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Wales Plas Brondanw Gardens, Gwynedd

Anyone who has visited and enjoyed Portmeirion designed by Clough Williams-Ellis will enjoy these gardens too, especially as they are off the tourist beat and get few visitors.

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis was given Plas Brondanw by his father in 1902. The house and garden had long been abandoned by the family and subdivided into allotments and tenements. Over the next seventy years not only did he restore the house, he created a unique and typically CWE garden landscape using the same architectural tricks seen in Portmeirion but using plants rather than buildings. Anyone expecting displays of herbaceous borders and bedding plants may be disappointed as these gardens depend very much on trees and shrubs for their impact. He relied on stone walls, topiary and avenues of trees to frame vistas leading the eye to the distant mountain tops.

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The C17th house is private and is a tall dark stone building with slate roof so characteristic of North Wales. The turquoise eagle on top of the roof and turquoise woodwork are pure CWE panache.

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In front of the house is a massive evergreen oak tree with a metal seat painted turquoise. Iron railings and gates around the garden are painted turquoise and this colour theme is continued through all the estate buildings as seen on the Brondanw Arms and the terraced houses just down the road from the gardens.

The gardens are laid out with carefully trimmed yew hedges which are used to channel the eye to the different views. This is cleverly done to continue beyond the boundaries of the garden, making it seem larger than it is. The use of topiary adds extra interest as do stone pillars and statues.

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The attention to detail means the stone planters are carved with images of a small girl holding fruit in her skirt and a small boy holding a basket of fruit.

At the end of a yew tree avenue is a circular garden planted with azaleas and rhododendrons with a small fountain. Elsewhere, yew tree hedges form secret gardens with statues or ponds. Foxgloves, yellow Welsh poppies, pink geraniums, hostas and ferns provide colour and interest.

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In a corner of the gardens is the Gardener’s Cottage, a typical CWE building.

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Another building with a white and turquoise cupola is now a small shop and very popular tea room.

The gardens are carefully maintained with few weeds and many plants are labelled. There were two gardeners working the day we visited.

Don’t miss the delightful quarry garden on the opposite side of the road to the parking area which was landscaped by CWE with two ponds.

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On the hillside above it is Pentwr tower, reached by a short walk. This was built by CWE using money given to him as a wedding present by his fellow officers just after the First World War. Apparently he suggested that silver might not be the most useful present…

At the road junction is another CWE folly, a mock gatehouse, and at Garreg is a big decorative war memorial tower designed by CWE.

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