Jewels of July at Bodnant Garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASummer at Bodnant Garden means roses, water lilies and formal beds and borders …and now, for the first time, wildflowers. We’ve created a mini-meadow next to the Pin Mill and it’s been a real success, with visitors and with butterflies, bees and dragonflies. The long border is being renovated and the idea was to sow a wildflower mix to create a summer display while we plan a new design. By popular request, we may be doing it again at other places around the garden in future.

Elsewhere, the garden is looking splendid is all its summer glory, from the rose-tinted formality of the Terraces to the drama of The Dell with it’s swathes of blue hydrangeas and the lakeside tranquiltiy of the Far End. Here’s a little tour in pictures:

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Hot colours in The Range border

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Calceolaria integrifolia (left) alliums and campanula on the Top Lawn

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Dierama pulcherrimum (Angel’s Fishing Rod) on the Terraces

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Water lilies and roses, roses, roses…

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Also causing a stir on the rose terraces, Lilium regale

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Shrubs and perennials mingle in the shade of the Shrub Borders

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Lilium martagon and Hemerocalis lilioasphodelus  

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Sprawling Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (left) and Desmodium elegans

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Lovely all in white, the Poem beds

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Blue hydrangeas and Cardiocrum giganteum in The Dell

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Astilbe and campanula light up the shade

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You’ll even find a late flowering Rhododendron ‘Argosy’

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Lush lakeside in the Far End...you may spot an otter

Back to the upper the garden, and the subject of meadows…as well as out little ‘experiment’ at the Pin Mill we’re developing three wildflower meadows. The Old Park is already open to the public and we’re hoping to open Cae Poeth and Furnace meadows in the next few years. When last surveyed we identified 26 species of wildflowers in The Old Park. Come along and have a look for yourself; sit and enjoy the birds, butterflies and bees, even have a picnic. After your grand your of the garden, what nicer way to relax on a summer’s day?

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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.

 

 

There’s blooming good fun to be had at Bodnant Garden this summer

The roses are out…summer has officially arrived at Bodnant Garden and it’s time to get the family out and enjoying the great outdoors.

Family visitors looking at the waterlilies on the Canal Terrace in August at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales

The garden has six weeks of special summer activities and events to delight visitors of all ages. Charlie Stretton, our events officer, says: “There’s something for everyone; adults can enjoy the beauty of the garden to the sound of harp music, while the kids can get their hands dirty building dens, pond dipping  and even being gardeners for a day. It’s the perfect place for everyone to get outdoors and a little closer to nature.”

Our summer kicks-off with a fortnight of Kids’ Crafts, from July 20. There will be activities Monday to Friday at the Old Mill in The Dell (11-1pm), a chance to get creative making Cone Creatures, Dancing Dragonflies and Lovely Leaf Crowns.

In August our Grow Wild events take over, with a programme of nature activities for youngsters: Pond Dipping at the Skating Pond on Tuesdays (12-3pm), Nature Walks on Wednesdays (11-12noon), Wild Art on Thursdays under the Laburnum Arch (12-3pm), Wildlife Detectives on Fridays (2-3.30pm), Den Building on Saturday in the Far End (11-3pm) and Gardener’s Apprentice on Sundays (2-3pm).

There’s also Music in the Pin Mill most Sundays through the summer (2-4pm), plus a series of Guided Walks (2-3pm) including Champion Trees on July 29, Students’ Walk on August 12 and History of Bodnant Garden on August 26.

There are Falconry Displays on July 22 and August 19 (10.30-4pm) and Poem Open Days on July 28 and August 25, offering a chance to explore inside the mausoleum dedicated to Bodnant Garden’s founder family.

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Play Nature Detectives during our Grow Wild month

Summer ends on a high note with our Big Tree Climb on August 30 and 31 (10-3pm) when visitors of all ages can join experts to scale some of our giants. There’s no extra charge for any of these events but booking is essential for a place on the tree climbing and guided walks, by calling 01492 650460.

Don’t forget dogs are welcome every Wednesday evening all through the summer, from 5-8pm, until the end of August.

