Magical musical finale to summer at Bodnant Garden


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:

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

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For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram



The secret magic in a garden

Local school pupils gave us a welcome hand in the garden recently. It brought back memories of childhood for Bodnant’s events officer Charlie Stretton:

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When I was a child, my very favourite book was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s the story of a spoilt and unhappy young girl who is brought from India to Yorkshire after the death of her parents. She discovers a hidden garden in the grounds of the rambling and lonely mansion where she is sent to live, and gradually, with the help of two friends, and of the blossoming nature all around her, she finds happiness again.

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It’s a magical tale, with beautiful and evocative descriptions of a garden being tended back to life and I think its message still rings true today – that nature has healing and restorative powers, and that everyone, especially children, can benefit from contact with the great outdoors.

Recently, our gardeners had a helping hand from the young people at Ysgol Nant Y Coed Gardening Club. The twelve girls, aged 8 to 11, visited on a (fortunately very sunny) day, and worked hard, raking leaves from under the trees and shrubs in the North Garden.

As they worked they were visited, not only by several of the gardeners here, who thanked them for their efforts, but also by a hungry robin and a blackbird, who were probably no less grateful for their work, as they hoovered up the bugs and worms in the children’s wake! The girls were fascinated by the birds pecking around in the disturbed earth, as was Mary, in The Secret Garden.

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Particularly at this time of year, when gardens are emerging from winter, we want to inspire children to take an interest in the natural world and to learn what they can do to help, whether that be by gardening, planting trees and flowers, or by feeding their garden birds. These young children are the gardeners and the conservationists of the future, and we here at Bodnant Garden are pleased and proud to have helped them on their way.

“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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The Ysgol Nant y Coed garden club hard at work – thanks guys!


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

Summer of love at Bodnant Garden

Love has been in the air at Bodnant Garden this summer…if not always that bright, yellow thing in the sky! Two couples recently defied damp August weather and got engaged at the garden, taking away some (hopefully) warm memories.

Jade Chapman popped the question to Jenny Martindale in our picturesque Boat House, with a little help from staff and volunteers who secretly arranged to present the couple with a bottle of champagne.

A welly-clad Jade and Jenny

Jade contacted Bodnant Garden to tell us of her plans and to ask for help arranging the surprise proposal, which we were glad to provide.

Property manager William Greenwood and events officer Charlie Stretton prepared the lakeside venue on a very wet Monday morning, putting up ribbons and pictures in the face of wind and driving rain. Volunteer Dave Horsely, who helps with our wedding functions at the garden, also stepped in as the champagne waiter – managing to loiter unsuspiciously around the Boat House until he was given the signal to pop out with the champers.

Charlie said:  “This was one of my more unusual duties as events officer! The Boathouse looked very pretty when we finished decorating it, but we were slightly worried that it would all blow away in the wind and rain.  Thank goodness for double- sided sticky tape. The sun came out just as the happy couple reached the Boathouse, and we were all so pleased when Jenny accepted.”

Jade, from The Wirral, said: “I have been to Bodnant Garden twice, once on a school trip and once with my family. I remembered it being gorgeous surroundings and it felt like I was so far from home I couldn’t believe the little paradise was this close.

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The Boat House and, right, volunteer waiter Dave Horsley

“I love the Boathouse, as when you stand there looking out to the willows and the lake you could be in a Zen garden in Japan. It was so peaceful and beautiful, a perfect setting to propose.

“It couldn’t be more of a perfect day. The morning started off a little damp but once I got down on one knee and Jenny said yes the sun broke through the clouds and we were stood there layered up in wellies in sweltering heat! Thank you Bodnant Gardens for all your support and kind words.”

Emma Wiley kuts Loise and Maurice Raymond West Fri JUly 31

Emma Brookfield and Maurice Raymond West, from Southport, seen right, also defied a grey day to get engaged at the garden, sitting on the seat overlooking on the iconic Canal Terrace.

The delighted couple sent us pictures of the occasion. Emma said it would make for special memories and a lovely place to visit together in years to come.

Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales - gardens; view of the northern end of the canal terrace with the trees reflected in the water. Photo ID ref: 5862

The Canal Terrace seat, a pretty perfect setting for a proposal

Ah…it seems that whatever the weather you just can’t keep romance down. And the Bodnant Garden magic breaks through any amount of grey skies. Congratulations guys – thanks for sharing your very special days with us and we wish you all the best for the future.

