Heavenly scent of spring at Bodnant Garden

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We’re basking in a spectacular spring at Bodnant Garden. It began with an early display of daffodils, encouraged by a mild winter, and thanks to a spell of bright, sunny days the season has just got better and better. Beds and borders are ablaze with bright tulips, wooded glades speckled with bluebells, and everywhere the blooms of rhododendrons, magnolias, viburnums and other flowering shrubs and trees hang overhead and decorate the ground underfoot.

The garden is a kaleidoscope of colours; but the scent is something else. An intoxicating atmosphere hangs in the air everywhere you wander, mingling as you pass from plant to plant; the soapy-white aroma of Rhododendron loderi ‘King Goerge’ transforms into the sweetness of wisteria before merging into lemon-fresh Rhododenrdron luteum.

We hope you enjoy some images of Bodnant Garden at blossom time. Close your eyes and imagine the scent…or better still, come and visit!

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In the upper garden: Clematis and wisteria cloaking terrace walls; bright and blousy peonies and tulips filling beds; a riot of rhododendrons in the North Garden; pockets of Himalayan poppies and primulas

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Even the Winter Garden looks beautifully spring-like!

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In The Glades: Asian rhododendrons, acers, magnolias and primulas; native bluebells; our star plants of high spring Embothrium coccineum (Chilean Firebush) and Davidia involucrata (Handkerchief Tree)

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Magnolia soulangeana, drifts of blue Omphalodes beneath trees, and Viburnum plicatum

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In the valley garden: Scented ivory Rhododendron ‘Penjerrick’ and yellow Rhododendron luteum; unfurling tree ferns on the newly opened Furnace Hill; the grand vista of towering conifers and seclusion of shady pathways

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The spring spectacle will soon be crowned by the flowering of the Laburnum Arch – which we expect to be a week earlier this year (around the 20th of May), lasting for three weeks. A sudden change in weather can always set this back, so keep a watch on our website and social media for updates.

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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Memories are made of this

The Laburnum Arch may be fading for another year, but what a show it’s been…and what memories it’s made. Visitors numbers to Bodnant Garden soared during the annual spectacle, from around 8,000 a week in mid May BL (Before Laburnum) to almost 14,000 one week later, where figures hovered for four weeks of the flowering phenomenon. The display made the BBC Wales news, The Times newspaper and whipped up a storm on social media.

Clodagh Murphy

What is it that generates such a frenzy of interest? As a wonder of nature (or horticulture) this pergola walkway of drooping golden flowers is dazzlingly beautiful and on a scale not many of us get to see very often. At a jaw-dropping 180 feet our arch is believed to be the longest in the UK and is certainly the oldest, at 130 years plus. It’s both a testament to the man who envisaged it but never saw it in its full glory – the garden’s founder Henry Pochin – and to the gardeners who have painstakingly cared for it in the years since.

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Derek Brockway gives us a shout out on BBC Wales News weather

But the emotions the Laburnum Arch conjures are something else. From the visitor numbers, the comment cards and just the look on people’s faces as you watch them wandering through, it clearly means a lot of things to a lot of people. There are those just delighted by the all-enveloping sensory experience – the sight, the scent, the hum of bees feasting on the flowers – there are others for whom it’s creating memories, as they enjoy the delight on their children’s faces, and others for who it brings back memories, of visiting as children themselves, or with loved ones now gone.

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Comments ranged from the ‘amazing’, ‘stunning’ and ‘magical’ to one visitor who described it as a ‘tunnel of yellowy loveliness’ and another who made the post-general election quip, ‘reminds me of the Lib Dems hanging out to dry’ (views expressed do not reflect our own)! Several visitors, moved by thoughts of previous visits with family and friends, suggested the idea of a memory tree or garden feature for people to somehow mark their reminiscences.

The surge in smart phones has brought a deluge of photos and feedback from people all wanting to share their experience (including, for all those of a certain age,  H from Steps)… 2015 has officially been the year of the Laburnum Selfie! As pictures speak a thousand words, here are just a few which sum up the Laburnum effect perfectly. Thanks everyone for sharing your Laburnum Arch with us – here’s to next year:

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LIndsay williams Laura Fairbairn

Chris and Ria

Sarah Breeze-Roberts Mandy Farrall

Charlotte Mattin Clare Miller

Kirstie Pool

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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.

 

Laburnum fever hits Bodnant Garden

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Says it all! A picture by visitor Jules Girling

All across the UK Laburnum trees are coming into blossom, unfurling their long drooping bunches of yellow flowers. In warmer, southern climes some have been in bloom for a while – but here in our little corner of North Wales this annual happening is being watched and waited for by thousands upon thousands of people.

photo comp Zsolt D KovatsBodnant Garden’s Laburnum Arch is the most visited, photographed, talked about spectacle in our garden – eagerly anticipated for weeks and visited by up to 50,000 people in the month when it is in flower, during late May/early June. It’s a spectacular sight – both the arch and the visitors – and something that its creator could probably never have imagined.

