Propagating great garden talent

11825581_969359913111551_3992441335471548899_n (1)Budding gardeners come a long way to learn horticulture at Bodnant. Jessica Mehers came from Scotland and Jette Nielsen from Denmark. They have been training with us since September 2014 but sadly their placement finishes this week. Here they look back on their time:

Around this time last year we were the new trainees on the Heritage Horticultural Skills Scheme (HHSS). However, our time is coming to an end and we are handing over to Christina Smart, the new recruit.


Jette, Christina and Jess making a bug hotel


Leading the HHSS scheme at Bodnant Garden, student mentor Gemma Hayes

The HHSS bursary programme provides practical training in heritage gardening, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through its Skills for the Future programme. The bursary is administered by Lantra. The scheme has operated for four years and has now been extended to finish in November 2016. It aims to increase the number of skilled gardeners available to the heritage horticulture sector in Wales and the UK and is run within a group of seven gardens in Wales: Aberglasney, Bodnant, Cardiff, Dyffryn, Newport, Picton and St Fagans.


Gardener Mark Morris instructing Jette in the art of mowing, big style

We have had a fantastic time here at Bodnant, learning a huge amount from the great team here.  We have undertaken the RHS Level 2 Practical Assessments and have also completed a new Lantra Award in Creating a Planted Area for a Heritage Site. This award was created specifically for the HHSS programme.


We were given two plots where an old oak came down in a Boxing Day storm in 2013 and the area had been in need of renovation ever since. It was a big task but we were able to renew the plants to be kept in the beds, create designs for new planting and have now finished our plots and have all our plants in place.


Above and below, preparing turf and planting the new Vanessa Beds


In one part of our bed we were able to include some exotic plants that tie in with a sheltered pond area with a tropical feel to it and the rest of our beds as woodland planting.


Jess doing some watery weeding

As well as our day to day work and training in the garden, we have been on trips to Westonbirt Arboretum, Painswick Rococo Gardens, St Fagans, The National Botanic Garden of Wales, the Centre for Alternative Technology and Plas Cadnant. The scheme also had a large stand at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

Jess and student mentor Katie Croft with Carol Klein at the Malvern Show

Jess and Bodnant student mentor Katie Croft with Carol Klein, putting on a show at Malvern

We got to do a couple of stage presentations with Carol Klein and Christine Walkden, which was fun! We were also able to take part in the Rhododendron and Camelia Societies’ centenary meeting here at Bodnant, with some of the other HHSS students. We were able to learn a lot of new plants in a short space of time going on visits with such knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of people.


Regular plant identification sessions

A few major events have occurred in Bodnant during our time here. Our new head gardener, John Rippon, joined us in January. In March we opened the Far End – 10 acres newly accessible to the public. Also, just the other week the garden reached a landmark of 200,000 visitors in one year for the first time. This was celebrated with cake and champagne and gifts for the lucky family (who were a bit taken back by the reception they got upon their arrival!)


Leading guided walks

We shall be very sad to be leaving, but Christina, our new HHSS student who comes from nearby Deganwy has been here a few weeks now and seems to be settling in fine. We have made a pact to both be back to the garden for the opening of another new area, the Furnace Bank in 2017. We can visit everyone and we can see how our beds are looking at the same time!


Jette enjoying a quiet moment

From everyone at Bodnant Garden, a very warm welcome to Christina and a huge thank you to Jette and Jess – you will be missed. Best of luck for your future and Jette, if you don’t follow a gardening path we reckon there’s a career in photography for you – thanks for all the great pictures of your year!


A big Bodnant ‘Thank You’ to student volunteers

We’ve had some extra helping hands at Bodnant Garden this summer. Students have been spending some of their down-time with us to gain work experience – one of them from Snowdonia and two others from a little further afield near the Italian Dolomites.

Local lad GethinMullock-Jones has been assisting Charlie Stretton, our events and engagement officer, with the summer family events – and very welcome he’s been too (as you can see here, pictured with his own work of art.)

Gethin is a student at Ysgol y Creuddyn in Llandudno and volunteering at Bodnant Garden as part of his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award.


Gethin helping children make dragonfly mobiles

He says: “I like volunteering here because I have met many great people. The staff and members of the public always greet you with a smile.

“I have been helping with pond dipping at the newer part of the gardens – the Skating Pond – every Tuesday as part of Grow Wild in August. I have enjoyed helping the children discover what interesting creatures there are here.