(PS we do weddings too!)

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


Canals, calm and connections

Charlie Stretton is our new events and engagement officer at Bodnant Garden. She will be helping people, especially children, get the most out of their visit and brings with her a wealth of experience from RSPB Conwy. Before her busy role overtakes her, Charlie takes a moment to reflect…


Charlie Stretton

Did you watch a BBC Four programme last week called All Aboard! – A journey down the Kennet and Avon Canal? It was a two-hour trip, filmed from the front of a canal barge travelling at four miles an hour, with no commentary, no music, just the real-time tranquillity of the banks floating past, interrupted only by an occasional cyclist or family on the tow path. There were a few pieces of written information, superimposed onto bridges or the sides of other barges, but otherwise it was just the gentle lapping of the water and the unhurried views.

Having been on a disastrous houseboat holiday some years ago, where it rained for four solid days and I ended up falling out with my barge-mates, I had been somewhat sceptical about this programme. But I thought I’d give it a go, just for a few minutes… and I found myself totally mesmerised. Everything just slowed down, and I was drawn in to this sleepy world where two ducks swimming past became a real event, and a swan taking off a spectacular highlight.

So much of life these days happens at a frantic pace. We are getting used to a world where everything happens at top speed, and in our rushing and hurrying it is easy to lose sight of the things that matter, or to dismiss them as having no relevance to our superfast lives. This quirky little canal boat programme reminded me how vital it is sometimes to sit still, or walk slowly, and take stock – to appreciate the things, especially nature, around us.


Rhododendrons in The Dell

I have just started work here at Bodnant Garden and I’m still pinching myself – I cannot believe how lucky I am to be working in such an outstandingly beautiful place. I am amazed at the colours of the rhododendrons and azaleas, and incredulous at the height and age of the trees, which were here long before any of us, and which will outlive all of us.

I am humbled by the efforts of the plant hunters and the horticulturalists who created this garden long ago, knowing that by the time their work came to fruition they would be long dead. What a deep connection to the natural world, what incredible foresight and what generosity of spirit they must have had.

What is also astounding about the garden is the rate at which it changes. The wonderfully –named Tristan Gooley, in his book How to Connect with Nature sums this up beautifully –

“Colours, smells and sounds swirl through daily and annual patterns, putting in displays then disappearing with promises to return in new clothes. There is the regularity of a solar drum behind all the changes, but this regularity passes through the individual kaleidoscope that is our locality. Time makes both sense and madness of each place and moment. The only certainty is that you will only get one opportunity to experience each scene exactly the way it is. It will be different if you return in ten months or in ten minutes”

David Ackers, Birkenhead

Pond dipping at Bodnant Garden – part of Charlie’s role will be to help families get the most out of their visit

It’s vital, then, to take time to appreciate each scene. Maybe just for a moment, find a quiet spot in the garden,  stand still and just take in the sights, the scents, the sounds all around you. Connect yourself with nature and feel the absolutely incredible power, the life-force that is at work silently all around you, but which we so often miss while keeping an eye on the children, or chatting to our friends, or searching for that special plant. The garden will never, ever be exactly the same again as in that moment.

So, like the barge on the Kennet and Avon canal, it is vital, every now and then, to drop into a slower gear, to put life into slow motion, to be still and peaceful for a while, and to take in the beauty around us. In doing this, we will begin to find awe and wonder in the most everyday of scenes, and a deeper and richer connection with the natural world.


Our own Canal terrace at Bodnant Garden


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

Plant a snowdrop for posterity


Our Old Park meadow is carpeted with snowdrops right now and with a little help from visitors there will soon be 15,000 more. From February 14 to 22 we’re inviting people to join gardeners and volunteers in a mass planting for posterity.

The Old Park is a rolling open meadow landscaped with native oak and beech trees, thought to be the oldest part of the original garden dating back to the Georgian era. Only opened to the public in 2013, it is now being managed as a wildlife meadow – the display of snowdrops are followed by swathes of daffodils in the spring and wildflowers in the summer.


Gardeners and volunteers have been planting snowdrops in the meadow for the last five years to ensure a bigger and better display in future.

This time of year it is traditional to plant snowdrops ‘in the green’ (at the end of flowering but when the leaves are still green). Visitors can drop by through the week and lend a hand at any time from 11am to 1pm. All plants and tools are provided, just bring are sturdy clothes and footwear.


All are welcome to drop by and join in with the planting, whether for five minutes or an hour – the more the merrier! It’s also a chance to have a look around our Winter Garden, now in its third year and positively blooming. In fact the whole garden is showing signs of spring and it’s a wonderful time to visit.

There are also events for families in the garden during half term, with a craft workshop in The Old Mill on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, February 16-18, 11am to 1pm. Don’t forget you can bring dogs too on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until the end of February.

No booking is required and there is no extra charge for the snowdrop planting or craft workshop (normal garden admission prices apply), but for information contact Bodnant Garden on 01492 650460.

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

Scything…sorting the wheat from the chaff


 What does the word scything conjure up to you? Pleasant Constable-style images of haymakers in sunlit fields…or blood, sweat, tears and severed limbs?! Well gardeners and visitors were invited to set aside their preconceptions and try their hands at this old art of grass cutting recently, as part of a two day workshop with Sion Jinkinson, woodland contractor for the North Wales Wildlife Trust.

  Sion is increasingly busy running scything workshops these days – he has been fully booked this year – and also does scything for local authorities and other groups who want small areas of grassland managed quietly, non-invasively and in an environmentally-friendly way. It’s clearly a growing trend.

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Sion with gardener Laura; gardener Katie in the swing of things

  We thought we’d give it a go as part of Bodnant Garden’s grassland management project, which has been funded by Natural Resources Wales. Along with other National Trust properties in Wales we are doing our bit to maintain and develop species-rich meadows, of which 99% have been lost in Wales in the last 60 years.

  At Bodnant, we are now practising traditional, low level maintenance on our meadows at Cae Poeth, Furnace Field and Old Park – cutting grass and removing the hay in August, avoiding feeds and herbicides, mechanically removing bracken, thistles, docks and nettles, grazing in the autumn…and trying out some other methods like scything.

 Sion gave us an introductory talk and demonstration of how to set up, sharpen, operate and dismantle the scythe (and some vital health and safety tips) then we were placed in a row across the meadow at a safe distance from each other, and we were off.

 Thankfully the weather was kind and the whole experience was pleasantly surprising. I found scything not as physically hard as I expected – the new Austrian scythes are light and, with regular sharpening, slice through grass easily without too much back breaking effort. It was a revelation to see how much ground was covered so quickly. In fact I had none of the expected lower lumbar twinges during the day or afterwards (though curiously aching forearms…perhaps I had been giving it too much welly?)

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Sion giving a demo and yours truly (Fran) giving it some welly

  That’s not to say it wasn’t an effort, but going at a steady pace it didn’t feel like being part of a hay-making chain gang. Stopping every few minutes to sharpen the blade was an opportunity to admire the summer landscape, exchange words with a neighbour, watch a blue butterfly, and at the end of the day it was pleasing to look across a freshly mown meadow and think ‘we did that’. There were satisfied smiles from our gang of scythers and no severed limbs – though one or two people did report minor aches and pains the next day, in a range of bizarre places. Clearly scything gets to the parts other methods of grass cutting don’t.


  A well oiled machine, without the machinery!

  Strimming can be hard work too – it’s not all win-win with machinery. The professional cutters are heavy and cumbersome, noisy and headache-inducing and the necessity of helmets, visors, goggles and harness make it hard going in hot weather. Even with head gear, unless you are wearing a polo neck and balaclava you get hit on the chin, neck and arms by flying debris – it’s amazing how much a seed head against bare skin can sting when shot at speed from the metal blades of a brush cutter!


Gardener David in the obligatory Grim reaper pose

  The environmental benefits of not using machinery are obvious – less fuel and noise pollution (although apparently in the past some lords and ladies did complain about the swish of scythers mowing the grass in front of their stately homes!) It’s horses for courses I guess. There are situations when only a tractor mounted machine, mechanical cutter or strimmer will do, but maybe there is a place for the good old fashioned scythe. If you’ve got an orchard or small holding it’s certainly a cheap and easy way to keep the grass down. Whether it will take on at Bodnant Garden…the jury is out but watch this space.

  If you want to find out more you contact Sion Jinkinson at  You can also get a taste of our sycthing days on this video Tai Chi with A Blade

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

A summer for all at Bodnant Garden


  Summer holidays are a-comin…and we’ve got enough events planned at Bodnant Garden to keep the whole family happy.

