Revealing an old vista at Bodnant Garden

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If you’re a regular visitor to Bodnant you’ll have spotted something missing in the upper garden – five towering Lawson Cypress which lined the East Terrace close to Bodnant Hall are no more. Gardeners have removed them in readiness for a new planting design in 2018.

IMG_4373_zpssxagkx2aIt’s always sad to lose old faces in the garden landscape but the trees, thought to be 30-40 years old, were not in the best health and had grown so large that they were putting a strain on nearby walls – as well as shading out everything in surrounding beds. Now they are gone, already a new vista has opened up from the Top Lawn across the Front Lawn towards the Carneddau Mountains.

The East Terrace has undergone several transformations over the years, from a sloping lawn in late Victorian times, to an avenue of Hollyhocks and a formal bedding scheme in the Edwardian period, later replaced by shrubs and conifers.

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ABOVE East Terrace circa 1880s and BELOW early 1900s

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A new design for the East Terrace is part of our ongoing work to refresh the formal East Garden; this has included the creation of the Puddle Garden in 2011 and the Winter Garden in 2012, a revamp of the Range borders in 2014 and an ambitious redesign of the Bath in 2015. We’ll also be renovating the nearby Round Garden in 2018.

We hope you’ll come back and see the new design progressing next year and in the meantime, enjoy the new view!

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

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A warm Christmas welcome at Bodnant Garden

However you like to celebrate Christmas there’s something for all at Bodnant Garden; whether you’re after peace and tranquility, or food, fun and festivity, you’ll find it in our 80 acres. It all starts with a warm welcome from our Visitor Centre staff, who’re putting on their best Christmas pullies just for you…

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Enjoy peaceful walks in a frost-sparkling landscape, bring the children to meet Santa and the elves, discover unique gifts at the shops and craft units and warm up with seasonal food – be that marshmallows over a brazier or a full Christmas lunch.

Bodnant Garden - Winter Garden in FebruaryThe star on our tree is the Winter Garden. This feature was opened five years ago after a major garden renovation and is now bursting with colour, texture and scent. As other gardens are going to sleep the Winter Garden springs into life; flowers, foliage and bark creating a real winter pick-me-up for the senses. A cold weather forecast is an added bonus – it looks even more beautiful with a dusting of frost and snow.

See our website for the Winter Garden Trail, which guides you around highlights of the this area and formal East Garden. It’s a short, level, accessible trail, which will suit all the family – perfect for a quick escape from the high street hurly-burly.

Take your ease over our Christmas menu in the tearooms, or combine lunch and a gardener guided walk on one of our special events. If you drop in at the Pavilion you can leave a memento of your hopes and dreams for for 2018 on our special Wish Tree…and pause to read some of the moving, and funny, wishes left by others.

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Kids will love the popular Elves’ Workshop. Drop in at the Old Mill in the Dell and make Christmas crafts with our band of Bodnant elves, followed by toasted marshmallows by the roaring brazier outside. There’s hot food in our special marquee in The Dell at weekends too, where children can have a go at decorating Christmas cookies.

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The National Trust Gift shop and our neighbours at Bodnant Garden Centre offer a huge range of Christmas ideas, from cards, decorations and gifts to plants, as well as Christmas trees and wreaths (you might even bump into Santa.) What’s more there’s a unique collection of local arts and crafts products at Bodnant Craft Centre, from jewellery, paintings, ceramics and furniture.

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And of course there’s a big beautiful garden to explore; you can bring your dogs every day from November until the end of March too.

We’re open all year-round (apart from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). We hope you’ll join us – every visit helps us look after Bodnant Garden #ForeverForEveryone, so your support will certainly make our Christmas!

  • Elves’ Workshops: November 25/26, December 2/3, December 8/9 and December 16/17 from 11am – 2.30pm (£3 drop-in event, booking not required)
  • Santa’s Grotto: Pop along to our neighbours at Bodnant Garden Centre and see Father Christmas, on December 2/3, December 9/10, December 16/17 and 23rd from 11am – 2pm (£3 donation per child, proceeds to charity)
  • Winter walk and tea: Wednesday, December 6 from 11am, a guided walk with a gardener followed by afternoon tea in the Pavilion (£19.95 per person, call to book)
  • Birds of Bodnant Walk: Friday, December 8, 11am (free, please book)
  • Winter walk and lunch: Wednesday, December 13, a guided walk with the head gardener at 11am followed by a two course Christmas lunch in the Pavilion (£25.95pp, call to book)
  • Festive dessert tasting evening: Friday, December 15, sample puddings created by our chef in the Pavilion (£24.95 pp, call to book)

