I came upon a hidden garden while I was visiting a charming little town in Wales.  Actually this town, Llantwrtyd Wells, (population 700), is the smallest town in Great Britain.  I can’t pronounce the name correctly, my Gaelic is rather rusty – or I should say non-existent, but this tiny town is a special place to visit.


Our visit took place during the summer of 2003.  We were walking down the road into this little town and enjoying the beautiful scenery, above.

As we drew near the center of town, we turned a corner and there it was….



….a hidden garden, sandwiched between a nondescript shed and garage.



Now, as most of you know by now, I almost always have my camera with me, ready to take photos of truly awful landscaping that I can use as examples of what not to do.  But, I also love to take pictures of beautiful gardens and I was just entranced by this one.   The delphiniums, the roses, and the clematis were so lovely.

I have a neighbor who grows beautiful delphiniums and yes, you can grow them in the desert.  I tried growing Clematis years ago and it really never flowered for me, so it probably is not too successful in our climate.



Well, back to my story….I lingered around the garden taking my pictures and reluctantly left to explore more of the town.

Llanwrtyd Wells is a wonderful place to visit and I have many good memories, but three stand out the most:

1. Meeting the butcher who was the mayor of this tiny town who wanted to know if we were enjoying our stay and if we would tell our friends to come visit.  (So if you go and visit, please tell the mayor, if you meet him, that I fulfilled my promise).

2. Going to the ‘Honesty Bookshop’ where you walk in, choose a used book and put the money for the book in the old-fashioned cash register – on the honor system.  There was no sales clerk.

3. But, by far, my favorite memory was coming upon this beautiful, hidden garden.

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

33 replies
  1. Yan
    Yan says:

    Lovely, those delphiniums are gorgeous. I think there's some campanula in the garden. I love the fact that it is obviously cared for but at the same time untidy and running riot. My kind of garden.

    Reply
  2. tina
    tina says:

    Gosh I simply love those delphiniums. They grow well in my home state of Maine but not so well here. Your delight in gardens and photographing them makes reading your blog a true joy.

    Reply
  3. The Violet Fern
    The Violet Fern says:

    This is so beautiful! I always think when walking through the village – or anywhere – you could fit a garden there, or there, or there … instead of lawn … imagine. This is just a perfect example of how it all could be.

    Reply
  4. VW
    VW says:

    Lilacs, delphinium, clematis . . . all have places in my garden. But my house doesn't have the character of the one you photographed! I'm so excited to visit over the pond someday.

    Reply
  5. Amy
    Amy says:

    Not too many places on the honor system these days. I bet it was nice seeing that trust does exist. Also, what a beautiful garden. I bet your trip was wonderful.

    Reply
  6. Helen
    Helen says:

    Hi, Noelle, Sarah & I were in Wales (where our mum was born) in 2008. Those crazy Celts and their lingo! The bilingual signage is fun to read. We studied Welsh when went to school there for a year, so have a very rudimentary understanding of the pronunciation. Here's a site that even shows you how to pronounce Llanwrtyd:

    http://www.kc3.co.uk/~bicycle/sideways/welsh.html

    The double-Ls here are shown as having a "th" sound, but that's for simplicity's sake. It's really more of a back-of-the-mouth sound.

    And on a gardening note, I'd kill (too harsh; maim?) for those delphs!

    Reply
  7. Sylvana
    Sylvana says:

    What a great find! I visited Wales last year for a couple of days. It is a very pretty country – especially Snowdon. Love this garden. I grow delphinium, but these are much nicer than mine – as are most flowers in Great Britain!

    Reply
  8. Joanne
    Joanne says:

    In the last photo it looks like two types of campanula the pale blue creeping one on the left and the tall spikey blue bells on the right Canterbury bells.

    The pale pink small flowers could be geranium/cransebill but that's a guess.

    The previous photo looks like alstremeria red/pink in the foreground with Veronica spikey blue to the left.

    The pale blue clump in the first photo my Dad grows and I forget the name of it.

    What a lovely patch of garden you captured.

    Reply
  9. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Thank you all for your comments. I love gardens like this too. Beautiful and natural, not formal.

    Joanne,
    Thank you very much for your help in plant identification. It is nice to have names attached to the pretty flowering plants.

    Noelle

    Reply
  10. Martha Z
    Martha Z says:

    I love the look of the cottage garden. I have a section of my garden in which I strive for that look. The delphiniums do ok here as long as I protect them from the voles in spring. The clematis I pictured doesn't like the heat where it is but is lovely at the entrace to our home in the spring. I have a clematis that climbs in my dogwood, that one is happy and I get double delight when the dogwood and clematis bloom in the spring.
    Voles an heat are the twin terrors to my tender plants.

    Reply
  11. Ilona
    Ilona says:

    What a lovely story, and that garden is a gem- Those delphiniums make you wish for them (although I've tried and must resist).

    Enjoyed this true cottage garden so much.

    Reply
  12. fairegarden
    fairegarden says:

    Oh Noelle, you must have thought you were dreaming when you came upon this little spot of heaven on earth! Like the rest of the comments, those delphs are like mountains of blue. We cannot grow them here, I am surprised they will grow in the desert. That must be quite a sight, that blue with the sand and rock behind. Thanks for sharing this tale, and if we ever get there, we will for sure contact the butcher/mayor! 🙂
    Frances

    Reply
  13. evolutionofagardener
    evolutionofagardener says:

    That's a lovely garden. Surprises like that are always welcome. I stopped to get honey at a nearby farm, once. There was a sign for it near the road where I passed by and I had heard that local honey was helpful with seasonal allergies. I was somewhat surprised to find bottles of honey lined up next to a sign and a jar to put the money in. It seemed very old fashioned and charming.

    Reply
  14. Hanna at Orchid Care
    Hanna at Orchid Care says:

    It’s funny that you posted about a hidden garden in Wales because I was just advising friends who are planning a trip to France and Italy to allow themselves to get lost in out-of-the-way neighborhoods because that is where they are likely to discover the most unexpected treasures such as tiny restaurants, adorable shops, charming parks, etc.

    The garden to happen upon looks absolutely wonderful! I would call it serendipity.

    Reply

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