Visit Dyffryn Fernant Garden
Dyffryn Fernant Garden
It’s not often that I visit a garden and am totally blown away by it.
This is generally because I already know of the garden or perhaps have visited it before.
Not so Dyffryn Fernant Garden and our visit there was a complete delight!
I visited with my wife Felicity and an non gardening friend who recommended Dyffryn Fernant Garden to us.
He had heard that this garden was nearby and was tipped off by keen gardening neighbours.
Where is it?
The garden is located not far from both Fishguard and Newport in Pembrokeshire.
This south west part of Wales enjoys a relatively mild climate and is kissed by the warmth of the Gulf Stream.
This enables gardeners to push the boundaries and to cultivate plants that further north or further inland would not flourish. Inland they would certainly need some real winter protection.
The garden is tucked away and down a short narrow lane. It’s not far off the main A487 road between Fishguard and Newport (Pembrokeshire).
Once a small farm, this garden sits comfortably into the landscape. In fact it’s close to the beautiful Gwaun Valley at the west end of the Preseli Hills.
Dyffryn Fernant Garden has been created by Christina Shand and David Allum from what was a run down farmstead.
Starting with renovation of the old farmhouse they have created a plants-man’s paradise in a beautiful unspoiled landscape!
Much of the garden around the raspberry painted old stone farmhouse has been created in the old farmyard.
David told me that everywhere was rock and hard surface.
So it’s a remarkable testament to their skill and sheer hard graft that a garden of any kind has been created here.
Soil has been brought in to cultivate a massive range of hardy and not so hardy plants.
The garden extends to six acres.
Around the Farmhouse
The planting around the farmhouse is full of treasures and shows great planting flair.
I spotted many salvias among single flowered dahlias. But also Achillea, Eryngium and Dianthus carthusianorum all set against that pink cottage wall.
Stone walls are topped with many pot grown succulents and tender plants. A diminutive pineapple lily called Eucomis ‘Van der Merwei’ caught my eye but there are many other plants native to South Africa here.
Arguably the piece de resistance here is a small area with a seat among Japanese maples. This in itself is unremarkable but when you sit on that seat and gaze back at the farmhouse that is perfectly reflected in a beautifully up cycled vessel!
David told me that he thought that this large vessel was once the base of an old still.
Painstakingly levelled it forms the perfect reflective pool with water gently spilling from its rim.
A visit later in summer would see many Agapanthus in bloom.
These are planted among an an eclectic mix of plant gems.
Ginger lilies rub shoulders with native ferns, roses with foxgloves and Angels Fishing Rods (also from South Africa) with hardy geraniums.
These are all in front of an old barn which now houses a library and the tool shed.
During summer magnificent potted American Agave and Canary Island Aeonium bring an exotic feel to this space.
Protecting Tender Plants
These tender plants and others are protected in winter in a single poly tunnel and a range of small greenhouses.
One of these domestic greenhouses caught my eye as it is hexagonal in shape and as a consequence always has a side at right angles to the sun. This allows maximum light to penetrate.
Good winter light and protection from rain are more important than protection from low temperatures for many tender plants.
Behind the farmhouse is the kitchen garden.
It’s an area of flowers and vegetables all set in small beds.
Gardening tasks in this garden can not be mechanised.
That is because access is difficult and soils are thin. Soils overly hard rock.
And so whilst there are volunteers and a single paid gardener this garden is very labour intensive.
Below this is a terrace containing a small nursery and below again the most formal garden.
It has clipped box and Pittosporum balls with height created by clipped yew.
However at the time of my visit my eye was taken by a very large fastigiate Tulip tree (Liriodendron).
I also admired a Chilean Fire tree (Embothrium coccineum). The latter was just beginning to bloom and will glow red in the weeks ahead.
On yet another terrace below two large herbaceous borders line a central grass path and then you find a narrow orchard before entering the Waun Fach.
This largely untouched area is a natural ancient rush meadow.
Narrow paths cut through it.
Here growth is almost shoulder high!
This is an area full of natural flora and bordered by old overgrown native hedges.
Little routes off the main path allowed one to discover tree ferns and Royal ferns growing in the shade of native Goat Willow.
In the meadow Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) dominated the scene on our early July visit. Its soft pink scented blooms atop 1.5 -2 metre stems.
Leaving this area and passing a grove of birch one finds oneself on a footbridge peering into the large pond.
As we paused here fish sipped flies from the surface (small brown trout?) and a moorhen with two well grown chicks skulked among the reeds.
Passing another meadow with spotted orchids in bloom we found ourselves in Nicky’s Field.
At Nick’s Field there’s a well shaped Sessile oak. Surrounding it are 40 beds of ornamental grasses and sedge.
Unusually these beds are of formal shapes and contain just one species of each grass or sedge in each one. I’d never seen grasses displayed this way before.
Returning to near the car park and garden entrance a rambling rose Seagull stopped me in my tracks.
During the first week of July this beautiful single flowered white rose was at its best.
Nearby I noticed a Stewartia, also with single white blooms in flower. The white Camellia like single flowers are simple and pure.
This garden is full of plant treasures and surprises!
The Cottage and Bog Garden
Heading back to the farmhouse and completing my tour I passed a delightful small cottage which can be rented.
This cottage looks out on another and perhaps most challenging of the many small garden rooms.
Apparently this area was once the farmyard and devoid of soil.
It is now a lush and flourishing bog garden!
Adding water has created bog-like conditions. Soil was also imported.
Here huge bulrush, variegated reed grass (Phragmites australis subsp. australis ‘Variegatus’) marsh spurge and giant fleabane grow at and above head height.
Royal fern, Zantedeschia aethiopica, Gunnera, Astilbe and bog Primula also relish the wet conditions.
Dyffryn Fernant Garden is a garden in which you can immerse yourself in plants!
There are few borders where you can stand back and admire them.
That’s because you walk among the eclectic collection and rub shoulders with them!
Dyffryn Fernant Garden is a remarkable and truly exceptional garden! I’m told that it has a long season and is well worth a visit in autumn.
Little wonder that it is recognised as such by the Royal Horticultural Society and is a Partner Garden.
There’s much more information on this exceptional garden here.
If you’ve enjoyed reading about my visit to Dyffryn Fernant Garden you may enjoy my blog on visiting a private garden in Cornwall that also has a significant naturalistic style.