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

Big opening for #BodnantGardenFurnace

Pictures paint a thousand words…so we hope you enjoy this little round-up of our big opening day for Furnace Wood and Meadow, in full, glorious colour: 

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ME =)Many of the images were taken by our volunteer Gethin here, who was duty photographer for the day, and by other staff and volunteers. They capture what a fantastic, frenetic and fun day it was from beginning to end…from the early round of media crews in the morning, the VIP speeches and the chainsaw opening ceremony, through to a sunny afternoon of trails, crafts and daffodil planting, closing with the mass devouring of a truly gigantic cake. I feel a caption competition coming on…

If you have images of the day to share we’d love to see them and include them in our photo gallery – send them to us marked #BodnantGardenFurnace.

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

 

Welcome to Furnace Wood and Meadow

At last, after a decade of work, we’ve taken down the ropes to reveal a restored jewel in the crown of Bodnant Garden – Furnace Wood and Meadow, a 20 acre woodland of native and exotic trees and a wildflower-rich meadow.

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We celebrated our big opening day with the help of special guests – Dame Helen Ghosh (Director General of the National Trust), Justin Albert (Director for National Trust in Wales), Michael McLaren (Bodnant Garden Director and member of the garden’s donor family) and the naturalist and broadcaster Iolo Williams…and most importantly with our visitors, who we welcomed to Furnace for the first time in the garden’s history.

After speeches from our guests, arborist Richard performed the ‘ribbon-cutting’ (cutting a log with a chainsaw) to open the garden for a sunny afternoon of celebrations – guided walks by gardeners, woodcraft demonstrations, plant hunter activities for children in the wood and daffodil planting in the meadow. Iolo rounded off the day for us by sharing out the 1m square cake to visitors – a baking triumph by our catering team for which we almost needed the chainsaw again (because of its size, not texture!)
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This beautiful and historic area has been at the heart of a 21st century battle against plant disease and decay. Its rescue is the biggest conservation effort in Bodnant’s history and brings us closer to our ambition of opening the entire garden to the public.

Head gardener John Rippin says: “The opening is a high point in the garden’s 140-year history. This segment of the garden is the last significant piece of the Bodnant jigsaw to be fitted into place – with 75 of the 80 acres now open, we are now tantalisingly close to the day when visitors can enjoy all of this gardening masterpiece.

Furnace Hill lies alongside the west bank of the River Hiraethlyn in the valley garden. It is named after a blast furnace known to have operated in the area in the 1700s. Originally a hillside dotted with native trees, it was transformed from the 1870s under Bodnant Garden’s owner Henry Pochin and his daughter Laura McLaren, who planted North American conifers. Laura’s son Henry added many Asian rhododendrons and magnolias from the early 1900s.

Lying on the fringes of the estate, Furnace remained a private area for many decades, beloved by the McLaren donor family who cherished its tranquillity and its panoramic views, and filled it with exotic trees and shrubs from foreign lands.

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As recently as February 2017 gardeners faced another struggle, when Storm Doris brought down several trees in the renovated area

In around 2007 the killer plant disease Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak death) was spotted in the garden where it began attacking ornamental plants, particularly in Furnace Wood. Gardeners acted quickly; there followed a campaign of action supervised by DEFRA, to mass clear the area of purple woodland Rhododendron ponticum and other species such as larch trees which carried the disease. While some plants were lost, the spaces left behind gave gardeners an opportunity to plant anew and kick-started a major renovation.

This has included the restoration of the Penjerrick Walk, an avenue of rare rhododendrons originally planted by Henry McLaren, 2nd Lord Aberconway, from the 1920s. The feature had died out but Bodnant Garden has been able to clone surviving plant material and replant the 100 metre-long walkway, which it is hoped will rival the famous Laburnum Arch in future.

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As well as containing a historic collection of magnolias, rhododendrons and other Asian plants, Furnace Wood offers visitors panoramic views over the rest of the garden, including a bird’s-eye vista of the Italianate terraces on the other side of the river.

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While the plants, views and seclusion of Furnace Wood will delight lovers of horticulture, nearby Furnace Meadow is rich in wildlife. The garden team are managing this grassland in a traditional way to promote the rich diversity of species there.

