Heavenly scent of spring at Bodnant Garden

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We’re basking in a spectacular spring at Bodnant Garden. It began with an early display of daffodils, encouraged by a mild winter, and thanks to a spell of bright, sunny days the season has just got better and better. Beds and borders are ablaze with bright tulips, wooded glades speckled with bluebells, and everywhere the blooms of rhododendrons, magnolias, viburnums and other flowering shrubs and trees hang overhead and decorate the ground underfoot.

The garden is a kaleidoscope of colours; but the scent is something else. An intoxicating atmosphere hangs in the air everywhere you wander, mingling as you pass from plant to plant; the soapy-white aroma of Rhododendron loderi ‘King Goerge’ transforms into the sweetness of wisteria before merging into lemon-fresh Rhododenrdron luteum.

We hope you enjoy some images of Bodnant Garden at blossom time. Close your eyes and imagine the scent…or better still, come and visit!

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In the upper garden: Clematis and wisteria cloaking terrace walls; bright and blousy peonies and tulips filling beds; a riot of rhododendrons in the North Garden; pockets of Himalayan poppies and primulas

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Even the Winter Garden looks beautifully spring-like!

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In The Glades: Asian rhododendrons, acers, magnolias and primulas; native bluebells; our star plants of high spring Embothrium coccineum (Chilean Firebush) and Davidia involucrata (Handkerchief Tree)

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Magnolia soulangeana, drifts of blue Omphalodes beneath trees, and Viburnum plicatum

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In the valley garden: Scented ivory Rhododendron ‘Penjerrick’ and yellow Rhododendron luteum; unfurling tree ferns on the newly opened Furnace Hill; the grand vista of towering conifers and seclusion of shady pathways

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The spring spectacle will soon be crowned by the flowering of the Laburnum Arch – which we expect to be a week earlier this year (around the 20th of May), lasting for three weeks. A sudden change in weather can always set this back, so keep a watch on our website and social media for updates.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Big opening for #BodnantGardenFurnace

Pictures paint a thousand words…so we hope you enjoy this little round-up of our big opening day for Furnace Wood and Meadow, in full, glorious colour: 

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ME =)Many of the images were taken by our volunteer Gethin here, who was duty photographer for the day, and by other staff and volunteers. They capture what a fantastic, frenetic and fun day it was from beginning to end…from the early round of media crews in the morning, the VIP speeches and the chainsaw opening ceremony, through to a sunny afternoon of trails, crafts and daffodil planting, closing with the mass devouring of a truly gigantic cake. I feel a caption competition coming on…

If you have images of the day to share we’d love to see them and include them in our photo gallery – send them to us marked #BodnantGardenFurnace.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Welcome to Furnace Wood and Meadow

At last, after a decade of work, we’ve taken down the ropes to reveal a restored jewel in the crown of Bodnant Garden – Furnace Wood and Meadow, a 20 acre woodland of native and exotic trees and a wildflower-rich meadow.

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We celebrated our big opening day with the help of special guests – Dame Helen Ghosh (Director General of the National Trust), Justin Albert (Director for National Trust in Wales), Michael McLaren (Bodnant Garden Director and member of the garden’s donor family) and the naturalist and broadcaster Iolo Williams…and most importantly with our visitors, who we welcomed to Furnace for the first time in the garden’s history.

After speeches from our guests, arborist Richard performed the ‘ribbon-cutting’ (cutting a log with a chainsaw) to open the garden for a sunny afternoon of celebrations – guided walks by gardeners, woodcraft demonstrations, plant hunter activities for children in the wood and daffodil planting in the meadow. Iolo rounded off the day for us by sharing out the 1m square cake to visitors – a baking triumph by our catering team for which we almost needed the chainsaw again (because of its size, not texture!)
Cutting the Log (During)

This beautiful and historic area has been at the heart of a 21st century battle against plant disease and decay. Its rescue is the biggest conservation effort in Bodnant’s history and brings us closer to our ambition of opening the entire garden to the public.

