Quarter of a million Welcomes – now that’s something worth celebrating


Any excuse for cake and bubbly…but this week we really did have a perfect excuse, as we officially marked a landmark quarter of a million visitors through our garden gates.

Staff and volunteers downed tools for a little celebration to mark the milestone – 250,000 visitors from March to February 2017/18, the first time in our garden’s 140-year-plus history that we’ve welcomed so many people.

BodnantVisitorCeleb-3Property manager William Greenwood (seen above, cutting the enormous cake – courtesy of our catering team) said: “Wow. I really can’t believe it. A quarter of a million visitors – and counting – in a single year. We’ve said ‘Hello’ and ‘Bore da’ 250,000 times. We’ve helped park cars, made countless cups of tea and sold thousands of home-made scones. We’ve run events and activities throughout the holidays, welcomed hundreds of happy dogs (and owners). We’ve opened more of the garden than ever before and are developing and refreshing even more.

“A huge thank you to all our staff and volunteers, whether they work in the garden, in the tea rooms or shop, in the office or at reception or helping us stay clean and tidy; we couldn’t have done it without all your hard work and dedication to the best garden in the UK!”

What was that…did someone mention ‘best garden’? Bodnant is also proud to be flying the flag for Wales right now in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2018 – the only Welsh garden in the final.

Wales finalists in other categories include Snowdonia (National Park of the Year) Pembrokeshire Coast (Holiday Destination of the Year) Newborough (Beach of the Year) and Castell Dinas Bran (Landmark of the Year). So here’s your chance to tell the world about our wonderful places in Wales – you can vote until March 5 at www.countryfile.com/category/tag-cloud/bbc-countryfile-magazine-awards

A huge Thank You and Diolch yn fawr to everyone who has visited Bodnant this year (in life or online) – garden lovers, families, nature spotters, photographers, we salute you! Your support helps us to maintain this truly special place #ForEverForEveryone.


AND…just a reminder that Bodnant Garden recently hosted BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time. The show is broadcast this Friday, February 26 at 3pm, and repeated on Sunday at 2pm. We had a great time doing it and hope you enjoy listening.

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




GQT team bring a blast of spring to Bodnant Garden


After a long, bone-chilling winter (cold enough to turn green-fingers blue) a visit from BBC Gardeners’ Question Time to Bodnant this week was just what we all needed to put a spring in our steps.

First aired in 1947, the popular Radio 4 show is a regular part the week for keen gardeners up and down the land, so for all us North Wales enthusiasts (ok, self-confessed ‘geeks’) it was a real thrill to host it at our National Trust beauty spot in the Conwy Valley.

5Our head gardener John Rippin was able to give the well-known horticulturists Bob Flowerdew, Mathew Biggs, Pippa Greenwood and Eric Robson a little pre-show tour of the garden. Mother Nature obligingly set the scene – during the late afternoon the chill wind dropped, clouds parted, even the sun showed itself and (I kid you not) bird song filled the frosty air.

Our guests seemed blown away with the charm of our February garden – waxing lyrical about the range of plants, the scents and those spectacular snow-capped views – and especially by our Winter Garden (which received glowing praise for being so well maintained…well done gardeners!) They were also mightily impressed at the bare beauty of the Laburnum Arch and how much skill went into pruning the 55-metre pergola walkway.

4Invigorated (if a little breathless…but the walk to the Dell viewpoint was declared well worth it) our guests then returned to a full house at the Pavilion tearoom where they expertly rattled their way through audience questions, with trademark warmth and humour, providing their thoughts on topics from whether to prune an overgrown magnolia (NO!), to how gardening can tend the troubled soul.


It was fascinating to get a peep into how the show is made; many of us were impressed at how little editing was needed, and how smoothly the recording flowed. #BBCGQT is clearly a well-oiled machine; and a super-friendly one at that, so thank you to the whole team, it was a delight to have you all at Bodnant Garden.


We must give a shout-out to our staff and volunteers who hosted the event too, especially Ailsa and the catering team for the refreshments – and a special mention to volunteer David (right) who hot-footed it back from holiday to assist colleague Linda as door steward!

Of course, a big thank you goes to our keen, knowledgable and cheery audience –  all you fellow gardening ‘geeks’ who came along, submitted questions and made it such an enjoyable occasion. We could have filled a venue twice the size but for those who weren’t able to come, our edition of BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time is scheduled to be broadcast on Friday, February 26th and repeated on Sunday (watch this space for any updates.) May it fill you all with the joys of spring!


GQT heaven: Anna, our visiting horticultural student from Germany, with Bodnant gardeners Christina and Fiona; below, a chuffed head gardener John gets a treasured book signed by Bob Flowerdew.