John Rippin adds: “Furnace Wood and Meadow offer extraordinary glimpses across the surrounding Welsh countryside but the biggest surprise for visitors will be breath-taking views of the Terraces and Bodnant Hall and out across the Vale of Conwy where the estuary meanders close by against the stunning backdrop of the Carneddau mountain range. Add to that the abundance of rare or beautiful trees, shrubs and wild flowers along with a sense of tranquility and peace and you have something truly spectacular.”
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

 

 

 

 

 

A floral gift to future generations

As our world-famous Laburnum Arch bursts into June flower we’re unveiling an exciting conservation project to safeguard some rare and special plants at Bodnant Garden, and to create a floral spectacle for future generations.

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Artist impression of the new Penjerick Walk, by Clive McWilliam

Our garden team is restoring the Penjerrick Walk, a historic avenue of rhododendrons, back to its former glory. The hope is that in years to come it will be a floral showstopper to match the Victorian arch, which attracts around 50,000 visitors every June.

The Penjerrick Walk forms part of Furnace Hill, which lies on the west of the garden overlooking the River Hiraethlyn, Bodnant Hall and the spectacular Italianate terraces. The area includes woodland and a wildflower-rich meadow which will open to the public for the first time next spring, creating an extra 20 acres for visitors to explore.

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Furnace Hill and the newly planted Penjerrick Walk

Furnace Hill was first developed by Henry Pochin, who bought Bodnant Garden in 1874. His descendants, the McLaren family, shared his botanical passion and filled it with plants from around the world, planting American conifers and Asian rhododendrons and magnolias.

Pochin’s grandson Henry Duncan McLaren, 2nd Lord Aberconway, had a pivotal role in the story of rhododendrons in Britain. He sponsored plant hunting expeditions to Asia in the early 1900s which brought a great influx of new varieties into the country. He also bred 350 unique Bodnant hybrids at the garden from these species plants and worked with other UK plant breeders such as Penjerrick Garden in Cornwall.

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An existing Penjerrick rhododendron at Bodnant Garden

Henry planted the Penjerrick Walk in the 1920s and it would have been quite a sight when mature a couple of decades later – Rhododendron ‘Penjerrick’ has large scented white, cream or pink flowers and characteristic red-pink bark. However it is notoriously difficult to propagate and cannot be reproduced from cuttings. For this reason it has never been a common sight in UK gardens and as plants have died off they have not been replaced. The walkway at Furnace Hill eventually disappeared and was reclaimed by nature.

Former head gardener at Bodnant, Troy Smith was inspired to reinstate the Penjerrick Walk after discovering a speech by Henry McLaren in which he said: If I could switch the clock to any season of the year to enjoy a two minute walk at Bodnant, my choice would be the Penjerrick Walk in the first week of May

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Troy Smith checking on the new plants

With help from the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group of the RHS, plant material from existing Penjerricks in Bodnant Garden was micro-propagated at a specialist laboratory in Duchy College, Cornwall. Under Troy’s successor John Rippin, the garden team has nursed on and replanted some of the young plants in a 120 metre avenue on Furnace Hill. Around 40 Penjerricks have been interplanted with purple flowering Rhododendron augustinii and pink Rhododendron ‘Reve d’Amour’.

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Bodnant’s head gardener John Rippin

John said: “We go to great lengths to conserve and tend to the plants at Bodnant Garden to ensure the grounds look incredible all year round. Since 2012 the team here has opened new parts of the garden. We can’t wait to open Furnace Hill and will be eagerly waiting for the Penjerrick Walk to come into full bloom. The support from Duchy College and the RHS has been invaluable in making this happen.”

Justin Albert, director of National Trust Wales said: “Collected by intrepid plant hunters from as far back as 300 years ago, our precious plant life stands as testament to the vision and passion for plants shared by generations of owners and their gardeners.

“This fantastic project at Bodnant Garden is just one of conservation projects that our team of gardeners and volunteers are undertaking at our gardens across Wales to restore and preserve plants from across the world for visitors to enjoy.”

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Gardener Fiona Braithwaite giving members of Abergwyngregyn Gardening Club a sneak preview of Furnace Hill

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.

Move over, Nigel the dog!

Did we mention…BBC Gardener’s World paid us a visit recently? Never mind Monty, Nigel and Nell, this episode of Britain’s favourite gardening show features not one, but two of our head gardeners.

