Perfect place for a picnic – teddies optional

  If you’re heading to Bodnant Garden this Easter holidays don’t forget the picnic blanket because, by popular demand, we’re now open to al fresco dining for the first time.


  Gardeners testing out the picnic spot in The Old Park… with their Easter eggs (any excuse for chocolate)

  We’ve got four perfect picnic spots already picked out. Visitors can head for the Old Park and spread out their blankets in the meadow among wildflowers, grasses and butterflies; the newly opened Yew Dell with its tree canopy, stream, pools and log seating; The Dell with its famous waterfall, green lawns and giant trees (with the added bonus of a nearby café in summer and log fire in winter); or the grassy glades of Chapel Park.

  If you don’t want to walk that far there are already picnic areas among the trees in the car park with benches and views towards the garden. Or for more traditional dining there is also the Pavilion restaurant in the car park, the Magnolia tearoom close to reception and a refreshment kiosk in The Dell.  

  Property mananger William Greenwood says: “It’s a new venture and we will be trialling it this season to see how it goes, but I’m sure it will be welcome by many, many of our visitors. All we ask is not to picnic on the terraces or formal lawns to help maintain the views, peace and tranquillity for everyone, but instead try one of our favourite spots.”

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Picnic in the grassy glades of Chapel Park overlooking The Poem

  Allowing picnics into Bodnant Garden is another step towards making the garden more enjoyable for everyone. In the last year opening hours have been extended (now open all year), new areas have been opened up, including the Old Park and Yew Dell, and there are plans to open more in the coming years.

  Added to that, by popular request a new refreshment stop has been added in The Dell and a new toilet block near the garden centre. Bodnant Garden is also organising more family events and special interest activities and recently launched a dogs-welcome policy at certain times of the year.


Picnic under the canopy of giant conifers in The Dell (above) or try out the log seating in the Yew Dell (below)


   The popular Cadbury’s Easter Egg Trail will be running again this Easter, on Easter Sunday and Monday. There are also a host of activities for families and adults. For full details contact the garden office on 01492 650460 or see the website

Spring puts on its best bonnet this Easter


  Happy Easter Bank Holiday everyone! It’s not all about the chocolate though…it’s about new beginnings, and where better to celebrate that than in the garden. If you make it along to ours this holidays there are some wonderful spring sights in store – and if you can’t make it we hope these pictures will bring you closer.

  We’ve got beautiful blossom as far as the eye can see but the rhododendrons are the stars of the show right now, like this Rhododendron davidsonianum framed perfectly against Magnolia x soulangeana and a blue sky.

  You might also like to join our celebration of these dazzling plants in our Rhododendron Festival, from April 17 to May 22,  which includes walks talks and workshops from April 17 to May 22.


Pulsatilla halleri subsp. slavica and Tulipa ‘Maytime


Ceanothus ‘Trewithen Blue’ and Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Cherry Ingram’


Kerria japonica and Osmanthus delavayi


Erithronium ‘Revolutum,’ and Amelanchier lamarckii


Viburnum carlesii and Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’

Chaenomeles Prunus 'Shirotae'

Chaenomeles ‘Spitfire’ and Prunus ‘Shirotae’

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page


Let’s hear it for rhododendrons!

   Azaleas and rhododendrons near the Shrub Borders at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales

  To many people rhododendrons are a common sight in our parks and gardens, as British as cream tea on a summer’s day. But think again – many of our beloved rhodies are in fact Asian, just like that traditional cuppa!

  Bodnant Garden is famous for its rhododendron collection and we’re holding a month-long festival to celebrate the foreign plant which has found such a place in the hearts of British gardeners.  From April 17 to May 22 there will be walks, talks and workshops.

  The plants you see at Bodnant today have come a long way from their native habitats and have a fascinating story to tell about the history of British gardening. Many were brought back by Victorian and Edwardian plant hunters who braved hostile terrain, disease and war in their pursuit of this ‘new’ shrub.


Rhododendron ririei, a species rhododendron grown in Bodnant Garden from seed collected by plant hunter Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson in the early 1900s. It flowers early, in February and March.

