Welcome to the 10th Anniversary of our website

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Quite a different start to our Web News this month with an overview as to how our Website came into being  

In order to break up a lot of text, I have included some pics from 2010 which I have never previously published, starting with this one which captures one of the 2 coldest winters we  have experienced here 










Until I retired from the office I had never owned a computer, but in 2006 the time came to join the massed ranks of those who did as I would no longer have access to my computer at work. It was impossible to conceive how I would manage without one because searching the Web and sending and receiving e mails had become part of my everyday life. I did not find the technology easy, but I was fortunate to have had excellent support from work colleagues. Once they were no longer there I did have Edward(Ed), the son of our friends Sylvia and Tony, who has his own IT business, to help and advise me. He immediately set up a Web domain for Cilgwyn Lodge for when I began our website! I had never considered the process of  what was involved with having one and I was quite daunted at the prospect!


On reflection it did make sense because by that time we had been opening for the National Garden Scheme, the gardens here since 2000. I also embarked in 2003 on the Gardening Talks circuit across Wales and occasionally into England We were also having coach trips from parts of Europe particularly Holland. A website made sense to advertise all these.

Ed. set up a Website platform using the Umbraco template which I have used ever since. The first publication was on 2 February 2010, covering the month of January. In the introduction on launching it I wrote what a great experience and a thrill it was to communicate with people in this way and that I would aim to provide monthly  News updates on what what was happening in the gardens, our horticultural lives  and the wider world of the countryside all around us. I did wonder however how I would be able to do this when we were really busy in the garden but I am proud to say that every month without fail, even when I was hospitalised for several weeks in 2016, I have  managed to keep faith with that commitment. 

 Countryside views all around us





 This is the former  mansion house for which Cilgwyn Lodge was the main entrance lodge. Our distant predecessors were the Lloyd family who lived in the lodge from the early 1920's and we were fortunate to meet Dai one of the large family of 10 children who lived in the lodge and all shared one upstairs bedroom! We acquired some treasured photos from Dai, his daughter Heather and other members of the family.




 There was little that could be done in the garden so Moira and I went on numerous walks including some local places we had rarely visited. This is a walk alongside the River Towy, Carmarthenshire's main river.



It is illuminating to reflect on all the News Items I have written in the past 10 years, which provide a valuable diary of our garden at all times of the year. from the early ones when I was still "Learning my Trade!" to the latest ones. I did not however for some time include pictures to illustrate the text. It took me quite a while to learn how to do this, being slow in the uptake in the world of IT!! (or just perhaps plain thick!) A suitable excuse is that it was (and still is) also thanks to the very slow Broadband speed we have here. Once I did include pics it made a world of difference to the end product and as in Chinese proverb it is said - "One picture is worth a thousand words". 

 We have had 8 cats since we have lived here and this was our largest one, a stray who came to stay. We called him Bojo, a derivation from the name we gave him originally, Mr Bojangles!


As the years have gone by it is clear to see how my style has changed and I have to say i still really do enjoy writing the News every month. If I look hard enough there is always something of interest to write about and we hope that you will continue to visit the News monthly. If you haven't previously done so you may find it interesting to visit some of the earlier News items which are still accessible by scrolling down the News Icon in the heading to the webiste.

It generally takes me about 10 - 14 days, often late in the evening or when the muse is with me, to slowly build the article, to load all the pics, and attach the links to other websites. I still can't believe at times that I am doing this now. Moira is my proof reader and nothing escapes her keen eyes!

Pictures make a huge difference to capture the highlights of the month. This months being the trips to the snowdrop gardens we visited which are reported on later


Although I don't indulge in social media it is good to communicate through our News bulletins with friends, fellow gardeners, previous visitors to the gardens when we opened for the NGS, or attended my talks. It is a source of regret that because of my illness I am no longer able to deliver them. We are also aware that  other members of the public interested in gardening, wildlife and countryside visit the site..Unlike some Blogs that invite 2 way communications I have not embarked down this road. We do however occassionally get e.mails from readers which we feel comfortable with and are  good to have.

So please keep reading and tell you friends and family about the website



This February the weather has been much different from that in 2010 when I wrote about frequent snow and severe temperatures down to -16C on 2 occasions. This was a continuation from January which was another exceptionally cold month. As a consequence of this, there were no hellebores in flower and the snowdrops had only just started to come into bloom.

This year we had hellebores in flower at Christmas and many snowdrops were already in bloom. We did have sme snow and a couple of cold nights which scarcely troubled the plants. 