The garden’s founder, Henry Pochin, bought Bodnant estate in 1874 and employed Edward Milner, apprentice to Joseph Paxton, to redesign the land around the house which was then largely lawns surrounded by farmland. They dramatically landscaped the garden to the west of the house, making the most of the terrain and views sweeping down the valley side. In the top section of the garden Henry’s lasting legacy was the Laburnum Arch, built around 1881.

Henry died in 1895 and while he probably saw the young Laburnum plants flower he would not have witnessed their full splendour…as he never saw the conifers he planted reach their towering stature.

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Henry Davis Pochin

Pochin was a largely self made man. Hailing from a Leicestershire farming family, he trained as an industrial chemist and made his name and fortune inventing a process to clarify soap, turning it from brown colour to white. He went on to be a successful businessman, mayor and JP and when he ‘retired’ to North Wales in his 50s he became a successful farmer and horticulturalist too.

Like many wealthy landowners of the day he invested much into making his estate a showpiece – raising prize winning cattle and crops, as well as flowers, fruit and vegetables, filling the garden with plants newly discovered from foreign lands, and leading the latest horticultural trends. One such garden ‘must have’ was the pergola walkway, a feature which was fashionable in the 16th and 17th centuries and became popular again in Victorian times. However our Mr Pochin, being Mr Pochin, created the longest archway in Britain.

943403_517912141589666_730808800_nSo what we have today is an arch 180 (55m) feet long, made up of 48 plants which have been replaced over the years but have provided a continual display of golden flowers in late spring since 1882. Called Golden Rain, Laburnum produces a dazzling flush of bright yellow pea-shaped flowers up to 50cm long in hanging racemes, followed by seedpods. In late May and early June the arch is literally buried under long, golden yellow pendulous bunches of flowers.

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The original arch with yew hedges

The arch was originally made of Laburnum anagyroides plants, later replaced with hybrid cultivar Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’ – a cross between L.anagyroides and L. alpinum which was found occurring naturally in the Tyrol in 1856. A decade later the hybrid Vossii became available through Waterer’s Nursery in Surrey, a hybrid which is less toxic, not producing much seed.

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The arch today

The structure was originally wooden but this was subject to rot and replaced in 2007 after major refurbishment. The metal framework is more pliable and the plants are able to wrap themselves around without bruising or damage to stems. There used to be yew hedges alongside the arch but these were in poor condition and removed in the 1950s, replaced by azaleas, creating a wider tunnel with a colourful flowering backdrop.

Today, it takes two gardeners up to a month to prune the arch in January at the coldest time of the year – painstakingly untying, cutting back and tying back in each strand to the framework – and it takes a further two weeks of work deadheading the flowers in July.

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For many years the work was done by gardener Tony Mitchell (seen above), who retired two years ago. Gardener Laura is now carrying on the baton and training other gardeners in the delicate art.

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Tony pruning the arch in winter

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Laura deadheading the flowers in summer

We know that people plan their visits to Bodnant Garden around the Laburnum Arch, some even plan their annual holidays. Our latest Laburnum Watch post on the garden’s Facebook page reached 30,000 people and received 1,000 ‘Likes’. It really is a phenomenon and once seen is never forgotten. So if you’re visiting Bodnant Garden over the next few weeks enjoy the spectacle, and send us your photos…and if you’re not, sit back and enjoy the pictures.

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.

50 Things to do (and some) at Bodnant Garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIs Half Term terror rising among parents out there? Never fear, we have plenty for families to do here at Bodnant Garden over the school holiday. We’ve got a great week of activities, with something on every day. It’s part of our commitment to the National Trust’s project ‘50 Things to do before you’re 11¾‘, which is aimed at encouraging kids to get mucky, discover their wild side and get closer to nature.

Here’s what’s happening at Bodnant Garden:

Saturday to Wednesday: Plant it, Grow it, Eat it – At the Old Mill (outdoors if the weather is fine, inside if wet) from 11am-3pm. Kids can pick a pot, fill it with compost, put a bean or pea in it, tiny bit of water, put in a brown bag and take home.

Tuesday: Pond dipping at the Far End Skating Pond, from 12 to 3pm.

Thursday: Wild Art Fairy Houses – In the Yew Dell, by the tree stump tables, from 12 noon to 3pm. Children can have fun building a little “fairy house” from natural materials they find around the garden.

