A spectacular 16-day event showcasing the gardens which are the jewels in the crown of Gwynedd has got underway.
Among the stars of the Festival of Gardens North Wales are Plas Yn Rhiw at Pwllheli, Aber Arto Hall in Llanbedr, Plas Glyn y Weddw in Llanbedrog, Plan Tan y Blwch near Maentwrog, Portmeirion abd Plas Brondanw at Penrhyndeudraeth, along with Nanhoron in Pwllheli and the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.
It’s reckoned the event could plough up to £2 million into the region this summer.
The festival, which is being supported by the Welsh Government, was officially opened at the beautiful Plas Tan y Bwlch gardens near Maentwrog in Gwynedd by Gardeners’ Question Time chairman and former TV weatherman Peter Gibbs.
During the festival which carried on until Sunday June 11, a total of 24 stunning gardens across the region are open their gates to thousands of visitors.
More than 100 unique events are planned, including musical performances, orienteering sessions, treasure hunts, bug hunts, gardening lectures, family treasure hunts, children’s trails and plant sales.
The festival dates have been arranged to coincide with late-spring flowering displays, which will include rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, tulips and flowering cherries, making this one of the best times of the year to visit the great gardens of North Wales.
Last year’s inaugural Festival of Gardens North Wales brought almost 44,000 visitors flocking to the beauty spots involved.
And based on Welsh Government figures for average tourist spend per head, this reaped a dividend of over £1.7 million during the 11-day festival.
This year for the first time there will be a Friends of the Festival Discount Card costing £5 which will include offers such as free tea/coffee and discounted admission.
According to organisers North Wales Tourism, this time the event is spreading over four extra days with even more gardens taking part.
North Wales Tourism managing director Jim Jones said: “North Wales has some of the most beautiful gardens in the UK and this event is all about showing them off to as many people as possible.”
Jim Jones from North Wales Tourism said: “This is the second year of the festival and it’s going from strength to strength.
“It’s an excellent example of what can be achieved when North Wales gets together for a particular offer – in this case its wonderful gardens.
“We have some of the most beautiful in the UK, including some real hidden gems, and this is about showing them off to as many people as possible.
“You can see our gardens separately but being able to visit them all together during the festival is amazing and the event is the perfect showcase for one of our best assets.
“The festival has been extensively marketed and we expect to attract thousands of visitors not just from around the gardens but also from a much wider area including other parts of Wales as well as the North West and Midlands of England.
“Last year’s inaugural festival was a major success and brought over 43,000 people through the gates of the gardens involved.
“Welsh Government figures show that the average spend per day visit to Wales was £39 last year, which means the festival had the potential to bring a total of over £1.7 million into the local economy.
“This year that figure could be even higher with the festival lasting longer and involving more gardens, which is great news for North Wales.”
He added: “We have an exciting, fascinating and entertaining programme of events and activities lined up, which means that every morning, afternoon and evening there will be at least one special event happening in or more of the gardens.
“We are also very lucky to have Peter Gibbs, who hosts the iconic Gardener’s Question Time on BBC Radio, to open the festival at Plas Tan y Bwlch on Saturday May 27, which should be a brilliant occasion.”
According to Peter Gibbs, the festival will uncover some hidden gems of the garden world.
Peter, who was also a BBC national TV weatherman until last year, said: “A lot of people, including gardeners, don’t realise how many different gardens there are in North Wales.
“Apart from the large, well known National Trust ones there are also lots of fantastic smaller gardens and without this sort of festival they wouldn’t get noticed by the kind of people who would really enjoy them.
“For instance, there’s Crug Farm Plants near Caernarfon which features many plants you just don’t see anywhere else.
“The couple who run it, Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones who I know from Gardeners’ Question Time, have brought in plants, some of which are absolutely unique, from places like Taiwan which grow at altitude and have to deal with the sort of conditions you’d see in North Wales.
“They are also now starting to contribute to conservation by sending some of these plants to countries across the world.”
Peter added: “It’s a great honour to be invited to open the festival and I’m really looking forward to what should be a memorable occasion in a wonderful part of the world.
