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


Trees was first published in 1973 as The International Book of Trees, two years after The World Atlas of Wine….

Hugh’s Wine Books

The Story of Wine – From Noah to Now

A completely new edition published by the Academie du Vin Library: When first published in 1989 The Story of Wine won every…

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