Kit Kat our current cat  of 6 years was most insistent that he appeared this month, after Bojo had a mention. He wasn't the least bit  troubled by the snow


The most predominant weather feature was the warm spells we had in several spells during the month. As it draws to close it has been declared to be the 2nd warmest February month and there were 2 days when the highest temperature ever was recorded 21C, which I also recorded here on digital and mercury thermometers


 The only time there was any ice on the Paddock Pond following 2 nights of - 8 C

at the beginning of the month

The weather stats make interesting reading:-

There were 14 sunshine days, max 20C on 20th and 24th and  21C on 25th and 26th

Only 6 rain days! rainfall of 2.25" - in our normally wet part of Wales

7 days of changeable weather

One day of snow cover on 1st

And 6 frosty nights min -8C on 2nd and 3rd


A February to remember.





 Take a close look at the vegitation at the pond edge which looks yellow but it isn't. It was the effect of sunshine on the leaves - just unreal!. The ever changing sky is one of the greatest free shows on earth.



Garden update

The fine weather was the perfect opportunity to complete cutting back the borders and  to cart taway all the brash. Which then revealed a lot of weeds in active growth, especially our old favourites bitter cress and  lesser willow herb which are our most common weeds As last year I sprayed them all with glyphosate, avoiding the emerging ornamental perennials. It was very effective within 3- 4 weeks. This was a far better outcome than I was expecting because Glyphosate is stated to only be effective from spring onwards. There was hardly any hand weeding to do and by taking the weeds out early they did not have the chance to flower and set seed, a particular problem with bitter cress. It will substantially reduce our workload if we have the same outcome this year.

The daffodils after being in bud for some weeks responded to the warmth and are now romping away.

I have always been fan of narcissus cyclamineus hybrids with familiar swept back perianth

This cultivar is "Rapture"


 And this is the true  species form  which was used in the crosses of all the cyclamineus group. Flowers just 2 inches long.



"Jet Fire" is a deservedly popular form of the Group


 But "February Gold" living up to it's name is always the first daffodil here to flower



To set off the tidy borders I made the first cut of the lawns this year follwed by application of lawn feed which greened up the lawns  considerably after well timed heavy rain! Check out the apple tree in the pic. I refer to it next.


In mid month thanks to our friends Liz and Paul who have a small chain saw on an extentable pole, we we cut back our largest Bramley apple tree which has only once before been pruned properly in my time here. It had become too overbearing where it is situated, taking light, valuable moisture and nutrients from surrounding plants. And,as I experienced last autumn, it was increasingly difficult to harvest the apples. All done in just over 4 hours!






In the tunnels seeds sown over the last month or so have germinated well but unfortunately mice found them and chewed off many of the recently emerged cotyledons before the true leaves had a chance to form. Lettuce and dianthus seeds were the worst affected; mouse traps are now in place,  sothe seeds lost have been re -sown and the situation has been retrieved.




In order to avoid similar mishaps with the sweet pea seedlings which rodents adore, all these pots are set on boards resting on the crop bars of the large tunnel.


What's looking good?

Hellebores of course. Press me hard enough at this time of year and I will confess to them being my all time favourite plant. Until next month!


Top of the bill is the wonderful collection of over 330 hellebores, some of which are the result of seedlings becoming established in the wilder areas of the garden: in the more ornamental parts of the garden where we have some of our best plants, the seed heads are ruthlessly cut off in summer before the seed has chance to ripen and spread

 Helen Ballard's beautiful "Ushba"


 Farmyard Nurseries strain of H.Hybridus



 Eric Smithii cross "Mollys White" a recent introduction




On the subject of hellebores we continue to acquire new forms of inter species crosses arising from the crossing of 3 helleborus species H. Niger, H. argutifolius and H. lividus the progeny of which are categorised as X Ericsmithi, named after the man who made the first crossings of them. There are also crosses of h.niger and argutifolius called X nigercors; Niger and lividus called X balladiae. , and finally argutifolius and lividus called X sternii. It is all getting more and more difficult to understand or remember! Whatever - does it really matter even to a hellebore geek like me? Let us  still enjoy them!

Another special group of these with highly marbled leaves coming from the h. lividus in the cross, is classifed as Rodney Davey Marbled Group, from the name of the breeder who sadly has now retired. There are a number of commercial players in this newer market including Frostkiss, Helleborus Gold Collection (HGC)  and Winter Angels. I understand that the plants for sale are  raised by tissue culture and are subject to Plant Breeders rights, unlike most of the more common helleborus X hybridus (previoulsy erroneously named as H. Orientalis),  good forms which come from carefully selected seed. Many purists stlil appear to prefer this group for its range of colours and forms.