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Our very own former head gardener Troy Scott Smith returned to his old stomping ground recently to check up on the Laburnum Arch, meet our new band of volunteers the Laburnum Archers, and talk new man at the helm John Rippin about the renovation of the Far End and future garden projects.

The programme is due to be aired on Friday, June 3 – perfect timing for our Laburnum Arch, which is a little late this year due to topsy-turvey weather, and all set to burst into full bloom at the weekend. If you can’t wait until Friday, here’s a taster:

 

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Above, Troy meeting two Laburnum Archers – student Gethin and former wing commander Jeff – and below, with volunteer David

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Above, Troy and current head gardener John Rippin, and below, the camera crew with gardeners and volunteers at the Far End

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Troy checking on the progress of the newly planted Penjerrick Walk at Furnace Hill, which will be opened next spring

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A pow-wow at the gloriette on the Heather Hill, another new area to be opened to the public in the future

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Our Laburnum Archers, ready for action over the next few weeks of Bodnant Garden’s famous flowering sensation

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So book your place on the sofa and check in at BBC Gardener’s World this Friday, June 3, at 8.30pm. And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting over the next three weeks to see the Laburnum Arch, there’s a lovely new bunch of volunteers just waiting for greet you – you can’t miss them!

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.

Magical May at Bodnant Garden

The Upper GardenWe’re all set for a magical May at Bodnant Garden. The month brings a crescendo of spring colour, from exotic rhododendrons to native bluebells and a riot of blossom in between all crowned, of course, by the show-stopping Laburnum Arch.

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This year we’re pulling out all the stops to make the experience a memorable one for everyone. From the beginning of the month we’re opening the garden gates early, and late, so visitors can make the most of the spring flower show.

We’re also offering breakfasts in the tearoom for early birds and have recruited a team of special volunteers, Laburnum Archers, to help visitors coming here for the famous floral spectacle, which attracts around 50,000 people over three weeks.

The 55 metre-long Laburnum Arch was created by the garden’s Victorian founder Henry Pochin in 1882 and is the longest and oldest in Britain. The display of golden flowers in late spring is the most visited, photographed and anticipated event of Bodnant Garden’s year.

We put ouGetAttachmentt an appeal earlier this year for volunteers to help with the display and our events and engagement officer Charlie Stretton has been busy recruiting and training the merry band, who will be in special Laburnum yellow uniforms.

Our Laburnum Archers will help direct visitors, answer queries, take photographs for people, hand out brollies if the weather’s wet or drinking water if it’s hot, and help make the Laburnum Arch experience fun, friendly and enjoyable for everyone.

To give everyone extended access to the garden, people will be able to visit from 9am in May and June and stay until 8pm on Wednesday evenings (from May to the end of August.) Dogs are welcome on Wag Wednesdays evenings too, from 5pm-8pm.

And fueling all those hungry visitors will be our award-winning Pavilion tearoom, which has recently undergone a makeover by staff and volunteers and will be providing breakfasts from 9am throughout May and June.

Azaleas and rhododendrons near the Shrub Borders at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales

Other horticultural highlights to enjoy at this time are the rhododendrons. It’s said there’s a rhododendron in flower every month of the year at Bodnant Garden, but they are at their peak in May. The garden’s oldest were brought here from Asia by Victorian and Edwardian plant hunters. In the 1920s and 1930s some of these plants were cross-bred at Bodnant Garden to make new hybrids which are now beloved by gardeners all over the world.

Adding color to the palette is the blossom of cherries, viburnums, late flowering magnolias and many other shrubs and trees; herbaceous plants are filling beds and borders and drifts of native bluebells run through the grass glades and wooded areas of the garden.

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Now is also a great time to see garden projects underway – the renovation of the Bath poolside garden and the Canal Terrace borders – and to see the new Himalayan Poppy Bed near the Pin Mill, created last year, flowering for the first time.

The Laburnum Arch is the icing on our spring cake. We’ll keep everyone updated here, on or website, Facebook and Twitter, about its ETA. We’re all set, so watch this space!

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.

 

A season of new beginnings at Bodnant Garden

Magnolias MarchSigns of spring are all around us, Easter will soon be here and a season of new beginnings is dawning at Bodnant Garden.

Around the garden trees are greening, blossom and flowers opening and birdsong filling the air. It’s a great time to see new beds and borders created last year, now flowering for the first time, and to watch gardeners at work planting new schemes too.

