Easter Weekend

The garden was open for the first time this year on Easter Sunday and Monday. The weather was not brilliant, being cloudy and breezy but thankfully no rain! There was plenty to see ranging from pure white magnolia stellata, through dark blue spires of ajuga burgundy to fiery red pieris. The first swallow was spotted flying overhead and a warbler paused for a few minutes to sing in a cherry tree.

Winter 2015

Officially it is winter but the temperature does not agree! The unusual weather pattern this year lead to very good growth of shrubs and perennials and excellent floral displays. The winter mahonia is flowering now and so is a Welsh poppy! Some sheltered hydrangeas still have perfect blooms.Very strong winds and rainstorms have battered the garden but now it is established enough for them not to do too much damage.(The pampass grasses, however look very sad.) Who knows what the winter will bring?

Spring 2015

Spring has arrived early this year. Many flowering cherries, magnolias and late camellias are in full bloom thanks to the wonderful warm sunny weather over Easter at the beginning of April. The primroses and hellebores have been flowering profusely for weeks and new tulips are coming out every day. Chiff chaffs have been heard singing and I have been told that someone has spotted the first swallow!

Autumn

What a wet autumn here in Pembrokeshire! The plants and grass continue to grow although it is time for them to slow down. It makes tidying the garden for its winter rest much more difficult. The salvia leucantha is at its best with long pale purple flowers and the mahonia is nearly ready to burst forth in yellow colour. The colourful goldfinches are daily visitors at the feeders and the huge flocks of starlings have startled me in the garden when they noisily swarm overhead.

May colour

What a glorious time for the garden! The vibrant red poppies are vying for attention with deep purple velvety iris germanica. Bobbing allium heads stand tall and multi- coloured aquilega fight for space with emerging foxgloves. Rhododendrons have large colourful blooms and weigela provides a background from deep red to white.The rain and sun have been gratefully received by all the plants and everything is growing at a great pace. Birdsong fills the garden and in the early morning the familiar calling of the cuckoo can be heard.

Spring at last

Finally plants are beginning to move. The heat of the sun and the longer days are coaxing the tulips and magnolias to open their tight buds. Magnolia Wada's Memory and magnolia stellata are both displaying white flowers. All the camellias are showing their different colours. Pansy faces are brightening the garden as are hyacinths and anemone blanda. Birds are plentiful and their singing is loud. The first big bumble bees have put in an appearance and benches in sunny spots have been sat upon.

Jubilee Weekend

Jubilee weekend has brought lots of cloud and rain. Unfortunate for garden visitors but welcome for the plants. The garden is blossoming and new flowers are opening every day. Weigelas (at least nine varieties) are in full flow and clematis especially blousey Belle of Woking are adding vivid colour to the borders. Kalmia latifolia is covered with pink buds that strongly resemble Iced Gem biscuits and silky purple/dark blue Iris germanica contrast with bright red papavers.

Open Day for Shalom House

Last week we held an Open Day in aid of Shalom House (our local Pembrokeshire hospice) After a slow start in the morning things picked up and we raised over £100 for the charity. The weather was bright and sunny and the visitors enjoyed the garden and the refreshments. Our next Open Day for a local charity is on 1st June for the St Davids Lifeboat.

A New Name

From henceforth our garden is to be called The Crystal Garden in reference to its slow but organised growth like that of a crystal and also in reference to some future projects that we have planned here at Golwg yr Ynys. More about that later.

We now have refreshments, tea and coffee and home-made cakes available to garden visitors.

We have had our first Special Open Day which was on behalf of the Fishguard Lifeboat and we are looking to our next on Thursday May 12th on behalf of Shalom House, our local hospice. We are open that day as usual from 10am to 6pm. If you can come, please do and support this worthy cause.

Our usual wildlife report includes the relief of the lawns at seeing the back of the moles which created havoc over the winter and early spring. We think they have gone in search of pastures new, at least until next year. We have heard chiff-chaffs and greenfinches in the garden and seen goldfinches and swallows. I even saw the first whitethroat the other day.

What's new

The first bumble-bees have arrived in the garden and we have put up our solitary bee/insect house on the trellis facing the morning sun. On an early visit to Powis Castle the other day we were surprised at how late things were there compared to our own garden. They sadly suffered a very severe winter there in mid-Wales and appear to have lost many shrubs to the frost. Our first visitors to the garden came this week and as the spring unfolds we hope to be inundated. We are having special Open Days this year dedicated to the local hospice Shalom House and to the local RNLI lifeboats appeal. Other charities are welcome to approach us if they would like us to hold an Open Day on their behalf. Our first dedicated Open Day is April 20th when plentiful refreshments will be available. We are also offering garden visitors tea, coffee, cake etc. on other days when we are quiet and would have time to prepare such.

We are today announcing the opening of our new quiz page Paul's Cryptic Quizzes on the web-site. Each quiz has a theme and the clues to the answers have a cryptic crossword style. The quizzes are entirely free. Why not have a go?

