Today I am delighted to welcome Juliet Greenwood to share her wonderful 'where do you get your ideas from' post with us. The journey Juliet took was both inspirational and life changing. I hope you enjoy reading about it.
The place is Brondanw Gardens, in Snowdonia, North Wales, created by architect Clough Williams Ellis, who built the Italianate village of Portmerion. It has all of Portmeirion’s quirky charm, eccentricity and love of life, with just a tinge of melancholy.
Brondanw is both a garden and a wilderness. It was the wilderness I found first. I was driving home from a weekend with my dad. It was becoming clear that, at nearly ninety, he was becoming too frail to cope in the home he loved and which held all the memories of over sixty years of life with my mum. It had been an emotionally draining few days, not only coping with his distress, but also knowing this was the end of an era, the real end of childhood, when we, the children, were becoming the parents.
By the time I got to the turnoff to Plas Brondanw, I was tired, and needed a rest before tackling the winding road up past Snowdon, not to mention regaining my sense of myself before launching back into daily life. I took the turn-off into beech trees, and there it was. It was just a small wilderness of trees, quirky little gates, ponds and follies, including the ‘ruin’ of a castle on the hill. There was something about it, that autumn afternoon, an atmosphere that held me in its spell. I still get that same feeling when I visit it now. It’s hard to explain, but it’s definitely there.
It was as I was standing among the trees that the idea came into my head of a lost garden, peopled by mysterious statues, and the story of the woman who created them. It was the story that eventually became the timeshift ‘Eden’s Garden’, my first novel published by Honno Press. From then on, I always stopped to visit the wilderness on my way back from visiting my dad, and, after his death, visiting family.
I also got to visit the formal Gardens, which are created in the grounds of Clough Williams Ellis’ home, and where I took the publicity photos for ‘Eden’s Garden’. The gardens have the same eccentric touches as Portmeirion, with odd little statues in unexpected places among the flower bed, the kind that just have to make you smile.
Brondanw Gardens helped me through a difficult time, and also became the starting point for my journey as a novelist. The rest of the research for my books was a road trip around Cornwall – but that’s a different story!
‘The White Camellia’, Honno Press, 2016
‘We That Are Left’, Honno Press, 2014
‘Eden’s Garden’, Honno Press, 2012