Our early spring garden highlights include the native and the exotic, from massed displays of camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons to swathes of daffodils and bluebells.

You’ll find many mature Chinese magnolias dotted throughout the garden, which were brought to Bodnant from their native lands by famous plant hunters at the turn of the 1900s. They light up the garden  from March to May; some, like the grand old Magnolia campbellii mollicromata on the Croquet Terrace (seen above), began flowering in February.

Azaleas and rhododendrons near the Shrub Borders at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales

Bodnant Garden is famous for its Asian rhododendrons, including unique hybrids bred at the garden from the 1920s. It’s said that there’s a rhododendron in bloom every month of the year here, even in winter, but they reach a dazzling peak in April and May. Herbaceous beds are filling out too, with tulips, iris, and early flowering perennials.

For a special spring treat, wander through wild daffodils in the Old Park meadow (you can also watch gardeners and volunteers deadheading the flowers to keep the display looking good – that’s dedication for you.) Following hard on the daffodils’ heels are native bluebells which run through the garden’s woods and glades.

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Volunteers deadheading the daffodils

This year you can see gardeners starting work on new planting schemes – sowing annual flower seeds in the Pin Mill borders for a summer display and beginning work on the renovation of the Deep Bath, which is being replanted with tropical species.

You can also see beds which were created just last year now coming to life; the Poppy Bed near the terraces was replanted with Himalayan primulas and poppies and the large Vanessa Bed near the Front Lawn, formerly shrubs and rhododendrons, was redesigned by our student gardeners as a mixed bed of plants with year-round interest.

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Of course Easter is a family time, and our wildlife-inspired activities will engage little hands, hearts and minds over the holiday period (Friday, March 25, to  Sunday, April 10):

  • Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt: Sunday March 27 and Monday March 28, search the garden for clues to discover a chocolate surprise, 10am to 3pm (cost £3 per child)
  • Pond Dipping Tuesdays: March 29 and April 5, 12pm-3pm (no extra charge)
  • Wildlife Garden Wednesdays; March 30 and April 6, 11am-2pm (no extra charge)
  • Make a Kite Thursdays: March 31 and April 7, 11am-2pm (no extra charge)
  • Teddy Bear Trails: Friday April 1-4 and April 8-10, all day (no extra charge)

Whether you want to bask quietly in nature or bring the family for a day out, there are 80 acres to explore and enjoy at Bodnant Garden this Easter time. Don’t miss springtime in Wales – with a little taste of the East thrown in for good measure!

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.

The Skating Pond at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales

The tranquil lakeside at the Far End in spring.

 

 

 

 

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Bring out the bubbly! Bodnant Garden makes history with 200,000 visitors

The team at Bodnant Garden downed tools recently to welcome our 200,000th visitor this year, who was greeted at the gates by staff and volunteers bearing bubbly and cake.

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Staff and volunteers greet the 200,000 visitors to Bodnant Garden – Simon, Samantha and Emily Hardman

We reached this milestone in a blaze of autumn colour, months ahead of target. It’s the first time in the garden’s 140-year history that visitor numbers have reached this level.

The lucky guests were Samantha and Simon Hardman, and their baby daughter Emily from Sheffield, for whom it was their first visit.

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They said: “We came here to Bodnant Garden on a relative’s recommendation. We were expecting a beautiful garden, but we were definitely not anticipating the shower of confetti, the huge cake, the bubbly and the crowd of staff, volunteers and visitors that greeted our arrival! This was our first ever visit to Bodnant Garden, but it won’t be our last – the garden is absolutely magnificent, and the autumn colours are stunning. We will be back, and we’ll be recommending it to all our friends.”

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The garden has attracted around 180,000 visitors per year for some years but visitor numbers have been steadily rising since 2013 with the opening of new areas – the Winter Garden, Old Park meadow, Yew Dell and Far End – and new initiatives like dog days, garden events and family activities.

General manager William Greenwood says: “It’s an absolutely amazing achievement and a stunning tribute to so much hard work and dedication in all weathers from our hardworking staff and volunteer team. I can’t thank enough every single one of them.

“I find it difficult to grasp just how many visitors 200,000 really is. Apparently we’d have to empty the Millennium Stadium over 2½ times, and then we’d need 3,175 double decker buses just to bring them all here!”