“I like the different opportunities I get here with the National Trust at Bodnant Garden, whether its pond dipping, Wild Art or even making little dragonflies!”

Gethin’s input has been a real boost, as Charlie says: “One aspect of our work here is growing fast, and that’s providing events and activities for families. We need more volunteers than ever to help with running pond dipping, craft and wild art sessions, taking children on nature walks, or showing them the bugs and beasties that live in the grasslands here.

“So we have been especially pleased to welcome Gethin to help out with our children’s activities. He’s proved a real asset to us, and shown maturity and initiative in working with families and children.”

We’ve also enjoyed the company of two Italian students helping us in the garden. Jacopo Pedol and Stefania Moro have joined the garden team for two weeks, coming all the way from the Veneto region, close to the Dolomites.

Jacopo and Stefania – at home on our Italianate terraces!

They’re both hoping to make careers in horticulture in the future and have been getting some work experience, as well as improving their English (and learning some Welsh). They’ve been a friendly and enthusiastic addition to the team and have enjoyed meeting staff, other volunteers and members of the public.

Charlie says: “We couldn’t do without volunteers here at Bodnant Garden, and it’s always a pleasure to welcome a new person who is willing to give up their own time to help us out.

“This could be meeting and greeting visitors in the car park, helping puzzled people to make sense of their map, guiding groups round the garden, or actually getting their hands dirty weeding, pruning and grass cutting.”

If you’re interested in gaining some work experience at Bodnant Garden or joining our team of regular volunteers we’d love to hear from you. Contact our property administrator Rose James.

Meanwhile, for all those budding gardeners…we’re also recruiting students for a placement at Bodnant Garden starting from September. As part of the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme there are 14-month and 4-month placements available at Bodnant and other top gardens in Wales. The deadline for applications is the end of August and you can find details at

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

The fascinating world of grass…really!

Do you know your smooth from your rough meadow grass? Bodnant gardener Katie and others took part in a training day recently to learn just that… 

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Can you tell what it is yet? Barbara and Katie

Last week I had a great day out with gardeners Bill, Laura, Alex and volunteer gardener Barbara at a meadows training day at Plas Newydd, our National Trust neighbours. The training was organised by the Coronation Meadows scheme, which aims to promote, protect and increase species-rich grassland throughout the UK.

As you may know, 98% of species-rich meadows have been destroyed since 1945, mostly through intensive agricultural management for dairy and beef cattle grazing, or development. This has had a devastating effect on wildlife that is dependent on this habitat, including butterflies, moths, beetles and birds.

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The species rich meadow at Plas Newydd

Plas Newydd has an amazing example of a species-rich meadow, which includes evocative sounding species such as the Greater Butterfly Orchid, Eye-bright, Lesser Stichwort, Yellow Rattle and Shamrock. It is a designated Coronation Meadow and is also a donor site for creating new meadows.

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Our day at Plas Newydd was a training session on grass identification for meadow monitoring. Don’t yawn now – it was brilliant! Well, OK, I do realise that spending a long time crouched in a field, comparing the size and hairiness of ligules through a hand lens, in order to tell the difference between smooth meadow grass and rough meadow grass might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, a really important part of managing meadows is that you monitor what species are in it, year on year, that way you can tell if your management regime is having the desired effect, and identify any problems. And, of course, to be able to record your species, you do have to be able to tell the difference between the grasses!

So a group of us from Bodnant Garden came along to the training so that we could improve our monitoring skills, as well as support our colleagues at Plas Newydd.


Learning the survey method…


We spent a few hours in the morning looking at key identification characteristics in the classroom, and learning about the importance of grasses on a global scale. The rest of the day was spent in the field (literally) looking at common and important species before having a go at the surveying method that the Coronation Meadows scheme use.


…and putting it into action in the field


This was great fun, laying out ‘quadrats,’ scrabbling through to find all the species in there, and how often they appear, in order to capture a series of samples of the vegetation. It was a great experience and I am now much more confident in identifying grasses. You might not think it at first but the world of grasses is fascinating, and pretty addictive! Earlier this week I found myself crouched in the Old Park back at Bodnant Garden, getting very excited that I’d found a clump of Crested Dog’s Tail! Might be time for a holiday…

If you’d like to help with the management of the meadow at Plas Newydd, they are looking for volunteers to help with monitoring. Contact Helen Buckingham, wildlife and countryside advisor, at


The Old Park meadow at Bodnant Garden, one of three which we are managing for wildlife

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

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.

