Bodnant’s budding gardeners steal the show

P1200073Gardeners and students from Bodnant were at the RHS Malvern Show recently…not just as visitors mind you, but taking to the show stands and even to the stage.

They went to represent the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme, which trains gardening students at a number of top gardens in Wales. Our head gardener John, gardeners Katie, Harvey and Gemma, and our current students Jess and Jette joined others from the HHSS scheme to showcase what it offers at the Spring Festival.

Katie and Jess found themselves sharing the limelight with Carol Klein and Christine Walkden doing demonstrations of seed collecting and sowing and as Christine tweeted afterwards “You two girls did you and the industry proud.” Katie and John also bravely took part in a Gardener’s Question Time.

For the last four years the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme (HHSS) has been run by a group of associated garden sites in Wales: Aberglasney, Bodnant, Cardiff City Council, Dyffryn Gardens, Newport City Council, Picton Gardens and St Fagans.  The scheme offers a bursary and 14-month work-based placement at gardens.


Bodnant HHSS trainer Gemma with Carol Klein

Bodnant gardener Gemma Hayes has worked closely alongside our students during their training. assisted by fellow gardener Kate Croft. The trainees have all proved to be an invaluable part of the garden team and of our own graduates, one has already gone to to be head gardener, another to work for a national gardening magazine, and two more have gained staff positions at Bodnant Garden. Others from across Wales are now working in the horticultural industry in private gardens as well as at National Trust sites.
The Lottery funded project is drawing to a close this year but it will be followed on by a Lantra Level 3 scheme, to continue training horticulturalists of the future. The Malvern Show was an opportunity to launch the new scheme – and to celebrate what’as been achieved in the last four years. Here’s a taste:

Students Jette and Jess with graduate Harvey, who is now working at Bodnant Garden


Jess and Katie demonstrating seed collecting with Carol Klein

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Recent HHSS graduates with their turf mortar boards


The Bodnant Garden stand…and Katie taking a quiet moment before Gardener’s Question Time?


HHSS organisers, students and graduates at the show

To find out more about the HHSS and Lantra training contact

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.


Fanfare for the Far End


The Far End is now officially yours folks – open to the public after 140 years. After all the hard work, worry and a decidedly dodgy weather forecast we had a grand opening day. Hearts sank in the morning when we woke up to gale force winds and driving rain…but somehow, miraculously, as 10am drew nearer the wind abated, the rain dried up, the sun broke through the clouds and delivered a perfect blue sky day (well, at least until late afternoon, for the hours that mattered!)

Perhaps the garden’s Victorian founder Henry Pochin was smiling down on us, but it was a fitting tribute to the hours, months, years of work by gardeners and volunteers which has gone in to renovating this area ready for this day.

Visitors assembled by the new bridge at 12 noon where Michael McLaren from the donor family spoke movingly about the history of the area, and how delighted his father and grandfather would be at people now being able to enjoy it. Our guest, TV gardener Christine Walkden, then gave her own passionate few words about the Bodnant Garden she knows and loves, and cut the ribbon with garden shears – succeeding after three attempts (yes, they were sharp…and we rehearsed…but hey, best laid plans.)

There was even cake. Alex, one of the Dell team of gardeners who has worked so hard on The Far End, and who came in on her birthday for the opening, was surprised by a truly giant sponge, which was shared out among the visitors. That left visitors to enjoy the rest of the afternoon exploring this wonderful new area – here’s a taste:


Before opening, our volunteers ready for duty



Ducks enjoying the lake to themselves for the last time!


The first people to arrive at The Far End were Sandra and Margaret Qualters. They had come from Ashton-under-Lyne for the opening and said they had been looking forward to it for months. Behind them came a steady stream of visitors.


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Michael McLaren and Christine Walkden performing the opening


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Third time lucky for the ribbon, and Alex with her birthday cake


Christine Walkden with Michael and Caroline McLaren


Coracle making, and sailing (head gardener John demonstrating!)


