Around our Welsh garden in late May

Yay, we've finally made it to our Welsh retreat, something I've been dreaming of for nearly 18 months. Feels so good to be able to walk round the garden, despite the neuropathy -  I'm determined not to let it spoil my enjoyment. The cuckoo's calling and the house martins are swooping and swirling in the air, scooping up the dreaded midges, then back to their nest-building in the eaves. As Lionel, our previous owner, used to say It's God's own country - and that feels just about right. 
Lionel's namesake hosts a fine house leek hairdo!
Vic and Roy, who've been looking after everything while we've been gone, have done a good job. However, I can't help feeling that a garden seems to recognise the people who have built and nurtured it by springing to life and seemingly putting a smile on its face. It's as if it's waking up from a long sulk, and thankful that you're back, wants to make sure you don't abandon it again. 

There's much to be done here, in both the hard graft and the gentle pottering, so I won't be loitering for long, but just wanted to share with you some of the treasures around the garden. 

Before I do this though, I must tell you about the poor little black cat who's been holding our two cats siege ever since we got here four days ago.
Here she is strutting her stuff
She's a sweet wee thing but as she's on heat, she insists on cattawauling all night long, hoping to tempt one of our two neutered Toms. They in turn aren't at all interested and cower indoors wondering when she'll give up and go. P managed to entice her with some food into a cat box yesterday, then knocked on every door around the valley trying to find her owners. No takers though, one neighbour jokingly said they were pleased she'd moved on as she'd been driving them crazy the week before! 

So... we're not sure what to do with her - RSPCA is one option, but hesitate to do that as the nearest one is 10 miles away, and her family is probably more local. If we didn't come and go so much we'd be happy to keep her, but don't feel comfortable taking her back to York with us.
Django trying to ignore her creeping up on him from behind
OK, so down to business, here's a selection of the delights the garden had in store for us when we arrived. 
First thing I noticed was this beautiful herbaceous peony.

Then these two very different tree peonies caught my eye.

Next were all the camellias dotted around in variety, mainly white and red flowering now as it's the tail end of their season and the earlier pinks had finished.
Then the biggest surprise of all was the Rhododendron sinogrande, planted ten years ago in the front garden, which had never flowered once in all those years! Only two large blooms but they were definitely worth waiting for - never held much store by that old chestnut everything comes to those who wait. but certainly true of this tardy beauty.
Rhododendron sinogrande
Also good to see this Azalea "Blue Tit" in bloom, she's rarely been seen in such good heart 
Couldn't bear to leave out the fabulous hellebores. This really is the tail end, most are done now, but they all work so hard to liven up the garden throughout the barren months from February until they fizzle out in May
Then there's the garden drama queen, the ever gobsmacking Clematis montana, climbing and colonising wherever it's given free rein, wafting its heady almond scent around, especially on damp dewy days. We have four different ones...
This one has covered a large old birch which we pollarded as it was obstructing
the view from the house - sadly it took offence and never came back 😪
This one grows outside the studio and I love its tetrarose deep pink
And finally this one grows over the end of the barn
I haven't forgotten I said four, but I didn't get around to photographing the other one. It clothes the oil tank and rambles down over the beech hedge - not so interesting but you get the picture 😊

