Unveiling the Yew Dell


  We’re almost there! The Yew Dell opens tomorrow (Saturday, March 8)…come along and be among the first to see the area, opening to visitors for the first time in the garden’s 140-year history. As an added bonus (if you needed one) visitors who come this weekend can also enter our Mother’s Day competition to win a Bodnant Garden treat for the family, inspired by our Yew Dell’s rhododendrons…

  Rhododendrons have played a special part in the history of the garden. Our dazzling display in May is world famous and draws visitors from far and wide, year after year. They’ve also played a special part in the Yew Dell.

  The 3.5 acres of the Yew Dell was laid out in the 1880s by Bodnant Garden’s creator Henry Pochin, who was inspired by William Robinson and his book The Wild Garden published in 1870. Robinson recommended mixing exotic and native plants suited to climate and terrain rather than according to any particular style.


Water cascades through the Yew Dell

   The popularity of this idea, together with the influx of plants from abroad fed by the travels of intrepid Victorian plant hunters, led to the creation of woodland gardens like that at Bodnant Garden which harmonised trees, shrubs and perennials from all over the world. The climate and terrain of North Wales was particularly suited to Himalayan plants like rhododendrons.

  Bodnant’s rhododendron collection developed in the early 1900s. The McLaren family supported Asian plant hunting expeditions of the day by famous botanists such as Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward. They brought back plants and seeds founding a collection which over successive decades was enhanced by a breeding programme which produced unique Bodnant Garden hybrids.


Rhododendron ririei in the Yew Dell, one of the plants grown from seed collected by plant hunters

  Many of these plants took their place in the garden, others found a home in the Yew Dell which became a ‘holding area’ for species and hybrid rhododendrons. These shrubs have now matured into trees and their beautifully twisted trunks reach over head mingling with the canopy of native yews, oak, ash as well as more exotic conifers and magnolias.

  Over the years the area has remained untouched apart from basic management and during the last two years gardeners have been weeding, cutting back the brambles and renovating shrubs and trees, as well as repairing paths and drains. During the renovation new plants will be added, including hydrangea, euonymus and acer to add autumn interest. The rhododendron collection will also be expanded.

  Visitors who come this weekend can bag their own piece of Bodnant history by entering our Mother’s Day competition. Tell us why your mum is the best and you could win lunch in the Pavilion tearoom on Mothering Sunday, March 30, plus a Bodnant hybrid rhododendron – one to take home and one to plant in the Yew Dell for posterity. Entries cards will be available at the garden.


Gardeners preparing a rustic seating srea in the Yew Dell