Posted on 16 July 2010
Pleasure Gardens has been this year’s theme at the University of Wales Gregynog Hall. Befitting this motif, BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting two episodes of Gardeners' Question Time from Gregynog’s gardens, which are to be aired 16 July and 6 August.
Featuring in the programme will be the farmer and programme Chairman, Eric Robson, together with panellists Chris Beardshaw, Matthew Biggs and Anne Swithinbank.
The first programme takes focus on questions dealing with the health of a vine cutting taken from a greenhouse situated within Gregynog’s walled garden – the type identified as a desert grape. As the panellists inform the listener, cuttings such as these would originally have been stored in glass vessels with bell bottoms and long necks to avoid bruising the grapes. Many examples of these are still stored the Hall’s vast cellars.
Another topic discussed in the programme will be continuing restoration of Gregynog’s Grade 1 listed gardens and the sensitive considerations in managing such a project.
The second broadcast (airs 6 August) will concentrate on the restoration of the rose garden, which existed between the fingers of the Yew Hedge and was planted in the 1890s. Michael Murray, an expert from David Austin Roses, assists Gregynog’s Estate manager to design the planting scheme; together they proceed through the gardens on a tour to survey the large collection of Rhododendrons, passing by the new bee apiary in the Dell.
Before the First World War 26 gardeners worked at Gregynog. An old anecdote holds that an advert once placed in the local paper for a gardener read as follows: ‘Gardener required...tenor preferred’ – staff members would often opt to join the Gregynog choir.
The gardens were recently described by CADW as ‘one of the most important gardens and parks in Powys, dating from at least 1500’, and the Hall was recently referred to by Simon Jenkins as ‘hidden in a dripping Welsh jungle.’
Landscape architect William Emes, one of Capability Brown’s imitators, proposed improvements in 1774, for which a plan still exists, and included a chain of pools on the sunken lawns, once known affectionately as ‘Mr Blayney’s duck ponds’.
The Estate was heavily wooded at this time and in 1809 had 2,250 oak trees, some of which still make up the Great Wood. This is now designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its lichen, with specimens over 300 years old. Somewhere around 1880, the stand of trees immediately opposite the Hall was devised and later added to by the planning of rhododendron hybrids ‘Pink Pearl’ and the golden yew hedge.
The gardens at Gregynog are now open to visitors with a Courtyard café serving light refreshments. Admission is administered via a car parking charge of £2.50 and the grounds are open from 8am to 8pm or dawn to dusk in the winter.
For more information about Gregynog Hall and the University of Wales please visit: www.wales.ac.uk
For press and media information, please contact Tom Barrett, Communications Officer, University of Wales: firstname.lastname@example.org