Notes for visitors 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cilgwyn Lodge Gardens open for The National Gardens Scheme 2011


Notes for Visitors


Croeso!  Welcome to the Gardens and thanks very much coming and for your support in our 12th year of opening for the Scheme. Last year was a bumper year both for us and the NGS. We raised over £3,200 from 667 visitors and £2.5 million was raised in England and Wales for the Scheme. The 2 largest beneficiaries were Marie Curie and Macmillan which each received £550,000. The NGS is the biggest single sponsor of those charities. For details of other beneficiaries please see the notices posted around the Gardens.

What a garden year it has been. The coldest winter (albeit condensed into just 6 weeks between the end of November and early January) and the driest Spring we have encountered in our 35 years here. Incidentally we believe we may have lived here longer than anyone else since The Lodge was built in the early 1800's. We consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have owned the Lodge and to have enjoyed the beautiful countryside and some wonderful close neighbours who all support us in one way or another - Diolch yn fawr iawn.


Winter survivors. On the garden front because of the extreme weather conditions (6 weeks of continuous night frosts and a minimum of -18C on Christmas Eve and a drought during April) it has been a particularly challenging year. We have inevitably lost many plants as many of our visitors will have done, especially woody plants, and gaps are still in evidence around the gardens. Incredibly however herbaceous plants have fared much better because of good drainage throughout the gardens, the maturity of many plants and very little precipitation apart from snow during the winter months. Some startling survivals have included numerous plants considered to be challenging or borderline hardy - lobelia tupa, impatiens tinctoria, cautleya spicata, hedychiums, 15 species of arisaemas, some dahlias but not many and most incredible of all, 4 definitely "tender" salvias including s.grahamii, s. darcyii, s.involucrata and s.patens. We lost all our penstemons, lavateras, cistus, buddleias, rosemary, and most of our lavenders which do not fare well here.

The Koi Pond border looked empty in April but with much new planting it has come back very well; roses now fufill the anchor plant role, formerly the preserve of cistus and lavateras. They have grown incredibly well and been lavished with fish,blood and bone fertiliser and lashings of farmyard manure thanks to our generous neighbour Ifor Roberts. Fortunately because we left the pumps running all winter all fish in the House and Koi Ponds survived.


The Paddock Pond.  This was frozen over for 6 weeks and when if thawed it became clear that all our fish and most pond life had died - poisoned by the rotting leaves from last autumn.. A very sad day for us as the pond has been in existence for 17 years. Keith in chest waders, even braved the icy cold in February to see if he could find any signs of life to no avail, but within a few short weeks the frogs were back, then a few toads and newts but not as many as previous years. New generations seem secure however with masses of spawn and latterly froglets all over the gardens. Careful where you tread!! In April we made a bulk purchase of golden rudd and mirror carp and it is great to see life and movement in the pond again. We love our fish and its good to have them back again.


Tender plants. At great expense, we heated both polytunnels during the winter and wrapped the most tender plants in horticultural fleece and although we couldn't keep frost out most plants survived. Principal losses were cannas, some gingers and a red banana. Everything else, kept very dry, survived and has given a good show to date and the cuttings of tender and half hardy plants we took in the autumn showed the value of having this back up available. Many of these are available for sale in the nursery.


Vegetables. The dry weather permitted a very early start in the veg garden and we commenced planting the potatoes on 22 March, another record. Harvesting began on 1 June from the first early "Swift" which has cropped fantastically well with large tubers for an early variety. Like many other gardeners our first sowings of carrot, parsnip and beetroot in early April failed, because of the dry weather, but as usually happens later sowings have almost caught up the lost time and we have had some great carrots and brassicas which enjoyed the rain in June (glad something did!!). Early sowings of peas (we grow Hurst Green Shaft sown at 2 weekly intervals from early April to mid June) fared very well, but later sowings were plagued by mice and one row was re-sown 3 times! Even many strategically placed mousetraps could not keep pace with them.


Herbaceous Borders.  The herbaceous borders, for many visitors the highlight of the Gardens in summer, have been back and forward with the weather. Some have been substantially made over of in filled this year. In April when all the blue meconopsis (Himalayan poppies) were in flower and the bearded iris were budding, at least 3 weeks ahead of where they should have been, we thought there may not be much for our visitors to see. The cool and dull weather of late May and June has slowed things down so there is still a lot to see. We keep adding to the borders all the time- more plants means less weeds! Do please look carefully into the borders because apart from the obvious stars there are many others playing a supporting role that can be easily overlooked. As always if you would like a plant named please speak to Keith. Some may be available for sale in the Nursery.


Plant propagation .Keith went crazy this year with seed sowing to augment the many cuttings taken last Autumn.. He sowed over 300 varieties of seed from the Societies he belongs to, garden gathered seed (try it - the freshest seed you will ever have and the best results), reduced price seed packets from garden centres and nurseries and favourite less well known seed companies like Chiltern Seeds and Plantworld. All this has resulted in many plants for sale. Some are unusual or rare including a wide range of small pots at very low prices! Do not miss the Nursery and check out too the polytunnels. Although these contain many of our stock plants, if we have sufficient spare we may sell some of them but please speak to Keith and do not remove any from the tunnels and greenhouses.


Visitors. We have already had many Group visits this summer with more to come later in the year-a total of 20 pre-booked visits from groups and tour companies in Wales, England and Holland. With a good attendance on the Open Day on 24 July we are hoping to exceed last years record total. Many of these visits have arisen as the result of talks we have given to societies and clubs across South and West Wales during the winter months on a diverse range of gardening topics. Please visit our website at for our current range of talks and for general information about the gardens. We also publish monthly news updates of activities and events in the Gardens.


Finally we would like to thank all our helpers too numerous to name individually, without whom it would be difficult to cater for our visitors. They support us in so many ways: with teas, car parking, plants sales, visitor reception and provision of fields and other occasional areas for parking.


As a visitor, we want you to have a memorable visit, so please take time to read notices in particular those concerning your health and safety.


We hope you enjoy your visit to the Gardens and take away some special memories and great plants from the Nursery.


Keith and Moira