Polishing perfection

How do you improve on perfection? Bodnant Garden’s famous Italianate terraces, with their breathtaking mountain views, are pretty close to that…but even perfection needs a polish now and then.

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Gardener David Green collecting coins from one of our ponds

This spring we’re launching a fundraising appeal to replace the fountain on our Croquet Terrace.  To kick-off the appeal we’re collecting all the pennies thrown into Bodnant Garden’s many ‘wishing’ pools and ponds by visitors. Raffle money collected at the garden this year will also go to the cause. It’s one of a number of things going on around our beautiful, century-old terraces to maintain this very special part of the garden in all its full glory.

Lower Rose Terrace circa 1920s

The terraces were designed at the turn of the 1900s by Laura McLaren and her son Henry (who gifted the garden to the National Trust in 1949.) Five levels were carved out of the grassy hillside which sloped westward down from Bodnant Hall to the valley of the River Hiraethlyn. It was massive earth-moving project done by men without modern machinery, which begun in 1905 and was completed just before the outbreak of WWI.

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The Croquet Terrace today and, below, under construction in the Edwardian period

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It was a celebration of a new Edwardian style – made famous in the partnership of Arts and Crafts architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, with her cottage garden planting. Bodnant Garden’s terraces combined formal Italian influences with carefully designed steps, stone paths, pergolas and garden rooms, and an exuberant planting of roses, herbaceous plants and flowering shrubs.

Henry later added classical adornments such as the four stone sphinxes on the rose terraces, the fountain on the Croquet Terrace and the statue of Bacchus on the Top Rose Terrace…and most famously, the now iconic 18th century Pin Mill building on the Canal Terrace (seen below).

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In the 21st Century gales, frosts, floods and the passage of time have taken their natural toll on the garden – its plants, buildings and ornaments. There have been improvements to the terraces in recent years: The Top Rose Terrace and the Lower Rose Terrace were completely renovated in 2006 and 2012; in 2013 a White Garden was created on the Lower Rose Terrace (the companion Pink Garden is undergoing improvements); in 2014 beds of Bodnant Garden hybrid rhododendrons were planted on the Lily Terrace; and in 2015 a Himalayan Poppy Bed was created.

In 2013 the Pin Mill underwent extensive repair work to the exterior, which will be crowned this year by the redecoration of the upper floor parlour. This work has been partly funded by £1,138 in raffle money raised at the garden in 2015 and it means we can open the upper room to visitors for the first time.

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From the upper window you’ll see a fantastic view of the five terraces never seen before, and also get a bird’s eye view of the long herbaceous beds bordering the Canal Terrace, which are awaiting redesign. Last year, as an experiment, one of these beds was planted with annual wildflowers. It was so popular – with visitors and wildlife – that we’re repeating it on both sides of the Canal Pond in 2016.

The once-impressive baroque fountain on the Croquet Terrace, thought to date from around 1700 by Bouchardon, was brought to Bodnant Garden in 1940. It has an elaborate design of dolphin, fish, nymphs on a scalloped edged clam shell, surrounded by waves, but you’ll have to take our word for it! Over the years, as you can see in pictures below, the running water and weathering has worn away the sandstone carvings.

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We are looking at making a new one based on the old design. The first stage will be making a maquette, a 50-60cm scale model of the fountain in clay, from which a full scale version will be produced in stone. The total cost of the project is estimated to be around £50,000… but first things first; we need to raise an initial £2,000 to get the scale model done.

We hope you’ll enjoy the changes and improvements, and watching them in progress. Thanks for helping us – by contributing your raffle money, throwing your pennies in the pools, giving us your feedback, support and coming back again and again – ensuring that everyone continues to enjoy these beautiful gardens for years to come.

You can follow our #BodnantFountainAppeal here and on Facebook and Twitter. 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.

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