26 June 2009

Letters Across the Pond: Sylvia's spring vacation

As so often happens, life got in the way in recent weeks and I neglected to put up the most recent letter from Sylvia in our Letters Across the Pond series. My apologies to all those who are following our conversation and of course to Sylvia, to whom I think I now owe 2 letters. But she's in good company with other friends I owe correspondence to. Something like the shoemaker's children going barefoot, the writer sometimes runs out of words...Anyway, enjoy!

 Dear Jodi,

Thank you for your last letter. I enjoyed the first picture of a trillium, I have ordered two, T. erectum. Thank you for all the comments that they are not difficult to grow. All I know is they are not easy to buy in the UK and expensive. I try not to acquired plants in the summer but I couldn’t resist, I will keep them really well watered for the summer and fingers crossed.

I am glad your garden is now growing but I can believe after a long sleep it ‘gallops’ away. May is always the month that I get panicky because I can’t keep up with everything that I want to do in the garden. I tell myself next year I will do more before May or I will make my beds and borders so they take less work and I will grow and plant less plants for containers. But the next year… by the end of May I give up and just do what I can!

Our soil is neutral so I don’t grow any rhododendrons but there are a few growing in my neighbours gardens as so I am thinking of giving one a try. I do like shrubs to give the garden some bulk, height and width it helps to divide the garden up and hides some of the views (good and bad).

I love your pictures, your garden is really beautiful – I am quite happy to overlook weeds, especially as some of them are so pretty if only they didn’t try to take over. I planted an amelanchier once but it died on me, I really must try again. Talking of dying our Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ – is definitely gone, I read in the RHS magazine that this variety is dying around the country but they don’t know why. I think the main reason mine gave up is we had a mains water leak very close to its roots, they don’t like being wet!

I grew some yellow violets from seed last year, I wonder if it is the same species, I will try to find a photo or the seed packet. My first rose flowered this weekend, Rhapsody in Blue and I have lots of others just coming out. We do need some dry weather, we are still getting a mixture late April showers I think! Most of my roses are David Austin English roses and they big flowers don’t like the rain, it makes them very heavy and hand down. The photos of my garden were taken on 23 May and give you an idea of what is flowering now.

Your humming bird picture is amazing, I can only wonder at these tiny birds and hope that one day I will be lucky enough to see a sight like this. For now I am grateful for all the photos that you and our friends are showing.

I did promise to tell you about our holiday in North Wales and I started a letter just about that but decided to answer your letter first! We went to 5 different gardens and I took hundreds of photos but thought I would share with you the first two gardens we went to and find room for the others in future letters. That is if you would like to hear more?

We went to Snowdonia, National Park in North Wales which is approx a 5 hour (250 miles) journey from where I live. To give you some idea about 170 miles North and 80 miles north west from home. Wales is another country (I saw VP vegplotting.blogspot.com also referred to Wales as abroad) it really does feel like a different country, because a lot of the welsh people speak Welsh from birth. All the road signs are in Welsh and English and you hear Welsh spoken a lot. Of course it is part of the UK and the scenery is similar (lots of bluebells and ferns) until you get to the mountains. It is really for the mountain scenery that we go to Wales (it is nearer than Scotland) but it is the gardens that I would like write to you about.

The first garden we visited was Plas Newydd on Anglesey, Anglesey is an island at the northern tip of Wales joined to the main land by several bridges. We didn’t explore the woodland or the rhododendron gardens this time as we wanted to look around the house and it was beginning to rain. I did get time to look around the terrace garden, I think this was originally a summer garden when the Marquess and his family built it but the National Trust have planted it for spring, summer and autumn. I think this has improved since I was last here.

The top has a grotto terrace with a spring in and the water trickles down through a feature on each level to a pool. The NT has recently extended this to rill and fall down to the sea. This is the first of the three terraces, not counting the entrance in the first photo. I really liked this planting of Euphorbia and dark red polyanthus with Ajuga and other plants. The third photo shows this planting by the steps and you can see some of the summer flowering perennials at the back.

The views from this garden over the Menai Strait (the strip of sea between Anglesey and the main land), Wales and Snowdonia were beautiful. Having enjoyed our visit we went back across the bridge because we had one more visit planed for the day.

Our next visit was Crug Farm, home to the plant hunter Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones who regularly go plant hunting around the world with Dan Hinkley. This is a treasure trove of shade loving plants and they have a small garden attached. It is amazing what they have managed to get into this small garden, a lot of the plants have large leaves. I only bought one plant this time, Aruncos aethusifolius ‘Little Gem’, I have to restrict myself and there is almost too much choice, most of which I have never heard of.

Now this is only a brief glimpse of these garden and it is my view. I will try to share some of the other another time, the others were very different. The forecast, as I write this, is for a sunny weekend so I hope to get some (all!) of containers planted. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Best wishes Sylvia


  1. I enjoyed reading Sylvia's latest letter and seeing pictures of her beautiful garden. The gardens she visited are very pretty as well. I love those big stone walls.

  2. Dear Jodi, don't worry about this, I appreciate how little time you have and being unwell makes if difficult. I just hope that you are feeling better and more able to cope with your hectic life.

    This letter was written a while ago so to update you, my trilliums never arrived - one of the problems of mail order they except the order then don't have the stock to fill it! I will try again in the Autumn. The roses are still flowering but the poppies have finished and I cut them down at the weekend. Today it is raining but we have had lots of dry days so I am pleased.

    Now don't worry about answering until you feel ready. Thank you so much for posting my letter which I hope you and all my friends enjoy.

    Best wishes Sylvia

  3. Wow, Plas Newydd is exquisite! Bodnant in Wales is my very favorite place. If I'm lucky enough to return to Wales, I'll have to make sure I add Plas Newydd to my must-see list!

  4. Sylvia, lovely to read your letter to Jodi and I hope you enjoyed your holiday in Wales.

    I admire your restraint at Crug Farm, I am not sure I would be as good.

    Jodi - I do hope you are feeling better from your virus.

    Warm regards to you both.

  5. Hi, Sylvia! What a great trip you took. I have wanted to visit Wales for a long time. I'm going to have to plan to spend as much time there as possible if I ever make it. It looks all so wonderful. I would also like to visit Crug Farm. I've read about it and about the Wynn-Joneses. It sounds like a fabulous place.

  6. Sylvia~~What a lovely vacation...thank you for sharing it with Jodi and all of us. Wales sounds wonderful; as i read more about the countryside and the gardens ...I want to visit there, too! gail

  7. What a trip, and what fabulous photos.


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