  Rhododendrons are native to Asia, America and Australia but most are found in the Himalayas. Britain went rhododendron mad in the late 1800s when they were first brought back from China by intrepid plant hunters and soon they began to fill our stately homes, public parks and back gardens. Bodnant Garden’s owner in the early 1900s, Henry McLaren, was an avid plantsman who sponsored these botanical expeditions. He was originally advised not to plant rhododendrons because it was thought they were too exotic but it turned out they were well suited to the Snowdonian landscape!

   Rh augustinii Rhododendron 'Narcissiflorum' Rh stenopetalum 'Linearfolium'

Rhododendrons in all colours, shapes and sizes…Rh. albrechtii, ‘Rh. ‘Narcissiflorum’ and Rh. stenopetalum ‘Linearifolium’

Rh.Varna Rh. 'Janet' Rh. May Day

Rh. ‘Varna’, Rh.’Janet’ and Rh.’May Day’

  He bought a collection from famous plant hunter Ernest Wilson in 1908 which forms the basis for the thousands in the garden today. In 1917 he employed George Forrest to bring back many more; McLaren and his head gardener Frederick Puddle began breeding Forrest’s rhododendrons to create more than 350 hybrids, called the Bodnant Bloody Reds for their rare colour.

  Today Bodnant Garden has one of the finest collections of species and hybrid rhododendrons in Britain which brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the garden each year.  The spring display is just incredible – all colours of the rainbow, some as big as trees and some as small as heathers, and ones suited to all terrain. So come along and learn more about this surprising and ‘exotic’ plant – or just enjoy the show.


Bodnant Garden property administrator Rose James among the rhododendrons

Rhododendron Festival (no charge but booking required)

April 17: A History of Bodnant Rhododendron Hybrids, guided walk, 2-3pm

April 24: Photographing Rhododendrons, workshop by award-winning local photographer Pierino Algieri, 10am-12pm and 2-4pm.

May 1: Choosing Rhododendrons for your garden, masterclass at 2pm.

May 8: Propagating Rhododendrons, workshop with Bodnant Garden Centre’s propagator, 10am- 12pm

May 15: The Plant Hunter’s Legacy at Bodnant, guided walk, 2-3pm with expert Ted Brabin.

May 22: Rhododendron and Garden Art, workshop with artist Hilary Leigh on sketching and painting, 10am-12.30pm

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page


Celebrate Easter at Bodnant Garden

  An Easter Egg Trail day at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire.

   Spring has come early – the daffodils are out, the blossom is bursting and we’re looking forward to an egg-stra special Easter at Bodnant Garden (sorry).

  After a mild winter we’re enjoying a dazzling spring floral display and  preparing to welcome visitors with a host of holiday activities – including popular Easter egg hunts for children.

  It’s a bit different to this time last year, when North Wales was under a deluge of late snow after suffering a long, cold, wet winter. Our neighbours at National Trust Chirk and Erddig had to draft in sledges for their Easter egg hunts! This time round we’ve had a mild winter and the garden has exploded with spring colour. The show of camellias, magnolias, cherry blossom, our famous rhododendrons and swathes of daffodils is stunning.

  Of course it’s not quite Easter yet, but so far so good and we’ve got  a fun-packed programme of events to offer visitors…so fingers crossed for the weather.

   There is a full programme of activities for families during the two-week Easter holiday period. We’re also launching a month-long Rhododendron Festival, which offers walks, talks and workshops for adults celebrating the garden’s famous plant collection.


Whether hunting for plants, bugs or chocolate eggs, families can enjoy Easter trails at Bodnant Garden

Easter events at Bodnant Garden:

Sat 12 – Sun 27 April (every day from 10am-4pm): Plant It, Grow It, Eat It – Visitors can drop in and plant a pumpkin seed in a pot to take home and grow on. No extra charge. No Booking Required.

Tuesday 15 and 22 April: Pond Dipping (12-3pm): Families can have a go at ‘dipping’ in the Lily Pond using nets and jars to examine water wildlife (before returning it safely!) No extra charge. No Booking Required.