It’s been a proud moment for everyone at the garden, staff and volunteers, from the gardens to the tearooms and offices:

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Ann Smith, Visitor Services Manager

“Having worked at the garden for many years I’ve been privileged to see all the changes and developments as they’ve happened. I’m full of admiration for our gardeners who passionately and creatively work in harmony with nature and often have to battle with the elements. I’ve seen their sorrow when they’ve had to take down a very old tree which has come to the end of its life; their stoicism as they’ve tackled the devastating damage caused by floods and high winds, and their joy when a new area they’ve worked so hard to restore is finally opened to visitors.

“But what I’m most proud of is the commitment and enthusiasm of all staff and volunteers to sharing their love of the garden with visitors, ensuring that they have a fantastic time here, that they come back again and again, and that they become ambassadors for Bodnant Garden.  And, clearly it works – reaching this amazing milestone of our 200,000th visitor in under a year is a tangible testament to the dedication and success of the team at Bodnant Garden.”

Gardener working in August at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales.

Mark Morris, gardener

Mark has been working at Bodnant Garden for around 30 years, man and boy, and is font of all knowledge for everyone on the garden team.

He says: I’ve been lucky enough to work with both the third Lord Aberconway and with head gardener Martin Puddle in the 1980s and 1990s. Back then we welcomed around 140,000 visitors a year – we thought that was a lot of people! But Bodnant is a large garden with so many different areas for people to explore and it never feels crowded.

“There have been massive changes in that time, the garden has completely changed – new areas have opened up and the planting which used to be more conservative is now more contemporary – but to me it is equally as magical now as it has always been. This place is who I am. It’s just really pleasing to know more people are now enjoying and appreciating this special place.”

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Visitor Services Volunteer Richard Berry

Richard helps meet and greet visitors and organise a whole range of events in the garden. Over the past two years he and fellow ‘Voles’ have been the brains and the brawn behind transforming part of the Old Mill in the Dell into a hub for visitors, including an Elves Workshop in winter. He says: “I love my role as a volunteer working alongside my colleagues in our varied activities and now seeing another achievement in having our 200,000 visitor this year. Another highlight has been to help clean out part of the Old Mill which is now used for family activities and garden presentations.”  

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Student gardener Jess Mehers

Jess has been at Bodnant Garden for the past year training with the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme. She and fellow trainee Jaette Nielson have redesigned and replanted the Vanessa Bed on the Top Lawn, which was decimated by an oak tree which fell in storms of 2013.

Jess says: It’s been such an exciting time to be at Bodnant Garden with new areas opening and new projects going on. It’s been wonderful to work alongside such a vibrant team of skilled gardeners, staff and volunteers, and I’ve loved meeting all the visitors. It’s particularly special to be here for the 200,000th visitor. That’s quite an achievement.”

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John Baxendale, Visitor reception assistant

John is one of the team at the ‘frontline’ who welcomes visitors at reception and has been here for around four years. He says: It’s wonderful news to reach 200,000 visitors – we’re just glad they don’t all come on the same day! I get to meet people from all four corners of the world – in many different languages which makes for interesting scenarios! There’s never a dull moment. People are always just amazed by this internationally acclaimed garden. I wouldn’t be here unless I loved it. And I really do love it.”

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Michael McLaren, Garden Director

Michael McLaren, of the donor family, said: “I am delighted that this month Bodnant will be welcoming its 200,000th visitor – the first time ever that we have had more than 200,000 visitors in one year. My grandfather, Henry 2nd Lord Aberconway, who gave the garden to the National Trust in 1949 and who more than anyone else was responsible for the creation of the garden, loved seeing visitors appreciating the beauty of the garden and learning about horticulture and garden design. He too would have been thrilled to see this record broken…and with the prospect of further milestones being passed before the end of the year.

“Huge thanks from me and all the donor family to the staff and volunteers who have made this great achievement possible, and particularly to the gardeners for ensuring that the garden looks better than ever.”

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Helen MacDonald, tearoom assistant

Helen has worked here for three years, also on the frontline making sure visitors get that leisurely lunch in the bustling tearooms or much-needed snack in the new al-fresco kiosks down in The Dell and Far End.

She says: “It’s a beautiful place to work and I feel very lucky. It gets busy in summer mind you, but I like that. I enjoy meeting all the different people who come in, from all over the world, and having a chat. Some more familiar faces come regularly and pop in to say hello which is nice. 200,000 visitors is quite something.The gardeners do a wonderful job and that’s what people come to see, it’s a real credit to them.”

