Picton Castle and Gardens

Gardens

Awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for many years running and situated within the stunning Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Picton’s enchanting 13th century Castle is surrounded by a spectacular 40 acre RHS Partner Garden full of surprises for all the family.

Went to Picton with my daughter and three grand children. So glad we went here today. We have season tickets , which are very inexpensive and as we live locally and love this place, we visit many many times all through the year. The kids love it as we do as adults. There is something here for every age. The woodland gardens are vast and the kids love the chance to explore and have fun. Today was no exception. Picton put on a real nature treat . A squirrel trail where children had a sheet with clues which lead to a letter hidden in various areas of the gardens which they had to find . Having solved them all they went back to the shop and received a certificate and a small reward. Then it was onto the Owl Garden where we saw many species of owls and other birds which the kids really loved. Owl flights in the garden and snakes and invertebrates in the exhibition hall , which they could handle made it a truly great experience for us all followed . The looks and chat from the children at the end told the story . Simply great . So I would say to everybody who hasn’t been , look out for future events, there are a lot of new things coming up. Get rid of the eye pads and head out to the great Picton outdoors. The place is a hidden gem and the volunteer staff are exceptional. Thanks to you all . Back very soon

Trip Advisor Feb 2020

 

Explore the Castle’s rich history, discover our rare trees and plant collections from around the world and enjoy the magnificent Rhododendrons, shady woodlands, an exotic jungle garden and colourful walled garden alongside living willow dens, family trails and an engaging adventure playground. The wildlife is abundant and there’s plenty of space to run or simply relax on one of our many garden seats to enjoy the tranquillity and take in the views.

Boasting one of the best plant collections in Wales, including an important collection of conifers, roses, medicinal herbs and Rhododendrons, the Estate is also historically and horticulturally important. Recognised by the Royal Horticultural Society, the gardens are now part of their Partner Gardens access scheme.

Exotic trophy plants co-exist with native flora: Bluebell Walk and nearby Peep-In-Walk provide magnificent colour from April onwards. May peaks with the flowering of masses of Rhododendrons, many unique to Picton (including Salomon Jubilee and Picton Maid). However whilst the display is at its best in May and June, summer and autumn bring woodland walks among the massive oaks and giant redwoods and the Jungle Garden, one of the largest in the UK, is still magnificent during October. With an ever changing pattern of colours and scents throughout the seasons, our Gardens never fail to enchant the visitor.

 

Woodland Walks

There is a special kind of magic as you stroll beneath some of the largest and oldest trees in West Wales and discover woodland walks and trails with their abundance of wild flowers blended with ferns and unusual woodland shrubs from all over the world. Unique to Picton are the Rhododendrons raised over the years by our own head gardeners and include rare species such as Myrtles, Embrothium and Eucryphia.

We visit many gardens and this would be among our favourites (wished we lived nearer to visit in different seasons). the board walk was more than we expected, it was an unique adventure as we wove amongst the plants. the jungle area was great, so many different gingers. the walled garden was lovely with lots of flowers for september and the area with plants that have medicinal elements was very informative. lot of restoration work being undertaken to make an amazing garden even more amazing. The Myrtle walk was fascinating. we spent a long time here as so much to see. well worth a visit

Trip Advisor November 2019

 

The Walled Garden

The Walled Garden is an enchanting riot of colour in the summer months with its elegant fountain, roses and medicinal herbs all meticulously labelled with their remedies.

Walled Gardens are unique in their atmosphere and microclimate. On entering through a wonderful example of exuberant Victorian heavy gates and railing attached to bulky gateposts topped with pineapple finials, it is as if the rest of the world is suddenly quietened. The place you have entered feels shrouded in romance and privilege. Within four walls bird song seems amplified, the noise from outside partially excluded. The scent of flowers lingers and plants and colour jostle for position.

