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?

Cep fungus

Thank you Dave Higginson-Tranter (Fungal Punk Dave) for leading our fungal forage at Bodnant Garden this October during #Treefest. Check out his website 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 or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Far reaching dream coming to fruition


In Spring 2015 we will be revealing part of Bodnant Garden never before seen by the public.

Our Conwy hillside garden is well know for its Italianate Terraces, expansive Shrub Borders and pinetum in The Dell. Until now visitors have not been able to walk further than the dramatic Waterfall Bridge in The Dell, but from April next year they will be able to explore what lies beyond…The Far End.

It is the latest private area on the fringes of the garden to be opened to the public and part of our vision for the future – in 2012 we opened The Old Park, a wildflower meadow, and in 2013 the Yew Dell, a wooded Himalayan style glade. In 2017 we will also be opening Furnace Wood, to the west of the garden.


Leaving the Waterfall Bridge and Dell behind and following the river upstream to the Far End


The Far End is a tranquil riverside haven which follows the course of River Hiraethlyn, forming pools and ponds as it winds along, finally opening out into a lake. It is one of the oldest parts of the garden, originally laid out by Bodnant’s creator Henry Pochin from the 1870s who envisaged it as The Wild Garden – blending native and exotic trees to form an area very different from both the formal terraces at the top of the garden and from other wilder, informal areas of the garden too.

boat house  IMG_5963

Pochin began by creating paths along the riverside and planting Asian and American conifers, some of which were new to Britain being introduced by plant hunters of the Victorian era. His successors continued planting along the banks of the river, adding a Skating Pond and an Arts and Crafts style boathouse (seen above).

Perhaps because it has never been open to the public and intensively managed, this area has a very different character from anywhere else in the garden. Making your way upstream from the steep sided Dell the valley opens out more widely; the conifers here don’t soar overhead in enclosed space but blend into the hillside along with wide drifts of deciduous natives an exotics – Chinese magnolias and Japanese acers mingling with waterside willows. The water doesn’t roar and rush quite like it does through the waterfall-powered gorge of The Dell (though it has done just that, quite spectacularly, when in flood!)


Bogside planting along the river which opens out into the Otter Pond (below)



The Boat House on the tranquil Skating Pond

The riverside here is less manicured with its reeds and bogside planting and the whole effect if less dramatic is more naturalistic, with a charm all of its own. It is a paradise for wildlife too; here you’re more likely to see birds and even otters enjoying the calm waters.


2012 flood damage to riverside beds (above) didn’t stop play…the new bridge takes shape (below)


Over the last few years area supervisor Maxine Singleton and her team have been renovating banks, beds and paths, creating a new circular walkway and bridge which will give visitors an easy access, level route around this beautiful part of the garden. It hasn’t been without setbacks – the floods of winter 2012 caused extensive damage as water swept away vast quantities new riverside plantings, but the work has continued and the ropes will come down in spring 2015.


The Far End in autumn

If you’d like to have a preview of The Far End and Furnace Wood before opening we’re running Secret Bodnant walks on the second Wednesday of every month, at 2pm. There’s no extra charge (normal garden entry applies) but call 01492 650460 to book a place as numbers are limited. For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page


Warm welcome for all the family at Half Term

 Children collecting conkers in the garden at Mottisfont, Hampshire, in autumn.It’s a perennial problem…what to do with the kids at autumn Half Term? Well, we’ve got lots to keep the whole family inspired (even the four-legged members.)

  For those who simply want to come and appreciate the garden, autumn colour is providing a spectacular display – late blooming flowers are accompanied now by stunning foliage, berries and fruit and our garden’s mountain backdrop provides some breathtaking panoramas.

  But for that little extra family fun, we’re running children’s events for two weeks from Saturday, October 19, to Sunday, November 3.

  Kids can hunt for dragons, goblins and fairies hidden around the garden on our Mystical Creatures Trail every day. There will also be Autumn Crafts running weekdays under gazebo in The Dell from 11am to 1pm and not forgetting story telling in the Pin Mill every Saturday from 2pm to 2.30pm. All these events are free.


Inside The Poem

  On Tuesday, October 29, the Poem mausoleum is open; it’s a rare chance to go inside and see the impressive interior with its marble columns, family busts, stained glass windows and star-covered ceiling, from 10am to 4pm (again, no extra charge.)

