Forget the high street…take our garden path to a traditional Christmas

Staff, volunteers…and elves are getting ready for a festive family Christmas at Bodnant Garden.

Decorations on a Christmas tree - part of the National Trust seasonal retail items collection.

We’ve got sacks to offer this winter – enjoy walks in the frost-sparkling garden, bring the children to meet Santa and the elves, discover traditional gifts at the shop, garden centre and craft units, and top your day off with Christmas fare, whether it’s a sit-down lunch or al fresco toasted marshmallows.

Bodnant Garden is open all year-round (apart from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) with 80 acres of beautiful landscape to enjoy, including a blooming Winter Garden.

Events officer Charlie Stretton says: “We’re looking forward to a magical Christmas here at Bodnant Garden. It’s the place to come if you want to escape the madness of the high street!”

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Chief elf aka volunteer Dave Horsley

The star on our Christmas tree is the Elves’ Workshop, now in its third successful year. The idea was developed by Bodnant Garden volunteers who have renovated part of the historic Old Mill in the riverside garden of The Dell, transforming it into a cosy indoor hub for family activities. This December families will be able to drop in and enjoy Christmas crafts, followed by toasted marshmallows by the roaring brazier outside.

Charlie says: “The Elves’ Workshops are great fun for all the family and have proved very popular. Children really enjoy meeting the resident elves and creating small decorations to take home for their own Christmas tree.”

Workshops will be running every Saturday and Sunday from November 28 to December 20, from 11am to 3pm (no extra charge and no booking required). There will also be a traditional Tree Dressing Day on Sunday, December 6, from 11am to 3pm, when visitors can come along and create a decoration to hang on our very own Bodnant Garden tree.

Bodnant Garden January 2015 Web Size - Joe Wainwright-10

Then of course there is the small matter of our famous Grade I Listed garden to explore; visitors can soak in seasonal highlights of the Winter Garden (above), which opened in 2012 and is now a blaze of colour, also for the first time in winter explore The Far End, ten acres of riverside garden which opened to the public this year. Walkers can being their dogs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until the end of December, then every day from January to the end of February 2016.

Visitors enjoying a warming drink in the cafe at Christmas time, Standen House and Garden, West Sussex.

For refreshment after all that activity there will be hot lunches served at the two tearooms and al fresco snacks at the kiosk in The Dell – where you can keep toasty warm beside the brazier at weekends.

As for that Christmas shopping – sorted! 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, and of course Christmas trees and wreaths. 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 not forgetting Santa, who will be dropping in at Bodnant Garden Centre on Saturdays and Sundays, November 28 to December 20, from 11am to 4pm each day. Entry to Santa’s Grotto is free and donations go towards Ty Gobaith and Ysgol y Gogarth. (He may be swapping his traditional sleigh and for a more horticultural mode of transport…Hoe Hoe Hoe!)

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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Taking a walk on the wilder side

To many people summer at Bodnant Garden means roses, water lilies and perfect beds, borders and lawns, which are at their formal finest right now. But this year we went, well, a little bit wild and planted an artistic ‘mini-meadow’ on our sophisticated Italianate terraces.

You might not immediately think of the Canal Terrace with its grand, iconic Pin Mill as the obvious place for a wildflower border, but it’s been a real success – not just with visitors but with butterflies, bees and even dragonflies finding their way to its billowing display from the Canal Pond.

The 77 metre long border was previously a formal display of herbaceous perennials which was tired and in need of renovation.

Gardeners Tracy and Ros (seen below) came up with the idea of sowing a wildflower mix to create a summer display while the bed was empty, awaiting a new design. Ros said: “We thought, why not sow annuals? If we’d left the bed bare this year the weeds would have kept growing anyway and we’d be working hard just to keep it tidy.”

In the spring they put the idea to our new head gardener John Rippin who was up for trying out the ‘experiment’ on the formal terrace. The old plants were removed from the border, it was cleared of weeds (no mean feat as it was full of ground elder) and the soil dug over and prepared for sowing.

Then came the fiddly task of sowing the seed, which is a pastel mix of cream coloured Bishop’s Flower (Ammi majus), pink Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), blue Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus),  mauve Rose Angel (Viscaria oculata) and red and pink Shirley Poppy  (Papaver rhoeas). As the seed company Pictorial Meadows points out this is not a traditional native wildflower meadow mix – you would not find this mix together naturally, or in such density – but a blend of annuals to give an ‘impressionistic’ meadow effect.

 

Ros said: “You only have to sow a tiny amount of seed per square metre and it’s quite hard to get an even spread. I was on tenterhooks waiting to see if they would take but the display has been amazing and exceeded all our expectations. The bed has been absolutely full of flowers and is teeming with wildlife.

“You can see the display changing as the time goes on and different flowers come out. Visitors have loved it. It would be great to do the same again next year elsewhere in the garden where there is empty space. We could make it an annual event.”

The formal Canal Terrace – a surprise setting for an informal display

Judging from the comment cards, emails and posts to social media, visitors have been delighted with the display. One Facebook follower sums up the feedback: “It’s a beautiful part of the garden anyway with the water lilies and the Pin Mill but the wild flowers just soften it somehow and when you look down from the terrace it’s just stunning.”

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The floral display changing from pinks to blues over the summer

Elsewhere at Bodnant Garden we’re doing our best to promote native wildflowers through our grassland management project. We have three meadows which we are managing for wildlife – one, the Old Park, is open to the public and the others will open in the next few years. When last surveyed the Old Park contained 26 species of wildflowers and we’re hoping that by old-style management methods (like cutting and removing the hay in late summer and grazing the land in autumn) the floral display will get better each year.

Our Canal Terrace wildflowers haven’t had to compete with meadow grasses and weeds and have provided an intense floral display which has surprised and delighted all of us. So as we plan a permanent new design for the Canal Terrace, we’re also thinking about where to sow next year’s ‘pop-up’ mini-meadow. Pay us a visit next year to discover where…

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.

Midsummer Madness at Bodnant

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s Midsummer Madness in the air at Bodnant, with a weekend of fun-filled activities for families. A host of events from pond dipping to bubble blowing and much more besides will take place at Bodnant Garden and Bodnant Garden Centre on Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23, from 10am to 4pm.

Gardener Katie Croft, who is organising the 2013 family events programme for Bodnant Garden, says: “We’re teaming up with our neighbours Bodnant Garden Centre to give families a really fun-filled couple of days.

“There will be indoor and outdoor activities so rain or shine there will be plenty to keep the kids happy – and mums and dads too!”

In the garden centre kids can enjoy potting plants and decorating plant pots, bubble making with Dr Zig, toys and games, crafts, a colouring competition both days and story telling from 2pm to 4pm on Sunday. There will also be a member of Red Squirrel Trust to talk to families. All events in the garden centre are free of charge.

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In the garden there will be chance to enjoy pond dipping, quoits and croquet both days plus storytelling in the Pin Mill on Saturday from 2pm to 3pm. Normal admission applies for events in the garden itself. There will also be information about the garden’s new summer events programme, Grow Wild.

You can picnic in the garden this weekend too as part of National Picnic Week so bring a blanket and your lunch – teddy bears are optional, but very welcome!

For more information about events contact Bodnant Garden Centre at enquiries@bodnant-plants.co.uk or Bodnant Garden at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden