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 www.fungalpunknature.co.uk 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 nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Join the patter of Paws on the Great Orme

Attention dog walkers! We know you love our summer #WagWednesdays here at Bodnant Garden, and you’ll soon be able to explore another National Trust beauty spot nearby on the Great Orme.

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Parc Farm shepherd Dan Jones 

We’re co-hosting a dog fun day at Parc Farm, part of the famous Llandudno landmark which National Trust bought for the nation in 2015, to celebrate the opening of new public footpaths.

Paws on the Great Orme on Sunday, June 18, features fun dog shows and demonstrations and storytelling for families. It’s also a chance for visitors to look around Parc Farm and learn about the special farming and conservation work being done there by National Trust Wales and our partner organisation Plantlife – as well as the work of Conwy County Borough Council and PONT Cymru on the wider headland.

William Greenwood, property manager for Bodnant Garden and Parc Farm, says:  “Parc Farm is a breathtaking beauty spot and it’s great to be able to share it with walkers, and their dogs. Come and enioy this stunning area and see the work we’re doing to protect it for future generations of people and wildlife.”

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Farmer Dan at work with his dog Tian

Perched on top of the Great Orme headland, the 145-acre Parc Farm enjoys far-reaching views of Snowdonia and the Irish Sea and is home to rare and special wildlife found nowhere else on earth. It is being farmed in traditional way for the National Trust by tenant farmer Dan Jones who is practising close-shepherding to encourage the rare species found there. Dan’s flock of Llyn and Herdwick sheep have been provided by charity Plantlife, which is supporting the conservation work there.

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Dogs on short leads please! Ranger Doug with his buddy at Parc Farm

Our National Trust ranger Doug Don and his volunteers have also been busy creating two new footpaths from the Great Orme summit past Parc Farm. It will be the first time the public have had access to this area since the farm was enclosed in 1875.

Dogs on short leads will be welcomed from June until December.  Over winter and spring they will be closed to reduce disturbance to sheep during lambing and to allow the Great Orme’s protected birds, the Chough, to feed their young.

Doug says: “We’re really pleased to be able to welcome visitors to parts of Parc Farm after such a long time. It will be seasonal, to balance access with the needs of farming and nature conservation, and we’ll be monitoring the effect on wildlife.

“But we hope people will come and enjoy it. All we ask is that walkers stick to the waymarked paths, keep dogs on a short lead, clear up after their pets and follow the signage and notices. All restrictions and closures will be clearly posted.”

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Do not disturb…footpaths will be closed at certain times of year to protect sheep and other wildlife

Paws on the Great Orme takes place at Parc Farm starting at 11am (some parking is available on the summit, from where the two new footpaths begin.) There will be a fun dog show at 12.30 plus dog obedience demonstrations at 11.30am and 2.15pm by Valley dog Training, and sheep dog demonstrations at 12 noon and 2.45pm by shepherd Dan Jones. Visitors can also have a go at mini agility with Valley Dog Training and talk to members of Butterfly Conservation, RSPCA, Guide Dogs Cymru, North Wales Wildlife Trust, Conwy County Borough Council who will be at the event. Refreshments will be provided by Bodnant Garden’s catering team.

To find out more contact our National Trust office on 01492 650460.

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.