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




Highlights – and high winds – reflections on 2017 at Bodnant Garden

As a new year approaches, we take a little look back…

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It has been a turbulent year – and not just in politics. Here at Bodnant Garden we’ve had our share of weather dramas but we’ve managed to rise above a series of stormy setbacks to enjoy some real highs – achieving major work in the garden, welcoming more visitors than ever and even picking up a couple of awards along the way.

We opened the year by launching our new guidebook (modelled above by our volunteer Den) updated with recent historical discoveries that we’ve been making from the archives. In February we welcomed lots of families for half term with our ever-popular snowdrop planting; this year we also set up a Plant Hunters expedition camp at the Old Mill for young explorers (like our volunteer Gethin here) which proved really popular.


But February also brought an unwelcome visitor – Storm Doris. Gales wreaked havoc in the garden, ripping up trees and leaving debris.


Especially badly affected was Furnace Hill, a new area we were readying to open to the public. With just a month to go until the grand opening the team (Nathan, Maxine, Alex, Fiona, Steve and Christina, seen below) had to grit their teeth and begin a massive clear-up operation throughout March.

Bodnant Garden - The Furnace April 17-549

Iolo and Fans

They did it. After an amazing effort by gardeners and volunteers, on April 11 the ropes came down, a ceremonial log was chain-sawed, and hundreds of visitors entered Furnace Wood and Meadow for the first time. TV naturalist Iolo Williams joined us and lead a mass, celebratory daffodil planting in the meadow.

There followed a period of calm after the storm, bringing a beautiful spring. Many plants flowered a little earlier than usual, from the daffodils in March to the famous Laburnum Arch in late May, which was in bloom a good week before expected. Visitors flocked to enjoy the fabulous old rhododendrons in Furnace Wood, and picnic in the meadow for the first time.


IMG_5984Elsewhere in the garden work continued  planting up the new North Garden woodland beds and the Himalayan poppies and primulas were flowering in recently redesigned beds alongside the Pin Mill. Fantastic flower displays weren’t the only things catching visitors’ eyes – the family of Canada Geese at the Far End were the focus of much admiration and many photographs too.


19429680_1482825888431615_6517026061134862382_nAfter the heady highlight of the arch, Bodnant Garden won Best Garden Renovation (for The Bath), as well as runner up for Best Volunteer Project (Laburnum Archers) in the prestigious industry Horticulture Week Awards – Charlie, Lynne and Fran enjoying a trip to the ceremony at Woburn Abbey in June to represent the team.

In July we bid a fond farewell to our Visitor Services Manager Ann Smith, who retired after more than 30 years with Bodnant Garden. In a fitting tribute, as a leaving gift we named a unique rhododendron after her, which means she’ll always have a place here at the garden. We also welcomed our new Visitor Experience Manager (below right).



The children of Eglwysbach School helped us celebrate National Meadows Day with a visit to Furnace in sunny July. We also took a little bit of Bodnant Garden’s meadows to the National Eisteddfodd on Anglesey in August, as part of a National Trust Wales exhibition. It was a combined effort from staff and volunteers across North West Wales, (like our Andy, below) who ran the week-long event, meeting and greeting visitors… in the face of torrential downpours which opened the school holiday season!


And so began a fun-packed, if slightly damp summer of family events at Bodnant Garden, highlights including a workshop with North Wales Embroiderers Guild, and an unforgettable afternoon with Denbighshire Music Co-Operative who gave us a garden party on the Canal Terrace.


September brought better weather and a lovely display of late summer flowers (plus an unusual number of late butterflies too). We launched our first Silent Space at the Arboretum in September, encouraging visitors to enjoy perfect peace and quiet. Elsewhere, lively chatter was most definitely allowed, with our volunteers leading a new series of guided tours in the Welsh language.


DSC_2174As schools returned we welcomed our own new horticultural student at Bodnant Garden – Julie (seen right) swapped her catering uniform for garden gear as she moved across from working at the Pavilion tearoom to being part of the garden team. Autumn also brought two more additions to the garden team with the appointment of supervisors Merlin and Ann (seen below).

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4In the autumn Bodnant Garden’s 51-metre Coast Redwood in the Dell was runner up for the title Tree of the Year in a competition by the Woodland Trust (the eventual worthy winner was the Hollow Oak at Gnoll Estate Country Park). Thankfully our veteran tree, a Welsh Champion, was not damaged in Storms Ophelia and Brian which followed in October, but in their wake they left another clean-up operation for our garden team. In spite of the damage and debris, the team managed to make the garden safe and tidy for half term, so that we were able to go ahead with our autumn and half term Treefest celebrations.