Sun 20 and Mon 21 April (10am – 4pm): Cadbury’s Easter Egg Trail – Children do an ‘eggsplorer’ trail around the garden, collecting stamps in their passport to bag a chocolate egg. Cost £2 per child. No Booking Required. There will also be facepainting in the Cadbury gazebo and an Easter Bonnet Competition with judging and prize giving at 3pm on the Monday.

Thurs 17 April: Launch of Rhododendron Festival with a walk and talk from our expert taxonomist on A History of Bodnant Rhododendron Hybrids, 2-3pm. No Extra Charge. No Booking Required.

Thursday 24 April: Photographing Rhododendrons – a workshop delivered by award-winning local photographer Pierino Algieri as part of our ‘I Love Bodnant Garden’ photography competition. Booking required for time slots 10am-12pm and 2-4pm. No Extra Charge

Friday 25 April: Bat Walk – Discover the bats of Bodnant with expert Cathy Wuster of Gwynedd Bat Group, 8-10pm. Booking Required. No Extra Charge.

Saturdays April 12, 19 and 26: Story telling in the Pin Mill every Saturday at 2.30pm. No extra charge. No Booking Required.

 Easter events, including the Cadbury’s Easter Egg Trail, will be going on at National Trust properties across Wales. For full details contact Bodnant Garden on 01492 650460, visit or the NT Wales website at


Magnificent magnolias

  Copy of Copy of Magnolia x loebneri 'Merrill'

  This week the first magnolias burst forth, coaxed out by a few days of glorious sunshine. One of the earliest to make an entrance has been the grand old Magnolia campbellii on the Lily Terrace, whose gorgeous fat, pink blooms have stopped visitors in their tracks and set cameras clicking. It heralds the start of many months of magnolias here at Bodnant Garden. In fact the latest, Magnolia grandiflora with its huge, saucer-like ivory flowers, blossoms in autumn.

  Bodnant Garden has a National Collection of magnolias which go back a long way. Many of them are 100 years old or more, such as the grand Magnolia veitchii x ‘Peter Veitch’ which towers over the Laburnum Arch and is a landmark for visitors approaching the garden.


That magnificent magnoliamon the Lily Terrace. The long, cold winter knocked it back last year but it’s making up for it now!

  During the early 1900s the garden’s owner, the second Lord Aberconway Henry McLaren, was an avid plantsman who later became president of the Royal Horticultural Society. He sponsored expeditions by plant hunters to bring back seeds and plants from Asia and South America – not just magnolias but rhododendrons, embothrium and eucryphia, of which we also now have National Collections.

  The Magnolia campbellii mollicomata (to give it its full name) on the Lily Terrace was brought here by plant hunter George Forrest. When ‘exotic’ new plants arrived in Britain, nobody knew for sure how hardy they would be, so to protect them they were often planted against walls. It turned out that many were pretty hardy and the magnolia now has its head well above the top of the wall. When the famous Veitch nurseries closed in the early 1900s Lord Aberconway bought all the remaining stock – and commissioned a whole train to deliver all the plants to Bodnant Garden! Now that’s what you call leaves on the line.

   Some of the Chinese magnolias you can see at Bodnant garden include some of the species seen here…there are many more cultivars to be enjoyed too:

bodnant march12 134 Copy of Magnolia delavayi 01

Left: Magnolia dawsoniana – A deciduous tree, discovered in 1869 by Père Armand and introduced to Britain by Ernest Wilson.

Right: Magnolia delavayi – An evergreen magnolia, named after missionary Father Delavay who discovered it.

Copy of Magnolia denudata Copy of Magnolia sargentiana var. robusta 02

LEFT: Magnolia denudata – The official flower of Shanghai, a small, deciduous magnolia grown in Buddhist temple gardens since 600 AD.

RIGHT: Magnolia sargentiana – Another deciduous magnolia, this large type is fairly uncommon in cultivation and threatened by habitat loss.

Copy of Magnolia sprengeri var. diva 03 Copy of Magnolia wilsonii 01

LEFT: Magnolia sprengeri – A small deciduous magnolia.  