 

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Enclosed gardens provide security from animals and intruders and must be the most ancient form of gardening. It was during the 19th century that walled gardens became the near essential luxury for any country gentleman, serving to supply essential fruit and vegetables to the household and to impress visiting guests with exotic fruit and flowers. They became their most elaborate during the middle of the century and often included vast ranges of greenhouses to force early production and increase the range of crops and flowers that could be grown.

Here at Picton Castle the Walled Garden walls were probably built around 1840 and incorporate heating flues along their entire length. The greenhouses (now no longer in existence) and adjoining buildings to the north (gardener’s office, fruit store, potting shed, bothy and accommodation) were built around 1860 utilising the existing walls. The greenhouses were heated by a coal fired boiler connected to four inch diameter hot water pipes.

Today the walled garden contains an eclectic range of vibrantly coloured summer flowering plants mixed up with large billowing ornamental grasses such as Miscanthus and Molinia with perhaps only some grape vines dating from a previous era.

While on a long weekend break to celebrate our wedding anniversary we came across Picton Castle. Castle’s are a favorite of mine & this is now in my top 5. Brilliantly hosted by volunteers what a delightful place. The castle tour is a must do, with witty and engaging guides full of interesting facts for all. The gardens and walks are relaxing or energetic with many secret activities for kids. The walled garden is an achievement by the gardening staff that must be explored. The restaurant and outside terrace are a nice touch, only bettered by the Mediterranean and spanish themed dishes on offer, a tribute to the hard working talents of Maria. This is a throughly enjoyable experience and an enchanting place with more features than I can mention here.

Trip Advisor July 2019

 

Herbs in the Walled Garden

An extensive herb garden with specimens from all over the world was created a few years ago within the Walled Garden using the base of the greenhouses that once lined the walls. We call it our ‘Mediterranean Garden’. In the middle is a seating area covered by a rustic pergola onto which grape-vines clamber, we have a small olive tree that has been there for about ten years and lots of herb plants that are thriving in the hot, well drained soil.

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Pond in the Walled Garden

The pond in the Walled Garden is perhaps our favourite feature for children, especially at tadpole time. It is common to see a line of them lying with faces peering into murky depths. Labradors also hold this pond as being irresistible and have to be hauled out by their owners. Despite many fish, this pond still yields many young frogs and toads and has a good representation of dragon and damsel fly species. Water-lilies thrive here including a fine old variety called ‘Gladstoniana’ with six inch wide creamy white flowers. We also grow reed-mace and Canadian pond weed which would normally be far too invasive for any garden pond but contained within a formal concrete pond are easily controlled if required.

The other pond within the gardens, at the edge of Peep-in-walk, was built around 1800 and used to provide the castle, stables and gardens with water. Adjacent to the pond are two sand filtration houses that have been continuously filtering water without maintenance for over two hundred years. This pond is also home to two foot long European eels which, when fully mature, slither through the ditches and drains in the garden on route to their breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the north Atlantic.

We are very lucky to have a new trustee here at Picton by the name of Ivor Stokes, a great plantsman and former Director of Horticulture at The National Botanic Garden of Wales. With his help we hope to formulate plans to reinstate some of the other large Victorian ponds that were once an integral part of the woodland garden.

 

Ferns and Fernery

Between 1850 and 1880 the collecting of ferns and the search for variants of the normal type plant became a fashionable pursuit of country gentlemen and for town people as souvenirs of the countryside. Here in the gardens at Picton Castle we have a small grove of tree ferns deep in the woodland. The ‘fern walk’ is home to around fifty different types of ferns mixed with different perennials. Seek out the door in the Walled Garden which leads to the Indoor Fernery, a tranquil and fascinating habitat for less hardy fern species from around the world.

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Some glorious gardens. The prairie planting and fernery in the walled garden we a special treat. One of the best play areas we visited in a while and a family trail that encouraged us to explore.

Trip Advisor August 2019

 

Adventure Playground

Younger visitors will find lots to do in the exciting adventure play area and adjacent jungle garden. A jungle boardwalk allows children and adults alike to take an exciting journey through the Gunnera and woodland plantations and the whole family can have a go at finding their way around the maze!

