Magical May at Bodnant Garden

The Upper GardenWe’re all set for a magical May at Bodnant Garden. The month brings a crescendo of spring colour, from exotic rhododendrons to native bluebells and a riot of blossom in between all crowned, of course, by the show-stopping Laburnum Arch.

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This year we’re pulling out all the stops to make the experience a memorable one for everyone. From the beginning of the month we’re opening the garden gates early, and late, so visitors can make the most of the spring flower show.

We’re also offering breakfasts in the tearoom for early birds and have recruited a team of special volunteers, Laburnum Archers, to help visitors coming here for the famous floral spectacle, which attracts around 50,000 people over three weeks.

The 55 metre-long Laburnum Arch was created by the garden’s Victorian founder Henry Pochin in 1882 and is the longest and oldest in Britain. The display of golden flowers in late spring is the most visited, photographed and anticipated event of Bodnant Garden’s year.

We put ouGetAttachmentt an appeal earlier this year for volunteers to help with the display and our events and engagement officer Charlie Stretton has been busy recruiting and training the merry band, who will be in special Laburnum yellow uniforms.

Our Laburnum Archers will help direct visitors, answer queries, take photographs for people, hand out brollies if the weather’s wet or drinking water if it’s hot, and help make the Laburnum Arch experience fun, friendly and enjoyable for everyone.

To give everyone extended access to the garden, people will be able to visit from 9am in May and June and stay until 8pm on Wednesday evenings (from May to the end of August.) Dogs are welcome on Wag Wednesdays evenings too, from 5pm-8pm.

And fueling all those hungry visitors will be our award-winning Pavilion tearoom, which has recently undergone a makeover by staff and volunteers and will be providing breakfasts from 9am throughout May and June.

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

Other horticultural highlights to enjoy at this time are the rhododendrons. It’s said there’s a rhododendron in flower every month of the year at Bodnant Garden, but they are at their peak in May. The garden’s oldest were brought here from Asia by Victorian and Edwardian plant hunters. In the 1920s and 1930s some of these plants were cross-bred at Bodnant Garden to make new hybrids which are now beloved by gardeners all over the world.

Adding color to the palette is the blossom of cherries, viburnums, late flowering magnolias and many other shrubs and trees; herbaceous plants are filling beds and borders and drifts of native bluebells run through the grass glades and wooded areas of the garden.

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Now is also a great time to see garden projects underway – the renovation of the Bath poolside garden and the Canal Terrace borders – and to see the new Himalayan Poppy Bed near the Pin Mill, created last year, flowering for the first time.

The Laburnum Arch is the icing on our spring cake. We’ll keep everyone updated here, on or website, Facebook and Twitter, about its ETA. We’re all set, so watch this space!

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.

 

Chill time with a warm Welsh welcome

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For many of us a visit to a glorious garden wouldn’t be complete without the tea and cake, soup and a sandwich, or leisurely lunch. With 80 acres and a full day’s worth of garden to explore, the refreshment stop is as much a part of a visit to Bodnant Garden as the plants. To make that experience even more warm and welcoming, our Pavilion tearoom has recently undergone a makeover.

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This spring catering manager Ailsa Morris (above) enlisted the help of tearoom staff, gardeners and volunteers in a grand resdesign. Volunteer Rhona Davies chose new wallpaper, paint and furnishings and gardener David Green came up with the potted plants for the tables. The whole team helped put it all together, creating a space which is light, bright, fresh and personal – to complement our menus of home cooked, Welsh produce.

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Tearoom assistant Bronwen and volunteers Phylis and Dave potting table decorations

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The Pavilion has seen many changes over the years. What started life as a humble log cabin in 1989 has grown into a busy hub, keeping pace with ever-rising visitor numbers. In that time the menu has expanded along with the restaurant area.

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The Pavilion tearoom, then and now

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Bodnant Garden April 16-238We’ve listened to visitor comments about facilities and menus…not least in bringing back the much-loved cheese scones. They were temporarily taken off the menu last year to make way for other seasonal snacks but the outcry was so great that we put them back on the board, sharpish!

Our latest hi-tech innovation has been using the power of the sun to provide the hot water for all those cups of tea. Last autumn we installed 175 solar panels on the hillside of the car park, which now feed electricity to the cafe.

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Enjoying a solar-powered cuppa, Gareth Jones from panel installers Carbon Zero, Bodnant general manager William Greenwood and Paul Southall, environmental advisor for the National Trust.

Visit walesIn 2016 the Pavilion received a Quality Café Accolade (modelled here by catering assistant Hollie). The award is given by Visit Wales to attractions which go the extra mile to create an enjoyable and memorable experience for their visitors. Proof (of the pudding) that our team is really cooking on gas…plus electricity and sunlight.

