a cause of great envy after my annual summer battle with the cabbage whites.

The double walled garden also definitely deserves a mention. The main growing space for vegetables, and more formal than the other areas, great rows of leeks, onions, fennel, artichokes and much more surround you as you walk along the gravelled paths.

After a day spent wandering around there is also an excellent garden centre at the end with some great plants on sale that can be hard to find elsewhere. This is something that increasingly frustrates me living in Wales, an absolute lack of decent garden centres nearby. Unless you want ornaments or plant pots there very little around other than the standard B&Q and Homebase. If you want actual plants the internet is usually the best place which is a real shame.

Having an allotment can sometimes seem a chore particularly in the summer when it is at it's most productive and you've perhaps been away for a week or two. The best thing you can do is get out and see what others are doing, take inspiration and ideas away and apply them to your own space. I can guarantee that you'll return invigorated with a fresh appetite for your space and a re-found love of why you do it all in the first place.

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