Last week I went on a road trip, to have an interview at the garden I will be working in for my second year on the PGG scheme – the National Botanic Garden of Wales.
I was thrilled when I found out I would be working there, I heard great things about it from my colleagues when I was working at the Eden Project as well as the horticultural world in general. I also couldn’t wait to visit Wales as I had only been there once when I was a child, to Cardiff – this time was totally different!
I travelled along the south coast until I was in a village called Llanarthney, Carmarthenshire – about forty miles north of Swansea. Even though I was driving I could still catch glimpses of the scenery surrounding me and it was beautiful. Rolling hills, mountains in the distance and views of the River Afan as I was going through Port Talbot.
I was greeted by heavy rain as I went over the Severn Crossing, the whole sky was literally getting blacker and blacker as I headed over the bridge. It looked like I was driving into a black hole! By the time I had reached Neath the weather had changed for the better and I witnessed a gorgeous sunset. Not a bad welcome to Wales!
I left after work the day before my interview and stayed in a B&B at a lovely Welsh Farm five minutes away from NBGW. I had a feast the morning after, a full Welsh breakfast cooked from scratch. That definitely set me up for the day!
The interview itself was very formal compared to the quick chat I had when I went to Ashridge. The supervisor and curator of horticulture at NBGW went through my CV in detail, asking questions about where I had worked, what I enjoyed most when working at each job, my favourite aspect of horticulture, the skills I had learnt whilst on the PGG scheme. . . it was quite full on, I really hope I made a good impression.
A haze of irises
I had a lightning tour of the gardens from a member of the horticultural team, they showed me the glasshouses and polytunnels which are closed to the public as well as some of the main areas of the garden.
I also met the person in charge of the plant collection records, when I was at Eden I used a piece of software to update the plant records called BG Base. At NBGW they are using new software called Iris, it can be used on a portable device such as a mobile phone as well as a PC meaning you can update records on the go – how cool is that!
Acer trees in the Japanese Garden
I was shown round the accommodation by one of the PGG students who is working at NBGW at the moment. It’s an old farmhouse about a mile away from the garden, very spacious inside with an open plan kitchen and living room. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere so it will be just like living at home again! I love the countryside so it will suit me perfectly.
Views of the Great Glasshouse
I had a great chat with the other PGG student who is going to be working at Wales whilst I’m there. She’s called Becky too, no chance for any confusion whatsoever!! I briefly met her when I went on the PGG seminar last year so it was nice to see her again and catch up on each others news.
I had time to look round the garden on my own which was the part I had been most looking forward to! It was a wonderful sunny day, ideal for showing the garden in its best light. You can see I took a fair few photos!
The Boulder Garden
The Double Walled Garden was fantastic, a highlight of the outdoor areas for me. It’s divided into quadrants, each with a distinctive reason behind the planting. Three of the quadrants tell the story of the evolution of flowering plants, the other is a modern kitchen garden.
The Double Walled Garden
The areas were a riot of colour, bright lupins, aquilegia, wisteria, peonies and a personal favourite of mine, meconopsis, as well as many more. I could have set up home within those walls!
Trachycarpus fortunei, in flower
The Tropical House is also found in the walled garden, it’s tiny compared to the Rainforest Biome at Eden but still impressive. There were orchids, bromeliads, palms, aroids. . . I had my tropical fix for the month after being in there!
The Tropical House
Inside the Tropical House
The Great Glasshouse really took my breath away, it was amazing. It is the largest single span glasshouse in the world, nestled into the Welsh hillside like it was the remains of an alien spaceship!
The Great Glasshouse
It has endangered plants from all over the planet, which come from six different areas of the world: California, Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile, South Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. The supervisor of the Mediterranean Biome at Eden told me when I was there that she went to NBGW to study the plants and layout of the Great Glasshouse to get inspiration for the biome. I can see why she did, it is a spectacular glasshouse.
Inside the Great Glasshouse
A towering Echium
Since I’ve been at Ashridge I haven’t had chance to work with plants from temperate zones such as the Mediterranean. As I was looking round I surprised myself by recognising more plants and remembering more botanical names than I thought I would! There were echiums, aeoniums, a vast array of Protea species and my favourite geranium, Geranium maderense.
Geranium maderense with aeoniums
I enjoyed wandering round the naturalistic meadows and admiring the sweeping views of the lakes and mountains in the distance. NBGW couldn’t be in a more stunning setting, the surrounding natural beauty enhances the garden even more.
View of the Lakes
I had a wonderful time in Wales, now I have seen where I will be working and living for my second placement it has made my next move seem all the more real. Now all I need to do is enjoy my last few months at Ashridge! As the saying goes “time is precious – waste it wisely.” 🙂