Lunch around the brazier, Christine with volunteers Sally and Phyllis

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Music for all tastes! A harpist and Morris Dancers 


New head gardener John and his family enjoying the day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last word goes to visitors Dorothy and Brian Thompson, from Rhos on Sea, regulars to Bodnant who said it was absolutely thrilling to be able to enjoy this magical new area of garden. Thanks to them and everyone who came on Saturday – staff, volunteers, visitors, guests and performers – for making this historic day such an occasion.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page

Easter treats at Bodnant Garden

The daffodils are out, the blossom is bursting…and we’re looking forward to a fabulous, floral Easter at Bodnant Garden.


Daffodils in The Old Park

Throughout April visitors can enjoy swathes of daffodils in the meadows – a sight not to be missed. The result of around a century of planting by generations of gardeners, they now stretch as far as the eye can see across acres of the Old Park, Chapel Park and Glades, and throughout the whole garden.


Magnificent magnolias

You can marvel at the garden’s National Collection of magnolias, some more than 100 years old, and the emerging array of rhododendrons for which Bodnant Garden is famous. Also coming into flower are scented viburnums and cherry blossom trees, while tulips and herbaceous plants are filling out beds and borders with colour.

There’s an extra treat for visitors this year too, who can be among the first to explore a new area of the garden – the Far End, ten acres of tranquil riverside haven which is opening on March 28, for the first time in the Bodnant’s 140-year history. Until now visitors have not been able to walk further than the famous Waterfall Bridge in The Dell but soon they can discover what lies beyond…waterside walks, a skating pond, boathouse and arboretum of Champion Trees.

Portrait hut with reflections - Copy

The Far End

Horticulturalist and broadcaster Christine Walkden is performing the official opening at a special day of celebration on Saturday, March 28, at 12 noon. There will also be harp music, Morris Dancing, coracle making and guided walks for visitors to enjoy on the opening day.

There will be a new refreshment kiosk in the Far End serving hot and cold snacks, plus seating and toilet facilities – you’ll be able to picnic in the new area too. Special mini-buses will be running to take people from the garden’s main car park to the Far End during Saturday and Sunday of the opening weekend.

Residents of the neighbouring village of Eglwysbach are being invited to the garden free for the opening day – free entry tickets are available from the village shop.

An Easter Egg Trail day at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire.

The following weekend at Bodnant Garden it’s all about the chocolate! There will be a Cadbury Easter Egg Trail on Sunday and Monday (April  5 and 6) from 10am-3pm (£2 per child, no booking needed) plus art activities for youngsters in The Old Mill in The Dell.

On March 31, there’s a rare opportunity to look inside the Poem mausoleum, which is open on the last Tuesday of each month, starting this month.

The days are lengthening and lightening, the birds are singing, there are lovely spring displays and a whole new section of the garden open to the public so put Bodnant Garden on your list of things to do this Easter.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page

Final push for The Far End

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith just over a week to go until the opening of The Far End it’s all hands to the pump. We had a big blitz day this week when gardeners, volunteers and office staff got together for a final push – mulching, gravelling and turfing the ten acres. Everyone was rewarded by luscious lemon cake at tea break and pizza at lunch time, provided by our very own Pietro from the Pavilion tearoom, enjoyed around the brazier in The Dell. There were even chocolatey prizes for the best team efforts.


Grass seed sowing (left) and gardeners Nathan and Fiona


Volunteers Joy and Karen 


Property administrator Rose mucking in, left


Gravelling the new bridge path


Pulling his weight, new head gardener John, right


The massive Williams bed mid and after mulching



Gravelling before and after



Nathan and Dell supervisor Maxine, left


Gardener Paul and property manager William enjoy a paned


Looking tranquil in March sunshine, The Far End


It’s taken many years of renovation to get to this point, so don’t miss our big opening day, on Saturday, March 28.

