Goodbye Wales, hello Ireland


From Portmeirion, we travelled across the Llyn peninsula to Caernarfon to see the castle and wander the town.

But first, we popped into what is one of the meccas for lovers of rare and unusual hardy plants, shrubs and trees – Crug Farm, a speciality nursery, owned and run by Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones.

Bleddyn Wynn-Jones showing us around Crug Plants in North Wales.

Bleddyn started out as a beef farmer in the 1980s and switched over to being a plant hunter and collector and marketer in the 1990s.

He has connections to Vancouver, having been plant hunting in Asia – China and Vietnam – with curators at UBC Botanical Garden, Peter Wharton, curator of the Asian Garden until his death, and recently with Doug Justice, deputy garden director and curator of collections.

Inside Crug Plants in Caernarfon, North Wales.

Bleddyn also says he taught Seattle’s plant guru and plant hunter, Dan Hinckley, “all he knew”.

Every year, Bleddyn made a special plant research trip to Asia. He has already been to Korea and Taiwan but has also take time to explore in India, Nepal and the Philippines.

Bleddyn Wynn-Jones showing us around Crug Plants in North Wales.

At Crug Farm, there are literally dozens and dozens of rare and unusual perennials and shrubs – too many for me to mention here.

Gleddyn guides us around, walking slowly along the narrow paths through the garden, pointing out treasures and rarity as he went. We were shown unusual euphorbias, viburnums and hydrangeas as well as rare magnolias and rhododendrons.

Gleddyn said he had made at least 18,000 collections over the years. You want to see the entire list of plants offered by the nursery go to the website here.

Group on the platform of the station in the village with the longest name.

I suspect he felt a little frustrated that we were not more knowledgeable as his audience for this type of material is usually a little more sophisticated. But what we lacked in knowledge we made up for in admiration and appreciation. Some of the plants were indeed very beautiful and unusual.

After lunch in Caernarfon, we paused at the village on Anglesey with the longest name in Welsh -Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch.

You will have to Google it to find out what it means.

This was fun posing in front of the long word on the railway platform.

In among the eucalyptus at Plas Newydd, North Wales.

From there, we headed to Plas Newydd country house and garden. There we enjoyed a lovely park-like landscape on the right of the house where we found groves of azaleas in full bloom and towering eucalyptus and some very fine large trees. On the other side of the house, there was a more formal terraced garden with calm, well-designed lawns and perennials borders.

In azalea grove at Belvedere Garden, outside Dublin.

The house itself was full of treasures and beautiful rooms dating back to the 18th century.

Our next step was to head for Holyhead to get the fast ferry to Dublin. We arrived after a fairly rough ride but no sickness.

View through the front door at Belverde House, outside Dublin

In Dublin, we went to the 160-acre estate of Belvedere House and Gardens in Mullingar, Country Westmeath.

This has a lovely formal walled garden with nicely laid out borders with framed views.

Inside the walled garden at Belvedere House, outside Dublin.

Sadly, the house is full of the story about Robert Rochford, who had been labelled the “evil earl” because of his dastardly treatment of his wife and brother.

Inside walled garden where boxwood parterres are filled with ligularia at Belvedere.

I am not going to tell you this story, but let me just say that it is a pathetic account of a misguided man. However, we could not deny the beauty and calm and peace we found in the gardens and the magnificent surrounding countryside.

Richard Saunders and me at Teelings distillery in Dublin.

From here, we nipped back to Dublin and spent the afternoon exploring the city, especially the Temple Bar area, and we also found time to pop into the Teelings distillery to do a superb whiskey tasting.

This is a relatively young and blooming distillery and we were impressed by what we tasted.

Rudi and Donna Pinkowski in Temple Bar.
Ian and Julia Hass in Temple Bar, Dublin.
Statue inside the walled garden at Belvedere House, Dublin.



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