May Excursion Posted on May 6, 2015

Cows in the distance keep the bass line going; sheep are the counter-tenors; a trickle from a stone lion’s mouth is a flute obligato and a hooting owl makes random entrances. I am sitting in an Edwardian garden, defined by stone balustrades, on a Welsh hillside. A huge horse chestnut is lit by the moon and its hundred thousand candles. A white-flowered cherry poses stiff and symmetrical against a gothic frieze of firs. I walk back to the house and its aura of woodsmoke, to be stopped by a scent of honey that completely takes over. From what flowers? There is a pale shape just beyond the balustrade: Pittosporum tenuifolium. I had no idea its tiny black-purple flowers could fill the night like honeysuckle.

We stay in this wonderful survivor of a garden each time we come to Wales to walk in our woods. In early May, with luck, we watch our blue rhododendrons and the little Welsh bluebells in bloom together under the grass-green canopy of beech and larch. Welsh bluebells, at least in Snowdonia, are tiny, and almost royal blue. Rhododendron augustinii ranges from blue-grey to purple, a small-leaved open plant which is inherently graceful – and with royal blue and grass-green, when the clouds part, a sight I happily cross the country to see.

And the garden? It belongs to a comfortable country house hotel with kind hosts, friendly staff, delicious food, and wine at modest prices. Only its name causes stress: Penmaenuchaf Hall.

Hugh’s Gardening Books

Sitting in the Shade

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Hugh’s Wine Books

World Atlas of Wine 8th edition

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The International Dendrology Society (IDS)