RIGHT: Magnolia globosa – The Globe Magnolia is deciduous and closely related to M. wilsonii and M. sieboldii, but is rare in cultivation.

Copy of Magnolia stellata 'Jane Platt' 01 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

LEFT: Magnolia stellata – Sometimes called the star magnolia, this slow-growing shrub is native to Japan.

RIGHT: Couldn’t resist…that Magnolia campbellii again!

Come and see the magnolias at Bodnant Garden over the next couple of months when they’re at their finest. It’s a sight not to be missed.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page

Unveiling the Yew Dell


  We’re almost there! The Yew Dell opens tomorrow (Saturday, March 8)…come along and be among the first to see the area, opening to visitors for the first time in the garden’s 140-year history. As an added bonus (if you needed one) visitors who come this weekend can also enter our Mother’s Day competition to win a Bodnant Garden treat for the family, inspired by our Yew Dell’s rhododendrons…

  Rhododendrons have played a special part in the history of the garden. Our dazzling display in May is world famous and draws visitors from far and wide, year after year. They’ve also played a special part in the Yew Dell.

  The 3.5 acres of the Yew Dell was laid out in the 1880s by Bodnant Garden’s creator Henry Pochin, who was inspired by William Robinson and his book The Wild Garden published in 1870. Robinson recommended mixing exotic and native plants suited to climate and terrain rather than according to any particular style.


Water cascades through the Yew Dell

   The popularity of this idea, together with the influx of plants from abroad fed by the travels of intrepid Victorian plant hunters, led to the creation of woodland gardens like that at Bodnant Garden which harmonised trees, shrubs and perennials from all over the world. The climate and terrain of North Wales was particularly suited to Himalayan plants like rhododendrons.

  Bodnant’s rhododendron collection developed in the early 1900s. The McLaren family supported Asian plant hunting expeditions of the day by famous botanists such as Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward. They brought back plants and seeds founding a collection which over successive decades was enhanced by a breeding programme which produced unique Bodnant Garden hybrids.


Rhododendron ririei in the Yew Dell, one of the plants grown from seed collected by plant hunters

  Many of these plants took their place in the garden, others found a home in the Yew Dell which became a ‘holding area’ for species and hybrid rhododendrons. These shrubs have now matured into trees and their beautifully twisted trunks reach over head mingling with the canopy of native yews, oak, ash as well as more exotic conifers and magnolias.

  Over the years the area has remained untouched apart from basic management and during the last two years gardeners have been weeding, cutting back the brambles and renovating shrubs and trees, as well as repairing paths and drains. During the renovation new plants will be added, including hydrangea, euonymus and acer to add autumn interest. The rhododendron collection will also be expanded.

  Visitors who come this weekend can bag their own piece of Bodnant history by entering our Mother’s Day competition. Tell us why your mum is the best and you could win lunch in the Pavilion tearoom on Mothering Sunday, March 30, plus a Bodnant hybrid rhododendron – one to take home and one to plant in the Yew Dell for posterity. Entries cards will be available at the garden.


Gardeners preparing a rustic seating srea in the Yew Dell

Now Showing – Signs of Spring

imagesCAXRQQK2 Spring is here! We thought it would never come but there’s no denying the emergence of flowers around the garden. These delicate dwarf  Narcissus cyclamineus are some of the first daffodils to show their faces and will soon be followed by great swathes of others. Camellias, early rhododendrons, the first cherry blossom, colourful hellebores and iris are among the plants leading the way. Here are some you can see around Bodnant Garden:


Camellia japonica ‘Gloie de Nantes’ and Eranthis hyemalis ‘Guinea Gold’


Helleborus niger and Prunus mume ‘Beni-Chidori’


Iris winowgradowii and Rhododendron ririei


Rhododendron augustinii and Bergenia purpurescens ‘Helen Dillion’


Helleborus x hybridus Ashwood Strain and Sarcococa confusa


Scilla mischtschenkoana and early rhododendrons


Crocus tommasinianus and Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’


Helleborus ericsmithii and Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page