All details on our website www.nationaltrust.orh.uk/bodnant-garden

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Discovering a fascinating world of fungi at Bodnant Garden

It’s not all about the flowers. Our volunteer Dave Thomas, who normally leads walks at Bodnant, enjoys a guided tour from a fungus expert during our #Treefest month at the garden:

Deer shield (luteus cervinus) growing on rotten wood at Tyntesfield, Somerset

Think of Bodnant Garden and you immediately think of flowers and trees, but there is another natural world to be found – most of it is probably missed by our visitors, and possibly by many of us who are here every week as well.

In my 18 months volunteering and guiding visitors around the 25 miles of pathways I have seen various fungi but a Fungal Forage with Fungal Punk Dave and a group of visitors showed just how many of these fascinating specimens I have missed.

Starting on the Old Park you immediately notice the sheep, but look for many varieties of the Waxcap (Hygrocybe) fungus, generally up to 25mm diameter (one inch in old money) and all sorts of colours.  In just a few minutes we found the Scarlet Hood (red), Snowy (white), Meadow (peach), Butter (yellow) and Parrot (purple but starts off greenish-brown).  Apparently, this type of fungi is an indication of good, natural grassland so that bodes well for the future displays of daffodils and wild flowers.

Waxcap fungus

Waxcap fungus

You will also find the dung fungi, living on the sheep droppings and there is a different form that survives on what the rabbits leave behind, so you can tell which four-legged friend or foe has been there!

Moving into the Acer Glade there are more waxcaps – the Heath (greyish brown) and Honey (red) which smells of honey when crushed.  Under the beech trees you will find Lactarius fungi which expel milk and the tiny Mycena bonnet fungus of which there are 150 different types.

Into the Glades where the curiously named Lacceria amethystina Deceiver is violet when young and feels silky, whilst the “ordinary” Deceiver is cream.  You have to be extremely careful when it comes to selecting fungi for eating as it is often difficult to correctly identify the species.  The Amanita rubscens is blotchy brown and known as The Blusher – it can be eaten but there is an identical looking Panther Cap that is poisonous.  Another of the Amanita family is the easily recognised Fly Agaric – the red one with white spots that is often the one featured in fairy story illustrations – but don’t eat it.

Amethyst Deceiver Fungi amongst dead leaves at Calke Abbey, Derby, UK.

Amethyst Deceiver

The Beech Bank near the Bath gave us fungi with distinctive smells – Mycena galopus smells of coconut whilst the very pretty Russula (Beechwood Sickener) smells of unripe apples – it has a cherry colour cap and is very hot to the taste.  Another of the Russulas is Cyanoxantha also known as the Charcoal Burner – violet with green spots and has a mild, nutty taste.

Under the beech trees we found the tiny Spindle fungus – fully grown and only about 15mm long, 1mm diameter and bright orange in colour. Look closely and you’ll find quite a lot of it. Although the smallest we found it is one with the longest name – Clavulinopsis aurantiocinnabarina (who dreams up these names?)

Fungi are not confined to the ground, on some dead holly leaves near the Wisteria steps by the Lily Pond there is Holly Speckle, where we also found the rare Scurfy Twiglet (Tubaria furfuracea) which has a cap patterned like a dartboard.  Nearby was a Scaly Earthball (Sclerodema verrucosum), a puff ball which spreads its’ spores in a cloud when pressed.

Parasol mushroom at Porth y Swnt, Wales

Parasol mushroom

Parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera) have snakeskin stems and smell of warm milk and can be found near the gate leading to Cae Poeth.  The gate leads to the compost area where the log pile produced a wealth of fungi – a large specimen of the Turkey Tail Bracket (Trametes versicolor) which is said to cure prostrate and breast cancer, various other bracket fungi on the old rotting logs and the Coral Spot Fungus (Nectina cinnabarina) which “decorates” dying branches by the bead like appearance.  There was also the Clepiota sepria which has a whiff of rubber.  There was even a fungus (Parasitic Bolete – Pseudoboletus parasiticus) that grows on another, the decaying Earthballs.