See a mass planting of tissue cultured forms however and I would contend that they do make a good impact because of their height and in some cultivars a mix of unusual coloured  flowers with attractive leaves.




Marbled leaves in the Rodney Davey Group are a choice feature for me





2 bowls of floated hellebores, H. hybridus on the right with the wider range of colours but rarely ever named unlike, the  Eric Smithii group and others on the left: names of some of them are "Moondance" "Penny's Pink". "Anna's Red" "Reannas Purple" "Pink Beauty", " Angel Glow" and "Sallys Shell" Available in many nurseries and garden centres.



Snowdrops are having a terrific time and beginning to bulk up well as I have regularly transplanted them from larger clumps elswhere in the garden.



 The wild woodland garden almost at its peak at this time of year


On the edge of the woodland at the month end this lovely pale blue hepatica 



Edgeworthia chrysantha

For years I have covetted this most beautiful highly scented winter flowering shrub, but having in the past tried to grow it from small plants, I have failed miserably to get it to flowering size. It is a notoriously tricky plant to grow and place in the garden, and like several other choice winter shrubs it is not hardy in winters where frosts of -5C and above are regular occurrances. It is a native of China and the Himalayas and was collected in the mid 1800's by a  Victorian plant hunter Michael Packenham Edgeworth whom I must confess I had never previouly heard of. His name of course is remembered in the plant.

Amazing what you learn when you research rare or unfamiliar plants, and another feature of this plant is the family it belongs to - the Thymelaeaceae, not a family I am familiar with, altough the most common member is daphnes, but there is also a significant amount of other, genus, species and cultivars.


 The highly scented flowers have been a bee magnet in the warm weather



Wildlife and countryside

Lambing is now getting into its stride and fields are filling up fast. It is such a cheery time of year and the youthful exubrance of lambs is a joy to behold; one of the best indicators that spring is on its way. Some ewes are yet to have their lambs and feeding time is a popular event!


The pesky magpies are once again nest building in the tall fir trees in the Paddock Garden. They often remind me of urban terrorists with their machine gun cackle and taste for fledgeling birds. Not a favourite bird of mine as you will have guessed!

The first celandines are opening, but frogs were conspicuous by their absence throughout the month which was surprising considering  the relatively mild conditions and some rainy evenings. I have only seen one toad which are usually later than the frogs




What a busy month! 2 famous snowdrop gardens in Gloucestershire, and the Llandysul Winter Gardening Weekend:- plant sales, talks (snowdrops, hellebores and other subjects over the course of 3 days)  -not that we attended them all.

.And our monthly HPS meeting featuring - you guessed it - another talk on snowdrops! After months in the winter doldrums the horticultural world has gone gloriously mad!!

Snowdrop Gardens

Painswick Rococo Gardens www.rococogarden.org.uk

A large 200 year old woodland garden is augmneted by recent developments to create  more visitor attractions over a longer period of the year  . There are some beautiful old garden buildings in the Gothic style, which for us living in a Gothic house was of great interest



Moira and  Sylvia our long term friend with whom we stayed










 More posing from Sylvia and Moira with Tony hiding behind a pillar. I never knew after nearly 50 years of knowing him that he is camera shy!!








 Huge drifts of winter aconites were a nice change from snowdrops 







Colesbourne Park  www.colesbournegardens.org.uk


 What an entrance - straight out of the parking field and into this.




 Useful labelling although not universal is neverteless welcome. Care does however have to be exercised by garden owners because thefts of rare and or expensive forms are not unusual


 The large lake is an intriguing presence not the least because of the 3 colours it exhibits, especially the aquamarine blue which only affects part of the lake. It is caused by minute colloidal clay particles which reflect blue light waves.




 Snowdrops are everywhere, in this case forming a white ring around the lake







 Plant sales feature a good range of snowdrops from the gardens


 And what about one of these raritities? Check the price carefully before you put your hand in the pocket!!







 "Green Tears"  quite a change ot the many of the white forms







There is a good range of other winter flowering plants all over the gardens adding to the interest levels






 It is a sensational garden lovingly tended by generations of the Elwes family one that gave me a tingle up the spine every time we turned a corner and has that comfortable lived in feel that old family gardens like this have. Check the website for open days during the rest of the year. 

Winter Gardening Weekend









The woodland garden was beautifully planted with many fine plants, especially this rarely encountered member of the saxifraga family, chrysosplenium macrophyllum. We grow it here in deep shade but it has never looked as good as this.


 Farmyard Nurseries huge plant sales area


An exceptionally long News to celebrate our 10th anniversary of the website and we hope you have enjoyed it as we all look forward to a good gardening year. Thanks for reading and do please come back next month.


Keith and Moira