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

Rediscover the bygone skill of scything


  The old art of scything is making a comeback and there’s chance to see this traditional skill in action at Bodnant Garden – and even have a go at swinging a scythe yourself.

  We’re running two scything workshops on August 18 and 19 when visitors can join staff learning about this long-lost method of grass cutting. Gardener Laura Jones says: “Scything is undergoing a renaissance. It’s an environmentally-friendly means of cutting grass – and it’s much quieter than your average mower! For wild grass areas and patches of meadow it’s a real alternative.”


  The sight of men and women out in the fields harvesting the old fashioned way was a familiar sight for hundreds of years. In the 20th century the scythe was replaced by mowers and strimmers but these days local authorities, stately homes and even domestic gardeners are picking up the traditional tool again as a zero-carbon alternative to managing weeds and grass.

  The scythe is designed for cutting vegetation at ground level, both for cutting both meadow grass and for harvesting oats, barley and other grains. There’s evidence that it has been around since the Romans, but it became the tool of choice in Britain from the 1700s when industrialisation made the scythe easier to manufacture. It replaced the sickle and apparently caused widespread outrage among working women, who were deemed too dainty to wield the larger implement – they were ousted from harvesting and relegated to lower paid work picking up crops behind the men folk.

  Traditional English scythes were produced in England until the mid-1900s, particularly in Sheffield,  but sadly the industry is no more. They have been replaced by the newer continental or Austrian scythes which are hand forged, thinner, lighter and easier to use and maintain – which has contributed to the rise in scything’s popularity.

 July_13_050Sion Jinkinson (right) and a group of learner scythers 

  Our scything workshops will be run by Sion Jinkinson, woodland contractor for the North Wales Wildlife Trust and an instructor with the Scythe Association of Britain and Ireland. He says: “There’s definitely been a big rise in interest in scything in recent years. We taught 100 people to scythe last year in North Wales.

  “Some people come along just for the fun of learning. Some people want to use the scythe at home – maybe they have an orchard and don’t want to strim near trees, or maybe they have an acre of land to manage and no tractor. Grass has to be cut or it turns to scrub, and scything can be a good solution in some situations. We also do work for organisations like Denbighshire Countryside Service, who may want an area cut without the noise and disturbance of strimmers.

  “With the new, lighter Austrian scythes it’s something most people can master. I teach all ages and abilities – I’ve had a little girl of six and a lady of 86 on my courses – the elderly lady remembered, as a girl, watching locals scything the land. It’s good to keep this traditional skill alive, and of course it also has benefits for the environment.”

Volunteer sharpening a scythe whilst clearing bracken on a National Trust Working Holiday at Bosigran Farm, Cornwall

  We’re running the courses as part of Bodnant Garden’s grassland management project, which has been funded by Natural Resources Wales for the last two years.

  Along with other National Trust properties in Wales we are doing our bit to maintain and develop species-rich meadows. We have lost around 99% of our hay meadows in Wales in the last 60 years – the knock on effect is a decline in butterflies and bees, which has big implications for the pollination of our crops. 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.

  At Bodnant, gardeners are practising traditional, low level maintenance on 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 where possible – and just as importantly, inviting people to enjoy these areas.


Sowing Yellow Rattle is just one of the things we’re doing to improve our meadows – it reduces the soil fertility, allowing wild flowers to thrive

  Laura says: “Scything benefits the environment; there’s no fuel used in the manufacture or use of scythes, there’s less disturbance of soil, it leaves a cleaner finish than strimming and is kinder to wildlife as the user can avoid creatures in the grass.

  “For the user it’s cleaner, quieter, there’s no vibration or risk of flying stones, there’s more control and the tools can be used in almost any weather. It’s cheaper too as one scythe can last a lifetime – it can also be a relaxing thing to do once you’ve got the technique right!”

   “We probably won’t be using scythes on the formal lawns…but we’re keen to find out whether we can use them here on our meadows. It’s also just a great skill to learn and we hope visitors will enjoy it too – and maybe go away and try it in their own plots.”

  Bodnant Garden scything days will take place on August 18th (for staff) and August 19th (for visitors). There is no cost but places are limited to ten per day so booking is essential on 01492 650460. Garden visitors are welcome to come along and watch on both days.

  For more information about Bodnant Garden’s grassland management, or tips for your own mini-meadow, see our video at

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Waking up to the beauty of roses


  Gardeners start work at 7.45am here at Bodnant when it’s out of bed and straight into mowing or hoeing – but our student horticulturalist Harvey Baker enjoyed a rather civilised start to the day this week, taking part in a special Breakfast of Roses, a morning guided walk and talk with expert Michael Marriot.