After all that activity if you have time to stop and eat there’s indoor dining at the garden’s two tearooms and al fresco snacks at kiosks at The Old Mill and the newly opened Far End. Visitors can also picnic among the meadow grass in the Old Park and Chapel Park, under trees in the Yew Dell and in The Dell.

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Arts and crafts under the Laburnum Arch

Charlie says: “And let’s not forget the garden! There are spectacular displays on our two rose terraces, flowering beds and borders are at their peak, wildflower meadows are buzzing with butterflies and bees, and the riverside gardens are cool and lush. There’s so much to do and see you could spend all summer here!”

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.

Bodnant helps volunteers create veterans’ sensory garden

Bodnant gardener David Green has been helping volunteers and staff of the Blind Veterans Association create a sensory garden at their Llandudno centre, and was guest at the recent opening:

David and Bodnant’s head gardener John at the opening

The Blind Veterans Llandudno Centre has been developing a sensory garden in a previously overgrown, wooded area of their grounds.

The charity provides support to both ex-Service men and women blinded in action, and for veterans who have lost their sight through accident, illness or old age to discover life beyond sight loss. This support includes helping them to relearn vital life skills and providing them with the tools they need to be independent in their own homes as well as offering new learning, training and recreation opportunities and providing long-term nursing, residential and respite care.

 The new garden provides a safe and stimulating outdoor environment for visitors to the centre, but also provides a venue for other educational activities. A rope handrail is available to guide visitors around the garden which is planted with difference textures and colours for the partially sighted as well as numerous scented plants. Listening guides have also been provided so that visitors can learn to identify the birdsong in the garden.

It was designed by a garden designer from London but most of the physical activity in clearing and replanting the area has been done by volunteer groups co-ordinated by staff at the centre.

Originally I was asked to advise on creating a vegetable garden from the pallets left over from their plant delivery. In the future, I will also be providing a maintenance plan with advice on things like pruning cornus to get the maximum winter colour and keeping some more thuggish plants such as periwinkle in their place.

 

A wildlife hotel made from palettes and a bench carved from a tree

The opening of the garden is in celebration of the charity’s 100 years of service. It was also an opportunity to thank all the volunteers involved in the creation of the garden as well as recognising the vital input they made by volunteers at the centre during National Volunteer’s Week.

For more information contact the centre at Blind Veterans UK, Queens Road, Llandudno, LL30 1UT (call 01492 868700) or go to the website www.blindveterans.org.uk

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.

Memories are made of this

The Laburnum Arch may be fading for another year, but what a show it’s been…and what memories it’s made. Visitors numbers to Bodnant Garden soared during the annual spectacle, from around 8,000 a week in mid May BL (Before Laburnum) to almost 14,000 one week later, where figures hovered for four weeks of the flowering phenomenon. The display made the BBC Wales news, The Times newspaper and whipped up a storm on social media.

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What is it that generates such a frenzy of interest? As a wonder of nature (or horticulture) this pergola walkway of drooping golden flowers is dazzlingly beautiful and on a scale not many of us get to see very often. At a jaw-dropping 180 feet our arch is believed to be the longest in the UK and is certainly the oldest, at 130 years plus. It’s both a testament to the man who envisaged it but never saw it in its full glory – the garden’s founder Henry Pochin – and to the gardeners who have painstakingly cared for it in the years since.

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Derek Brockway gives us a shout out on BBC Wales News weather

But the emotions the Laburnum Arch conjures are something else. From the visitor numbers, the comment cards and just the look on people’s faces as you watch them wandering through, it clearly means a lot of things to a lot of people. There are those just delighted by the all-enveloping sensory experience – the sight, the scent, the hum of bees feasting on the flowers – there are others for whom it’s creating memories, as they enjoy the delight on their children’s faces, and others for who it brings back memories, of visiting as children themselves, or with loved ones now gone.

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Comments ranged from the ‘amazing’, ‘stunning’ and ‘magical’ to one visitor who described it as a ‘tunnel of yellowy loveliness’ and another who made the post-general election quip, ‘reminds me of the Lib Dems hanging out to dry’ (views expressed do not reflect our own)! Several visitors, moved by thoughts of previous visits with family and friends, suggested the idea of a memory tree or garden feature for people to somehow mark their reminiscences.

