Amgueddfa Blog:

Celebrating St. Fagans Victorian tree heritage

Luciana Skidmore, 28 Hydref 2022

Autumn sends us an invitation to pause and admire the beautiful trees that surround us. It lays a vibrant carpet of colourful leaves welcoming us into the woods. In this once in a year spectacle, we advise that you wear comfortable shoes, take slower steps and mindfully redirect your gaze up to the sky to contemplate our magnificent trees. 

In St. Fagans National Museum of History, you can find some of the most beautiful specimens of trees planted by the Victorians and Edwardians that shaped our beautiful gardens. 

This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Fern-leaved Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’) located in the terraced gardens of the castle. This magnificent and unusual specimen was planted in 1872 under the head gardener William Lewis. This cultivar was introduced in the UK in the early 1800’s and won the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 2002. The leaves are dark green and deeply serrated, turning golden before falling in autumn. This specimen has an impressive dark and smooth trunk with its girth measuring 3.67m in diameter. The Fern-leaved Beech is a Chimera, originated from a plant cell mutation of the Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica). An interesting fact is that occasionally some of the serrated leaves revert to the Beech leaf shape, when that happens it is advisable to remove the reverted branches as they tend to grow more vigorously than the cultivar.

Another magnificent feature that celebrates 150 years in St. Fagans is the row of London and Oriental Planes planted by William Lewis along the formal ponds overlooking the terraced gardens.  The London plane is a natural hybrid of the Oriental Plane and the American Plane. The Oriental (Platanus orientalis) and London Plane (Platanus x acerifolia) are distinguishable by their leaf shape with the Oriental Plane having more deeply lobed leaves. Many London planes were planted over 200 years ago in the squares of London, hence its common name. This tree can withstand high levels of pollution and was one of the few trees that could thrive in the soot-laden atmosphere of cities before the passing of the Clean Air Act in 1956. Did you know that this resilient tree can store around 7.423 kg of Carbon at maturity? Large trees like this play an important role in improving air quality by sequestering carbon dioxide, removing air pollutants and absorbing gases that are harmful to human health.

William Lewis was also responsible for the planting of the Pine Walk in 1870. This beautiful avenue of Black Pine (Pinus nigra) and Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) guides you through the path towards the old Orchard. These tall and majestic trees enclose the space resembling the walls of a Cathedral. The bark of the Black Pine is dark grey with ridges and the needles are longer than other Pines. The Scots Pine is the only Pine native to Britain, it has shorter and compact needles and a warm red upper bark. Unfortunately, in recent years we have lost some of our Pine trees, in order to preserve this historic feature, we have planted four new Black Pines along the path. 

As we take pleasure in admiring these magnificent trees in the present, we must thank some of the far-sighted people of the past who have gifted us with this wonderful legacy. Trees make our cities a more pleasant and healthy environment. They enhance biodiversity, reduce flood risk, improve air quality, provide shade, and reduce the urban heat island effect in summer months. If you would like to leave a valuable legacy for future generations, start by planting a tree.  

If you are visiting St. Fagans gardens this autumn, follow this Tree Walk Guide written by Dr. Mary Barkham to learn more about our outstanding tree collection. 

Everlasting flowers in St. Fagans

Luciana Skidmore, 1 Medi 2022

The act of drying flowers dates back to ancient times. In the past flowers and herbs were dried and utilised for decorative, medicinal and culinary purposes. In Medieval times they were used to repel insects and even conceal unpleasant odours. Drying flowers became a popular hobby and preservation method in the Victorian period in England. For thousands of years flowers have had a symbolic meaning in rituals, passages, religious activities and artistic expression. Dried flowers are now more fashionable than ever due to their everlasting beauty and convenience.

This year thousands of flowers were grown in the gardens of St. Fagans for the purpose of drying. They have been naturally air-dried and beautiful flower arrangements were created by our garden trainees. These are now available to purchase in the Museum store. 

Besides their outstanding and long-lasting beauty dried flower arrangements offer many advantages. They can be used in weddings as bouquets, buttonholes, corsages and centrepieces. Because they are dried, they do not require water. They can be bought months in advance and stored with ease, releasing the pressure of having to care for fresh flowers on the big day. They can also be kept and preserved as memories of such a special day. 

They are perfect for home decoration or gifting.  You can create permanent floral arrangements that will enhance your home without the need to buy fresh flowers every week. Did you know that imported fresh flowers can have 10 times the carbon footprint of flowers grown in the UK? Imported cut flowers are flown thousands of miles in refrigerated airplane holds. When grown in colder climates they need heated greenhouses which generate higher carbon dioxide emissions. Not to mention the use of pesticides and fertilizers used in the production of perfect blooms. Fresh roses in February? Not so rosy for our planet.

