Curtain up on Bodnant’s colourful Festival of Fabric

The curtain is up on our festival of fabric at Bodnant Garden. Members of North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild have adorned sites around the garden with artwork reflecting our trees, plants and flowers in an exhibition called Landscapes and Gardens.

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Bodnant Garden volunteers Megan, Linda and Pam with some of the artwork outside the Old Mill

It’s part of a national Embroiderers’ Guild celebration marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of the great landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. As a leader of the English Landscape movement during the 18th century, Brown transformed stately home estates and parks throughout the land with his naturalistic style, which brought the countryside into the garden.

Embroiderers have performed their own engaging, beautiful and subtle transformation around Bodnant Garden this summer. Silken birds, butterflies and bees glint in the sunshine among the plants and fabric hangings sway from the branches of trees. These unexpected works of art are delighting visitors; many stop and do a double take and then as recognition dawns (oh look there, a dragonfly!), eyes light and admiration follows.

We’re delighted to welcome the guild to the garden, whose talented members have clearly put a huge amount of work, time and love into this exhibition. Running from August 20 to September 8, it’s a first for Bodnant Garden too. Here’s a taste…

Tapestries hanging in the old Sweet Chestnut tree

Tree dressing

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Marilyn Smith from the guild says: “There are a good mixture of techniques used in the exhibits from felting, hand and machine embroidery, weaving and the use of recycled materials, a good combination of traditional and modern with lots of variety.  There are approximately 20 members contributing work, some have been working on their own creations and others have been working in small teams.

“We are all very excited to be given the opportunity to become part of Bodnant for this period. It comes of course with its challenges being outdoors, so fingers crossed that the weather will be kind!”

You can find out more from the North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild – a thriving group of more than 100 members who aim to build awareness of stitch and textile art. Check out their colourful Facebook page for more information at www.facebook.com/northwalesembroiderersguild

 

Bodnant Garden in glorious technicolor textiles

Nature stirs our senses, our imaginations and inspires us to create in so many different artforms. This month we’re welcoming North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild to the garden who are celebrating our trees, plants and flowers through the tactile medium of textiles.

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Water lilies at Bodnant Garden by Beryl Trimby

During the festival of Trees and Textile, Fabric and Flowers (from August 20 to September 8) places around the garden will adorned by members’ work inspired by Bodnant Garden’s history and flora.

Charlie Stretton, Bodnant Garden events and engagement officer, says: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming the guild, whose talented members are modern, innovative and creative. It’s a pleasure to be able to showcase their work, which we hope will inspire visitors too.”

Guild members have been busy working on their exhibits since early this year. They will be displaying fabric works large and small around the Far End lakeside, at the Pin Mill on the terraces and the Old Mill in the Dell.

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Guild members Carol and Sian keeping their felting piece under wraps and (below) Ronny placing marino wool ready for felting.  They are working on pieces for a tree near the garden entrance. 

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Our beautiful Far End has really captured people’s imaginations since it opened in spring 2015. Its tranquil lake, with a richness of plants and wildlife, has also inspired guild members who are working together on a number of large fabric designs to be displayed there. One will transform the island at the Skating Pond, another will be sited in the cluster of alder trees at the edge of the lake and another at the Boat House; they will create bright, eye-catching works reflecting the flora and fauna to be found there in the garden.

 Wildlife which will be displayed on the island at the Far End, and laburnum which will hang in alder trees nearby

There will also be individual pieces, such as one created by Vicky Williams. She is hard at work producing a fabric hanging for the Pin Mill (seen below), inspired by a photograph she took in the garden last June showing foxgloves growing on the Lower Rose Terrace.

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It’s hoped that the works will encourage visitors young and old to view parts of the garden with a new eye, but as well as following the trail of textile art around the garden people will also be able to get hands-on, and try lace and felt making in the Old Mill on August 25 (11am to 3pm.)

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Marilyn Smith from the guild says: “There will be a good mixture of techniques used in the exhibits from felting, hand and machine embroidery, weaving and the use of recycled materials, a good combination of traditional and modern with lots of variety.  There are approximately 20 members contributing work, some have been working on their own creations and others have been working in small teams.

“We are all very excited to be given the opportunity to become part of Bodnant for this period. It comes of course with its challenges being outdoors, so fingers crossed that the weather will be kind!”

You can find out more from the North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild – a thriving group of more than 100 members who aim to build awareness of stitch and textile art. Check out their colourful Facebook page for more information at www.facebook.com/northwalesembroiderersguild

Wysteria  by Linda Beagan to go in the alders at the Far End

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.

Whopper of a week at Bodnant Garden

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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’.

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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.”

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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.

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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:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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):

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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.

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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.