  Michael, the adviser to award-winning growers David Austin Roses, has been involved in the redesign of our two rose terraces in recent years. The Top Rose Terrace was renovated in 2006 and the Lower Rose Terrace in 2012. Gardeners had to dig out and replace around 500 tonnes of soil from both terraces; paths were re-laid and pergolas repainted. The beds were then planted with fragrant English Roses, many from the David Austin collection, which provide a continuous display from June to October…so there’s still plenty of time to come along and enjoy them.

  For those who were at Michael’s walks an talk on Tuesday but didn’t make notes and would like more information, or for those who just want to know more about our roses, here are Harvey’s jottings:

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Student Harvey Baker and the Top Rose Terrace

  “At half past eight, after doing my weekly plant identification test, I went to join a group of rose enthusiasts on a rose ‘talk-and-walk’ by Michael Marriott, from David Austin Roses. The talk began by The Range, then we moved across to the Upper Rose Terrace, and then down to the Lower Rose Terrace. I wrote notes down as we moved from one rose to another, so I’m going to transcribe what I wrote into bullet points as if you were walking the same route as we were –

Near The Range:

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’, which is growing against the wall by The Range border is a China rose, with pink to crimson flowers, are slender and almost thornless

– R.banksia is growing against the same wall, has good thorns for climbing, very vigorous and difficult to control, a bit of a ‘brute’. Thornless.

– R.’Dusky Maiden’ has crimson flowers and is near the exit gate. This vintage rose was bred by Edward LeGrice in 1959. This has been used by David Austin in his breeding program for red English roses. It is one of the middle period Floribundas.

– R.primula, which is by the house, is a species rose and is often ignored because it flowers only once. It is a spring flowering rose with arching branches wreathed in soft yellow, single blooms. The foliage is fern-like and smells of incense. Has good autumn colour.


Rosa ‘Pretty Lady’ on the Top Rose Terrace

In the Upper Rose Terrace:

– The Upper Rose Terrace is a hundred years old this year; the roses which you see today are not the originals. They would have been Hybrid Tea Roses, which were fasionable at the time. Unfortunately, they would have been very weak and prone to diseases. The Upper Rose Terrace was re-planted in 2005 with floribunda roses.

– R.’Pretty Lady’ was pointed out as being particularly healthy. It was breed by an amateur breeder, Len Scrivens, from the Black Country, in 1996. It has a peach bloom and although the flowers are produced in clusters, they have the form of a Hybrid Tea.

– R.’Susan Williams Ellis’ is a white rose, with a strong fragrance and Old Rose in character. It is disease free. Susan Williams Ellis was a designer who, together with her husband Euan Cooper-Willis, founded Portmeirion Pottery.

– It is good practice to mix roses with others plants, particularly plants which will bring in beneficial insects to eat insects like aphids, which are a great problem for roses.

– ‘ SB Plant Invigorator’ was recommended as a pesticide/mildewcide/foliar nutrient to spray on roses to kill aphids. It is biodegradable, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly.

– The ‘secret’ to success with roses is good pre-planting ground preparation, and carefull selection of a good rose variety for the spot.

– The four main roses diseases are: Black Spot, Powdery Mildew (caused by dryness of roots…roses love water around their roots), Downy Mildew (which looks like Black Spot and causes rapid defoliation), and Rose Rust.

– Box hedges have traditionally been planted around rose beds. This can cause problems because they have ‘greedy’ roots, which compete with the roses for nutrients.

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Michael Marriot on the Lower Rose Terrace and (right) Rosa ‘Felicia’

In the Lower Rose Terrace

– R.’Felicia’ is a Hybrid Musk rose, with fragrant, double, light pink flowers. The majority of hybrid musk roses were bred in the first thirty years of the last century by a country clergyman, the Rev. Joseph Pemberton. All hybrid musks share three species in their ancestry, Rosa chinensis, R.moschata and R.multiflora, crossed with various more modern roses, such as Trier and ‘Ophelia’.

– R.’Nuits de Young’ is a Moss rose with red-brown moss on stems and buds, and fragrant, flat, double, deep maroon flowers. Moss roses first appeared as mutations of Centifolia roses in 1720, in which the sepal, calyx and stems have a mossy growth. This is particularly attractive in the bud stage and has a noticeable balsam-like fragrance when touched.