In November it was ‘glad rags’ on as we celebrated more award successes – a first for our work at Parc Farm at the PR Week Awards in London (attended by manager William and farmer Dan), Best Attraction at the Welsh Hospitality Awards in Cardiff (attended by catering manager Ailsa) and runner-up for Best Attraction and Green Award at the Go North Wales awards in Llandudno (attended by Visitor Welcome staff Rachel and Pip).

Fresh from storm clearance, gardeners progressed with other work in November, completing the new planting of the Canal Terrace borders and taking down a row of Lawson Cypress on the East Garden. Both areas have been newly designed and should be flowering in 2018, so watch this space.

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The team managed to get their work done just in time before the heavens opened and snow descended in December. The garden was closed for a day while gardeners set to, once again, clearing paths to welcome pre-Christmas visitors but thankfully no major damage was done…and the dusting of white made for some magical photographs.


And so to 2018…we’re working towards opening the third of our meadows, Cae Poeth, next year and seeing all the new design work around the garden developing. We’ll also be marking the national centenary of Women’s Suffrage – celebrating Bodnant’s donor family who played a pivotal role in the fight to secure votes for women. We’ll be sharing more about the history behind the garden over the course of next year here on the blog, on our website and social media, and around the garden itself.

Thank you everyone for visiting the garden and following us in 2017 – your support helps the National Trust look after this very special place. We wish you all a Happy New Year!

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


Revealing an old vista at Bodnant Garden

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If you’re a regular visitor to Bodnant you’ll have spotted something missing in the upper garden – five towering Lawson Cypress which lined the East Terrace close to Bodnant Hall are no more. Gardeners have removed them in readiness for a new planting design in 2018.

IMG_4373_zpssxagkx2aIt’s always sad to lose old faces in the garden landscape but the trees, thought to be 30-40 years old, were not in the best health and had grown so large that they were putting a strain on nearby walls – as well as shading out everything in surrounding beds. Now they are gone, already a new vista has opened up from the Top Lawn across the Front Lawn towards the Carneddau Mountains.

The East Terrace has undergone several transformations over the years, from a sloping lawn in late Victorian times, to an avenue of Hollyhocks and a formal bedding scheme in the Edwardian period, later replaced by shrubs and conifers.

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ABOVE East Terrace circa 1880s and BELOW early 1900s


A new design for the East Terrace is part of our ongoing work to refresh the formal East Garden; this has included the creation of the Puddle Garden in 2011 and the Winter Garden in 2012, a revamp of the Range borders in 2014 and an ambitious redesign of the Bath in 2015. We’ll also be renovating the nearby Round Garden in 2018.

We hope you’ll come back and see the new design progressing next year and in the meantime, enjoy the new view!

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

A warm Christmas welcome at Bodnant Garden

However you like to celebrate Christmas there’s something for all at Bodnant Garden; whether you’re after peace and tranquility, or food, fun and festivity, you’ll find it in our 80 acres. It all starts with a warm welcome from our Visitor Centre staff, who’re putting on their best Christmas pullies just for you…

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Enjoy peaceful walks in a frost-sparkling landscape, bring the children to meet Santa and the elves, discover unique gifts at the shops and craft units and warm up with seasonal food – be that marshmallows over a brazier or a full Christmas lunch.

Bodnant Garden - Winter Garden in FebruaryThe star on our tree is the Winter Garden. This feature was opened five years ago after a major garden renovation and is now bursting with colour, texture and scent. As other gardens are going to sleep the Winter Garden springs into life; flowers, foliage and bark creating a real winter pick-me-up for the senses. A cold weather forecast is an added bonus – it looks even more beautiful with a dusting of frost and snow.

See our website for the Winter Garden Trail, which guides you around highlights of the this area and formal East Garden. It’s a short, level, accessible trail, which will suit all the family – perfect for a quick escape from the high street hurly-burly.

Take your ease over our Christmas menu in the tearooms, or combine lunch and a gardener guided walk on one of our special events. If you drop in at the Pavilion you can leave a memento of your hopes and dreams for for 2018 on our special Wish Tree…and pause to read some of the moving, and funny, wishes left by others.


Kids will love the popular Elves’ Workshop. Drop in at the Old Mill in the Dell and make Christmas crafts with our band of Bodnant elves, followed by toasted marshmallows by the roaring brazier outside. There’s hot food in our special marquee in The Dell at weekends too, where children can have a go at decorating Christmas cookies.

