Have you completed our #wildsummer challenges yet? Tania Pascoe, author of Wild Garden Weekends reveals a few secret gardens, wild meadows and kitchen garden cafes to inspire your growing challenges!
Best for: Wildflowers
The National Botanical Gardens of Wales, Camarthenshire
The 568 acres of gardens and reserve, feature so much more than the amazing Lord Foster designed glass biome that seems to peep out over the hill. Supporting over 1,000 species the Botanic Gardens have worked hard to get to where they are today. As well as various themed garden areas and plant collections including thalictrums and witch hazels, there are acres of incredible meadows, woodland, and a home farm with a herd of rare-breed Welsh black cattle. In the autumn, waxcap fungi abound in the Waun Las reserve. The botanic garden, which is committed to sustainability, is also spearheading a grow-your-own initiative across the whole of Wales.
Cycle Route 47. Llanarthne, Camarthenshire SA32 8HN, 01558 667149 gardenofwales.org.uk daily 10–6pm (4.30pm Oct-Mar)
Best for: Kitchen Garden Food
Mells Walled Garden, Somerset
We just love the garden, food and ambience that fills the Walled Garden in the pretty Somerset village of Mells. Through the stone arches and within the old walls are large beds full of delightful cottage plants. The garden supplies cut flowers for weddings, and there is a charming florist’s shop on site, where you can buy a bunch to take home. The excellent garden café serves home-made light lunches and teas, and at week-end lunchtimes they light the wood-fired pizza oven. Food can be enjoyed in the vintage finds-filled glasshouse or at any table within the garden. I like to take my tea and cake to the sunny secret terrace overlooking the fields and grazing cattle. A range of courses are offered, including planting design and art classes.
Rectory Garden, Selwood Street, Mells BA 11 3PN 01373 812597 thewalledgardenatmells.co.uk
Best for: Kids
Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
Put on your comfortable shoes and take a walk along the many paths that flow through Colby Woodland garden (National Trust). Statues and urns, which come as something of a surprise, indicate that this is a garden landscape and not just a beautiful wooded river valley with open pasture. Spring starts with crocus and camellias, then bluebells; wild meadow flowers are at their peak in summer; and in autumn acers planted among native woodland trees blaze with stunning colour. Cross bridges over streams, build dens in the wood (and lots of great activities for the kids), or simply enjoy a fantastic lunch. We had an amazing selection of local cheeses with home-made apple chutney and oven-fresh bread, that we still continue to rave about. The café is fully licensed and there is a good selection of wines and local ciders.
Stepaside, Amroth, Pembrokeshire SA67 8PP, 01834 811885 nationaltrust.org.uk
Best for: Secret Gardens
Spetchley Park, Worcestershire
I fell head over heels in love with the gardens of Spetchley Park. I was not expecting to find such an abundance of beauty and romance here. Shame on me. The gardens are the joyous result of 400 years’ care by generations of one family alone. Now they are perfectly ripe, mellowed and bursting with mouth-watering plant temptations. One person was particularly influential in their creation: the great Edwardian gardener and plantswoman Ellen Willmott, who helped her sister Rose Berkeley plant and design many of the garden spaces. The inimitable collection of plant varieties and the setting are compelling enough reasons to visit, but so is the air of magical intimacy that seems to pervade the gardens. Exploring in June felt like trespassing into a secret garden.
We met the sister of the great estate owner wandering in the garden, deadheading as she went. This does not feel like a formal garden, although there are many formal elements. Mostly it is a glorious mixture of packed borders and beautiful specimen trees, such as the cork oak near the 19th-century root house. My favourite place was the secretive Fountain Garden, where the ghost of Ellen may still linger. A lovely tea room serves light lunches and cream teas.
Spetchley, Worcester WR5 1RS , 01905 345106 spetchleygardens.co.uk
Best for: Ancient Forests
Carstramon Wood, Scotland
Not far from the spectacular Cally Gardens Nursery is a beautiful woodland where most of the trees are 200 years old. Here at Carstramon, many coppiced beech and oak have been planted for timber since the 1600s. This has created a rich woodland habitat with in an enchanting blue haze of bluebells in May. Red squirrels, bats, wood sorrel, violets, honeysuckle and primroses, as well as many birds and butterflies, add to the enchanting ambience.
B796 N from the Gatehouse of Fleet. After 2 miles R over Water of Fleet, then R at T-junction. Limited parking in layby on L. Follow FP into the woods. DG7 2BL scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk 54.9160,-4.2025
Best for: Birds, Bees and Butterflies
Cawdor Castle, Scotland
The castle is a perfectly dark and looming place: solidly built with small turrets, thick, grey-stone walls, and small windows. Step into the garden, however, and the atmosphere is completely different. To the south, the gardens were thronged with clouds of tortoiseshell butterflies and hoverflies. Every flower seemed to have a visitor, and it was incredible and rather poignant to see such an abundance of insect life. The old orchard trees were dressed in thick coats of shaggy lichens, and deeper into the ferny and mossy woodland walks we were to find even more evidence of rich habitats.
Cawdor, Nairn, IV12 5RD 01667 404401 cawdorcastle.com May–Sep 10–5.30pm
Taken from Wild Garden Weekends by Tania Pascoe