The Festival of Gardens
It is no secret that Snowdonia and North Wales contain some of the most beautiful scenery within the British Isles. The region has long been admired and visited for its rugged mountains which include Snowdon, at 3,560 feet the highest mountain in England & Wales and one of the most climbed mountains in the world.
Thousands of visitors are also drawn to the area each year for its breath-taking waterfalls, tranquil lakes, forests, seaside resorts, miles of glorious sandy beaches, secluded rocky coves, magnificent castles, historic mansions, heritage steam railways, slate caverns and even gold mines.
Until now however, the gardens of Snowdonia and North Wales have not been so well known and yet within the region there is a stunning collection of world-class gardens to be discovered; gardens which thrive because their westerly location allows them to benefit from the warmth and moisture of the Gulf Stream. Frosts are rarely hard and droughts seldom long, particularly in the coastal regions, making it an ideal place to grow plants collected from every corner of the world.
As part of an initiative to bring the glory of North Wales' gardens to a wider audience, a unique and fascinating nine-day Festival of Gardens has been organised, which will become an annual event. In 2017 the Festival will run from Saturday May 27th - Sunday 11th June 2017 and over those fifteen days it is expected that more than 20 of the finest gardens in the region will come together to host a varied and entertaining programme of around 100 garden events and activities.
Events at the 2016 Festival included, 'behind the scenes' tours with garden owners and head gardeners, gardening workshops, lectures and courses, art, photographic and sculpture exhibitions, music concerts, film premieres, garden picnics and food events, children's trails and much more.
The gardens in 2016 included Aber Artro, Bodnant, Caerau Uchaf, Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), Chirk Castle, Crug Farm Plants, The Dingle, Erddig, Gregynog, Gwydir Castle, Nanhoron, Penrhyn Castle, Plas Brondanw, Plas Cadnant, Plas Newydd, Plas Tan y Bwlch, Plas yn Rhiw, Portmeirion, Powis Castle and Welsh Mountain Zoo Gardens.
Perhaps three of the best known of these are Bodnant, which not only has a magnificent collection of rhododendrons,camellias and magnolias but is located high above the River Conwy with extensive views of the Snowdonian mountains, Powis Castle which was laid out in the early 18th century and features some of the finest Italianate terraces in Britain and Portmeirion, the world famous fantasy Italian-style village created by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, which is surrounded by more than 70 acres of magical woodland gardens that run down to the sea.
However, the most exciting thing about this Festival is that it highlights an exciting selection of relatively unknown gardens that deserve to be on everyone's 'must do' list.
In 2016 these included; the Arts & Crafts gardens lovingly restored at Aber Artro Hall; the 18th century formal landscapes of Erddig - with their grand lawns, avenues of pleached limes and orchards; the ground breaking seven-acre sustainable and organic gardens at the Centre for Alternative Technology; the outstanding collection of rare and unusual plants at Crug Farm and the Victorian splendour of Plas Tan y Bwlch with its fabulous Gothic mansion (built on the royalties of the North Wales slate industry) terrace views to die for and some of the earliest introductions of Himalayan Rhododendron arboreum into Britain - now close on 200 years old.
The Festival is the brainchild of North Wales based garden writer and broadcaster Tony Russell, who is renowned as one of Britain's leading experts on trees and shrubs and famously put the National Arboretum at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire onto the international tourism map.
Supported by North Wales Tourism, the Festival dates have been deliberately chosen to follow on straight after the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and to cover the Spring Bank Holiday period. They also coincide with late-spring flowering displays, which include rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, tulips and flowering cherries, making this one of the very best times of year to visit the great gardens of North Wales.
To find out more about the gardens of Snowdonia and North Wales and to receive a free 2017 Festival brochure when it is published, please telephone 01492 531 731 or 01766 771 164, Email the Festival or visit www.gardensnorthwales.co.uk.