“From a weather point of view North Wales is very interesting. It has a relatively mild climate and because of the Gulf Stream doesn’t get a lot of particularly cold weather. There’s also the effect of the mountains which gives you so many different micro-climates.
“I’ve had some very pleasant holidays in North Wales and last year for my birthday my wife arranged for me to have a go on the zipwire at Penrhyn Quarries in Bethesda. It doesn’t half go at a fair old rate but I’d definitely to it again.”
Peter, who’s had his key role on Gardeners’ Question Time for over 10 years, describes himself a `very keen gardener’ and admits this puts him in a fortunate position when it comes to getting the best advice.
“This year the programme, which I feel very fortunate to be involved in, celebrates its 70th anniversary which will be marked by a number of special features looking back over the years and forward to hopefully the next 70.”
Special advisor to the festival once again is gardens guru Tony Russell, renowned as one of Britain’s leading experts on trees and shrubs who also makes regular appearances on the BBC’s Gardener’s Question Time and famously put the Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire on the international tourism map.
He said: “Having launched the festival in 2016, I am delighted to see it develop and grow into such an exciting event.
“For 2017 there are even more gardens involved and between them they will be running in excess of 100 special events.
“Having worked in horticulture for over 30 years, I can honestly say there is nothing quite like the festival held in any other part of Britain.
“North Wales has some of the finest gardens in the UK and the festival is a way of telling the world all about them.”
Gardens taking part in the festival from the county of Gwynedd are: Plas Yn Rhiw at Pwllheli, Caerau Uchaf in Bala, Treborth Botanic Garden in Bangor, Crug Farm Plants in Caernarfon, Parc Glynllifon in Caernarfon, Aber Arto Hall in Llanbedr, Plas Glyn y Weddw in Llanbedrog, Plan Tan y Blwch near Maentwrog, Portmeirion in Penrhyndeudraeth, Plas Brondanw at Penrhyndeudraeth, Nanhoron in Pwllheli and the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.
In the county of Anglesey it’s Plas Newydd in Llanfairpwll and Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens in Menai Bridge.
In the county of Denbighshire it’s Plas Newydd in Llangollen, Bodrhyddan Hall Gardens in Rhyl, Nantclwyd y Dre in Ruthin and Dibleys Nuseries near Ruthin.
In the county of Powys there’s Powis Castle and Gardens near Welshpool, the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth and The Dingle Garden near Welshpool.
Taking part from the county of Wrexham are Chirk Castle near Chirk and National Trust Erddig near Wrexham.
Gardens from the county of Conwy involved in include Bodnant Garden at Tal y Cafn and Gwrych Castle in Abergele which will be open on May 27, 28 and 29.
Highlights of the Festival of Gardens North Wales:
- In Wrexham, throughout the festival the National Trust is holding Big Bug Hunt where visitors can look for big cuddly bugs in the house and cast their eyes over some creepy carvings outdoors by international chainsaw artist Simon O’Rourke. Both parts of the hunt take place daily from 10am to 5pm in the garden and 12.30pm to 3.30pm in the house.
- In Anglesey there is a Red Squirrel Walk at Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens in Menai Bridge on June 4, starting at 2pm.
- In Powys there is the Dig a little Deeper event at Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth. Running each day from May 27 to June 4 between 10am and 5pm, it includes tours, activities, trails and workshops. The festival coincides with school holidays so there will be lots of garden inspired activities for kids and families.
- Among the highlights in Conwy is the Dawn Chorus Walk at Bodnant Garden near Colwyn Bay on May 29, starting early from 5.30-7.30am at a cost of £20. It includes a magical tour of the garden at dawn, including an exclusive viewing of the Laburnum Arch and expert birdwatching advice. A full Welsh breakfast will be available afterwards at a cost of £5.
- In Gwynedd there is a vintage car rally at Parc Glynllifon, Caernarfon from 10am-5pm on Sunday June 11.
- Highlight in Denbighshire comes on Sunday June 11 with the annual plant fayre at Bodrhyddan Hall.
This year for the first time there will be a Friends of the Festival Discount Card costing £5 which will include offers such as free tea/coffee and discounted admission. For more information about the festival go to www.gardensnorthwales.co.uk