– Attention must be taken when replanting a rose bed, otherwise re-plant disease can affect the new roses. One method is to completely renew the soil in the bed, to a depth of 18″ to 2′. If this is not possible, dig out as much soil as possible around the planting hole, add new soil and plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Using a mycorrhizal fungi product helps stimulate the roots of new roses and helps the plants cope with environmental stress.

– R.’England’s Rose’ is a tough, medium sized rose with double flowers of deep glowing pink. It flowers from June to October, sometimes November. The flower fragrance is strong, warm, spicy like a classic Old Rose.

– R.’Harlow Carr’ bears shallow cupped flowers of pink. It’s very thorny and can be used as deterrent hedge, against such animals as deer!

– R.’Albertine’ is a large and vigorous rambling shrub up to 5m in the Pink Garden. It has strong thorny, reddish stems and dark glossy foliage. Has very fragrant double, salmon-pink flowers in clusters. The petals don’t fall off after flowering, so can be a problem if you want to dead-head it and it’s growing high up a wall.

– ‘Maxicrop’ was recommended as good seaweed fertilizer for roses.


 Thanks Harvey! Harvey and two other students are currently at Bodnant Garden on a 14-month placement as part of the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme. You can find out more about the scheme on the website For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page but most importantly…come and see the roses!

Gardening with the cream of the crop


  Calling green-fingered hopefuls – here’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn the garden trade alongside the cream of the crop…and this could be your classroom!

  New students are being invited for the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme, which offers placements at the best gardens and parks in Wales, including ours.

  Students who secure a place at Bodnant Garden will get the chance to work on the Laburnum Arch – which draws around 40,000 visitors during its three-week flowering in May. They will also get chance to hone their gardening skills on the grand rose terraces, among giant old Champion Trees and a historic plant collection gathered from all around the globe.


  Our property administrator Rose James says: “If you fancy learning and training alongside the very best gardeners at Bodnant Garden or other high calibre gardens in Wales this scheme is for you. The deadline for applications is June 27 so don’t miss this fantastic opportunity.”

  The HHSS is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and offers traineeships at Bodnant Garden and Dyffryn Gardens (National Trust), at Aberglasney, Picton Castle, and with Newport City Council, Cardiff City Council and St Fagans Natural History Museum.

   Starting in September, up to 16 chosen trainees will get a £10,000 bursary from Lantra for 14-month placements at these organisations, where they will receive practical training in specialised, heritage horticultural techniques.

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  One of our recent HHSS students has now gone on to work at a national gardening magazine; others have gone on to permanent jobs at other National Trust gardens.

  One of last year’s Bodnant trainees Richard Marriott, now working at Norbury Manor National Trust, says: “I learnt so much at Bodnant. The scheme is a fantastic mixture of theory and countless opportunities for hands-on gardening. It’s an invaluable opportunity to gain real life horticultural skills in a world class garden. It is great for your CV and stands you in good stead for a life long career in horticulture.”

  More information is available at Bodnant Garden on 01492 650460 or from the HHSS website at

Let volunteering open up pastures new


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Volunteer Josh enjoying life down in The Dell

  How about this for a stunning workplace? If you’ve ever fancied being a volunteer at one of the finest gardens in the UK – like Josh here – Bodnant Garden has a big group hug waiting for you!

  Whether you could give the gardeners a hand, meet and greet visitors or have any other unique, weird or wonderful skills to offer, we welcome anyone with time to give. 

  We’re holding a spring Volunteer Recruitment Day on Tuesday, May 6, when you can drop in and talk to staff and current volunteers about the many and varied opportunities available.  

  Josh Hackett is volunteering to gain experience for his horticultural career. He says: “Something which is not lost on any who have come to it, Bodnant Garden is an astonishingly beautiful place. It is truly, stunningly beautiful. It is really, really beautiful. This is something I want to emphasise to those considering volunteering at Bodnant.


  “The term ‘volunteering’ might suggest selfless work and toil, but in fact I am committing myself to a place awash with colour, verdant foliage, birdsong and the sound of rushing water. The moment I step in, some primeval instinct latches upon the natural spectacle and releases waves of contentment. It is a day of refreshment in the centre of my week.

  “Very few people are fortunate enough to have such an opportunity, to escape the traffic and the screens and the buzzing of phones, or at least realise that they do (it is only five miles from Llandudno Junction). Of course you can come to Bodnant Garden simply as a visitor, but the quiet loyalty that comes with volunteering compels you to return. 