We had a lovely day exploring the grounds of the castle. The castle is surrounded by some pretty well established woodlands with lots of little natural areas for children to explore. The playground was brilliant. It was all built from wood and blended effortlessly into the surroundings. My toddler thought he was in a real castle with a slide and loved balancing his way around the jungle and going through the maze.

Trip Advisor September 2019

 

Jungle Garden

In Edwardian times it was fashionable to grow large, jungle type plants in elaborate and exuberant bedding schemes in public parks and wealthy gardens, and these were wintered in glasshouses. These days gardeners try to emulate a mythical type of jungle, free from leeches, snakes, impenetrable thorny undergrowth and to a large extent rain. It has been found that many of the plants required to create the look are relatively hardy. In our Jungle Garden here at Picton it is surprising the range of plants that have survived two really cold winters. The Japanese Banana (Musa basjo) is spectacular with its five foot leaves and grows to around eight foot tall. Sometimes it flowers and produces miniature bananas.

Banana Plant in Flower

It’s fun to break and bend the rules that govern planting design in the Jungle at Picton; the plants are made to vie for space by close planting, virtually covering the paths. Big plants tower over little ones at the front of borders and completely random planting numbers are used. We have incorporated up-ended tree stumps and old branches which help provide structure and more interest. The overall effect is somewhat chaotic, however the magic starts to work around mid-summer when the growth is lush, and this continues until the first heavy frost. Now our Jungle Garden is one of the largest in the UK – and even in October it still looks magnificent and luxuriant!

 

Conifers

Many species of conifer are endangered through logging or social demand for land. As part of an international conservation programme a large number of species of known wild origin are being grown in British gardens in order to safeguard the plants for scientific research and conceivably reintroduction. The Gardens at Picton have a great number of these all planted around twenty five years ago. Many are very rare and are thriving in the Pembrokeshire climate. One beautiful example is the endangered Patagonian cypress (Fitzroya cupressoides, named after Captain Fitzroy of HMS Beagle on whose expedition Charles Darwin sailed). In its few years here these slow growing plants are starting to develop an attractive weeping habit that will become more pronounced as they mature. Another plant that is flourishing is Taiwania cryptomerioides which has gracefully pendulous branches but very prickly leaves. Hopefully one day these rarities will be more widely grown.

We have room at Picton to grow many of the giants of the plant kingdom. Perhaps the most imposing are our two, rather wind beaten, Wellingtonia or Giant Sequoia (Sequioa sempervirens). Planted around 1860 they have grown to around 30 metres and are still young children compared to those in California, their native home, where they live for three thousand years and are the world’s largest living thing.

Planted at around the same time is our beautiful Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), which in a hugely sculptural manner occupies a large area just outside the entrance to the Walled Garden. It has wonderful upswept branches that in places have touched the ground and rooted to form separate trees. Another giant here is an enormous European Silver Fir that has stood on a bend of our main drive for over two hundred years. It has enormous branches that spread horizontally before bending acutely and heading skyward for a hundred feet and contains as much dead wood as live, so is much loved by woodpeckers.

Visited today with my wife and spent a relaxing time wandering around the gardens. There is plenty to see from the walled gardens with the sound of the fountain in the formal pond, which is surrounded by colourful borders. There is a fernery, a border full of herbs and other plants with explanations of how they been used as medicines, as well as extensive shady woodlands. Even though the car park had a large number of cars in it, on our way around the woods to see the pond, you feel the sense of peace and tranquility. There was an exotic jungle garden with a boardwalk and a maze. Other attractions included a lawnmower museum, art galleries and you can pay extra for a guided tour of the house. Well worth a visit if your a garden lover like me.