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The National Trust Gift shop and our neighbours at Bodnant Garden Centre offer a huge range of Christmas ideas, from cards, decorations and gifts to plants, as well as Christmas trees and wreaths (you might even bump into Santa.) What’s more there’s a unique collection of local arts and crafts products at Bodnant Craft Centre, from jewellery, paintings, ceramics and furniture.

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And of course there’s a big beautiful garden to explore; you can bring your dogs every day from November until the end of March too.

We’re open all year-round (apart from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). We hope you’ll join us – every visit helps us look after Bodnant Garden #ForeverForEveryone, so your support will certainly make our Christmas!

  • Elves’ Workshops: November 25/26, December 2/3, December 8/9 and December 16/17 from 11am – 2.30pm (£3 drop-in event, booking not required)
  • Santa’s Grotto: Pop along to our neighbours at Bodnant Garden Centre and see Father Christmas, on December 2/3, December 9/10, December 16/17 and 23rd from 11am – 2pm (£3 donation per child, proceeds to charity)
  • Winter walk and tea: Wednesday, December 6 from 11am, a guided walk with a gardener followed by afternoon tea in the Pavilion (£19.95 per person, call to book)
  • Birds of Bodnant Walk: Friday, December 8, 11am (free, please book)
  • Winter walk and lunch: Wednesday, December 13, a guided walk with the head gardener at 11am followed by a two course Christmas lunch in the Pavilion (£25.95pp, call to book)
  • Festive dessert tasting evening: Friday, December 15, sample puddings created by our chef in the Pavilion (£24.95 pp, call to book)

All details on our website www.nationaltrust.orh.uk/bodnant-garden


Discovering a fascinating world of fungi at Bodnant Garden

It’s not all about the flowers. Our volunteer Dave Thomas, who normally leads walks at Bodnant, enjoys a guided tour from a fungus expert during our #Treefest month at the garden:

Deer shield (luteus cervinus) growing on rotten wood at Tyntesfield, Somerset

Think of Bodnant Garden and you immediately think of flowers and trees, but there is another natural world to be found – most of it is probably missed by our visitors, and possibly by many of us who are here every week as well.

In my 18 months volunteering and guiding visitors around the 25 miles of pathways I have seen various fungi but a Fungal Forage with Fungal Punk Dave and a group of visitors showed just how many of these fascinating specimens I have missed.

Starting on the Old Park you immediately notice the sheep, but look for many varieties of the Waxcap (Hygrocybe) fungus, generally up to 25mm diameter (one inch in old money) and all sorts of colours.  In just a few minutes we found the Scarlet Hood (red), Snowy (white), Meadow (peach), Butter (yellow) and Parrot (purple but starts off greenish-brown).  Apparently, this type of fungi is an indication of good, natural grassland so that bodes well for the future displays of daffodils and wild flowers.

Waxcap fungus

Waxcap fungus

You will also find the dung fungi, living on the sheep droppings and there is a different form that survives on what the rabbits leave behind, so you can tell which four-legged friend or foe has been there!

Moving into the Acer Glade there are more waxcaps – the Heath (greyish brown) and Honey (red) which smells of honey when crushed.  Under the beech trees you will find Lactarius fungi which expel milk and the tiny Mycena bonnet fungus of which there are 150 different types.

Into the Glades where the curiously named Lacceria amethystina Deceiver is violet when young and feels silky, whilst the “ordinary” Deceiver is cream.  You have to be extremely careful when it comes to selecting fungi for eating as it is often difficult to correctly identify the species.  The Amanita rubscens is blotchy brown and known as The Blusher – it can be eaten but there is an identical looking Panther Cap that is poisonous.  Another of the Amanita family is the easily recognised Fly Agaric – the red one with white spots that is often the one featured in fairy story illustrations – but don’t eat it.

Amethyst Deceiver Fungi amongst dead leaves at Calke Abbey, Derby, UK.

Amethyst Deceiver

The Beech Bank near the Bath gave us fungi with distinctive smells – Mycena galopus smells of coconut whilst the very pretty Russula (Beechwood Sickener) smells of unripe apples – it has a cherry colour cap and is very hot to the taste.  Another of the Russulas is Cyanoxantha also known as the Charcoal Burner – violet with green spots and has a mild, nutty taste.

Under the beech trees we found the tiny Spindle fungus – fully grown and only about 15mm long, 1mm diameter and bright orange in colour. Look closely and you’ll find quite a lot of it. Although the smallest we found it is one with the longest name – Clavulinopsis aurantiocinnabarina (who dreams up these names?)