Volunteers deadheading daffodils

  “Having spoken of a ‘natural spectacle’, I should make it very clear how much hard work goes into Bodnant Garden. The staff and volunteers are very friendly and caring, and trust you to treat things with the same diligence and conscientiousness as they do.


Renovating the Yew Dell for opening in March

  “As well as the gentle humour that drifts around Bodnant, there is also a great wealth of knowledge about plants and I have learnt a great deal from others already. The tasks are not always glamorous, but being able to walk through the Dell at the end of the day and know that I’ve invested part of my time and effort into it is a fine feeling indeed. I would recommend volunteering at Bodnant to anyone and everyone.”

  We have around 30 garden volunteers like Josh who muck in with the team and help with all aspects of daily routine maintenance, help in the nursery and even work in the office engraving plant labels. 


Helping with famiy craft days

  We also have around 40 visitor services volunteers who meet and greet coach parties, help with guided tours, assist with garden events from weddings to falconry displays, do carpentry and maintenance, tend bar at Walk and Wine evenings, run storytelling for children – and more. 

  As well as the chance to work in the beautiful surroundings of one of Britain’s most famous gardens, volunteers get free entry to National Trust properties in the UK and a discount card for National Trust outlets. They are also invited to regular staff meetings where they play a full part in discussion and planning. 


You might even get the chance to play Santa!

   The Volunteer Recruitment Day takes place from 11am to 3pm. No booking is necessary, just drop in at the Volunteer Recruitment Cabin near the car park and meet volunteers and staff to find out what opportunities are available. 

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

Growing ambition

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Nathan and Bodnant’s acting head gardener, Adam Salvin

We have many volunteers at Bodnant Garden. Some are retired people with time to give while others, like Nathan Lewis, are gaining valuable work experience in order to build their careers. This is Nathan’s story…

“If you want to be the best you have to be trained by the best” – in his own words, that was what drove Nathan Lewis to seek out work experience at Bodnant Garden. Nathan has just come to the end of six weeks volunteering at our National Trust garden near Conwy, which he’s been doing alongside studying at horticultural college.

You could say he’s got the gardening bug. The day after he finished at Bodnant he jetted off to Italy with a local community group to look at garden projects over there. Now back home in Llanrwst, he’s getting stuck in again with his studies, helping at his local allotment group and considering the next step in his horticultural career.

Nathan is a real advocate of the opportunities volunteering can bring. At 34 he has come to gardening in a roundabout way (like many of us). After a decade and some of various jobs, from carpentry to labouring, he decided to follow that nagging voice in his head and try for a job in horticulture…but where to start?

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Weeding in the Shrub Borders with Bodnant gardener Graeme

He says: “I had a hard think about what I really wanted to do. I have always enjoyed gardening, like my dad and taid – Taid used to take part in the Llanrwst Show with his vegetables. I love fruit and vegetable growing in my small garden too.”

Nathan got involved with Golygfa Gwydyr in Llanrwst, a non-profit, community organisation which provides opportunities for volunteering and training through activities based in the Gwydyr Forest – including a community garden growing fruit and veg.

Project officer Rosie Evans says: “Nathan has been involved with the garden from the start two years ago, coming along at weekends with his kids. He has sorted the soil for us and advised us what to plant and it’s doing well. He’s a star – I’ve made him my head gardener!”

Seeing his potential, Rosie encouraged Nathan to follow his ambitions and to enrol at Northop College where he is doing a Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture. Part of that has involved seeking out work experience…which is what brought him to Bodnant Garden.

In his six weeks at with us Nathan has mucked in with the garden team in all aspects of routine maintenance including weeding and maintaining beds, working with the arborists and cleaning out one of the pools. But it hasn’t been all routine – his favourite job was cutting back cornus on one of the islands which involved using a boat!

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Mucking in…Helping clean out the Deep Bath at Bodnant Garden

Nathan says: “The six weeks has been a great taster. It’s given me real experience of real gardening. I would recommend volunteering to everyone. It gives you hands-on experience and can be a way into work. You get just as much back as you put in, and more.”

In Nathan’s case, his recent tour of Italian gardens wasn’t a bad return for his efforts! The trip was funded by Golygfa Gwydyr through grant sources. That, and the time he’s spent at Bodnant Garden, has been the inspiration for Nathan to keep pushing forward with his ambitions.

If you are interested in volunteering at Bodnant Garden, whether gardening or visitor services, contact our office anytime on 01492 650460. You can also find out more about Golygfa Gwydyr by contacting Rosie Evans on 01492 642110.