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:

joe

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Canal 4

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.

Canal terrace

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.

Canal Terrace3

Canal terrace2

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.

Canal5

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.

IMG_7980 - Copy

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

Advertisements

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

DSC_0072 - Copy

“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

 

Walkies at Bodnant Garden just got better

C_8jm9gVoAA6A23

Big ones and small ones, fluffy ones and sleek ones…we’ve grown accustomed to seeing dogs of all shapes and sizes in the garden over the summer on #WagWednesday evenings, and we’ve been loving your pictures too. The season has come to an end, but it’s not long until November dog days begin again. And we’ve got some news to get those tails wagging…next year we’re extending our welcome to dog walkers throughout the year.

From 2018 dogs will be welcome all day, every day in autumn and winter (from beginning of October to the end of March) and on #WagWednesday evenings in spring and summer (from beginning of April to end of September.) So apart from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (when the garden is closed) there will be an opportunity to bring your dog to Bodnant every week of the year.

myra-and-earl-e1504605276982.jpg 19884226_10155619280911318_372070062507560124_n.jpg

Earl and Poppy both enjoying the hydrangeas – proving to be a popular posing spot!

We know many dog owners love bringing their best friends and furry family members with them when they visit – in some cases, not being able to bring the pooch prevents people being able to visit. We do also appreciate that other visitors are not so comfortable around canines, or just prefer to enjoy the garden dog-free, frankly.  So we’ve tried our best to develop a programme that will allow all of our visitors the time and space they’d like in Bodnant Garden.

Steve Stratford and Bobby

Bobby just chilling on the Top Lawn

We first trialled dog entry in winter 2013 and have been tweaking the programme since, thanks to your feedback.  Up to now we’ve had a March/April and September/October break in the programme – a ‘breathing space’ to review the impact of dogs on the garden and on visitors – and are now filling in the blanks. We’ll keep reviewing how it goes, so if you have any comments or suggestions keep letting us know.

As always we just have a few simple asks of our dog walkers – please use a short lead (not extendable ones) stick to the gravel and grass paths, and of course clean up after your dog (bags are provided in reception.) And keep sending those fabulous photos!

Freddy

Freddy here (above) and Bailey (top picture) have become #WagWednesday regulars…and familiar faces on social media too. Thanks everyone for sharing your pictures 🙂

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

 

 

Magical musical finale to summer at Bodnant Garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If we had rafters at Bodnant Garden, they would’ve been well and truly raised last week by the musicians of Denbighshire Music Co-operative, who gave us a concert finale to our summer events.

These talented youngsters took visitors on a musical tour of the world, from Spain to India and all stops in between – via brass band to stadium rock – and the bhangra-style dance on the Canal Terrace is something we won’t forget for a long time to come. It brought down the curtain on a summer of family activities at the garden, in joyous style.

Our thanks to everyone at Denbighshire Music Co-operative. This group is a not-for-profit organisation, run by the teachers for the benefit providing tuition for pupils in the area. For more information see their website: http://www.denbighshiremusic.com

Perhaps these images, by our young volunteer photographer Gethin Mullock-Jones, will inspire you to get music-making (or even volunteering for Bodnant Garden!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

A sweet treat from Bodnant Garden

 

20638987_1525603284153875_7085940057866536397_n

As well as being the crème de la crème of the horticultural world, Bodnant Garden is branching out in a new culinary direction and opening our tearoom for seasonal evening dining experiences.

The first is a must for pudding lovers – a Dessert Tasting Evening on Friday, September 1, when diners can enjoy supper followed by six delicious sweets.

Assistant catering manager Pete Thomas (below), who has cooked up the idea, says: “This is an evening of pure indulgence for anyone with a sweet tooth – and a little taster of our new seasonal programme of food events to follow.”

Pete Thomas

Around 250,000 people visit the garden each year and for many of them the cooked breakfasts, morning coffees, hot lunches and afternoon teas served at our tearooms are as big a part of their day out as the beautiful floral displays.

As well as welcoming visitors into the Pavilion and Magnolia tearooms 362 days a year, catering staff serve al-fresco refreshments at kiosks in the outer reaches of the site. This year staff have even been pedalling an ice cream bicycle around the formal lawns, in their mission to keep visitors fed and watered.

elain.jpg

Our catering team, tireless in their efforts to bring refreshment to visitors…

dsc_21742.jpg

bodnant-garden-april-16-222.jpgSpecial evening dining at the Pavilion tearoom will be yet another new venture for the garden’s dynamic catering team. Catering manager Ailsa Morris (right) says: “It’s been a great year for my team. Our next exciting challenge is the launch of seasonal dining evenings – and hopefully the pudding tasting is the perfect way to whet people’s appetites.”

A light supper will be served from 7.30pm (a choice of Roast Pepper, Tomato and Cheese Quiche with a Sweet Potato Crust or Warm Chicken Salad with a Honey & Mustard Dressing) followed by six surprise desserts. There will be a vote for the favourite pud, which will then get pride of place on the garden’s autumn menu, and as the icing on the cake diners will also get the chance to win Christmas dinner for four people at The Pavilion.

The cost will be: £24.95 per head and booking is essential as places are limited. Contact Ailsa Morris or Pete Thomas on 01492 651924 to reserve your place.

Bodnant Garden April 16-228

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.

19665302_10155547334699214_813117273265426706_n

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.

eyebright  birds foot 19665162_10155547334569214_6644573755328521372_n

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!

IMG_6508 dd5xqr8wsaah6a2.jpg

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 :

IMG_6719

 

 

 

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.

pool

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.”

Pentax Digital Cameralaburnum-archers-team-1
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