Fungi are not confined to the ground, on some dead holly leaves near the Wisteria steps by the Lily Pond there is Holly Speckle, where we also found the rare Scurfy Twiglet (Tubaria furfuracea) which has a cap patterned like a dartboard.  Nearby was a Scaly Earthball (Sclerodema verrucosum), a puff ball which spreads its’ spores in a cloud when pressed.

Parasol mushroom at Porth y Swnt, Wales

Parasol mushroom

Parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera) have snakeskin stems and smell of warm milk and can be found near the gate leading to Cae Poeth.  The gate leads to the compost area where the log pile produced a wealth of fungi – a large specimen of the Turkey Tail Bracket (Trametes versicolor) which is said to cure prostrate and breast cancer, various other bracket fungi on the old rotting logs and the Coral Spot Fungus (Nectina cinnabarina) which “decorates” dying branches by the bead like appearance.  There was also the Clepiota sepria which has a whiff of rubber.  There was even a fungus (Parasitic Bolete – Pseudoboletus parasiticus) that grows on another, the decaying Earthballs.

Fungi are essential for plant growth, feeding on rotting material and passing back essential nutrients to feed the many trees and plants we have in Bodnant.  However, there are some, notably the Honey Fungus, that need to be kept in check.

The UK has 14,000 different fungi, the world is believed to have as many as 1.6 million … in a couple of tours Fungal Punk Dave found nearly 70 different varieties. It certainly opened my eyes to just how much I have missed when wandering around…how many can you find?

Cep fungus

Thank you Dave Higginson-Tranter (Fungal Punk Dave) for leading our fungal forage at Bodnant Garden this October during #Treefest. Check out his website www.fungalpunknature.co.uk and go to the Natural Zone pages for information on fungi and many other subjects.

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

New life begins for Bodnant Garden’s iconic Pin Mill borders

It’s not easy to improve on a masterpiece but unlike paintings even our finest gardens, as living works of art, need re-imagining from time to time. Here our head gardener John Rippin explains his design to refresh the Canal Terrace borders which flank Bodnant’s iconic Pin Mill:


Canal Terrace borders before renovation. Image by Joe Wainwright

Since its conception in Georgian times Bodnant Garden has been the centrepiece of a much larger 2,000 acre estate.  Boasting a wonderful backdrop of mountain scenery and walks incorporating beautiful lakes, meadows and woodlands, the estate, like the garden itself, was shaped to be the perfect weekend escape for busy lives engaged in politics, industry and fast paced city life.

Gardeners have always gained inspiration from the way plants grow in the wild and natural styles of planting are currently very popular with garden and landscape designers. Many of their creations have a restful quality as well as being incredibly beautiful.


In 2015 and 2016, after removing old plants, we planted a display of annuals in the Canal Terrace borders, while a new design was being considered

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Inspired by walking Bodnant’s estate paths, I am attempting to bring echoes of these uplifting experiences into the heart of the garden. You may have heard of ‘Prairie style’ planting, exemplified by famous garden designers such as Piet Oudolf. I have tried to create a similar natural effect but by taking elements of the Welsh hedgerows of Bodnant Estate.

Canal terrace

Hazels and elderberry will form the backbone of the border, grasses will add movement and a sense of natural harmony whilst flowering perennials will provide foliage, colour and contrasting shapes and textures. The thistles, rosebay willow herb, cow parsley, bluebells, foxgloves and wild garlic of the Welsh hedgerows have been substituted for well-behaved cultivated plants chosen to capture the essence of these native plants.

Canal Terrace3

Canal terrace2

Using the Canal Terraces traditional range of pastel shades I have planned for a graded colour scheme along the length of the borders; dark purple and magenta flowers in the centre, moving through pink to blue and then white in the four corners, to match the Pin Mill.

Leading up to this new planting scheme the garden team have been patiently preparing the ground, removing persistent weeds and improving the soil. In the spring the long yew hedge was also carefully cut back hard to help re-establish the original crisp outline and height.


During September and October look out for a new section of York stone paving being laid and the phased planting of the new scheme, starting with wall plants, followed by the shrubs, herbaceous perennials, grasses and finally the bulbs.

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John tending the first of the new plants, this week

Planning ahead, the best time to see the border will be May for the spring bulbs and then August/ September for the late summer flowers and grasses. I think the border will take a year or two to completely fill out by which time it should look spectacular!

I really hope you enjoy watching these new borders develop and if they turn out as planned I will look forward to seeing some of you taking photos of the flowers and the beautiful setting as it changes throughout the seasons.

And from spring 2018 you’ll be able to enjoy the new floral display from new heights, when we open the upper floor of the Pin Mill to visitors for the first time in the garden’s history, following conservation and renovation work.  

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