So now we've more or less covered all the show-offs, we come to the sweet surprises and volunteers popping up sometimes where you least expect them.
Like this aquilegia (grannie's bonnet) in the paving on the terrace,
with the sweet little Welsh poppy behind...
...or this Soloman's seal volumteer by the studio......
....or this gorgeous camassia, a relic of many planted years ago, which have all but
 disappeared - methinks providing a good supper for the field mice😪
These chrome yellow spurges place themselves thoughtfully in shady parts
...and this is one of my favourite euphorbias  - Fireglow. She certainly does just that and looks great against a dry stone wall. The jury's still out on the berberis behind - colour's fine, but not keen on the prickles
I'm always fascinated by nature's way of creating the most wondrous works of art,  often thinking why didn't I think of that.
Amazing to watch the fiddlehead ferns unfurling, pure joy with their spring green 
And guess what? On a free afternoon on one of our Irish knitting tours, Merry and Andrea went to the Dublin Botanic Garden, Glasnevin, and saw a sculpture in the fern garden inspired by the plants - awesome!
Dublin Botanic Gardens
© Marilyn Fenton
This potter wasp had been hard at work in the chimonea creating a nest for itself.
Just a perfect little pot!
I've probably told you before that this garden has many different parts and although I love to play with colour, texture and form in the more formal parts, the wilder reaches are also a joy. 
Like the little English bluebells in the part we refer to as the orchard. Wishful thinking, fact every attempt to grow fruit there has failed, whereas stooled willow and dogwoods thrive there. Lesson here - I must practise what I preach 🙂
Then there's the bog garden. We're going to miss the spectacular show the irises put on in late May, but maybe you can get an idea of what I mean from this Vincent van Goch painting.
The bog garden with a lone iris in bloom in the foreground, skunk cabbage to the right
and the majestic, if rather triffid-like Gunnera manicata just waking up in the background
Looking the other way into a part of the garden where fruit is happier, there are several sweet chestnuts,
a walnut, a damson, an apple and a plum
And finally, we have several tumbledown stone walls, one of which we like to imagine was the home of pigs in days gone by, hence its name. The piggery's walls are now at waist height and have become the perfect hosts for succulents and small herbs.
London Pride and sedum enjoying the protection and warmth of the piggery walls
House leeks and thyme also love it between the stones here
That's just about it for now, phew! I hope you like the new header image. It's a cropped version of my friend Anna Oakland's portrait, painted many years ago when she was a neighbour in London. For more of her amazing artwork visit Annalou's website.
Here's the full picture
As I type the little cat is still calling. Our last hope is a friend in the next village who may know something, or perhaps even give her a home. I'll keep you posted. 

Latest bulletin on Lyra is that she's doing quite well and gaining weight on her NG tube, though no progress as yet on eating. The physio is pleased with her weight-bearing, although she's a long way from taking any steps. Her paediatrician thinks it's going to be a long haul of 3-6 months in hospital, but at least everyone feels the problem is being addressed and hoping this will put her on the road to a full recovery.

Thanks for dropping by, more anon x

Postscript on the little cat: We eventually found his family - hmmm, that's right, HIS family. He's so small we thought he was a female on heat, but he's actually Buzz, an un-neutered Tom. His behaviour was perplexing, growling and yowling all night long. We know now why our cats, being the wimps they are, were always cowering and trembling inside. Turns out he belongs to a family further down the valley who are there sporadically for long weekends, leaving him with a self-feeding system in their barn. We had actually found another home for him in the next valley with some friends, which would have been a better solution for us, but for the moment he's happily reunited with his first family. Unfortunately we think he'll be back every time we're here, as he's obviously lonely and quite happy to laud it over our gentle giants.  Sadly that doesn't suit our cats at all 😕


  1. Thanks for sharing the lovely garden pics. I especially like the house leeks (we call them hens and chicks) growing on the wall. It always amazes me when things fine little nooks and crannies to thrive in. Happy Spring!

    1. Thanks Merry. I thought your photo was a very good addition, illustrating the point perfectly.

  2. The garden, especially the rhododendron, was waiting for your return. It looks spectacular! Thank you for showing these beautiful pictures - so glad that you are enjoying it all. xox

    1. Thanks Cathryn, I'm a shadow of my former self in the garden, but it's so tempting, as you know, to want to just knock it into shape as soon as you can, but now I find myself exhausted if I do that xo

  3. Dear Jean, how wonderful to see that you've been able to see what's going on in your gorgeous garden in Wales. Some of the plants and flowers in the photographs were new to me, but most of them are old friends. What colors!
    Also, let me say I like the header portrait with its glowing hues.
    Thank you for the update on dear little Lyra's progress.
    Hoping that the female cat's true homeplace is revealed soon.
    Lots of love, xo

  4. Hello Frances,
    Yes see postscript about Buzz, the un-neutered Tom! We eventually did find his home and were surprised to hear he's a male. Back to York today, but first looking forward to lunch on the terrace. The weather has been quite wet recently, good for the garden, as everything is unseasonably dry, but not so nice when you want to be outside enjoying the garden. It seems to be drying out this morning and there are patches of blue in the sky, so fingers crossed. Love to you xo


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