Fungi are essential for plant growth, feeding on rotting material and passing back essential nutrients to feed the many trees and plants we have in Bodnant.  However, there are some, notably the Honey Fungus, that need to be kept in check.

The UK has 14,000 different fungi, the world is believed to have as many as 1.6 million … in a couple of tours Fungal Punk Dave found nearly 70 different varieties. It certainly opened my eyes to just how much I have missed when wandering around…how many can you find?

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Thank you Dave Higginson-Tranter (Fungal Punk Dave) for leading our fungal forage at Bodnant Garden this October during #Treefest. Check out his website www.fungalpunknature.co.uk and go to the Natural Zone pages for information on fungi and many other subjects.

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

New life begins for Bodnant Garden’s iconic Pin Mill borders

It’s not easy to improve on a masterpiece but unlike paintings even our finest gardens, as living works of art, need re-imagining from time to time. Here our head gardener John Rippin explains his design to refresh the Canal Terrace borders which flank Bodnant’s iconic Pin Mill:

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Canal Terrace borders before renovation. Image by Joe Wainwright

Since its conception in Georgian times Bodnant Garden has been the centrepiece of a much larger 2,000 acre estate.  Boasting a wonderful backdrop of mountain scenery and walks incorporating beautiful lakes, meadows and woodlands, the estate, like the garden itself, was shaped to be the perfect weekend escape for busy lives engaged in politics, industry and fast paced city life.

Gardeners have always gained inspiration from the way plants grow in the wild and natural styles of planting are currently very popular with garden and landscape designers. Many of their creations have a restful quality as well as being incredibly beautiful.

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In 2015 and 2016, after removing old plants, we planted a display of annuals in the Canal Terrace borders, while a new design was being considered

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Inspired by walking Bodnant’s estate paths, I am attempting to bring echoes of these uplifting experiences into the heart of the garden. You may have heard of ‘Prairie style’ planting, exemplified by famous garden designers such as Piet Oudolf. I have tried to create a similar natural effect but by taking elements of the Welsh hedgerows of Bodnant Estate.

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Hazels and elderberry will form the backbone of the border, grasses will add movement and a sense of natural harmony whilst flowering perennials will provide foliage, colour and contrasting shapes and textures. The thistles, rosebay willow herb, cow parsley, bluebells, foxgloves and wild garlic of the Welsh hedgerows have been substituted for well-behaved cultivated plants chosen to capture the essence of these native plants.

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Using the Canal Terraces traditional range of pastel shades I have planned for a graded colour scheme along the length of the borders; dark purple and magenta flowers in the centre, moving through pink to blue and then white in the four corners, to match the Pin Mill.

Leading up to this new planting scheme the garden team have been patiently preparing the ground, removing persistent weeds and improving the soil. In the spring the long yew hedge was also carefully cut back hard to help re-establish the original crisp outline and height.

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During September and October look out for a new section of York stone paving being laid and the phased planting of the new scheme, starting with wall plants, followed by the shrubs, herbaceous perennials, grasses and finally the bulbs.

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John tending the first of the new plants, this week

Planning ahead, the best time to see the border will be May for the spring bulbs and then August/ September for the late summer flowers and grasses. I think the border will take a year or two to completely fill out by which time it should look spectacular!

I really hope you enjoy watching these new borders develop and if they turn out as planned I will look forward to seeing some of you taking photos of the flowers and the beautiful setting as it changes throughout the seasons.

And from spring 2018 you’ll be able to enjoy the new floral display from new heights, when we open the upper floor of the Pin Mill to visitors for the first time in the garden’s history, following conservation and renovation work.  

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

Get rooting for Bodnant Garden’s Welsh Champion Tree

This autumn, as dazzling leaf colour lights up Bodnant Garden’s 80 acres, we’re inviting everyone to go wild about trees in a month-long festival… and to kick off the celebrations we’re asking you to get rooting for one of our special residents.

Coast redwood by Rory FrancisOur Coast Redwood in The Dell is in the Wales finals for the Woodland Trust Tree of the Year 2017 competition. This 130-year-old native American lady (or is it an old man?) soars over the riverside where she’s made herself perfectly at home – a living symbol of the garden’s rich and amazingly beautiful tree collection.

We’ll be celebrating her and our other trees during Treefest from October 13 to November 10, with a host of woodland activities.