The Year begins

We are now well past Candlemas (February 2nd, an old quarterday when rural rents were due) and the days are lengthening and the sun is reaching ever greater heights at midday. In sunny sheltered spots in the garden today it reached 16 degrees C. Bulbs are shooting up and early perennials have their first pale green leaves. It is time to think of opening the garden for the season. This year we are going to be open as usual for the National Garden Scheme at weekends and Bank Holidays. In the week we will be open for a range of charities including the Lifeboats. We are having 3 special days for the local hospice Shalom House when refreshments will, we hope, be available (dates to be announced).

We have recently returned from a fantastic trip to New Zealand where some of the plants in our garden are native. It was Summer there of course and we visited a magical garden full of sculpture and mosaic art called the Giant's House, situated at Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. Well worth a visit for garden or art lovers.

A Summer visitor

There is one small bird of the countryside that we rarely see but is instantly recognisable by the meter of its song. Yesterday from the hedgerow we heard the refrain "a little bit of bread and chee-eese" and we both immediately thought yellowhammer. Creeping around a large shrub of willow we spotted him from the upper branches and he obliged us with several more choruses and some fine views of his unmistakeable yellow plumage. It made our day!

Spring is here at last

Everything is late this year but for the arrival of the chiffchaff. This dear little warbler, a summer visitor, darts around the garden rising distinctively in the air to catch insects. Alternatively he can be heard from a high branch loudly singing his instantly recognisable repetitive chiff-chaff song as a territorial chant prior to the arrival of the females. Small groups of brightly-coloured goldfinches have also been recent visitors to supplement the regular chaffinches, tits and sparrows. Also heard singing melodiiously has been the blackbird and we expect several to nest close to us. All flowering plants have been delayed by at least a fortnight owing to the severe prolonged winter that we have experienced this year. Currently three of our selection of magnolias are flowering magnificently and the first three varieties of cherry trees are showing their first delicate blooms. Even the daffodils were late and several cultivars are yet to open. We have accordingly held back our official opening for the season until this weekend.

Snowy Weather

On New Year's Day it snowed for a couple of hours and gave the garden a good covering. Daffodils and snowdrops are pushing up through the snow and the yellow primroses are bravely displaying their joys. The birds are eagerly demolishing the contents of the feeders and lapwing and snipe are visible in the fields around. The covering of snow which persists despite several sunny days allows us to see the tracks of wild animals that cross the grassland part of the garden. We appear to have more than one mole making spoil-heaps in the outer garden.

Our Annual Report

After an exceedingly successful first year of opening the garden for the National Gardens Scheme in addition to our established openings for the Lifeboats charity, we are very pleased to announce that our total number of visitors for the season was 550. This raised a total of £1406.70 for charity. It was also a fairly encouraging year for the sales of the plants that we grow in the garden which should provide adequate funding for the work in the garden in the forthcoming season 2010. Due much to superb weather in the late May half-term week which coincided with the St. David's Music Festival, this was our busiest period with almost 100 visitors in one week.

Autumn visitors

With the shortening days and worsening weather comes the arrival of many birds to cheer us. Robins follow us as we turn over the soil and tits, sparrows and finches return to the bird-feeders. Enormous flocks of starlings invade the skies and solitary snipe are flushed from ditches as we approach on our walks. The corn stubble has attracted large flocks of young finches and the local population of buzzards can be seen and heard as they gather at dusk over the stand of pine trees at the edge of the moor. Occasionally we hear the honking of skeins of geese on their migrations and look up to spot the familiar v-shaped flight formations. We are looking forward to the arrival of the winter flocks of thrushes. The many plantings of trees and shrubs are taking good hold in the garden now and producing plenty of annual growth. This is affording much more shelter over the stormy and chilly seasons and all our plants and wildlife seem to be appreciating the greater calm in the various enclosed areas.

A Pembrokeshire farmhouse

Last weekend we found time to visit Trehylin farm the Pembrokeshire home near Strumble Head of Griff Rhys Jones and the subject of a recent television series. They were having an Open Weekend and Griff was in attendance supporting the Point Project for local youth and signing copies of his latest book on rivers. We had to be early so that we could return to open our garden later that day and in fact we were almost too early as we caught Griff in the kitchen sweeping up from the night before and explaining that his guests were not yet up. Half an hour later we were able to explore the farmhouse which had been tastefully reconstructed and possessed a certain atmospheric charm. Chatting to him later about the project was interesting. We were also able to spot some well-known actors amongst his guests.

