The Green, Green Grass of Home – The lyrics to the song made famous by Welsh super star, Tom Jones, speak to me every time I hear them. Tom Jones was born in Pontypridd, Wales and so was I. He also went to the same school as my Dad. But, we immigrated to Canada when I was a child, so my memories of the place are based more on old photos and stories than my own experience. Imagine my excitement, when last September as the guest of Visit Wales, I spent a week travelling around the country just to look at gardens. I found out first hand just how green Wales really is.
All of the gardens were outstanding in one way or another, each with a charm and personality of its own. The garden that lingers most in my memory is Bodysgallen Hall (named ‘AA Hotel of the Year for Wales 2012-2013’) in North Wales. It was the first one I visited and the most romantic of all.
Bodysgallen came into view just before dusk. As the car moved down the long drive towards the inn (once a watch tower, circa 1620), the sky turned moody with gloomy looking clouds aimlessly drifting by. It had turned into the kind of day that only a roaring fire and a hot drink would fix. We checked in and I was pleased to find an inviting sitting room that looked like one of those movie sets inspired by a mushy historical novel.
While the accommodations are very grand, the gardens were what impressed me most. From my room I enjoyed the view of flower beds spilling over onto gravel paths with perennials such as ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum, bergenia, and old roses, to name a few… romantic in a tousled sort of way.
The property features a series of terraces, each supported by grey stone walls that were the perfect backdrop for the old fashioned perennials that draped themselves over the edges and for the massive hydrangeas, their pink flowers looking like big scoops of strawberry ice cream.
The walled Edwardian rose garden far below the buildings was a magnet for me. The blooms on the plants were few and far between, sparse even, making each rose stand out alone as though begging to be admired individually. I happily obliged.
The knot garden, for me, the most engaging element in the garden, is best viewed from the highest terrace where it looks like an exquisite embroidery, its intricate pattern defined by perfectly groomed boxwood hedges. Each space is filled with herbs for the kitchen.
Other areas of the garden include a formal lily pond and an orchard. Of course there were plenty of ancient walls that kept this hopeless romantic wishing the garden belonged to her.