Head gardener John Rippin says: “The opening is a high point in the garden’s 140-year history. This segment of the garden is the last significant piece of the Bodnant jigsaw to be fitted into place – with 75 of the 80 acres now open, we are now tantalisingly close to the day when visitors can enjoy all of this gardening masterpiece.

Furnace Hill lies alongside the west bank of the River Hiraethlyn in the valley garden. It is named after a blast furnace known to have operated in the area in the 1700s. Originally a hillside dotted with native trees, it was transformed from the 1870s under Bodnant Garden’s owner Henry Pochin and his daughter Laura McLaren, who planted North American conifers. Laura’s son Henry added many Asian rhododendrons and magnolias from the early 1900s.

Lying on the fringes of the estate, Furnace remained a private area for many decades, beloved by the McLaren donor family who cherished its tranquillity and its panoramic views, and filled it with exotic trees and shrubs from foreign lands.

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As recently as February 2017 gardeners faced another struggle, when Storm Doris brought down several trees in the renovated area

In around 2007 the killer plant disease Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak death) was spotted in the garden where it began attacking ornamental plants, particularly in Furnace Wood. Gardeners acted quickly; there followed a campaign of action supervised by DEFRA, to mass clear the area of purple woodland Rhododendron ponticum and other species such as larch trees which carried the disease. While some plants were lost, the spaces left behind gave gardeners an opportunity to plant anew and kick-started a major renovation.

This has included the restoration of the Penjerrick Walk, an avenue of rare rhododendrons originally planted by Henry McLaren, 2nd Lord Aberconway, from the 1920s. The feature had died out but Bodnant Garden has been able to clone surviving plant material and replant the 100 metre-long walkway, which it is hoped will rival the famous Laburnum Arch in future.

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As well as containing a historic collection of magnolias, rhododendrons and other Asian plants, Furnace Wood offers visitors panoramic views over the rest of the garden, including a bird’s-eye vista of the Italianate terraces on the other side of the river.

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While the plants, views and seclusion of Furnace Wood will delight lovers of horticulture, nearby Furnace Meadow is rich in wildlife. The garden team are managing this grassland in a traditional way to promote the rich diversity of species there.

John Rippin adds: “Furnace Wood and Meadow offer extraordinary glimpses across the surrounding Welsh countryside but the biggest surprise for visitors will be breath-taking views of the Terraces and Bodnant Hall and out across the Vale of Conwy where the estuary meanders close by against the stunning backdrop of the Carneddau mountain range. Add to that the abundance of rare or beautiful trees, shrubs and wild flowers along with a sense of tranquility and peace and you have something truly spectacular.”
For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

Have pith helmet, will plant hunt

downloadWe’ve dusted off the pith helmets this half term for a trail and exhibition to celebrate a famous plant hunter close to Bodnant Garden’s heart… and maybe inspire a new generation of explorers.

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Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson was a botanist at the turn of the 20th century. A passionate plantsman, he graduated from Birmingham Botanical Gardens to travel inhospitable regions of China, bringing back to Britain the seeds of exotic trees, shrubs and flowers. In the early 1900s Lord Aberconway of Bodnant was a sponsor of the expeditions by Wilson and other plant hunters, which filled our garden with thousands of ‘new’ plants.

These plants – from magnificent UK Champion Trees to lilies, clematis and poppies – now form part of our historic, horticultural collection. Many have tales to tell; Wilson having encountered avalanche, war, disease and all manner of adversity to bring them to Bodnant Garden. And so, inspired by Wilson’s spirit of adventure, we’ve recreated an expedition of our own to inspire our younger visitors (but with the Health and Safety aspects covered.)

Ernest’s Tree Treasure Trail takes families around the garden tracking some of Wilson’s discoveries – which can be found in the living form of trees and shrubs, some more then a century old, grown from seeds brought back from his travels.