The surge in smart phones has brought a deluge of photos and feedback from people all wanting to share their experience (including, for all those of a certain age,  H from Steps)… 2015 has officially been the year of the Laburnum Selfie! As pictures speak a thousand words, here are just a few which sum up the Laburnum effect perfectly. Thanks everyone for sharing your Laburnum Arch with us – here’s to next year:

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Ruth and Alan

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LIndsay williams Laura Fairbairn

Chris and Ria

Sarah Breeze-Roberts Mandy Farrall

Charlotte Mattin Clare Miller

Kirstie Pool

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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 fascinating world of grass…really!

Do you know your smooth from your rough meadow grass? Bodnant gardener Katie and others took part in a training day recently to learn just that… 

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Can you tell what it is yet? Barbara and Katie

Last week I had a great day out with gardeners Bill, Laura, Alex and volunteer gardener Barbara at a meadows training day at Plas Newydd, our National Trust neighbours. The training was organised by the Coronation Meadows scheme, which aims to promote, protect and increase species-rich grassland throughout the UK.

As you may know, 98% of species-rich meadows have been destroyed since 1945, mostly through intensive agricultural management for dairy and beef cattle grazing, or development. This has had a devastating effect on wildlife that is dependent on this habitat, including butterflies, moths, beetles and birds.

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The species rich meadow at Plas Newydd

Plas Newydd has an amazing example of a species-rich meadow, which includes evocative sounding species such as the Greater Butterfly Orchid, Eye-bright, Lesser Stichwort, Yellow Rattle and Shamrock. It is a designated Coronation Meadow and is also a donor site for creating new meadows.

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Our day at Plas Newydd was a training session on grass identification for meadow monitoring. Don’t yawn now – it was brilliant! Well, OK, I do realise that spending a long time crouched in a field, comparing the size and hairiness of ligules through a hand lens, in order to tell the difference between smooth meadow grass and rough meadow grass might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, a really important part of managing meadows is that you monitor what species are in it, year on year, that way you can tell if your management regime is having the desired effect, and identify any problems. And, of course, to be able to record your species, you do have to be able to tell the difference between the grasses!

So a group of us from Bodnant Garden came along to the training so that we could improve our monitoring skills, as well as support our colleagues at Plas Newydd.

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Learning the survey method…

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We spent a few hours in the morning looking at key identification characteristics in the classroom, and learning about the importance of grasses on a global scale. The rest of the day was spent in the field (literally) looking at common and important species before having a go at the surveying method that the Coronation Meadows scheme use.

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…and putting it into action in the field

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This was great fun, laying out ‘quadrats,’ scrabbling through to find all the species in there, and how often they appear, in order to capture a series of samples of the vegetation. It was a great experience and I am now much more confident in identifying grasses. You might not think it at first but the world of grasses is fascinating, and pretty addictive! Earlier this week I found myself crouched in the Old Park back at Bodnant Garden, getting very excited that I’d found a clump of Crested Dog’s Tail! Might be time for a holiday…

If you’d like to help with the management of the meadow at Plas Newydd, they are looking for volunteers to help with monitoring. Contact Helen Buckingham, wildlife and countryside advisor, at helen.buckingham@nationaltrust.org.uk

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The Old Park meadow at Bodnant Garden, one of three which we are managing for wildlife

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.

Getting closer to nature

kidsOur half term activities for children have been a massive success. Bodnant Garden’s new events and engagement officer Charlie Stretton has been run off her feet – in a good way – organising a packed week of activities and it certainly paid off, judging from the comments from families.

It’s part of our commitment to the National Trust’s project ‘50 Things to do before you’re 11¾‘, which is aimed at encouraging kids to get mucky, discover their wild side and get closer to nature.

We’ve had pond dipping, pooh sticks and den making at The Far End, fairy house building in the Yew Dell, barefoot walking in the Old Park meadow, mud pie making in the Shrub Borders as well as seed sowing and wild art sessions. Here’s a snapshot of the week as sent in by our visitors – thanks to everyone who took part, gave us their feedback and sent in some great pictures:

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Barefoot Walking in The Old Park and den building at The Far End

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Building fairy houses in the Yew Dell and tip-toeing through bluebells

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Events officer Charlie with one of our mud pie makers

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Jumping for joy…and just chilling in the old Chestnut tree

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And just sharing quality time with the family

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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.

Laburnum fever hits Bodnant Garden

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Says it all! A picture by visitor Jules Girling

All across the UK Laburnum trees are coming into blossom, unfurling their long drooping bunches of yellow flowers. In warmer, southern climes some have been in bloom for a while – but here in our little corner of North Wales this annual happening is being watched and waited for by thousands upon thousands of people.

photo comp Zsolt D KovatsBodnant Garden’s Laburnum Arch is the most visited, photographed, talked about spectacle in our garden – eagerly anticipated for weeks and visited by up to 50,000 people in the month when it is in flower, during late May/early June. It’s a spectacular sight – both the arch and the visitors – and something that its creator could probably never have imagined.

The garden’s founder, Henry Pochin, bought Bodnant estate in 1874 and employed Edward Milner, apprentice to Joseph Paxton, to redesign the land around the house which was then largely lawns surrounded by farmland. They dramatically landscaped the garden to the west of the house, making the most of the terrain and views sweeping down the valley side. In the top section of the garden Henry’s lasting legacy was the Laburnum Arch, built around 1881.

Henry died in 1895 and while he probably saw the young Laburnum plants flower he would not have witnessed their full splendour…as he never saw the conifers he planted reach their towering stature.

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Henry Davis Pochin

Pochin was a largely self made man. Hailing from a Leicestershire farming family, he trained as an industrial chemist and made his name and fortune inventing a process to clarify soap, turning it from brown colour to white. He went on to be a successful businessman, mayor and JP and when he ‘retired’ to North Wales in his 50s he became a successful farmer and horticulturalist too.

Like many wealthy landowners of the day he invested much into making his estate a showpiece – raising prize winning cattle and crops, as well as flowers, fruit and vegetables, filling the garden with plants newly discovered from foreign lands, and leading the latest horticultural trends. One such garden ‘must have’ was the pergola walkway, a feature which was fashionable in the 16th and 17th centuries and became popular again in Victorian times. However our Mr Pochin, being Mr Pochin, created the longest archway in Britain.

943403_517912141589666_730808800_nSo what we have today is an arch 180 (55m) feet long, made up of 48 plants which have been replaced over the years but have provided a continual display of golden flowers in late spring since 1882. Called Golden Rain, Laburnum produces a dazzling flush of bright yellow pea-shaped flowers up to 50cm long in hanging racemes, followed by seedpods. In late May and early June the arch is literally buried under long, golden yellow pendulous bunches of flowers.

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The original arch with yew hedges

The arch was originally made of Laburnum anagyroides plants, later replaced with hybrid cultivar Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’ – a cross between L.anagyroides and L. alpinum which was found occurring naturally in the Tyrol in 1856. A decade later the hybrid Vossii became available through Waterer’s Nursery in Surrey, a hybrid which is less toxic, not producing much seed.

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The arch today

The structure was originally wooden but this was subject to rot and replaced in 2007 after major refurbishment. The metal framework is more pliable and the plants are able to wrap themselves around without bruising or damage to stems. There used to be yew hedges alongside the arch but these were in poor condition and removed in the 1950s, replaced by azaleas, creating a wider tunnel with a colourful flowering backdrop.

Today, it takes two gardeners up to a month to prune the arch in January at the coldest time of the year – painstakingly untying, cutting back and tying back in each strand to the framework – and it takes a further two weeks of work deadheading the flowers in July.

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For many years the work was done by gardener Tony Mitchell (seen above), who retired two years ago. Gardener Laura is now carrying on the baton and training other gardeners in the delicate art.

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Tony pruning the arch in winter

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Laura deadheading the flowers in summer

We know that people plan their visits to Bodnant Garden around the Laburnum Arch, some even plan their annual holidays. Our latest Laburnum Watch post on the garden’s Facebook page reached 30,000 people and received 1,000 ‘Likes’. It really is a phenomenon and once seen is never forgotten. So if you’re visiting Bodnant Garden over the next few weeks enjoy the spectacle, and send us your photos…and if you’re not, sit back and enjoy the pictures.

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.