Trip Advisor August 2019

 

One of our Head Gardener’s favourite areas of the Gardens has been the meadow which covers about an acre and lies to the south of the Castle. “With every tour of the gardens with a group I find myself waxing lyrical about the gentle movement of grasses in the wind, the finches and swallows flying above and the masses of wild flowers that form a gentle kaleidoscope of colour.” says Roddy. This area has been a meadow for a long time. I have been told that it was ploughed up to grow potatoes during the Second World War but since then it has been cut for hay only once a year after the wild flowers have set seed. This is the key factor in maintaining and developing a diverse meadow, as the annual removal of hay reduces the vigour of larger grasses enabling flowering plants room to compete.

Over the last twenty years the exact cutting time has been dictated by the seeds dropping from the wild flowers. We now have a couple of orchid species in residence, namely the early purple and the southern marsh orchid, which means we will not cut the meadow until some time during August when the seeds of these species have been shed. Another beneficial development in the last four years has been the arrival of an annual plant known as Yellow Rattle. This pretty and innocent looking little plant is a parasite on large grass species and has greatly reduced their vigour which in turn allows more room for desirable flowering plants. Its presence has noticeably increased the floweriness of the meadow. The increasing variety of flowers has led to a great rise in insect species including many types of bumble-bee and a great variety of moths. The most striking and obvious of these is the six spot burnet moth which is very plentiful this year. All these bugs and seeds also attract a little flock of goldfinches which only take flight when you walk near them in the long grass. Swallows and house martins are constantly swooping in search of insects.

Meadows full of wild flowers used to be a common sight throughout Great Britain but a gradual change in farming practice, in particular the use of fertilisers and frequent cutting for silage, has seen their nationwide demise. Although you might think that a meadow is not a practical idea for a small garden, I know many proud owners whose meadows are the size of the average bedroom and provide them with endless delight.

In gardening terms there are basically two types of meadow; the annual and the perennial meadow. The annual meadow is cultivated during the winter months with a rotavator (or plough in large areas) in order to create a seed bed onto which is sown an ‘annual wild flower seed mixture’. When this grows up during the summer the bright and cheerful display of poppies, cornflowers, oxeye daisies and many other wildflowers can be spectacular. The process of cultivating and sowing is repeated each year. You can collect your own seed from the hay produced during the previous year.

Creating a perennial meadow is a more patient process, with the quality improving each year as the fertility of the ground decreases due to the annual removal of hay and the non-application of fertilisers. A good starting point is that most existing garden lawns are already quite rich in ‘weeds’ (plants other than fine grasses) so as soon as the area is left un-mown these other plants grow and soon start flowering. The important thing is that cutting and removal of the hay does not take place until July or later, when these plants have set seed. Each year new plant species will appear in your meadow, presumably from wind blown seed, and slowly the diversity will increase. The first few years may look like a weedy mess however this situation will slowly improve.

Here at Picton, we have chosen not to ‘garden’ our meadow by physically adding new plants or seeds. However in certain areas where there are less seeds in the air, or to speed the whole development process, this may be desirable for some owners. There are specialist seed and plant nurseries that can provide seed and small or ‘plug’ plants of wildflower species suited to your soil type . In order to grow, the seeds need to be in contact with the soil. A simple way to achieve this is to turn over small patches of ground using a spade and sow the seed onto the exposed soil. The same process is effective to introduce new plants, where each plant can be allocated a little area of soil, removed from the competition of other plants until it becomes established.

If the area is large enough, elegant curving paths can be kept mown through the meadow. This will make your meadow look more deliberate (rather than people’s presumption that your mower has broken) and allow access for observation. Not only will a mini-meadow in your garden provide you with an attractive flowery show but it will also provide fascinating insect and bird watching opportunities as well as contribute to the diverse ecology of your garden and the surrounding area.

We hope you enjoy your visit to our Gardens – and don’t forget – if you need a break, we have a delightful historic courtyard with Gift Shop, Plant Sales and Art Galleries. Picton is the perfect place to take a picnic, but if that doesn’t take your fancy, Maria’s Courtyard Restaurant serves lunches, teas and ice-cream to refresh after all that walking!

An impressive schedule of events complements our Award Winning Garden for all seasons. See our Events Page for more information.

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