Thursday to Sunday: Mud Pie Making – At the Winter Garden entrance to the Old Park, 11am to 3pm. There will be compost, buckets, water, mud, paper plates and petals for children make their mud pies, rinse their hands in a bucket of water (if they want to wash them!) and leave their pie in a wheelbarrow to be composted later.

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In addition to these events everyone is welcome to have a go at Barefoot Walking through the Old Park, Pooh Sticks at The Old Mill and the Yew Dell, and Den Building at the Far End near the refreshment kiosk, every day from Saturday May 24th to Sunday May 31st. What’s more there are also free Fifty Things scrapbooks on offer at reception – children can come back to collect a sticker or stamp when they have done their activity.

For the whole family, we’ve also got some special events on over the Bank Holiday weekend and Half Term week. There’s music in the Pin Mill on Sunday May 24th, with the Conwy Clarinet Trio playing from 2pm, an open day at The Poem mausoleum on Tuesday May 26th, and don’t forget dogs are welcome every Wednesday evening through the summer too, at our late night openings from 5-8pm.

And if you time your visit right you may see the famous Laburnum Arch in bloom – the spectacle is expected to flower from end of May and it’s something young and old will never forget.

David Ackers, Birkenhead

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.

Spring is blossoming at Bodnant Garden

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We’re basking in an amazing April here at Bodnant Garden. We’ve enjoyed a week of brilliant sunshine and blue skies which has coaxed out many wonderful plants. From the vivid tulips on the Range border which seemed to burst open, their petals wide to the warmth, to the delicious aroma of Osmanthus filling the air…the birds singing, bees buzzing… the gentle hum of the mower and smell of cut grass…it feels that summer is just around the corner.

But take a moment and enjoy this lovely unfolding of spring sights, sounds and scents. Here’s a sample of some of the things to enjoy this weekend if you’re visiting, starting with the colourful herbaceous perennials and bulbs to the scented and flowering and trees shrubs:

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Electric blue Pulmonaria ‘Lewis Palmer’ and Epimedium pubigernum

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Erythronium 'Pagoda' Bergenia cordifolia

Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ and Bergenia cordifolia, and below, more Erythronium, this time the pink flowered ‘Revolutum’

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From the sublime Anemone nemerosa to… Lysichiton americanus!

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Eye-catching colours…Tulips in the parterre and, below, Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Cherry Ingram’ and Euphorbia polychroma

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Flowering shrubs are really romping away right now. Our magnolias have been in flower for a month and are still going – some later forms will still be flowering in May and June. Rhododendrons have also been blooming since early spring but are now gearing up for the big show in May, building up layers upon layers of dazzling colour around the garden. And then there are the flowering cherries, which have just started to open and promise a bounty of blossom over the next few weeks.

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Magnolia stellata and, below, Magnolia ‘Heaven Scent’ 

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Rh. 'Janet'

Large blousey blooms of Rhododendron ‘Janet’ 

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Rhododendron ‘Redwing’ and Rh ‘Bluestone’ both Bodnant Hybrids

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Fothergilla major and, below, Forsythia x intermedia

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Prunus Kanzan and, below, Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’

Pieris 'Flaming Silver' (2)

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Scented Exochorda macrantha ‘The Bride’ and, below, the beautiful foliage of Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis Osmanthus delayvii, seen here on the Tennis Lawn, is just one of the glorious plants to be enjoyed around the garden right now – and there’s much more to follow in the coming weeks – scented viburnums, blossoming clematis and wisteria…and don’t forget the Laburnum Arch, which is on schedule to flower at the end of May and is a spectacle, once seen, we promise you will never forget.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodnantGardenNT

For the love of Laburnum

  The annual excitement over Bodnant Garden’s Laburnum Arch has reached fever pitch once again. The arch attracts around 45,ooo people in the three weeks of its flowering (property adminstrator Rose also estimates this number have phoned in asking about it…the lines have been red hot!) It is without doubt the most visited, photographed, talked about and eagerly anticipated event of our year.

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Feeling the love…visitor Jules Girling 

  Why so popular? I guess it’s a question of scale; there are other lovely laburnum arches in the UK – including at nearby Ness Gardens on the Wirral, the Dorothy Clive Gardens in Shropshire, at Kew Palace as well as others at private gardens up and down the country – but we believe ours is the oldest and certainly the longest, forming a dazzling 55 metre-long, shimmering golden walkway. 

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  We’ve got the garden’s founder Henry Pochin (seen above) to thank for that. A ground-breaking chemist, businessman, JP, MP and visionary, Henry bought the Bodnant estate in 1874 and dramatically landscaped the garden to the west of the house, making the most of the terrain and views sweeping down the valley side by planting the Pinetum in The Dell. In the top of the garden Henry’s other lasting legacy was the Laburnum Arch, built around 1881.