The cut flowers grown in St. Fagans gardens have been grown from seeds sown in April in our unheated greenhouses. They were planted outside in May when the weather was warming up and have been growing happily and healthily producing beautiful blooms throughout Summer. No pesticides, fertilizers or harmful chemicals were used in this process. Besides being grown sustainably the flowers also provide a source of nectar for pollinators including bees and butterflies. It is always a great joy to admire the hive of activity in our cut flower bed. 

The flowers are harvested in dry weather when they are partially or fully open. Excess foliage is removed, small bunches of flowers are tied together and hung upside down on bamboo canes or strings in a dark and dry area with good air circulation. The flowers are left to dry for two to three weeks until completely dry. Floral arrangements including bouquets, posies, buttonholes, corsages, floral crowns and wreaths can be created with dried flowers. 

There is a vast number of plants that can be dried and used in floral arrangements. Drying flowers such as lavender and hydrangeas or grasses such as Stipa gigantea and Pampas grass is a great way to get started. The stars of our cut flower garden this year are: Limonium sinuatum, Craspedia globosa, Helipterum roseum, Achillea millefolium ‘Cassis’, Limonium suworowii ‘Rat Tail’ and the soft grass Panicum elegans ‘Sprinkles’. 

If you are coming to St. Fagans National Museum of History, please visit our magnificent gardens and take a look at the beautiful floral arrangements available in the Museum shop. 



Amser ‘Cwestiwn y Garddwr’ Treftadaeth, o Erddi Sain Ffagan

Juliet Hodgkiss, 28 Ebrill 2020

Mae Juliet Hodgkiss yw Uwch Gadwraethwr Gerddi Amgueddfa Cymru. Mae hi'n arwain tîm ymroddedig o arddwyr a gwirfoddolwyr yn Sain Ffagan, sy'n gofalu am y gerddi a'u casgliadau o blanhigion treftadaeth arbennig. Mewn ymateb i ddiddordeb cynyddol yn ein gerddi ein hunain, a dyhead cynyddol am harddwch rhai o erddi godidog ein cenhedloedd yn ystod y cyfyngiadau symud, dros yr ychydig ddyddiau diwethaf rydyn ni wedi bod yn casglu'ch cwestiynau chi i Juliet am ei gwaith. Dyma ei hatebion yn ein fersiwn ‘treftadaeth’ ni o Gardener’s Questiontime.

Beth yw'r peth gorau am eich swydd?

Y peth gorau am fy swydd yw cael fy nhalu i weithio mewn gerddi mor brydferth. Mae gennym ni amrywiaeth eang o erddi, felly rydw i'n gwneud rhywbeth gwahanol bob dydd. Rwyf hefyd yn cael cwrdd â chymaint o bobl wych trwy fy ngwaith - staff, gwirfoddolwyr, ymwelwyr, cyd-arddwyr a mwy.

Pa un o erddi Sant Fagan yw eich hoff un a pham?

Yr adeg hon o'r flwyddyn, fy hoff ran o'r gerddi yw'r ardal ger y pyllau. Trwy gydol y gwanwyn, mae banciau'r teras wedi'u gorchuddio â bylbiau gwanwyn; cennin Pedr, clychau'r gog a ffritil, i gyd uwchben carped o anemonïau. Daw’r godidog Magnolia ‘Isca’ i'w blodau yn gyntaf, ac yna’r ceirios a’r afalau. Y goeden ddiweddaraf i flodeuo yw'r Davidia, gyda'i bracts gwyn anferth sy'n siglo yn yr awel, gan roi ei henw iddi - y goeden hances.

Pa un yw'r planhigyn prinnaf yn y casgliad?

Un o'r planhigion prinnaf sydd gennym yw rhosyn Bardou Job, a oedd yn un o'r rhosod gwreiddiol yn yr Ardd Rhosod. Credwyd bod hwn wedi diflannu, yna cafodd ei ail-ddarganfod gan grŵp o selogion rhosyn, yn tyfu yn hen ardd prif warder ar Alcatraz! Fe'i lluosogwyd, a danfonwyd 6 rhosyn atom i dyfu yn ein gerddi. Mae gennym hefyd gasgliad o datws treftadaeth, a roddwyd i ni gan Asiantaeth Ymchwil Amaethyddol yr Alban.

Un o'r tatws rydyn ni'n eu tyfu yw'r Lumper, y tatws a dyfwyd ar adeg newyn tatws Iwerddon. Ni ellir prynu'r rhain, felly mae'n rhaid i ni eu tyfu bob blwyddyn i gynnal ein casgliad.

Pa un yw'r planhigyn anoddaf y mae'n rhaid i chi fynd i'r afael ag ef - un sydd anoddaf i'w gynnal?

Y planhigion anoddaf i'w cadw yw'r tatws treftadaeth. Mae'n rhaid i ni dyfu'r rhain bob blwyddyn i gynnal ein casgliad, ac mae'r rhan fwyaf o'r hen amrywiaethau hyn yn agored iawn i falltod, felly mae angen eu rheoli'n ofalus i sicrhau cnwd da.