  From July through to September we’ve got tailor-made children’s activities with our Grow Wild programme, walks, talks and workshops for the grown-ups and a welcome for our four legged friends too with late night, dog-friendly opening on Wednesdays until 8pm.

  And if that’s not enough, you can always simply enjoy strolling around one of the finest gardens in the UK in all its summer glory – enjoy the rose gardens, herbaceous beds and lily ponds on the Terraces, the grassy wildflower glades of the Shrub Borders and the cool of The Dell with its giant conifers and riverside lined with blue hydrangeas. We’re also welcoming picnics to the garden this year and have four areas perfect for al fresco dining – in The Dell, the Old Park, the Yew Dell and Chapel Park – so you can really make the most of your day out in the garden.

  The fun kicks-off on July 21 with a Kids’ Craft Week, which will include different activities every day from 11am to 1pm…then from July 28 to August 31 get ready to Grow Wild!

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  Grow Wild is our special programme for families offering nature-based activities six days each week; pond dipping on Tuesdays (12-3pm), evening nature walks on Wednesdays (5-7pm), Wild Art on Thursdays (12-3pm), Wildlife Detectives on Fridays (2pm), Storytelling on Saturdays (2pm) and Gardener’s Apprentice on Sundays (2pm). It’s the second year we’ve run the Grow Wild events.

  Last year it was hugely popular, with children and their parents! The highlight of the summer will be a Wild Wood Weekend on Bank Holiday Saturday to Monday, with tree climbing, demonstrations from our arborists, wood carving, a tree trail, bug hunting, tree planting, displays of our garden machinery and lots more.


July 26 – Photography workshop: Join renowned local photographer Pierino Algieri in the garden and pick up some expert tips, 10am-12 and 2pm-4pm. Please book.

July 29 – Poem Open: A chance to see inside the mausoleum belonging to the garden’s founder family, with its beautiful stained glass windows and carvings (open all day.)

July 30 – Herbaceous Borders Walk: Enjoy all summer has to offer in our guided walk with a gardener, and learn about how we’ve been renovating our beds, from 2pm.

July 30 – Falconry Display: Meet the keepers and birds of prey from 10.30am-4pm, and see flying demonstrations at 1.30pm and 3.30pm.

July 28 to August 31: Grow Wild!

August 10 – Music in the Pin Mill: Award winning Welsh harpist Dylan Cernyw returns to the garden for an afternoon performance, from 2pm.

August 13 – Secret Bodnant: Explore an area of the garden currently closed to the public. This walk takes place on the second Wednesday of every month, 2pm. Please book.

August 17 – Plant Hunters’ Fair: What treasures will you find at this Plant Heritage event, taking place in the car park, 10am to 4pm?

August 23 to August 25 – Wild Wood Weekend.

August 24 – Music in the Pin Mill: Popular folk group Felin Haf perform, from 2pm.

August 26 – Poem Open: Another chance to see inside the mausoleum. The Poem is open every last Tuesday of the month from March to October.

August 27 – Plant Hunters’ Walk: Join a gardener for a tour of the garden highlighting plants brought back to Bodnant by 19th century global explorers, from 2pm.

August 27 – Falconry: A return of the birds of prey, from 10.30am-4pm with flying demonstrations at 1.30pm and 3.30pm.


 All these events are free with normal admission to the garden. For the Secret Bodnant walks and photography workshop please book to reserve your place as numbers are limited. For more details about any of these events call the garden office on 01492 650460 or see our website

Get walking to support a guiding light

  ???????????????????????????????Our four-legged friends will be straining at the leash to take part in a special upcoming event – a fundraising sponsored dog walk on Wednesday, June 4.

  It’s for Dogs Unite, a campaign by the national charity Guide Dogs, to raise support for the 4,700 canny canines who make a life changing difference to blind people in the UK. Sponsored walks will be taking place all around the country.

  Guide dogs Cherrie and Pete (seen above in his fetching blue collar) came into the garden recently with their owners to check out the special route for the walk – and as you can imagine they found more to see and sniff than you can shake a stick at.

  Gardener Tracy Jones says: “We’re delighted to be hosting this event for Guide Dogs and I’m really looking forward to a fun and successful night. I hope to see some of our regular dog walkers and meet some new faces too. The famous Laburnum Arch will be at its best at the beginning of June which will be an added bonus for anyone coming along to support the charity.”


