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Gardens with hot colours, cool streams and no digging

Along with mountaintop vistas, delightful coastal walks, lush river valleys and quiet country lanes, Monmouthshire’s splendid gardens are another reason to visit. Early summer is a particularly abundant time for fresh blooms, manicured gardens and wilder woodland spaces.

There’s nowhere better to get a dose of vibrant colour than the picturesque town of Usk during its annual Open Gardens weekend (29-30 June 2019). Around 20 private gardens open their gates to visitors to raise money for charities. They range from small cottage gardens to the sweeping garden surrounding the medieval ramparts of the privately owned Usk Castle. There is a regular minibus service around the town, though all of the gardens are within walking distance of the car parks.

The entire community gets involved in this colourful weekend. Usk’s Victorian Courthouse and Rural Life Museum throw their doors open to the public and there’s a Gardener's Market offering plants and garden products, and two further garden centres. With lovely riverside spots for a picnic, delicious homemade refreshments and a range of super cafes and pubs, Open Gardens weekend is a splendid time to visit Usk.

Find out more about our gardens

Find out about Usk Open Gardens 2019

The town’s love affair with flowers doesn’t end there. Green fingers seem to be part of the way of life here. Usk in Bloom – the driving force behind this ‘Town of Flowers’ – has the support of the whole community when it comes to the annual floral competition. There are categories to suit everyone – from school children to local businesses – including pollinator garden, hanging baskets, window boxes and tubs. This year’s colour scheme is ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ so expect to see vibrant purple and pink, lime green and bright orange and red.

A team of friendly volunteers looks after Usk’s flower beds and tubs all year round, to ensure a stunning display throughout the summer. There’s always something to do – growing, planting, deadheading, painting. Their efforts certainly payoff: Usk has won the Wales in Bloom competition for the last 30 years, and in 2018, it was a Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions Gold Winner, and a winner in the worldwide Communities in Bloom. Spend time in this historic town and you might leave with a desire to adorn your own house with hanging baskets.

Veddw House Garden Veddw House Garden

Keen gardeners across Monmouthshire open their gardens at other times. Some are great estates, such as Clytha Park, near Abergavenny, with wide lawns around a lake, specimen trees, a walled garden from 1790 and a 19th century arboretum. It’s open to visitors on 14 July 2019. There’s a delightful walk around the estate which passes Clytha Castle, an outstanding 18th century folly.

Garden writer Anne Wareham and her garden photographer husband Charles Hawes have used geometric layouts to fine effect in their garden at Veddw House, near Chepstow, which opens on the first and third Sundays during July, August and September.

Dewstow Gardens and Grottoes, near Caldicot, opens daily between 30 March and 3 November 2019. Built around 1895, the gardens were buried just after World War Two and rediscovered in 2000. They are notable for their underground grottoes, tunnels and sunken ferneries which make use of Pulhamite, a patented material invented in the 19th century by James Pulham to create natural-looking rocks.

For something completely different visit Old Llangattock Farm, near Monmouth, on 15 September 2019. This no-dig, organic garden surrounding a Victorian farmhouse is home to trained fruit trees, soft fruit, unusual perennial vegetables, greenhouses, large composting areas, extensive herb beds, shrubs, perennials and plenty of seating areas. The garden has been used for no-dig courses, to demonstrate the weed suppressing method championed by Charles Dowding.

Old Llangattock Farm Dahlias at Old Llangattock Farm
Llanover Gardens Alliums & Cascade at Llanover Garden

To buy interesting and unusual plants, visit the Rare Plants Fair at Llanover Garden, near Abergavenny, on 22 September 2019 – where you can get advice from the growers and admire this Grade II listed garden, set within a beautiful estate. Features include a walled Round Garden, two Arboreta and a stream which tumbles into ponds, over cascades and beneath flagstone bridges.

It’s no surprise that eminent garden designers, including Arne Maynard and Sarah Price are to be found amongst Monmouthshire’s inspirational landscapes. Nor is it unexpected to find gardens which encourage new ways of enjoying outdoor spaces. The wellbeing benefits of gardening are increasingly documented. That doesn’t mean to say we all need green fingers: simply viewing a green space can reduce stress and help us relax.

Head to Nant-y-Bedd, in the Black Mountains high above Abergavenny, for an instant calming effect. Open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in July, August and September, this secluded forest garden includes organic vegetable and fruit gardens, a stream and wild swimming pond, tree sculpture and pergolas of heavily scented roses. In this delightful setting, you can experience a digital detox with a forest bathing session (which involves a slow walk rather than a dip in the water) on 24 June and 23 September 2019 or capture nature in a printmaking workshop on 22 June 2019. As one of only eleven Royal Horticultural Society Partner Gardens in Wales – all chosen for their high standard of design and/or planting – this wonderful space ranks alongside Dyffryn Gardens, Aberglasney and the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

The sights and scents of Monmouthshire in summer are definitely not to be missed. Find out more about planning a visit to our gardens.
Welsh Dragon