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.

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Jette, Christina and Jess making a bug hotel

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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!

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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!

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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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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

We love Bodnant Garden – and your pictures!

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Laburnum fever! Image shared to our Facebook page by Jules Girling

  They say a picture paints a thousand words…and people clearly love Bodnant Garden, because we’ve got the stunning photographs to prove it. The amazing range and quality of shots shared by people to our Facebook and Twitter sites in 2013 is truly inspiring; photographs of vistas, plants, wildlife and smiling faces convey the joy which the garden evokes. So we’ve decided to celebrate our world famous beauty spot – and all your creative talent – with a 2014 photography competition, entitled I Love Bodnant Garden.

  The competition will run from January to October and at the end of it winners will see their work made into an official 2015 Bodnant Garden calendar, have their pictures displayed at the garden and also get to hone their skills working with a renowned North Wales photographer.

    Katie Croft, engagement officer at Bodnant Garden, says: “Bodnant Garden has got to be one of the most photogenic places in the country. We’ve got everything from rugged mountain views to the delicate detail of a blossom. We thought a competition would give people chance to show us what it is they love about this beautiful place, whether they’re of people, landscapes or close ups of flowers.”

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Evie enjoying a Dogs Welcome day, by Dan Struthers

  The competition, for digital photos, will be launched on January 13 and runs until October 31. There are junior and senior categories and to inspire entrants there will be free workshops with professional photographer Pierino Algieri – on April 24, July 26, and October 18.

  Competition winners will be announced on November 14 and on November 29 there will be a prize-giving at the garden when the new calendar will be unveiled. Winners will also receive £100 of vouchers for Cambrian Photography Shop in Colwyn Bay, have their photograph displayed in the entrance to the garden for one year and be able to attend a special workshop with Pierino in May 2015.

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Acers at Bodnant Garden by Pierino Algieri

  Pierino Algieri is a landscape and nature photographer born and raised in Conwy Valley, well known for his images of Snowdonia. He won the Rural Landscape category of the Country file Photographic Competition with his picture of the Miner’s Barracks above Capel Curig.

  Katie says: “I’m really looking forward to seeing the entries because I know there are some really creative people around here. I see people taking photos of the garden all the time and I’m always curious about what catches their eye. It’ll be inspiring to see what is important to our visitors.”

  If you’re chomping at the bit to get started and looking for inspiration what better place to start than in our Winter Garden, which is blooming right now? Judging by the pictures you’ve shared with us just this last year we can look forward to some  wonderful images. Get going everyone – and good luck!

 For full competition details go to our competition page here on the blog http://wp.me/P2Ylci-pe.  Entry forms are available from reception at the garden, or call 01492 650460 for more information. For more about Bodnant Garden see our website at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden.