Whopper of a week at Bodnant Garden

GetAttachment

We’ve got that Friday Feeling, and some – celebrating our busiest ever week in more than 140 years of the garden’s history.

Numbers just out show that we welcomed a record 20,000-plus visitors through the gates in the first week of June – that’s more than half what was achieved in the whole of the same month last year.

General manager William Greenwood said: “Crowds have flocked to see the famous Laburnum Arch in spectacular June sunshine. Families have enjoyed a packed programme of half term events and dog owners have made the most of late night openings to walk in the garden.

“It’s been phenomenal and there’s been a real holiday atmosphere here. It’s an extraordinary achievement and shows how much and how fast the garden is developing, with things to be see and do every day of the year.”

June brings a crescendo of late spring colour at Bodnant Garden, from exotic rhododendrons to native bluebells and a riot of blossom, all crowned by the show-stopping Laburnum Arch, a 55-metre long pergola walkway of golden flowers.

Last week’s numbers averaged 363 visitors every hour, rising to more than 700 visitors per hour at peak times. The garden also received more than 7,000 visitors over the weekend – another record – and enjoyed its best-ever late night opening, with more than 500 evening visitors – many of those bringing their dogs for Wag Wednesday walkies.

William said: “This year we’ve pulled out all the stops to make the June experience a memorable one for everyone, opening the garden gates early, and late, and offering breakfasts in the tearoom for early birds.

“We’ve also recruited a team of special volunteers, Laburnum Archers, to help visitors coming here for the flowering spectacle, which normally attracts around 50,000 people over three weeks in June …but the way things are going we could well break that record by the end of the month too!”

We recently unveiled plans to open a new area, which has attracted great public and media interest. Furnace Hill is 20 acres of woodland and meadow which is being renovated for opening to the public in spring 2017.

Further areas are being opened in the next few years which will bring the ropes down on most of the 80-acre garden; the Far End was opened to the public in 2015, Yew Dell in 2014, Old Park meadow in 2013 and Winter Garden in 2012.

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.

A floral gift to future generations

As our world-famous Laburnum Arch bursts into June flower we’re unveiling an exciting conservation project to safeguard some rare and special plants at Bodnant Garden, and to create a floral spectacle for future generations.

Penjerrick Walk004 - Copy

Artist impression of the new Penjerick Walk, by Clive McWilliam

Our garden team is restoring the Penjerrick Walk, a historic avenue of rhododendrons, back to its former glory. The hope is that in years to come it will be a floral showstopper to match the Victorian arch, which attracts around 50,000 visitors every June.

The Penjerrick Walk forms part of Furnace Hill, which lies on the west of the garden overlooking the River Hiraethlyn, Bodnant Hall and the spectacular Italianate terraces. The area includes woodland and a wildflower-rich meadow which will open to the public for the first time next spring, creating an extra 20 acres for visitors to explore.

3105BODNANT-67-Pano - Copy

Furnace Hill and the newly planted Penjerrick Walk

Furnace Hill was first developed by Henry Pochin, who bought Bodnant Garden in 1874. His descendants, the McLaren family, shared his botanical passion and filled it with plants from around the world, planting American conifers and Asian rhododendrons and magnolias.

Pochin’s grandson Henry Duncan McLaren, 2nd Lord Aberconway, had a pivotal role in the story of rhododendrons in Britain. He sponsored plant hunting expeditions to Asia in the early 1900s which brought a great influx of new varieties into the country. He also bred 350 unique Bodnant hybrids at the garden from these species plants and worked with other UK plant breeders such as Penjerrick Garden in Cornwall.

IMG_1581

An existing Penjerrick rhododendron at Bodnant Garden

Henry planted the Penjerrick Walk in the 1920s and it would have been quite a sight when mature a couple of decades later – Rhododendron ‘Penjerrick’ has large scented white, cream or pink flowers and characteristic red-pink bark. However it is notoriously difficult to propagate and cannot be reproduced from cuttings. For this reason it has never been a common sight in UK gardens and as plants have died off they have not been replaced. The walkway at Furnace Hill eventually disappeared and was reclaimed by nature.

Former head gardener at Bodnant, Troy Smith was inspired to reinstate the Penjerrick Walk after discovering a speech by Henry McLaren in which he said: If I could switch the clock to any season of the year to enjoy a two minute walk at Bodnant, my choice would be the Penjerrick Walk in the first week of May

IMG_1826 - Copy

Troy Smith checking on the new plants

With help from the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group of the RHS, plant material from existing Penjerricks in Bodnant Garden was micro-propagated at a specialist laboratory in Duchy College, Cornwall. Under Troy’s successor John Rippin, the garden team has nursed on and replanted some of the young plants in a 120 metre avenue on Furnace Hill. Around 40 Penjerricks have been interplanted with purple flowering Rhododendron augustinii and pink Rhododendron ‘Reve d’Amour’.

IMG_2004 - Copy

Bodnant’s head gardener John Rippin

John said: “We go to great lengths to conserve and tend to the plants at Bodnant Garden to ensure the grounds look incredible all year round. Since 2012 the team here has opened new parts of the garden. We can’t wait to open Furnace Hill and will be eagerly waiting for the Penjerrick Walk to come into full bloom. The support from Duchy College and the RHS has been invaluable in making this happen.”

Justin Albert, director of National Trust Wales said: “Collected by intrepid plant hunters from as far back as 300 years ago, our precious plant life stands as testament to the vision and passion for plants shared by generations of owners and their gardeners.

“This fantastic project at Bodnant Garden is just one of conservation projects that our team of gardeners and volunteers are undertaking at our gardens across Wales to restore and preserve plants from across the world for visitors to enjoy.”

The first visitors get a sneak preview of Furnace Hill, with gardener Fiona Braithwaite - Copy

Gardener Fiona Braithwaite giving members of Abergwyngregyn Gardening Club a sneak preview of Furnace Hill

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.

Move over, Nigel the dog!

Did we mention…BBC Gardener’s World paid us a visit recently? Never mind Monty, Nigel and Nell, this episode of Britain’s favourite gardening show features not one, but two of our head gardeners.

IMG_1820 - Copy

Our very own former head gardener Troy Scott Smith returned to his old stomping ground recently to check up on the Laburnum Arch, meet our new band of volunteers the Laburnum Archers, and talk new man at the helm John Rippin about the renovation of the Far End and future garden projects.

The programme is due to be aired on Friday, June 3 – perfect timing for our Laburnum Arch, which is a little late this year due to topsy-turvey weather, and all set to burst into full bloom at the weekend. If you can’t wait until Friday, here’s a taster:

 

IMG_1905 - Copy OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above, Troy meeting two Laburnum Archers – student Gethin and former wing commander Jeff – and below, with volunteer David

IMGP1761 - Copy

IMG_1838

Above, Troy and current head gardener John Rippin, and below, the camera crew with gardeners and volunteers at the Far End

IMG_1844 - Copy

IMG_1826 - Copy

Troy checking on the progress of the newly planted Penjerrick Walk at Furnace Hill, which will be opened next spring

IMG_1883 - Copy

A pow-wow at the gloriette on the Heather Hill, another new area to be opened to the public in the future

IMG_5975 - Copy

Our Laburnum Archers, ready for action over the next few weeks of Bodnant Garden’s famous flowering sensation

Pentax Digital Camera

So book your place on the sofa and check in at BBC Gardener’s World this Friday, June 3, at 8.30pm. And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting over the next three weeks to see the Laburnum Arch, there’s a lovely new bunch of volunteers just waiting for greet you – you can’t miss them!

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.

In the holiday mood at Bodnant Garden

GetAttachment

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend, the beginning of half term, the Laburnum Arch is ready to burst into flower at Bodnant Garden and all is well with the world.

As spring moves into early summer the garden is a kaleidoscope of colour. The rhododendrons for which we are world famous are at their dazzling peak, trees and shrubs are loaded with leaf and blossom, herbaceous beds filling out with iris, lilies, Himalayan primulas and poppies, and the roses are beginning to swell, giving a hint of what’s to follow.

Our wildlife is full of the joys of early summer too. The garden is alive with bees, butterflies and birsdsong right now and you can almost hear the patter (and splash) of tiny feet – we have a new family of goslings on the lake at the Far End and froglets hatching out alongside the ponds.

It’s a lovely time to visit the garden and we have a host of activities this half term week for youngsters (plus plenty to keep the grown-ups happy too):

Julie Pigula

Alliums on the Range, by visitor Julie Pigula

May 28-June 5 Fairies, Feet and Flying: Build a little house in our fairy village and try a barefoot walk in the Old Park. No extra charge, all self led activities, from 10-4pm.

May 31 Pond dipping: 12-3pm (free, no booking)

May 31 Poem open day: Take a look inside the beautiful mausoleum in The Glades (no extra charge)

June 1 Minibeast Adventure: Hunt for bugs, with sessions at 11am, 12 and 2pm (free, no booking)

June 5 Music in the Pin Mill: Coastal Voices Choir, 2-4pm

Early doors: The garden is open from 9am in May and June for the Laburnum Arch and spring floral display, and until 8pm on Wednesday evenings. During this time the Pavilion tearoom will also be offering breakfasts, from 9am, for early visitors.

Woof Wednesdays: Dogs welcome every Wednesday evening 5-8pm, from May to the end of August.

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.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Magnolia x loebneri 'Merrill' - Copy

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

Bodnant Garden April 16-228

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.

Bodnant Garden April 16-226 - Copy

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.

12764523_1084441044936770_4488645809975371275_o (1)

Tearoom assistant Bronwen and volunteers Phylis and Dave potting table decorations

Bodnant Garden April 16-233

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.

Old pavilion

The Pavilion tearoom, then and now

dr_cafe672a6a1a0bca2b8551f2fa115b1a[1]

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.

Solar

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

Bodnant Garden Deep Bath-1 - Copy - Copy

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Work to repair nearby lawn and beds 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.