We love our trees here at Bodnant Garden. The collection goes back to the Georgian era when the first beech, oak, sycamore and chestnut were planted. Successive generations of the garden’s owners planted American conifers and Asian broad-leaved trees and today Bodnant is home to 42 UK Champion Trees – the biggest, rarest and best of their kind – plus 130 Welsh Champs too.

Giant Redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens) in The Dell at Bodnant Garden in August, Conwy, Wales

The garden’s Victorian ‘founding father’ Henry Pochin planted the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in 1887. At 51-metres she’s now a Wales Champion Tree (rated second tallest in the UK at the last Tree Register survey in 2016 and as she’s still growing, who knows how far she’ll go?)

It was Mr Pochin who developed the pinetum in the valley garden, planting American and oriental conifers along the banks of the River Hiraethlyn. Some of these were exotic to British gardens, newly discovered by 19th century plant hunters. In Bodnant’s waterside dells these new trees thrived, sheltered against the elements were they have grown taller and faster than in other areas of the garden.

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Head Gardener John Rippin says: “For me the most dramatic tree at Bodnant is the champion Sequoia sempervirens which is the tallest of its kind in Wales. It’s not just about the immense size (which is pretty awesome) but also the potential this tree has to carry on growing.

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“The average age of redwoods in the wild is 600 years but some are believed to be over 2,000 years old. Conwy Valley has ideal growing conditions for them and I would love to think Bodnant’s giants will be going strong in 200 years, possibly reaching the magical 100 metre mark, providing future visitors with an even more awesome sight and helping preserve one of the world’s most incredible trees.”

There are some amazing stories behind our trees; the rare and exotic ones discovered by intrepid plant hunters in centuries past, and the native ones which are home to so much wildlife today. Come and discover more during Treeefest… and in the meantime, if you feel inspired to cast a vote for our Coast Redwood, you can do it here until October 8:  www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/tree-of-the-year/wales Our Sweet Chestnut on the Top Lawn was a runner-up in the competition last year and featured on a Channel 4 documentary – let’s see if we can go all the way!

You can see the full programme of events for Treefest on our website at Treefest Bodnant Garden 2017

Chapel Park in all its autumn glory2

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

 

Having a field day at Bodnant Garden

July is meadows month when, up and down the land, we celebrate this precious native habitat.

Plas newydd-3Here at Bodnant Garden we’re inviting visitors to enjoy our own meadows at their swaying, summer peak, swishing with the sound of Yellow Rattle seed-heads and buzzing with insects. We recently welcomed local school children – our events and engagement officer Charlie led the pupils of Ysgol Eglwysbach on a perfect, sunny nature trail around Furnace Meadow, newly opened to the public this year.

Our gardeners have been out exploring too, recently joining colleagues on a meadow study day looking at the conservation work done by National Trust Wales at Moss Farm near Ysbyty Ifan – and coming back buzzing with inspiration for our own grassy acres.

The traditional native meadow is an endangered species in Britain today so this restored plot at Moss Farm (seen below, on a somewhat damper day) is a precious example of what we’ve lost in the landscape… and what can yet be put back.

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The meadow has been restored in partnership with conservation group Plantlife, which has spearheaded the Coronation Meadows project. This initiative aims to create a ‘model’ meadow in every county in the UK, harvesting seed from these wildflower-rich donor meadows which is distributed to other local meadows-in-the-making.

Moss Farm is one such Coronation Meadow and wildflower seed from here has been donated to other local sites in Gwynedd and the Conwy Valley – including a field belonging to Plantlife’s own botanist Trevor Dines, near Bodnant Garden.

IMG_6532Bodnant gardeners Hollie, Christina, Harvey with Trevor Dines of Plantlife on their field trip to Trevor’s meadow, spotting Eye Bright, Bird’s Foot Trefoil and Betany – indicators of a propsering meadow.

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Our garden team visited Trevor’s Farm after viewing the donor site at Moss Farm. It was a great day learning about the diversity of meadow habitats, discovering wild flowers…and impressively-horned cattle!

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It’s inspiration for our own conservation work at Bodnant Garden, where we manage three wildflower meadows – the Old Park (opened to the public in 2012), Furnace Meadow (newly opened in 2017) and Cae Poeth Meadow (opening 2019.)  Since 2012 we’ve been working to a grassland management plan to enrich the wildlife found there with traditional, low level maintenance – a regime of mowing and removing hay in August, grazing with sheep in autumn, avoiding fertilisers and herbicides, along with sowing seed of Yellow Rattle to keep down grasses and encourage the growth of flowers. Already we’ve seen an increase in wildflowers flowers in The Old Park (seen below), including orchids.