A close call

We were only seconds away from a major disaster in the garden today. It was extremely fortunate that Sue was working in the beds around the driveway at the time. First she heard a loud mooing coming from the lane and knowing that no cattle were grazing on land nearby she jumped up quickly to investigate only to be faced with an approaching herd of cows and calves. They were clearly unaccompanied and had only two choices of direction namely from the lane onto the main road or into our garden. Both alternatives were unthinkable. Sue stood her ground at the end of the driveway (which has no gate) and hollered for husband Paul who was quietly doing some potting in the shed at the other side of the plot. Sues tone sounded rather urgent and so Paul dropped everything and rushed to the rescue. Standing in the middle of the lane defiantly and shouting and gesturing "get back" and "shoo" and hoping the cattle were in a good mood we managed to halt their progress and after some tense moments they began to attempt to turn in the narrow confines of the lane. What a relief! There must have been thirty animals at least and they clearly had been driven along the lane by pursuing motorists unaware of the consequences and only seeking their destination. Five minutes in the garden would have been a catastrophe. But they were off back down the lane squeezing past the bemused motorists with us in hot pursuit. A crash course in cattle-droving! Luckily a neighbour knew who to telephone and soon they were safely back in their field.

On a much brighter note, a keen-eyed visitor today spotted our first frog in the pond. Hopefully more will follow and we might have frogspawn in the spring!

A busman's holiday

Last Friday we took time out to visit two other NGS gardens in the county. Both were superb and very different in style from our own. Aderyn y Mor in Pembroke Dock has an impressive cliff-side garden overlooking the Cleddau estuary with masses of perrennials, annuals and shrubs clinging to the well-constructed terraces on the steep slope. Particularly good are the linked ponds. From there it was a short drive to Mead Lodge also in Pembroke Dock where the garden had a rural setting amidst mature trees on a south-facing slope also overlooking a branch of the estuary. We especially enjoyed the well-laid-out perennial and annual beds set into the lawns and the wonderful specimens in the small arboretum. The garden also boasts a magnificent pond. We even managed to pick up a couple of plants new to us. A very enjoyable trip! Both gardens are well worth a visit.

At home our visitor numbers are growing steadily despite some recent inclement weather. On a NATURE NOTE we have come across two rather large toads in the garden this week one of which had reached the back patio. We are also confident that this year whitethroat warblers nested in the bramble patch in the wild part of the garden. Earlier in the year a pair of cuckoos were spotted flying over the garden.

Heralds of summer

The summer visitors of the feathered kind have begun to arrive. We have heard the chiffchaff warbler and spotted in our garden the whitethroat warblers and first swallows feeding on the growing airborne colonies of flies and midges as the air warms up. Yesterday we made our annual spring trip to Picton Castle Plant Hunter's Fair to seek new additions to our garden. We managed to find one or two new geraniums, the unusual adenophora and ligusticum scoticum, lobelias and penstemon White Bedder despite the appalling weather in the morning. We were more fortunate with the weather this afternoon which brought a few more human visitors to our garden. It is now 2 months since we opened to the public for the NGS and we have had 89 visitors so far which is encouraging. Comments have been very favourable. As the days lengthen we notice the ever-changing succession of flowering plants. The early spring varieties have faded and the burgeoning green of summer perennials is accelerating. Sitting in the garden in the evening is now a frequent pleasure.

A glorious spring day

After a rather grey and cool week today was a big surprise- lovely warm sunshine all day and plenty of visitors to show around the garden. Many spring plants are bursting into bloom such as rhododendron Cilpinense and corylopsis pauciflora. Even forsythia and flowering currants have their first blooms. Mowing the grass and tidying borders today reduced us to short-sleeved shirts. Some visitors arrived in open-topped cars! Sitting outside became more than a mere possibility. And the good light ran on into the evening.

On another note we think we have solved our nibbled primrose mystery. Several blackbirds hopping around the undergrowth have sported rather guilty looks whenever disturbed. Reports from similarly affected visitors lend weight to this bird theory. Sparrows also seem to carry some of the blame and our reluctant policy of reducing feeding for a while appears to be working though we miss their company.

The big day!

Thanks to the sunny mild winter weather and an inviting article in the County Echo, we were pleased to receive several visitors to our first Open Day for the NGS. The garden was sparkling with primroses, snowdrops and early camellias and redolent with the sweet smell of sarcococca Confusa and lonicera fragrantissima. We look forward to welcoming many more visitors over the coming months. We have however a garden mystery - who or what is nibbling off the heads of primroses and leaving them scattered on the ground? None seem to be eaten except those from a gorgeous new pink primula which has no petals left at all. Any ideas?

A melodious thrush has been singing loudly from the top of a perimeter conifer for the past few days - could it be a sign of spring?

Exciting news

After months of keeping quiet we can finally announce our incorporation into the NATIONAL GARDENS SCHEME. Last spring we applied and in the summer we received a visit from the local representatives who much to our delight informed us that we were accepted. The organisation has recently sent us our publicity materials for this year and we feel it is now time to release this thrilling news. We are pleased to announce that we will be open for the NGS every weekend from February 21st through till November. We are hoping for and looking forward to lots of visitors. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the spring and summer weather will be some improvement on 2008.

Red Flower Sue Clark | Golwg yr Ynys | Carnhedryn | Solva | Haverfordwest | SA62 6XT