The New Woodland Trail
In order to celebrate the amazing achievement of the Queen, serving us for 70 years, we officially opened our Woodland Jubilee Trail on Thursday June 2nd 2022.
I think it is fair to say that if you like neat pristine gardens or formal bedding displays then this new area to Farmyard Nurseries will not be for you. Neither is it Bodnant, Rosemore, Wisley or Sissinghurst. It is a natural area of woodland that was planted about 25 years ago containing many unusual trees and shrubs, but mostly Alder, Birch, Willow and Cherry trees. In 2020, after 20 years or more of total neglect we decided that the time was right to carve some form of access into it. And when I say carve that is just the right word. The brambles and willow seedlings had completely over-run everything and it was totally impenetrable. The winter of 2020 was a rather wonderful experience, almost a voyage of discovery as we hacked, strimmed and gently coaxed the good from the bad. The ground was very wet, some of the original plantings had completely died out, and others had thrived. Large colonies of the red and green stemmed Cornus had taken over huge areas and while great to look at in the winter these would be quite boring during the summer months. They did however have their place and were shaped (a term used very loosely) to create ‘rooms’ and secluded areas. Extreme care was taken not to do much too soon as we soon learned – a tree or shrub once removed could not be quickly replaced. The motto was definitely slowly slowly.
We soon came across the pond that we had enlarged back in the 1990’s. Surrounded by tall Alders and the odd Oak it was totally choked with bog bean which was partially removed to expose crystal clear waters. The island that dad had insisted on making had matured, much to my astonishment, into a little oasis covered in semi mature trees (and brambles which are still there and waiting to be cleared). Several varieties of Willow hang gently into the water and almost join the bank to the island. Originally, when the pond was enlarged, we planned on creating a larger lake like feature however we soon realised that the amount of subsoil that was created had to be put somewhere – no mean task. It was mounded up on the south and east side and then piled up against the west side of the field. After this, we were at a loss as to where it should go so we gave up and settled for a smaller pond. The soil dug out was thick yellow clay/subsoil, totally devoid of all plant-life (so we thought) and no amount of head scratching could solve how we could seed or plant it to blend in again. We need not have worried, the following summer it was covered with yellow vetch! Totally covered! Nature had waved its magic wand and re-colonisation was in action. 20 years later it was covered with plant life… not stunted unhealthy poor quality plants, but tall semi mature willows, brambles 10’ tall, Rubus speciosa and other similar things. Although the soil was originally non-existent, over the intervening years a layer of humus rich ‘top soil’ had developed making these areas, if not fertile and rich, at least half decent growing areas.
In the North West corner was a small wooded area of mature Alder and Oak, we had used it to dump our weeds and plant waste many years ago and we decided to leave this to nature….. so we thought! As the spring approached we realised that under the brambles was an oasis of Hellebores, Cardamine, Vinca and a multitude of bulbs. It just had to be exposed- at least partially, and now is one of the most enchanting areas of the garden.
The pond has become the focal point, an area to sit and enjoy a little peace and solitude, something that is rare on the nursery nowadays! The perfect spot for a picnic, or just to sit with the dogs and reflect.
Along the western boundary, there is an old shelterbelt of Oak and Ash, linking the rest of the garden to the pond. This area has a rough path that meanders through it. On one side the fields, usually full of sheep, slope down eventually to the Teifi and a lovely view of the picturesque town of Llandysul can be seen. One of the nicest places to be in the garden, especially in the winter, just as the sun goes down. Its golden rays light up the mature tree trunks, adding a warmth that defies the cold winter weather. You have to be quick, it only lasts a few minutes… that golden moment, making it all the more special. How lucky are we to live in such a stunning location.
On the opposite side of the woodland trail is one of our favourite features in this semi wild area. The old subsoil mound has merged with the existing boundary to create a gently undulating feature. This is just a sea of green ivy, a dark emerald wave that goes all the way along this side. It is really special, unless of course you don’t like Ivy (how could you!).
Leading from this, a small flight of steps takes you up into the newly created Japanese Acer grove. This was a real gamble, planted on the pond excavations. There is little soil and although reasonably sheltered, it can be blasted by the westerly wind rushing madly up the valley right from the Irish Sea. At present, although they are slow to get going, most are heading in the right direction and some are actually doing quite well. Certainly not the place that the books say to plant Acers but that’s gardening for you! Having had a sea of bittercress under the Acers we gambled on creating a lawn of creeping buttercups. This is mown during the summer months but the idea was to create a sea of bright yellow during May and early June. The results have been spectacular. They are very voracious and spread like crazy so take a little controlling by the paths, but it is everything that we hoped for and more. The areas are actually turning into wild flower areas with a difference and of course the buttercups love the damp soils.
As previously stated a lovely young forest of Alders has grown up around the pond and we are at present working at introducing native snowdrops, bluebells and crocus here. A large Viburnum mariesii seems to thrive and flower beautifully in total shade… another plant that shouldn’t grow here! The view from here towards the Acer grove is lovely, from a deeply shaded area the glimpse of their gold and purple foliage is eye-catching and tempting, encouraging one to explore further. As the ground is generally damp, Gunneras have been planted in many areas to create an oasis of architectural green. The contrast of large leaves and small is always interesting. Hopefully these will establish in the semi shade along with patches of native and Royal ferns. The Osmunda should love the soil and achieve their full height of 6’ or more.
In the central spot of the woodland trail, one of the least shaded areas, the air is still and contained. With this in mind we have planted many fragrant plants whose perfume lingers. From December to April or later there is something to titillate the senses – Many types of Daphne have been planted from the majestic ‘Jacqueline Postill’ to the more compact odora and ‘Perfume Princess’ to name a few. Edgeworthias and Philadelphus have been added and inter-planted with groups of scented Narcissus.
Back to the pond – some bright spark came up with the idea of linking the island to the bank and with this in mind we set about winding a ‘boardwalk’ snugly over the branches of the trees giving free access to the island. It is a magical, if rather crude, structure that gently sways as the willows bend when it is traversed. For this reason is open only by invitation. It weaves slowly through the branches, hopefully creating a green tunnel in the summer months. Can’t wait for the timbers to weather a bit though! And having done this we then decided that an entrance and exit to and from an area was a garden design ‘no-no’ so we built a winding path of wooden stepping stones linking up to the other bank. At present it is working well. Hopefully the duck house will appear soon to seal the deal!