Where Gumbo Was #398
This week Gumbo took a walk around the National Botanic Garden of Wales, which is located near the heart of Carmarthenshire's Tywi valley. Congratulations to George G, PortMoresby and Roderick Simpson, who guessed the destination correctly.
Having first opened its doors to visitors in May 2000, the garden celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. However, during those 20 years the garden has been developed continuously and many new areas and attractions have been added. Unfortunately, during our visit in mid-September some of these were closed because of the coronavirus crisis. It was nevertheless a very enjoyable experience—in superb weather.
The garden occupies an area that was once part of a much larger property, known as the Middleton Estate. Associations with horticulture and landscaping date back to the late 18th century, when the then owner of the estate created an extensive water park. He also built an enormous mansion here. The photo below shows the associated stable block, which now houses the garden's restaurant/cafe and shop as well as an art gallery.
Many of the different owners of the estate obtained their wealth from sources like the notorious East India Company or the slave trade and no parts of the garden have been named after them. The area depicted in the next two shots is called the 'Wallace Garden' - after Alfred Russell Wallace, who together with Charles Darwin laid the foundations for the theory of evolution.
The yellow building in the shot above is known as 'Principality House'. It was originally the servants' quarter. Its front entrance is shown below.
The mansion itself, 'Middleton Hall', burned down in 1931. The photo shows the views from the ruins - and how the National Botanic Garden fits into the larger landscape.
It has many different sections, some separated by walls or hedges. There are quite a few seats and benches around, allowing for quiet contemplation of the surroundings.
The temperature does occasionally drop to below freezing point here and I assume they will wrap these banana plants for the winter months.
The fan palms, however, probably do not need any such protection.
We were quite surprised by the number of colourful flowers we came across this late in the season. Below is a selection:
Daffodils are Wales' national flowers. I am not sure whether these were of a late-blooming type - there was no sign indicating the variety - or whether the plant just got confused.
If this sculpture looks familiar, you have probably seen it amongst the clues posted last week. It stands near the entrance to the 'Apothecary's Garden', dedicated to medicinal plants.
There are various quirky sculptures and other pieces of art all over the garden.
The 'Great Glasshouse' in the background of the previous photo was designed by Norman Foster's firm and is the largest single-span glasshouse in the world.
It has always reminded me of the agri-domes in the science-fiction film 'Silent Running' (and this is not meant to be a slight - I love that film).
The structure protects the plants not only from low temperatures, but also from the plentiful Welsh rain. Many come from arid regions. Below are a few shots from inside the glasshouse:
Near the main entrance of the glasshouse is a fountain which feeds this large water feature snaking its way down the hill in the direction of the garden's exit.
If you do not want to leave yet you can choose one of the paths at the back of the glasshouse which will take you into the surrounding countryside.
[N.B.: Not all the photos here are my own. Some are borrowed from my son who joined me and my wife on this little trip. While he only had his phone with him - admittedly one with five different cameras - he (rather annoyingly) often ended up with the better shot.]