Old Park summer

Why do it? Today in the UK there remains only 3% of the meadows which existed in the 1930s – that’s a staggering loss of 7.5 million acres of wild flower grassland.  In conservation terms the knock on effect is a massive decline in butterflies and bees, which has big implications for the pollination of our crops and gardens. There is an effect on water quality too; low use of chemicals and low intensity grassland management reduces the level of pollutants entering water sources and nutrients being washed out of the soil. In the larger scheme of things, there’s evidence the decline in grasslands may be affecting climate change too, as they store and use carbon at a higher rate than forests.

That’s why, alongside Plantlife, National Trust Wales is a leading partner in the campaign Save Our Magnificent Meadows, a Lottery funded effort to restore wildflower meadows and other grasslands.

We’re also working with Plantlife at Parc Farm, the National Trust site on the Great Orme. This limestone headland provides a very different grassland habitat to the damp meadow at Moss Farm but here, careful management can again make a world of difference to wildlife. Grazing with sheep is helping to keep grasses down and allow quite unique wildflowers to thrive (seen below, images courtesy of Plantlife.)

Join us celebrating our precious grassland heritage at Bodnant Garden, Great Orme and other National Trust Wales sites this month. You can find out more here :

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Bodnant’s Bath cleans up at horticulture awards

We did it again! Bodnant Garden has won another industry award for horticultural excellence. The garden team’s transformation of The Bath has been named Best Garden Restoration and Development Project 2017, by Horticulture Week magazine.

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An award-winning tropical garden from Bill Warrell, Graeme Jones, Harvey Baker, Roger Chesters and Lynne Clifton

Our Visitors Services team also made the final five for a volunteering award, giving Bodnant Garden two moments in the spotlight among a host of renowned UK organisations. (Another award should have gone to gardener Lynne Clifton for fastest sprint to the podium to collect the certificate – despite some pre-event nerves, there was just no holding her back!)

19429680_1482825888431615_6517026061134862382_nLynne travelled to the awards at Woburn Abbey Sculpture Gallery on June 28th to represent the Glades garden team, along with events officer Charlie Stretton representing the Laburnum Archers and myself (Fran, garden media officer). It was a long day on many trains, but rewarded by great company and the pleasure of seeing Bodnant Garden showcased among the horticultural cream of the nation.

Horticulture Week is a leading industry magazine found in garden mess rooms up and down the land. Their Custodian Awards 2017 received entries from wide-ranging organisations from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval, to bodies such as the National Trust, English Heritage, Woodland Trust, as well as council parks and private gardens.

Nominations were judged by independent panel of judges including Tony Arnold, chair of the Professional Gardeners Guild, Sally Drury, technical editor of Horticulture Week, Sue Ireland former open spaces director of the City of London, gardens consultant Alan Sargent and arboriculture expert Dave Lofthouse. Presenting the awards, Lord Michael Heseltine spoke about the importance of gardens and green space and how they could transform disadvantaged communities.

joe2-bodnant-garden-the-bath-in-october-10.jpgBodnant Garden won the category Best Garden Restoration and Development Project, for The Bath (seen above, last September) The tropical redesign by former supervisor Bill Warrell and the team beat off competition from projects at Quarry Bank National Trust and Compton Verney House Trust.

Bill, now head gardener at our NT neighbours Plas Newydd and Penrhyn Castle, was over the moon at the news when tweeted and sent congratulations to his old muckers. He added: “I am delighted for the team at Bodnant Garden that they have received this prestigious award. It is wonderful recognition for all the hard work that went in to making the renovation of the Bath a success.”

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Our Laburnum Archers (seen above) was shortlisted for the Best Community/Volunteer Project, alongside Hardwick Hall (National Trust), Audley End (English Heritage) and Woburn Abbey – the award going to Woodland Trust for Observatree, a project which created a tree health early warning system for tree pests and diseases using citizen science.

Stiff competition…in fact surveying the organisations present at the ceremony, Bodnant Garden has cause to be proud. Having won the Horticulture Week awards in 2016 for the renovation of the Far End we’re now on a roll and aiming for the hat-trick next time!

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