It’s been a year of change at Bodnant Garden. 2013 began with a real fanfare as we opened our new Winter Garden, which hit the headlines in print, on radio and on television news. Four years in the planning and two in the making, the Winter Garden attracted 10,000 visitors in its first three months and was so popular that instead of closing it in March we kept the ropes down all year. The other big news of January was the start of our Dogs Welcome days. Not to be outdone, one couple even brought their (purr-fectly behaved) cat along for a visit!
January: A first firing for the brazier in The Dell and gardener Tracy with her pooch Rossi, launching our Dogs Welcome days
February: Volunteers planting 10,000 snowdrops in the Old Park, a visit from Smudge the cat, a goodbye to student gardener Melissa who landed a job with Garden News and gardener Fiona welcoming visitors at the new refreshment kiosk in The Dell
In March the scaffolding came down from the Pin Mill, which re-opened after major renovations – just in time for the historic building to host drinks and nibbles for our first Walk and Wine event in April, which was the first time the garden had been open in the evenings.
March: The Pin Mill after refurbishment, a visit from the Welsh Secretary David Jones, seen with our visitor services manager Ann..and Rose and Elvina swap the office for quoits in a blizzard. Easter brought an unseasonal deluge of snow!
April: The new DG of the National Trust, Dame Helen Ghosh, drops in, and gardener David launches a ’20s themed Walk and Wine evening
The main event of May was the departure of head gardener Troy Smith who left after 7 creative years at Bodnant to take up the helm at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, another prestigious National Trust property. We also bade a fond farewell to catering manager Debbie and welcomed Pietro to the popular Pavilion tearoom. After a long, long spring plants were around a month late in blossoming, including the Laburnum Arch which kept everyone waiting until June…but when it came the flower show was amazing.
May: Troy saying farewell to staff and volunteers at his leaving do, one of the delighted visitors who bombarded our Facebook pages with pictures of the arch when it finally appeared, and a spectacular late spring merging into early summer.
However, from July onwards it was sun all the way, perfect for the opening of the new White Garden, designed by our student gardener David Green; also for a fabulous flush of roses on the renovated rose terraces and for the inaugural opening to the public of the Old Park, a wildflower meadow which has been a private area until this year. The sun also shone on our new family events programme, Grow Wild, which was a massive hit with younger visitors.
June: Gardeners kick back with a Teddy Bears’ Picnic while Dave gives a helping hand to thousands of froglets migrating the Canal pond
A glorious summer: Tai Chi on the lawn, acting head gardener Adam congratulates student gardener Mark on a successful year at Bodnant, family fun in the garden and roses, roses roses!
As autumn rolled in another major project started with £150,000 renovations to the Waterfall Bridge in The Dell. Sadly, September marked another goodbye with the retirement of gardener Tony who left after 27 years and whose deft fingers have been behind the care of our Laburnum Arch for more than a decade.
October: Not only did we say goodbye to gardener Tony, but to student gardeners Keith and Richard. However we did welcome three new students Harvey, Huw and Nathan…and marked arborist Paul’s 25 years at Bodnant Garden.
November: Volunteers helping artist Tim Pugh create a giant oakleaf in the Dell, and repairs to the Waterfall Bridge.
We enjoyed a brilliant show of autumn colour this year – albeit a little later than usual – but the big news of the season has been the garden staying open! It’s been the first year we’ve kept the gates open throughout the winter and to keep people toasty warm and inspired we’ve now got a brazier in The Dell, a kiosk serving hot snacks and a series of winter walks, talks and workshops. Our volunteers also got into the festive spirit in December by transforming part of the Old Mill into an Elves’ Workshop providing Christmas crafts for families.
December: Volunteer elves toast marshmallows in The Dell and Santa pays a surprise visit to gardener Mark
The year closed with very unfestive spate of stormy weather which has taken down several trees around the garden and caused flood damage in The Dell…but as we speak gardeners and volunteers are on the case clearing the debris and damage to keep the garden open to visitors. Nature can be harsh at times but the garden also has an incredible way of bouncing back (with a little graft from us mortals) and Bodnant has weathered many a storm in its history.
Sadly the storms which closed 2013 brought down a 200-year-old oak on the Tennis Lawn…but arborist Richard is on the case
We’re looking forward to 2014. There are more new developments to come, not least the grand opening in March of the Yew Dell, another formerly private area of the garden. We’re also about to launch a year-long photography competition to harness visitors’ artistic talent, the results of which will be made into a 2015 calendar.
From all at Bodnant Garden a massive Happy New Year everyone – thank you for your visits, your support, your comments and pictures and ideas – and we’ll see you in 2014!