The great British garden tearoom is a place to relax, refuel and chat over what we’ve seen or plan what’s to come. Visitor comment cards tell us how much everyone values that sit-down time, whether it’s at the Pavilion restaurant, Magnolia tearoom, outdoor kiosks in the Dell and Far End and the picnic areas too. We hope you’ll enjoy the new look Pavilion – and the cheese scones!

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.

Taking the plunge with an exotic poolside garden

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This spring we’re taking the plunge and redesigning one of the oldest features of Bodnant Garden – the Bath.

The oval pool, dating back to Victorian period, lies just below the Front Lawn of Bodnant Hall, tucked away behind high sheltering walls and hedges. Gardeners are transforming ageing, shrubby planting into a miniature exotic paradise, filled with lush foliage and brightly coloured flowers which can take advantage of the sheltered microclimate. It’s the finale of two years of renovation in the area, following devastating winter storms of 2013.

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The Bath was created by Henry Pochin, who founded Bodnant Garden as we know it when he bought the estate in 1874. Pochin laid out the upper East Garden in formal Victorian style, with lawns intersected by paths, stone steps and balustrades and a terrace linking the house to the garden.

It’s thought there was an existing pool in the area dating back to Pochin’s predecessor William Hanmer – today the interlinking pool just below the Bath is known as Hanmer’s Pool. Under Pochin, water was channelled from the top of the garden into the Bath, then via Hanmer’s Pool and into a stream leading down through The Rockery to The Dell.

In his diaries of 1880 Pochin said: “We have finished the bathing pool and the archery” (referring to the now-famous Laburnum Arch.) The surrounding walls of the Bath were added later at the turn of the 19th century, probably by Pochin’s grandson Henry Duncan McLaren when work began on the construction of the nearby Italianate terraces.

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Judging by the terracotta tiled walls and steps leading into the water of the Bath (and by it’s title) we think the family used to take dips here, perhaps to cool off after a game of tennis on the nearby Front Lawn? The name has changed over the years – it’s also been known as the Oval Pond and Gold Fish Pool- and there have been attempts to keep Koi Carp in the pool, which fell victim to otters and herons. The only bathers there now are a young colony of water lilies.

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In recent years there have been ideas to refresh poolside planting, predominantly mature shrubs including rhododendrons. Some more tender herbaceous plants have been tried and tested there and done well in their sheltered spot (seen above). Storms of Christmas 2013 gave the revamp a new impetus when an old oak tree came down, damaging walls and ripping up beds.

The fallen oak tree near the Bath in 2013

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Work to repair nearby lawn and beds 

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After much clearance work by the garden team, students redesigned the nearby beds in 2014 and 2015.  Old shrubs have been replanted with mixed planting to give all-year interest and a new section of lawn laid where the oak tree once stood.

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This spring work begins on the Bath area itself. Gardeners have begun removing old shrubs ready to start planting. Area supervisor Bill Warrell says: “Tree ferns, bamboo, bananas, dahlias and cannas are just some of the many plants we’ll be using, with the scheme planned to be at its best from July until the first frosts.

“Recently we’ve removed plants that didn’t fit in to the new design, and in the coming weeks we’ll be carrying out repairs to the walls, reducing the height of the hedge on the east side and improving the soil. Planting will take place around the middle of May, once the weather has warmed up for the scheme’s more tender specimens.”

Thees are just some of the new plants which will be going into the beds. Come along over the next couple of months and see the planting taking place – and even better, come back in summer and enjoy the results for years to come.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.

Pin Mill Flower Poll

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Last year you loved our experimental wildflower border next to the Pin Mill – so we’ve decided to do it again, on both sides of the Canal Terrace, and this time around YOU get to choose the flower display. 

We’ve got five annual meadow seed mixes to choose from. Each colour mix has its own champions here at Bodnant Garden who are desperate for your vote.

You can vote here for your favourite or, if you’re visiting the garden, drop in a token at the collection point at The Pin Mill. Gardeners will be sowing the seed after Easter. You’ve got a week, until the close of Monday, March 28, to cast your votes…then come back and watch the flowers grow.

National Trust garden adviser Patrick Swan: My choice would be the Classic Mix.  A wide range of species provides an early splash of red, white and blue, with traditional red poppies, miniature blue snapdragon flowers of Linaria and a haze of white Ami majus; just in time for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations!  Later in the year the yellows and golds of Rudbeckia and Coreopsis appear for a late summer finale.

Gardener RosI would choose the Candy Mix. It is a good alternative to last year’s Pastel mix and it’s always exciting to try something different. I love the predominantly orange and purple colour combination that is eye-catching without being gaudy. These fresh and inspiring colours will work really well on the Canal Terrace.

