Eryri – Snowdonia. I lived there once

I used to live in North Wales, back in the mid-1970s. Many London hippies did. We were “getting back to the land” although most of us knew nothing about land. If I remember correctly, I hitch-hiked to Wales with a backpack full of brown rice, a pot of Marmite and, I guess, some clean clothes. I think my mother packed the clothes.

I lived in a small caravan by a river for just a week. I then moved from house to house, enjoying the comfort of strangers. It was a fine summer full of mountain hikes and ice-cold rivers. I was skinny and brown, my hair almost down to my waist. I rode horses – bareback. I was macrobiotic and probably malnourished but I was healthy and happy. All of us hippies got together frequently. We talked of mushrooms and wildflowers and poultices and poetry and getting back to the land we’d already got back to. Sex and drugs were abundant. There was no need to talk of sex, it was everywhere. We talked about it nonetheless. There was a lot of dope. An apt name I discovered later. There was music. We listened to the Grateful Dead and The Incredible String Band. Clapton was still God. Some of us played music. Some well, most not.


I needed to garden. I needed a job. After the summer, I started work at Plas Brondanw, then the home of Clough Williams-Ellis, the creator of Portmeirion. Decades later, just last week, I returned to Snowdonia, to walk the mountains, visit friends, and look at stone.

Here are some pictures of Plas Brondanw, a Welsh-Italianate garden.
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IMG_7378 (2)After Plas Brondanw, I worked at Portmeirion.

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IMG_7423 (2)A silly, lovely place.  But it was the mountains that interested me the most. Raw and beautiful, often pouring with water, criss-crossed  by Roman roads and rock-walled  sheep pens. My time there was one of the most powerful in my life. I was pleased to visit it again and pleased that I no longer live there.
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Author: urbanehorticulture

A native of England a U.S. citizen for the past 30 years, I have worked in the garden world as a director and designer for over 35 years. I am best-known for my groundbreaking designs at Chanticleer, an estate and “pleasure garden” in Wayne, PA, where I worked for 20 years. Career Highlights I started my gardening life at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England, where I was trained as a gardener. I worked in three other gardens in the UK, notably Portmeirion in Wales, Bateman’s in Sussex, and Cliveden in Buckinghamshire. At Bateman’s, I was responsible for the restoration of the 17th-century garden. I came to the U.S. in 1981 and was director and chief designer of Chanticleer in Pennsylvania for the next 20 years. I transformed a moribund private estate into one of America’s most exuberant, romantic and flamboyant gardens. Its glorious 47 acres have been celebrated by gardeners and horticulturists from around the world and, based on my designs, it continues to draw international visitors every season. After twenty years creating Chanticleer, I became vice president for horticulture for the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden and, in 2006, was appointed director of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, Canada. While pleased to be in Canada, my heart yearned for California and in 2008 he was appointed executive director of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. After a successful period in northern California, he returned to his home near Santa Barbara, CA where I operated my own design-consulting business. In 2012, I was lured back east by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (founded in 1827) and appointed director of its private estate and garden, Meadowbrook Farm. I was commissioned by PHS to design the central feature for the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show, the third major exhibit I have designed for PHS over the years. Among numerous other responsibilities, I have been a member of the board of the Fairmount Park Conservancy in Philadelphia and a founding member of the business advisory board for the Flora of North America Project. I have designed gardens in Chicago, northern and southern California, and throughout the Northeastern United States. I have also been a consultant to the Garden Conservancy and to Botanic Gardens Conservation International, as well as serving on the horticulture advisory committee of Lotusland in Santa Barbara, California. I have been the Advancement Advisor for the Flora of North America Association and am now traveling the world researching, interviewing, and photographing for a book on gardens around the world. Books & Awards My n first book, The Encyclopedia of Perennials, was published in 1992 by Facts on File. I also contributed to 1001 Gardens to See Before You Die (Barron's Educational Series, 2012) and The Gardener’s Garden (Phaidon Press, 2014). In 2003, I was awarded the Professional Citation for significant achievements in public horticulture by the American Public Garden Association. In 2007, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awarded me its prestigious medal for Distinguished Achievement. I currently live in the Bay Area, California.

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The New Perennialist

Musings on plants, gardens, travel, food and sex. Mostly plants and gardens.


for people who want more than gardening from gardens


Uprooting the Gardening World

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