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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Work to repair nearby lawn and beds 

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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.

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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.

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