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Palm trees and Hercules in Wales
Portmerion Gardens (Portmerion, Wales)
Member Name: catsholiday
Portmerion Gardens (Portmerion, Wales)
Advantages: Lovely varied gardens to explore
Disadvantages: You do have to pay to go into the village
PORTMEIRION, Gwynedd, LL48 6ER, Wales
The village of Portmerion is located on the estuary of the River Dwyryd, 2 miles south east of Porthmadog.
Strangely considering what wet weather we hear happens in Wales this small peninsula has a comparatively mild climate with frosts being very unlikely which means plants that are usually not able to survive British winters manage to survive here.
Some of the trees in the Portmerion garden date from the 1850s and are therefore pretty decent sized trees now. There are some great climbing trees and I am so glad we didn't take our grandsons as they would have been up these in a flash and that is probably not something you are allowed to do! These had lots of low lying branches with plenty of horizontal branches to climb on.
Coming down the drive into the village on either side of the drive are stunning hydrangeas. I don't think I have ever seen so many hydrangeas along the side of a drive before they must be an amazing site in September as they were pretty great even in late December as we have had such a mild December all the flower heads were still there.
When Clough William Ellis bought the site in 1926 he mainly worked on the design of the actual village and planting in the village area. There are many Irish Yew trees which give shape to the village around the buildings and several palms which help to create the Italianate feel to the place.
There are lots of plant beds in around the village to help create the winding paths and areas hidden from view until you get to them. Once again all around were many beds of hydrangeas which were all being severely pruned while we were visiting. Although many of the beds were in their winter tidy condition it was obvious that in summer these were full of colour it didn't mean that the gardens were bare, they still had evergreen and hardy plants that gave the structure to the garden and all that was missing was the flower colour. I was able to see what the place looked like in summer when I looked at the lovely coffee table book we had left in our room which I studied when we were staying there.
The trees around the village were huge giving the impression that the village was in the countryside and well hidden from the outside world, which indeed it is. On one night there was a really strong wind and the trees around were doing a lot of swaying and movement so I was a little concerned by their size!
When you walk a little out of the actual village and on the walk around the lakes then this is where Clough made major architectural changes to the grounds. There are two lakes which are not natural but are beautiful with ironwork arbour and sculptures at one end, a lovely Japanese bridge between the two while at the far end there were a couple of benches where you could sit and look back at the bridge and the arbour with beautiful reflections in the lake.
What I liked about this walk and woodland is that it looked really natural as though it had always been there. The woodland area has one main walk way but the woodland part has no paths to speak of but it is possible to walk through the wooden area so long as you find you own way. The woodland is managed and maintained but not in any way unnatural looking.
Some of the larger buildings in the village have small driveways and these are lined with formal topiary conifers and these contrast with the winding upward curving paths with small more natural looking shrubs amidst the rocks and stone walls.
The sad thing about visiting somewhere like this in winter is that you can see these huge rhododendron, camellias and hydrangeas in the gardens but can only imagine what they all look like in full bloom and I kept saying I wish we could seen this all in bloom but of course you do have the summer crowds to contend with and we had none.
Aside from the plants this garden has lots of sculptural surprises which you come across whilst wandering around. The main centre of the village has a formal design with ornate arches and a high wall with small covered sort of arbours overlooking it. A large very regal looking lion sculpture takes pride of place and this was apparently a gift to Clough William Ellis from his friends for his 90th Birthday in 1973.
Not far from the lion statue you will also see another more classical looking statue of Atlas (or Hercules some seem to be calling it) holding up the world. Unlike the lion which is stone this statue is made from weathered copper. He is in a very classical pose with a bowed head and the world on his shoulders and he is down on one knee. He appears to be being hindered in his task by a lion clamped onto one of his arms.
Every corner seems to have a little surprise hidden and as we walked around we found all kinds of quirky things. We found a Buddha which I then discovered was use in the film 'The Inn of the Sixth Happiness' filmed in 1958 nearby and this now lives in Portmerion looking down over the main central area. Somehow even a Buddha does not out of place here as there are so many strange little sculptures around and it is just another interesting find.
Down on the beach front you will find a lawned area and a pool but in order to get there you have to go down closed in stairs and tunnels or through ornate gates. Right by the hotel is the 'ship' which is actually just a concrete extension to the seawall with a mast but from a distance looks like a moored ship. All these oddities help to make the village what it is.
I deliberately have not mentioned the actual buildings as I feel the gardens and the statues within deserve their own attention as they are the wonderful backdrop which allows the buildings to create the full picture which is Portmerion village.
I am so pleased that we had a few days to explore the village and the gardens and walks beyond the immediate village. In the few days we were there we noticed new things each time we wandered around exploring. It is like a sort of magical secret garden with hidden treasures to be found in all sorts of corners and behind plants or walls.
I would certainly recommend that you look beyond the beautiful buildings in this pretty little village as you will certainly not be disappointed. You can see wild wooded areas, what seem like natural lake reflections and more formal planted areas all within a reasonably small area. If you go at the right time you will enjoy a driveway fringed by beautiful hydrangeas in bloom and if you are also better at your timing that we were you could also be lucky enough to enjoy the rhododendrons and camellias as well. Even if you visit in winter like we did you can still thoroughly enjoy the garden experience in Portmerion.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
Summary: Beyond the buildings in Portmerion you can enjoy fabulous gardens
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