Pa un yw'r planhigyn anoddaf i'w reoli?

Y planhigyn anoddaf i'w reoli yw Oxalis, chwyn parhaus gyda deilen debyg i feillion, sy'n lluosi trwy fylbiau. Mae'r bylbiau hyn yn cael eu lledaenu pan fydd y pridd yn cael ei drin. Mae bron yn amhosibl ei ddileu. Ar ôl treulio blynyddoedd yn ceisio ei chwynnu, rydyn ni nawr yn ei gadw dan reolaeth gyda phlannu a gorchuddio tomwellt.

Pa un yw eich hoff amser o'r flwyddyn yn yr ardd?

Fy hoff amser o'r flwyddyn yw'r gwanwyn, gyda bylbiau'r gwanwyn, coed yn blodeuo, y rhedyn yn agor eu ffrondiau, a'r holl blanhigion yn yr ardd yn blaguro i dyfiant. Mae popeth yn edrych yn ffres a newydd, ac rydyn ni arddwyr yn llawn gobaith am flwyddyn wych o'n blaenau yn yr ardd.

Autumn leaves

Luciana Skidmore, Garden Trainee , 12 Tachwedd 2019

With light and warm days of Summer being now a sweet memory we invite Autumn in with all its glory and grandeur. The leaves of the trees turning gold, orange and red create a feeling of warmth within comforting us and adapting our minds to the colder months ahead.

This year has been particularly different to me. I have been spending more days outdoors working in the garden, going for walks and being close to nature. This lifestyle change has been so beneficial both physically and mentally that I now welcome Autumn with different eyes. I remember when I used to dread this time of the year and would close myself into my cocoon thinking why don’t humans hibernate? But Autumn has so much to offer if we only challenge ourselves to spend more time in contact with nature.

The crispness of the air, the fallen leaves on the floor, the golden hues of the trees and the soft and delicate light can be only appreciated if we venture ourselves out of our comfort zones.

St Fagans Museum is a wonderful place to visit at this time of the year. The magnificent variety of trees changing colour and creating a crunchy carpet of leaves is the perfect invitation for a long walk.

There is one garden located on the terraced path near the ponds that was specifically designed with Autumn colours in mind. There you can find the bright red Euonymus alatus known as “Winged Spindle” or “Burning Bush”, the oriental Acer palmatum, the beautiful red berries of the Cotoneaster horizontalis and other amazing varieties in a beautiful display of colour. This garden is embraced by the gigantic Fern-leaved Beech (Fagus salvatica ‘Aspleniiflora’) one of the oldest trees planted in the Museum dating back to 1872.

If you enjoy gardening there are plenty of tasks that will keep you warm and busy at this time of the year. The joys of planting bulbs with great expectations for Spring or the meditative task of sweeping leaves and gathering them to make leaf mould. Also the perfect time for planting trees as they will have plenty of moisture available to get established.

So wrap up warm, get your wellies or winter boots on and explore the wonderful natural sites that bless the Welsh land.

Volunteer Blog: Lavandula Heaven

Luciana Skidmore, Volunteer , 26 Medi 2019

August is the most fragrant month here in St. Fagans gardens as we just finished trimming back and harvesting our lavender shrubs. We prune them at this time of the year to remove old flowers and give them a chance to grow new foliage before the Autumn/Winter months.

A well known favourite the lavender has a unique and distinguishable fragrance that is grown for ornamental, aromatic, medicinal and culinary purposes. They are sun loving plants and require a well drained soil.

Lavender is such a versatile plant suiting different garden styles and pleasing the most varied tastes. In St. Fagans you can find hundreds of plants of different species. You will see them in our herb garden, surrounding the fountain in the Dutch Garden, dotted amongst perennials in flower borders, as lavender hedges by the greenhouse and  complimenting the romantic style of the Rosery. A true aromatic heaven!

Lavandula is a genus of 47 known species, here you can find the well known Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’, the beautiful white flowers of the Lavandula x intermedia ‘Edelweiss’ and one of my favourites the Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’. This particular species is a hybrid cross between the Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender) and the Lavandula latifolia (Portuguese lavender). They are larger, more robust and have longer stalks with bluish purple flower heads making them perfect for cut flowers.

Lavender is also a wonderful culinary ingredient. Most varieties can be used in cooking, however the Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ is more widely used. They taste great in cakes, scones, jams and as a tea. Add 1 tsp. of dried lavender flowers to a cup of water, let it steep for 10 minutes and enjoy! It’s perfect for calming the mind and helping you drift into dreamland.

When harvested most of our flowers are dried in our potting shed and used to create lavender bags, beautiful dried flower arrangements and other products that can be seasonally found in the Museum store. We also use them in our historic buildings as decoration and inside mattresses to repel insects as they would have done years ago.