There have been changes in the Shrub Borders in recent years and there are more to come. Meet the team who love and care for this serenely beautiful area – by gardener Fran Llewellyn.
It’s been an old joke here at Bodnant Garden that the Shrub Borders is…well…the bit you go through to get from the Terraces to the Dell! Not because the area has been unloved or uncared for, but it’s fair to say it’s been a little overshadowed by its flashy neighbours in the past.
Literature has traditionally focused on The Terraces, with their Italianate finery, and the grandeur of The Dell, with its towering conifers and waterfall – but through a recent programme of steady renovation the unique, informal and understated charm of the Shrub Borders is being rediscovered. We know this from the delighted comments of returning visitors who pass our way in great numbers.
At Bodnant we are lucky to have three areas with their own distinct character; and if the Terraces offer sophistication and The Dell offers drama, in the Shrub Borders you’ll find tranquility.
The area is brimming with mature and unusual specimen trees and shrubs. In the last four or five years dying, diseased and damaged plants have been removed, some pruned back, some areas redesigned and new herbaceous areas added; views have been unmasked and existing beauty enhanced. Here you’ll find carpets of daffodils and meadow flowers in the grassy Glades, along with mass displays of spring cherry blossom and fiery autumn acers; meandering pathways of dappled shade lined with plants both native and exotic; and architectural surprises around corners such as the Deep Bath, Yew Garden and The Poem.
On the Shrub Borders we are proud of our area and of our team – who are supervisor Bill, gardeners Roger, Graeme, Paul, Katie (and myself), and the volunteers without whom the task of maintaining order would be mammoth. Our work involves a whole range of routine maintenance jobs such as pruning, mowing, weeding and mulching and other not-so-routine roles such as leading guided walks and hands-on gardening events.
To give you a flavour…in the past few weeks we have been doing leaf clearance on an industrial scale, constructing a formidable 250m rabbit fence along our boundary, running snowdrop planting sessions with visitors and next week we will be pulling on the waders and cleaning out the watercourse which runs from top to bottom of the garden. There’s never a dull moment!
One exciting project we have also begun over the winter is the renovation of the Yew Dell at the southern edge of the garden; a lovely secluded, wooded area which will be opened to the public in 2014. Watch this space…
It can be hard work, and the Welsh weather isn’t always on your side, but that’s when the team camaraderie kicks in…that and the songs, and the bad jokes, and most importantly the cakes; savoured with a flask of tea in the Shrub Borders shed at break time as we all sit, wet and gently steaming in front of the gas heater, before setting off again with the motto ‘Push on for Bodnant’.
The hard work is all worth is when the sun streams through the trees again and you see visitors strolling contentedly through our borders – doing a double take at the electric blue Hydrangea ‘Renate Steiniger’ (the best blue in the garden), looking skywards for the handkerchiefs of the Davidia involucrata tree, or stopping in their tracks to take in the candyfloss scent of the Cercidiphyllum japonicum and beaming great fat smiles.
Come rain or shine…the Shrub Borders team
The native and the exotic in perfect harmony in the Shrub Borders: South American Embothrium, Asian Magnolia, British Daffodils… and that stunning Hydrangea