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  It’s not just people who love the Laburnum

  The first pergola walkways were developed during the Renaissance period in the Mediterranean, to provide shelter, shade and a place to grow flowering vines and fruit bearing trees – the Italian word ‘pergola’ actually meaning ‘a close walk of boughs’.  They became popular throughout European gardens up to the 1600s, but fell out of fashion in the centuries which followed, replaced by grand formal gardens and by the naturalistic landscape movement.

  They rose in favour again in the late Victorian era with the rustic, romantic Arts and Crafts movement. Henry Pochin decided he wanted a pergola walkway at Bodnant and, not being a man to do things by halves, he designed the biggest and the best!

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 The arch looking quite different with its original yew hedges

   The arch was originally made of Laburnum anagyroides plants, the common laburnum which occurs across Southern Europe. It was later replaced with hybrid cultivar Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’  developed in the 1860s by Waterer’s Nursery in Surrey. This form produces longer racemes, up to 5ocm long, and fewer toxic seeds, something which deters people from planting them in their gardens. There is doubt these days about exactly how harmful the seeds are; you would probably have to eat alot of them…but we wouldn’t recommend anyone trying it!

   The structure of the arch was originally wooden but as these rotted it has been replaced by a metal frame. Originally there were yew hedges alongside the arch but these were in poor condition and removed in the 1950s, replaced by azaleas, creating a wider tunnel with a colourful flowering backdrop.

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Former gardener Tony winter pruning the arch and Laura deadheading in July

  It takes two gardeners up to five weeks to prune the arch by hand in January at the coldest time of the year – painstakingly untying, cutting back and tying back in each strand to the framework – and it takes a further two weeks of work deadheading the flowers in July. But as the visitor figures prove, it’s well worth the effort.

  There’ s still time to see the Laburnum Arch at Bodnant Garden. If you’ve not been lucky enough to get here you can still enjoy the pictures on our social media sites. For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460 or check out:

website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden  

Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodnantGardenNT 

Twitter site https://twitter.com/BodnantGarden

 

 

Farewell to the King of the Laburnum Arch

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It’s the end of an era here. We’ve just said a fond farewell to one of our longest serving gardeners – king of the Laburnum Arch!

  Tony Mitchell, who has retired after 26 years at Bodnant Garden, has been  the deft fingers behind the pruning and training of our crowd-pulling, main attraction for the last ten years. He’s handed over the secateurs to arch partner Laura who’ll now be training up the next generation of gardeners to look after the laburnum.

  Tony’s been more than just a master of the arch of course – he’s been a part of the garden for more than a quarter of a century and his huge knowledge and experience will be missed by us all. As will the no-nonsense, down to earth attitude for which we know and love him!

  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tony started his horticultural career in 1963 with five years at the prestigious Wakehurst Place in Sussex, now run by the National Trust and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. In the years that followed he travelled widely – gardening from the south coast to Scotland, including six years with the famous Hillier Nurseries, and even a stint landscaping in Sweden before finally moving to North Wales.

  He’s seen many changes at Bodnant Garden in 26 years: “When I started gardeners used to scythe the banks of The Dell. There was no machinery like strimmers or hedge cutters and the only transport was wheelbarrow. It’s hard work at times but it’s been a great job. I will miss the garden and my work mates – and of course the arch.”

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Tony and Laura pruning the arch in January

  The 180 foot Laburnum Arch attracts thousands of visitors every year when it flowers in May. It takes Laura and Tony four weeks to prune and tie the plants into the metal framework in January, painstaking and intricate work at the coldest time of the year. It then takes them another three weeks to deadhead the flowers in July.

  Tony recalls taking over the job of pruning the arch more than a decade ago. He started a new technique of fanning the branches out to let more light in and it seems to have paid off. Joined by gardener Laura Jones a few years ago, the pair now have the job down to a fine art.

 Tony says: “It’s a labour of love and I will miss it…but it’s in good hands. I certainly won’t miss the cold and the rain and the aching joints on winter mornings!”

  Our Tony won’t be resting on his laurels. He is renovating a new flat and garden in Rhos and also pursuing his other interests, metal detecting, stamp and postcard collecting – he has a collection of almost 200 old postcards of Bodnant Garden through the ages. He will even be taking up bowls…do we see a future in green keeping?

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Tony blowing rhododendron and magnolia leaves off the laburnum path in spring

  We had a farewell party for Tony at the Pavilion tearoom recently and he was presented with cards and gifts.  There is an empty space at the head of the mess room table at break times now…but it will always be there when you call in for a ‘panad’ Tony! 

See our website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodnantGardenNT for more about Bodnant Garden.