May- an Italian connection

Chris Flynn, Head Gardener Chris Flynn Head Gardener
The Italian Vegetable Garden at Dyffryn Gardens

Gardens have the power to transport you all around the world. For hundreds of years gardens and garden styles have drawn influence from the classical styling, grand architecture and stunning gardens of Italy. It was no wonder that Reginald Cory was yet another garden owner who fell under its ancient spell.

As the sun beats down outside it feels very apt to be writing about the Italian theme that permeates the garden this year. Celebrating the anniversary of the creation of the Pompeian Garden at Dyffryn, a beautiful courtyard currently festooned with the effulgent blooms of wisteria. This garden was inspired by Reginald Cory’s time in Italy and was partially restored in 2015 as a part of the Three Garden Rooms project.

The three principle areas of the garden where we will be bringing the theme to life are the Pompeian Garden, the Mediterranean Garden and the Upper Walled Garden. Though the dappled shade cast by the unfurling leaves on the Vine Walk are very reminiscent of a walk in the great gardens of Florence.

In the Pompeian Garden the summer planters will return to the tops of the colonnades and the roof of the loggia. This year’s scheme will include the familiar dripping silver of Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’, soft pink Illumination series begonias and a new introduction of Convolvulus ‘Neon Blue’. By midsummer these planters will be completely covered by the gently cascading foliage and flowers.

The Mediterranean, now coming into life, will be in its second summer. Lots of planting will be going out in the coming weeks to compliment the established planting from last year, with more tropical and colourful additions arriving all the time. The raised bed in the centre is a great place to pass the time sat beneath the shade of our magnificent specimen olive.

In the Upper Walled Garden the theme really comes to life in the form of an ever changing vegetable display showing off the very best of Italian produce. The idea is to have a garden reflective of those that may have seemed like a slice of home to the Italian coal inspectors that lived in South Wales. They were here to check the quality of the coal being exported from Barry and Newport by companies like the Cory Bros. that supported the important railway network back in Italy. The garden will play host to a number of crops popular in Italian cooking featuring Italian varieties of onions, carrots and celery (the basis for many a dish), garlic, lettuce and beans.

As with the rest of the walled garden, this plot isn’t just about functionality, it is also about beauty. Colourful varieties of drying beans are being grown, a wealth of coloured leaves and deliciously scented herbs will adorn the garden. But in an ode to the functional, the garden is employing seep hoses and a working water butt to demonstrate the importance of water saving in Italy. As a part of the plot, we’re excited about growing tomatoes outdoors. Occasionally these can be susceptible to the virulent Tomato Blight Phytophthora infestans when grown outside. This year though after removing the lowest foliage, we will be under planting with Tagetes to reduce the instance of splash back from the soil, which is a way that the blight can transfer onto the lower tomato leaves. I’ll be reporting back on how we get on through the year.

Come and visit throughout the year to see Cauliflower ‘Violetta di Sicilia’, Basil ‘A Foglie di Lattuga’ and Tomato ‘Rosella’. Hopefully you’ll find some culinary inspiration from the garden, a real taste of Italy.


Chris Flynn

Head Gardener, Dyffryn Gardens