An unusual reason to Move to Pembrokeshire!

tender fern

We moved to Pembrokeshire late January last year (2018).

I’d had itchy feet since retiring in 2016 and I wanted to garden somewhere where the climate was kinder – for what I wanted to grow.

We had lived in Bedfordshire for almost 40 years and had family and grandchildren all living locally. Jill is so much more sociable than me and was active in amateur dramatics and singing groups as well as immersed in being a super grandma so it was quite a wrench to pick up and go for her.

As for me; I gardened in a small garden and went fishing when I had the chance, mended broken toys, lawnmowers and was first port of call for the kids when anything went wrong with cars, bikes or the house. Not such a wrench for me!

True to form Jill is already making a social scene for herself (and me) via the internet. She goes singing every Monday morning and Knitting (and Yakking) at Haverfordwest Library every Tuesday. She has found local social groups which we join with when we can and local theatres which we attend regularly.

Whatsapp and Facetime and a procession of visits keeps us in touch with the family.

I am progressing rather slower with my plans.

I have been a keen gardener for most of my life – it’s in my DNA I think. My Dad was too. However, I’m probably best described as a ‘Plantsman’ who can’t remember the names of his plants than a gardener! One of my favourite sayings is ‘’ a rose by any other name….’’.

Our garden always looked different to our neighbours, a hodgepodge of plants bought because I liked the look of them or they had fragrant flowers, attractive leave or maybe even because they looked weird. But our garden was always admired by visitors, whether it was because of the colour or the smells or the little treasures, such as hardy ground gingers, only seen when the vegetation was parted.

Little design but it seemed to work.

An aspect of my gardening over the years has been sourcing exotic and different plants to grow.

I have never been to a garden centre and bought a couple of dozen pelargonium plugs for a bed (Jill does that and calls me a snob for poo pooing it!).

Fortunately there are small specialist nurseries dotted about the country that do specialise in the weird and wonderful for the garden – and many of the subjects are hardy!

Many years ago my father gave me a couple of pots of ferns for my garden (and an orchid too but that’s another story). I still have the ferns (but can’t remember their names; ‘Dad’s fern’ suffices for me). I bought a few more over the years until it came to dawn that most garden centres only stock a handful of native ferns or the few exotic ferns that are generally easy and quick to mass produce.

If I wanted to be different I’d have to grow my own. Which is what I did.

So a few years back I set off growing my own ferns. I’d joined BPS (British Pteridological Society) and the AFS (American Fern Society) because I wanted to know more about ferns and to take advantage of plant swops and have access to fern spores (fern seeds).

It seemed to me to be a good idea to propagate ferns from around the world that are not widely available yet come from similar climates to our own. The United States Department of Agriculture have produced a basis for identifying similar climate zones which has been copied by Governments throughout the world. It is not a perfect tool but helps identify areas to source spores from and is better than nothing.

It’s surprising what you can produce with a propagator, a spare bedroom and a small greenhouse.

I think it was when potting on almost countless baby ferns that I got the idea of a move!

When we completed on the purchase of our present home in Haverfordwest I had more than 120 different species of ferns and anything from 50 -150 sporelings (seedlings) of each sitting in seed trays and 2’’ pots. Also a number of mature plants that I’d been lucky to acquire as stock plants and many 1 year to 3 year old ferns from earlier sowings.

The plan, ‘’the business plan’’, was that I would have a greenhouse and facilities for growing on my ferns and a garden where they could be shown off to their advantage, also an area where there would be potted examples of what was in the garden. Surplus plants would go to friends I have in the plant trade.

However, Mother Nature is cruel. We arrived in Pembrokeshire roughly at the same time as ‘’ the Beast from the East’’; very low temperatures, winds and snow which killed very nearly all my young stock and severely damaged most of my mature plants,

Jill and I spent many hours tipping dead ferns out into the barrow and washing the pots.

All is not lost though.

My mature ferns are slowly recovering. The site for my greenhouse was decided and it went up last year I have a good collection of ferns still and I have a small number of young ferns to grow on. Our veg patch has been marked out and is ready for the rotavator and I have sourced well-rotted horse manure and rotted bark chips to build up fertility and humus content in our heavy bit of Pembrokeshire soil.
I’ve also made some strides into bringing our ‘’estate’’ under control by attacking the brambles and bracken that wanted to take over.

So I probably haven’t done badly for an old guy.

Our garden has been beautiful throughout the year with the hydrangea shrubs in full glory.

Best of all Jill and I are very happy here, enjoying the countryside, friendly people and of course the glorious beaches and coastal walks.



David Jones

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One thought on “An unusual reason to Move to Pembrokeshire!”

  1. I’d love to see your fern collection David. We got here 2 years ago and made a garden. Most of the plants experienced their first winter in our garden in the company of the Beast followed by the hot summer. Baptism by fire (and ice!)
    But most have come through – a geum flowered all the way through and a papyrus survived frozen compost in its container. Plants want to grow!
    As you say, not the weather we were expecting in Pembrokeshire but I love it here nonetheless.

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