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A mature Handkerchief Tree at Bodnant Garden

One of the most famous is the Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata) which Wilson tracked down against the odds. This tree, with its delicate, paper-tissuey ivory flowers, had been first spotted by French botanist Armand David in 1869. His specimens were lost when his ship sank on the return journey. Tasked by Veitch Nursery in 1899 to find the tree, the 22-year-old Wilson set off armed with just a simple cross on a hand drawn map covering hundreds of square miles of the Yunnan region of China.

Find the spot he did – only to discover the tree had been felled. However he continued searching and found a grove of more, from which he collected a batch of the large, hard-shelled seeds. Back home at Veitch Nursery, gardeners sowed the seeds, but a couple of years later threw them onto a compost heap when they failed to germinate. The following year the precious seedlings popped up through the compost – and some were despached to Bodnant Garden where they have thrived.

Our tree trail takes in these and other Wilson finds, leading to the Old Mill in The Dell which has been transformed by events officer Charlie Stretton and our volunteers into an expedition base camp. Here children can see what life was like for intrepid explorers like Wilson, warm up in front of the ‘camp fire’ and collect their own Davidia seeds to take home and grow.

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The exhibition will remain in the Old Mill after half term, including pictures and stories from Wilson’s life and work. Come along and find out more about his incredible legacy which can be seen at Bodnant Garden throughout the year.

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Bodnant Garden events and engagement officer Charlie with our Handkerchief Tree seeds

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Young volunteer Gethin tending to some of Wilson’s plants

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Young visitors enjoying the base camp in the Old Mill…especially trying on the pith helmets and Wilson moustache

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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.

Spring into action with volunteering at Bodnant Garden

Bodnant Garden is growing – and needs you! We’re making a spring appeal for volunteers to help nurture new garden areas and to tend our rising number of visitors. It’s an amazing time to be at Bodnant Garden…can we tempt you?

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Spring at the Far End, taken by our former (much missed!) volunteer photographer Phil Rogers

In the last five years we’ve opened around 30 acres of the garden which were formerly private. We’re taking down the ropes on a further 20 acres, Furnace Hill, later this spring and there are more new areas to open in the next couple of years. Signs are we’re also on target this year to welcome our highest-ever number of visitors – expected to be nearly 250,000 people through the gates by March.

So as the season bursts into life we’re hoping to recruit a spring task force. It’s a great opportunity to join us at a really exciting time – to get out and meet new people, use your skills or gain new ones, and of course to spend time in a breath-taking beautiful garden.

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Volunteers helping in the garden and running family events

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National Trust volunteers provide vital support to the work of the conservation charity. Bodnant Garden has around 120 volunteers, who give their time regularly or occasionally, to help the garden team and visitor services team.Our existing team have an incredible range of skills and help us with a whole host of things, from gardening to carpentry to photography, from giving guided walks to grown-ups to storytelling sessions for children.

Their hard work has helped Bodnant Garden to unveil almost 30 acres formerly closed to the public over the last five years; in 2012 the Winter Garden, in 2013 the Old Park meadow, in 2014 the Yew Dell and in 2015 the Far End riverside garden. From April visitors will also be able to explore Furnace Wood and Meadow, and this will be followed by the opening of Cae Poeth Meadow in 2018 and the Heather Hill in 2020.

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In 2015 volunteers provided the support enabling us to open the Far End lakeside – by gardening and assisting visitors to the new area

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Last year we recruited a new team of volunteers called The Laburnum Archers, to help during our busiest time in June when the famous Laburnum Arch is in flower.

Charlie Stretton, Bodnant Garden events and engagement officer, says: “The Laburnum Archers project was a huge success. We had a brilliant mix of people; the youngest was 15, the oldest 74, and their backgrounds ranged from students to retired people (including a retired Wing Commander.) They were invaluable during our busiest time and out of 20 volunteers who signed up for a short period, 15 have stayed on as permanent volunteers.