  On Thursday, October 31, explore the garden by torchlight with scary stories ending in marshmallows around the fire in The Dell, from 6pm-8pm. This costs £6 for adults and £2 for children. Also  on the Halloween theme, from Tuesday, October 29, to Thursday, October 31, there will be pumpkin carving, puzzles and story telling in Bodnant Garden Centre, from 10am to 5pm, costing £2.50. 


   The highlight of the holiday will be the launch of our new Dogs Welcome season on November 1 and 2. There will be displays from dog rescue and agility groups, dog competitions and the Dogs Trust will be at the garden offering free microchipping on both days. From now on visitors will be able to bring their dogs to the garden every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from Novemer to the end of February. More on the launch event to follow so watch this space…

   All Half Term there will be special menus at the Pavilion tearoom and also al fresco refreshments in The Dell – warm your hands with hot drinks and soup by a brazier, perfect for that autumn walk.

Chapel Park in all its autumn glory low res

See our website or Facebook page for more about Bodnant Garden.

Autumn at Bodnant Garden – Bring it on!

 in flower oct2 090 lowIt’s time for conkers, hot fires, hot soup and crunching leaves – and we’ve got them all.

  The garden is being transformed by the colours of autumn.  Late blooming flowers are accompanied now by eye-catching foliage, berries and fruit and our garden’s mountain backdrop provides some breathtaking panoramas. In the upper garden the rose terraces and herbaceous beds are still giving their all, climbing wisteria is still perfuming the air and now vines, too, are scrambling across walls in a spectacular cascade of green and bronze.

  1266335_563790697001810_1811904171_oOn The Range lobelias, heleniums and long serving dahlias provide a firework display of colour, in contrast to The Lily Terrace which is a pastel picture of swaying grasses and perennials. Elsewhere in The Terraces phlox and asters fill out borders now also peppered with Autumn Crocus and cyclamen.

 Chapel Park in all its autumn glory low res The Shrub Borders are at their full glory; astilbes, crocosmia and Kaffir Lily light up beds beneath glowing acres, rowan, prunus and many other deciduous trees, native and exotic. The best include the pink-leaved Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura Tree), with its heart shaped leaves which smell of burnt sugar, the flame red oak Quercus coccinea, a Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii’ (Purple Leaved Plum), Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum) and Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Ruby Glow’. 

  bodnant nov12 020 lowThere are berries and fruit with wow factor too, including Sorbus hupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’, a pale green Styrax japonica (Japanese Snowbell), the aptly named Symplocos paniculata (Sapphire Berry) and a red Viburnum lobophyllum…and the fruit of Decaisnea fargesii (Dead Man’s Fingers) seen right, have to be seen to be believed.

  In the Dell you can warm you hands on Acer japonicum ‘Aureum’, the golden hues of Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern) and the muted pinks and mauves of hydrangeas. As herbaceous plants wane the eye is drawn upwards to the towering evergreen firs, cedars, hemlock and redwoods.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Special mention must go to the hydrangeas of every variety which can be found throughout the garden right now; tall ivory H.paniculata grandiflora, delicate mauve lacecap H. aspera villosa, the fat nodding blue and pink mopheads of H.macrophylla, white H. arborescens, the oak leaved H. quercifolia, seen left, and the small but perfectly formed H. involucrata ‘Hortensis’ with flower heads like a bouquet of roses.

  In the new Winter Garden there are tantalising glimpses of what’s to come – spot the red and yellow Cornus stems, peeling white Birch bark, heathers and emerging hellibores as you pass by.

  As for other things to see and do this autumn…come and have a look at the renovation work on the Waterfall Bridge, the first in its 100 year history. You can bring your dog too! This autumn visitors will be able to bring their four-legged friends for walkies every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from November to March and we’ve got special events on November 1 and 2 to mark the start of our dogs welcome policy – displays by dog agility and rescue groups, dog competitions and a visit by the Dogs Trust who will be doing free microchipping.

 bodnant nov12 058 low Half term events for families include a Mystical Creatures Trail, autumn crafts, conker fights, a night-time Halloween walk and, in the lead up to Christmas, we’ll have an elves toy making workshop. For the grown ups there will be a series of gardening workshops and talks including a Propagation Walk and Champion Tree Walk with the experts. We’ll also be challenging ourselves and visitors to take part in the Great Leaf Rake on December 1 – help us set a record for the most leaves collected in one hour!

  And don’t forget to enjoy special warming winter menus at the Pavilion tearoom, or some al fresco refreshment stop in The Dell – hot drinks and soup by a brazier…perfect for that autumn walk.

See our website or Facebook page for more details about all these events at Bodnant Garden.