Gardener Tracy: I would love to see the Sundance Mix chosen for its exciting burst of orange and yellow. This will contrast beautifully with the dark green yew hedges and visitors will love the vivid and cheerful colours.

General manager William: I’ll go with the Pastel Mix. It’s a delightful “strawberries and cream” theme and a perfect choice against a yew hedge or reflecting off the water. Throughout the long flowering season whites and pinks with just a little scattering of clear blue and other pastels dominate. A really impressive mix in the autumn as later strong pink and pastel colours just go on and on.

Head gardener John: I am immediately drawn to the Aqua Mix. With the iconic white Pin Mill and the peaceful water of the canal this blue and white mix would create a cool but classy ribbon of colour, perfectly reflecting the serenity and simplicity of the setting (and the butterflies and bees will also be very happy).

Gardeners will be sowing the seed after Easter. You’ve got a week, until the close of Friday, March 25, to cast your votes…then all will be revealed! 

 

 

 

 

 

A season of new beginnings at Bodnant Garden

Magnolias MarchSigns of spring are all around us, Easter will soon be here and a season of new beginnings is dawning at Bodnant Garden.

Around the garden trees are greening, blossom and flowers opening and birdsong filling the air. It’s a great time to see new beds and borders created last year, now flowering for the first time, and to watch gardeners at work planting new schemes too.

Our early spring garden highlights include the native and the exotic, from massed displays of camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons to swathes of daffodils and bluebells.

You’ll find many mature Chinese magnolias dotted throughout the garden, which were brought to Bodnant from their native lands by famous plant hunters at the turn of the 1900s. They light up the garden  from March to May; some, like the grand old Magnolia campbellii mollicromata on the Croquet Terrace (seen above), began flowering in February.

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

Bodnant Garden is famous for its Asian rhododendrons, including unique hybrids bred at the garden from the 1920s. It’s said that there’s a rhododendron in bloom every month of the year here, even in winter, but they reach a dazzling peak in April and May. Herbaceous beds are filling out too, with tulips, iris, and early flowering perennials.

For a special spring treat, wander through wild daffodils in the Old Park meadow (you can also watch gardeners and volunteers deadheading the flowers to keep the display looking good – that’s dedication for you.) Following hard on the daffodils’ heels are native bluebells which run through the garden’s woods and glades.

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Volunteers deadheading the daffodils

This year you can see gardeners starting work on new planting schemes – sowing annual flower seeds in the Pin Mill borders for a summer display and beginning work on the renovation of the Deep Bath, which is being replanted with tropical species.

You can also see beds which were created just last year now coming to life; the Poppy Bed near the terraces was replanted with Himalayan primulas and poppies and the large Vanessa Bed near the Front Lawn, formerly shrubs and rhododendrons, was redesigned by our student gardeners as a mixed bed of plants with year-round interest.

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Of course Easter is a family time, and our wildlife-inspired activities will engage little hands, hearts and minds over the holiday period (Friday, March 25, to  Sunday, April 10):

  • Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt: Sunday March 27 and Monday March 28, search the garden for clues to discover a chocolate surprise, 10am to 3pm (cost £3 per child)
  • Pond Dipping Tuesdays: March 29 and April 5, 12pm-3pm (no extra charge)
  • Wildlife Garden Wednesdays; March 30 and April 6, 11am-2pm (no extra charge)
  • Make a Kite Thursdays: March 31 and April 7, 11am-2pm (no extra charge)
  • Teddy Bear Trails: Friday April 1-4 and April 8-10, all day (no extra charge)

Whether you want to bask quietly in nature or bring the family for a day out, there are 80 acres to explore and enjoy at Bodnant Garden this Easter time. Don’t miss springtime in Wales – with a little taste of the East thrown in for good measure!

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.

The Skating Pond at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales

The tranquil lakeside at the Far End in spring.

 

 

 

 

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Polishing perfection

How do you improve on perfection? Bodnant Garden’s famous Italianate terraces, with their breathtaking mountain views, are pretty close to that…but even perfection needs a polish now and then.

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Gardener David Green collecting coins from one of our ponds

This spring we’re launching a fundraising appeal to replace the fountain on our Croquet Terrace.  To kick-off the appeal we’re collecting all the pennies thrown into Bodnant Garden’s many ‘wishing’ pools and ponds by visitors. Raffle money collected at the garden this year will also go to the cause. It’s one of a number of things going on around our beautiful, century-old terraces to maintain this very special part of the garden in all its full glory.

Lower Rose Terrace circa 1920s

The terraces were designed at the turn of the 1900s by Laura McLaren and her son Henry (who gifted the garden to the National Trust in 1949.) Five levels were carved out of the grassy hillside which sloped westward down from Bodnant Hall to the valley of the River Hiraethlyn. It was massive earth-moving project done by men without modern machinery, which begun in 1905 and was completed just before the outbreak of WWI.