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Our young volunteer Gethin,  who helps us run family activities during school holidays,  and turns his hands to social media too

“We’re gearing up for another busy spring, with the opening of Furnace in April. Whether you’d like to dip a toe in and help for a few days, a few weeks, or would like to join us in a more permanent role; whether you’d like to get your hands dirty in the garden or help meet and greet visitors, give us a call. The hilly terrain can be challenging for some people but we welcome all abilities and can find a place in the garden that’s right for you. All volunteers will get training and support – and our eternal gratitude!”

Contact Charlie at charlotte.stretton@nationaltrust.org.uk 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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Last summer our volunteers supported us hosting a textile exhibition by North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild – a first for the garden

 

 

Floral colour to beat the January blues

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you never have to look very far for it at Bodnant Garden, even in the depths of winter. Here’s just some of the colourful and scented blooms you can enjoy right now:

…and of course, spot the first snowdrops!

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Galanthus ‘Ophelia’

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.

From Bodnant borders to pastures new

 

IMG_4985 As 2017 begins we bid farewell to garden supervisor Bill Warrell, who leaves us to take up the position of head gardener with our National Trust neighbours at Plas Newydd and Penrhyn Castle further along the North Wales coast – an exciting opportunity at two major gardens.

Bill has been in charge of the Glades at Bodnant for around 8 years during what’s been a dynamic phase for the garden. In that time these informal acres, comprising old shrub borders, grass glades and a wildflower meadow, have been given a new lease of life to welcome a new generation of visitors.

It’s been no mean feat. Bill arrived when Bodnant Garden was under the shadow of plant disease Phytophthora ramorum. Originating in the US where it was known as Sudden Oak Death, this fungal killer was making its way northwards through Britain, targeting a host of ornamental trees and shrubs. Signs of the fungal killer had begun appearing around the garden, especially the old shrub borders.

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Beautiful shrub borders in spring

This area was developed in the early 1900s by garden owner Henry McLaren (2nd Lord Aberconway) who filled it with plants sourced from Asian botanical expeditions, including rhododendrons, magnolias and other newly discovered ‘exotic’ specimens. Almost a century later these lovely, and in some cases rare plants were elderly, and some ailing. Bill managed the renovation of the old shrub borders, which included a programme of removing diseased plants and monitoring others, taking the opportunity to introduce new plantings which provide all-year round colour and interest.

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Daffodil-filled Glades in spring and Old Park meadow in summer

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He has also led the renovation and opening to the public of private areas of the garden. In 2013 we opened the Old Park, a meadow dating back to the garden’s Georgian Landscape period. Today this is managed for wildflowers in summer, and there is a programme of bulb planting to enhance displays of snowdrops and daffodils in spring. In 2014 Bill and team opened the Yew Dell, a treasure trove of mature rhododendrons, again dating back to the collections of early 20th century plant hunters.

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Visitors gather for the official opening of The Bath

Most recently Bill masterminded the flamboyant redesign and replanting of The Bath in 2016 – elevating it from a tired, Victorian shrub-lined ornamental pool area to tropical garden, which has delighted visitors.

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Cameras roll…showing BBC’s Jules Hudson around the Yew Dell

Bill has a serious love of plants, and has been a great ambassador for Bodnant Garden, giving talks in the community and braving a camera and microphone when media call (most memorably, in a Hawaiian shirt and sarong for the opening of The Bath.) Among his list of broadcast credentials he has been our front man for Gardener’s World, ITV News, BBC Radio and even Escape to the Country, always on hand with his depth of knowledge, sincerity and humour.

Horticulture aside, he has also done a huge amount of work on health and safety issues, including championing accessible routes around the garden, plans for which we are now taking forward.

Bill has been a big personality who’ll be missed by his crew and by everyone here, staff and volunteers. Thanks Bill for all the hard work, love and commitment you’ve given to Bodnant Garden. We wish you and family all the best for the future.

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Bill Warrell (left) with current garden team Graeme, Harvey, Roger and Lynne in Hawaiian mood at the grand opening of the Bath in September.