Guide dog Pete and puppy in training Cherrie at the garden

   Bodnant Garden recently opened its gates to dogs and now welcomes walkers every Wednesday night in summer (May to August) and in winter all day on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

  We know that dogs play a special part in people’s lives and many visitors tell us it means a great deal to them to be able to bring their whole family with them when they visit the garden. Tracy has been the driving force behind our new dogs-welcome policy, which has gained alot of support from dog owners, both locals and those coming from further afield – among them well known plantswoman and broadcaster Christine Walkden, who recently tweeted us saying: “I love it when I can bring my dog along. Keep making dog people happy!”


Tracy and her dog Rossi

   Of course guide dogs play an even greater role in their owners’  lives, which makes out June 4 evening walkies a bit special. The event starts at 5pm until 8pm with last entry at 7.30pm. As a special thank every furry fundraiser receives a special doggy goody bag. The kiosk in The Dell will be open on the night serving refreshments for visitors and their dogs.

  Entry to the garden is free if you are registered for the event – or if you are a National Trust member. For more details call the garden on 01492 650460. Or you can register for the event by calling 0845 600 6787 or at the website


Visitor receptionist Denise Williams-Morris welcoming Poppy to Wednesday evening openings at Bodnant Garden

Bringing in the New Year at Bodnant

  Looking out from a wintery terrace at Bodnant Garden, over the snow covered countryside and away to the distant hill, Conwy, WalesWe’re gearing up for a great Christmas at Bodnant Garden – the Winter Garden is getting a seasonal spruce-up, the brazier is being fired up in The Dell, festive fare is being prepared in the Pavilion tearoom and our volunteers are laying on traditional Christmas craft activities for families. 

  But we won’t be resting on our laurels after The Big Day…we’re already planning a host of events for the New Year too so make a note in your shiny new 2014 diaries.

   In January we will be launching a photography competition. So many people send us amazing pictures of their visit to the garden, so we thought it’s time to showcase all that artistic talent! There will be some great prizes on offer and the chance to see your images made into a Bodnant Garden calendar for 2015.


There’s plenty to inspire photographers in our Winter Garden

  The competition will run up to October and we’ll invite visitors young and old to submit their pictures of the garden through the seasons. Alongside this we’ll also be running workshops with a professional photographer throughout the year. So get those cameras warmed up.

   In January we’ll also be holding specialist walks around the garden including a Secret Bodnant Tour – giving you chance to see parts of the garden normally closed to the public – and a tour with our nursery propagator who will talk about winter colour in the garden.


Volunteers planting snowdrops earlier this year

   More walks follow in February – including one on the history of Bodnant Garden – and of course we’ll be starting snowdrop planting. Over the last five years we’ve set ourselves the task of planting a meadow full of snowdrops in the Old Park at the rate of 10,000 every winter. No small feat…so we’re inviting you to drop by and help us.

   This takes us up to the beginning of spring and our big event…the opening of the Yew Dell. A formerly private area of the garden, the ropes will be taken down for the first time in March.

   Laid out in the 1880s by Bodnant Garden’s creator Henry Pochin, the Yew Dell is a 3.5 acre wooded area with stream running through it; cool, calm and tranquil, reminiscent of a HimalayanValley, planted with mature rhododendrons and hydrangeas overhung by oak, ash and magnolia. It is also home to many rare Bodnant Hybrid rhododendrons, some found nowhere else in the garden, and some grown from seed collected by plant hunters George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward.


The Yew Dell

  Over the years the area has remained untouched apart from basic management and in the last two years gardeners have been weeding, cutting back the brambles and renovating shrubs and trees, as well as repairing paths, drains and banks.

   To mark the opening of this unique and historic part of the garden we’ll also be running plant hunter activities for families. But that’s all to come…watch this space for further details.

   Of course there’s still Christmas, and it’s a bit special at Bodnant Garden this year. It’s the first time we’ve been open all year round (excepting Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) and to get people into the spirit we’re opening part of the lovely Old Mill in The Dell. Our volunteers have been busy transforming the listed building into an Elves’ Workshop, where families can come and try their hands at festive crafts every Saturday and Sunday until Christmas.


The Winter Garden

  There will be a brazier in The Dell too and hot drinks and snacks available, plus special Christmas menus at the Pavilion tearoom, and not forgetting our new Winter Garden which was opened just last year.

  Whatever you’re planning this Christmas and New Year we hope you’ll include Bodnant Garden in your festivities. For more details call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page