Garden manager Michael McLaren from Bodnant’s donor family will be here to welcome visitors and the horticulturalist and broadcaster Christine Walkden will perform the official opening at 12 noon with a ribbon cutting on the new bridge.

We’ve got harp music at 11am and 1pm in the boathouse, Morris Dancing and coracle making through the day plus guided walks during the afternoon. There’s also a new refreshment kiosk serving hot and cold snacks, plus seating and toilet facilities, and special mini-buses will be running to take people from the garden’s main car park to the Far End during Saturday and Sunday of the opening weekend.

Residents of our neighbouring village of Eglwysbach are being invited to the garden free for the opening day – free entry tickets are available from the village shop.

It is the first time in Bodnant Garden’s 140-year history that The Far End has been open to the public so join us for a historic day!

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page

Lights, camera, hot air balloon…action!


We hope you’ve been enjoying the new BBC series Glorious Gardens from Above which is on now – and are looking forward to the episode featuring Bodnant Garden.

The 15-part show, presented by horticulturalist and broadcaster Christine Walkden, shows some of Britain’s finest gardens (including several National Trust gems) as never seen before, filmed from the air. It also has a down to earth side…looking behind the grandeur and aristocratic history of these stately places and talking to ‘ordinary’ people about what the gardens mean to them.

Behind the scenes, the making of the show was as fascinating as the programme itself. A BBC crew spent several days at Bodnant Garden filming but a huge amount went on in preparation before the cameras rolled and after they had departed in the editing stages.


Christine Walkden meeting gardener Fiona

 In the spring a telephone call came from the BBC inviting Bodnant Garden to be involved in the show, triggering several weeks of liaison between us and television researchers, who had to map out the plot and script of the show in great detail to ensure everything went smoothly during the very time consuming and expensive process of filming. It also triggered a search for stars. The programme required local people with special love or connection to the garden – and they had to be willing to be interviewed on camera! It’s one thing loving Bodnant Garden, as many of us do…but going on national telly to talk about it is another. 


Christine with volunteer Phylis



Is it a bird…is it a plane? Using a helicam to film the garden from the air

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Once we had found our stars an advance party from the BBC came to recce the garden, plan locations for filming and do a dummy run of interviewing gardener Fiona Braithwaite, volunteer Phylis Davies and local craftsman Andrew Lloyd. As the week of filming approached there were daily rain checks to decide whether the hot air balloon would be a goer…it was on, and off, and on, and off again…sadly the balloon did not get off the ground at Bodnant in the end but a clever helicam was used instead to get some amazing shots of the garden from the air.


Love to know what did Christine said to Fiona!


Filimg on The Terraces

The first day of filming didn’t begin well, but with torrential rain and the BBC team spent many hours in the Pavilion tearoom formulating a Plan B. Thankfully the sun came out in the afternoon and cameras rolled. Over the course of several days filming it was all hands to the pump as staff and volunteers helped out ferrying film makers and equipment, answering queries, standing by to erect scaffolding, even on one occasion releasing BBC guests who became locked into the garden at the end of a very long day.

Visitors enjoyed seeing the process and many stopped to watch, chat to the crew and say hello to Christine, who was down to earth, warm and a bundle of energy and enthusiasm.


Volunteer Phylis, Christine, gardeners Fran and Fiona


Also taking part in the programme were Cameron Smith, Iain Ashcroft and Andrew Lloyd from A Lloyd Design (Bodnant Craft Units)

All the time and effort that went in to filming the programme at Bodnant Garden is  even more remarkable when you consider that we were one of 15 episodes! So a big thank you to Christine and the BBC crew, and to our stars Fiona, Phylis and Andrew who braved the cameras. All that remains is to say don’t miss it -there have been one or two changes in the TV schedules but Bodnant Garden’s episode is definitely (we think) on Wednesday, November 19, on BBC1 at 3.45pm.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page