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The Croquet Terrace today and, below, under construction in the Edwardian period

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It was a celebration of a new Edwardian style – made famous in the partnership of Arts and Crafts architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, with her cottage garden planting. Bodnant Garden’s terraces combined formal Italian influences with carefully designed steps, stone paths, pergolas and garden rooms, and an exuberant planting of roses, herbaceous plants and flowering shrubs.

Henry later added classical adornments such as the four stone sphinxes on the rose terraces, the fountain on the Croquet Terrace and the statue of Bacchus on the Top Rose Terrace…and most famously, the now iconic 18th century Pin Mill building on the Canal Terrace (seen below).

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In the 21st Century gales, frosts, floods and the passage of time have taken their natural toll on the garden – its plants, buildings and ornaments. There have been improvements to the terraces in recent years: The Top Rose Terrace and the Lower Rose Terrace were completely renovated in 2006 and 2012; in 2013 a White Garden was created on the Lower Rose Terrace (the companion Pink Garden is undergoing improvements); in 2014 beds of Bodnant Garden hybrid rhododendrons were planted on the Lily Terrace; and in 2015 a Himalayan Poppy Bed was created.

In 2013 the Pin Mill underwent extensive repair work to the exterior, which will be crowned this year by the redecoration of the upper floor parlour. This work has been partly funded by £1,138 in raffle money raised at the garden in 2015 and it means we can open the upper room to visitors for the first time.

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From the upper window you’ll see a fantastic view of the five terraces never seen before, and also get a bird’s eye view of the long herbaceous beds bordering the Canal Terrace, which are awaiting redesign. Last year, as an experiment, one of these beds was planted with annual wildflowers. It was so popular – with visitors and wildlife – that we’re repeating it on both sides of the Canal Pond in 2016.

The once-impressive baroque fountain on the Croquet Terrace, thought to date from around 1700 by Bouchardon, was brought to Bodnant Garden in 1940. It has an elaborate design of dolphin, fish, nymphs on a scalloped edged clam shell, surrounded by waves, but you’ll have to take our word for it! Over the years, as you can see in pictures below, the running water and weathering has worn away the sandstone carvings.

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We are looking at making a new one based on the old design. The first stage will be making a maquette, a 50-60cm scale model of the fountain in clay, from which a full scale version will be produced in stone. The total cost of the project is estimated to be around £50,000… but first things first; we need to raise an initial £2,000 to get the scale model done.

We hope you’ll enjoy the changes and improvements, and watching them in progress. Thanks for helping us – by contributing your raffle money, throwing your pennies in the pools, giving us your feedback, support and coming back again and again – ensuring that everyone continues to enjoy these beautiful gardens for years to come.

You can follow our #BodnantFountainAppeal here and on Facebook and Twitter. For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.

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Feel the love this February

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It’s February – spring is around the corner and love is in the air. Snowdrops are popping out, as are the first lambs, and Valentine’s Day (like it or not) is slap bang in the middle of the month.

If ever there was a time to embrace spring it’s after the long wet winter we’ve all had. So let’s celebrate – with family, friends and nature – fill our lungs with fresh air and get inspired for the year ahead.

Here at Bodnant Garden we’ve got plenty for families to do this school holiday, so pull on those wellies and get outdoors for some fun, creativity and, more importantly, that special together-time.

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There will be activities around the garden for kids every day from 11am-3pm Monday to Friday of half term, February 15-19. Create some memories with our Trail Making Mondays, Pond Dipping Tuesdays, Wildlife Wednesdays, Pooh Stick Thursdays and Wild Art Fridays.

There’s also snowdrop planting in the Old Park, every day 1pm-3pm from Saturday, February 13, to Sunday, February 21.

The humble snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is an important symbol of hope and rebirth in many cultures. Every year at Bodnant Garden we plant more snowdrops ‘in the green’ – in flower – to bulk up the display for the future. This year we’re hoping to give a home to 25,000 of them – so there’s plenty to go round!

We supply the plants and gardeners will dig the holes, all we ask is some help from visitors to fill them. There’s no need to book, just drop by and do as many or as few as you like…the more the merrier. Then come back next year and see your efforts growing.

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And how could we forget, it’s also Valentine’s Day on Sunday, February 14. Treat the love of your life – person or pooch – with a visit to the garden. Dogs are welcome in the garden every day throughout February.

Enjoy the camellias, first flowering rhododendrons and magnolia buds ripening; spring flowers such as primroses and hellebores; and bulb displays of crocus, early daffodils and even, thanks to the warm winter, some tulips chomping at the bit!

Come along and feel the love…

There’s no extra charge for any of these events – normal garden admission applies. For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.