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John Rippin, Head Gardener

John joined the team in January this year, coming from Castle Drogo in Devon, another National Trust property.

He says: “The rich gardening tradition at Bodnant stretches far back into history. When the Statue of Liberty was being dedicated the first giant redwoods were being planted in The Dell.  Despite many triumphs and tragedies including two apocalyptic 20th Century world wars that changed the economic and social landscape of this nation, the celebrated team of Bodnant gardeners here have always continued with what gardeners do best – getting on with what they know and love.

“The spirit of resilience and pride continues with the present Bodnant Garden Team and has seen them through their own share of challenges that a garden of this size and significance will always encounter. After years of hard work, change and periods of uncertainty however, the taste of success is always sweeter and more satisfying than if there had been no struggle.

“I believe the 200,000th visitor marks and important moment in time for the team at Bodnant Garden; it says categorically that the dedication and painstaking attention to detail of the garden team employs in their every-day work is greatly appreciated. Perhaps more importantly it says that the ongoing creative revitalisation of the garden and the opening of new areas has been hugely successful with our visitors and is a winning formula we can all celebrate.

“I’m glad that Bodnant gardeners have been able to step away from their beautiful borders, streams and glades today to take part in the occasion and albeit briefly to reflect on the magnitude of the moment with a renewed sense of satisfaction of a job well done.”

Justin_Albert_webJustin Albert, National Trust Director for Wales

“Quite simply Bodnant Garden is paradise on Earth.  Sublime, restful and inventive twelve months a year it has earnt its place as one of the very best of the world’s gardens.”

“I want to thank the McLaren family not just for the wonderful gift to the nation of Bodnant Garden, a masterpiece they created and nurtured, but also for continuing inspiration and vision that their close involvement brings to its success. 200,000 visitors is a genuine milestone, and I am so proud that we have achieved it without losing the essential tranquillity and wonder of the Bodnant Garden experience.”

“As Director for Wales I am not allowed to have a favourite place, but for me Bodnant represents the very best that the Trust has to offer. A great beauty, a long history of invention, partnership with the family that gave us the garden and most of all extraordinary staff and volunteers who deliver great experiences to everyone who visits.”

“I challenge anyone not to fall in love with Bodnant Garden, well done to all the staff and volunteers on reaching this historic milestone, and most importantly giving so many people such wonderful experiences in the Welsh paradise.”

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General manager William, left, with staff Charlie, Adam, Fran and Rose.

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.

Recognition for our rare rhododendrons

If you’ve ever walked around Bodnant Garden and wondered what the green plant labels mean…they are reserved for special rhododendrons, those unique to Bodnant, our Bodnant Hybrids.

We’ve recently had news that the conservation body Plant Heritage has approved this group as an important new National Collection – to give them their full title, Rhododendron Hybrids Bred at Bodnant Garden 1927-1983. This takes our number of National Collections to five – we already hold collections of Magnolia, Eucryphia, Embothrium and Rhododendron forrestii.

It’s a big deal – the collection reflects Bodnant’s place in the great British history of rhododendrons. It also highlights our quest to save these hybrid plants, some of which are ‘lost’ to records and some even nearing extinction.

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This is something close to the heart of Bodnant Garden’s taxonomist Alison Clarke (seen right) who has been working for several years to nurture our hybrids and safeguard their future.

Bodnant Garden played a lead role in the story of rhododendrons in Britain. These ‘exotic’ new plants began trickling into Britain in the late 1800s but it was in the early 20th century that they really made their mark. Bodnant Garden’s owner Henry Duncan McLaren, second Lord Aberconway, was active in sponsoring the expeditions of plant hunters such as George Forrest, Ernest Wilson, Frank Kingdom Ward, Joseph Rock, which brought back to our large country houses, parks and gardens quantities of these and other Asian plants, like magnolias.

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Head gardener Frederick Puddle and Lord Aberconway

The first rhododendron came to Bodnant Garden in 1910. Legend has it that head gardener Frederick Puddle at first didn’t believe they would be hardy enough to grow in North Wales – thankfully he was proved wrong! They acclimatised so well that Lord Aberconway and Mr Puddle went on to develop a successful breeding programme.

Rhododendron griersonianum 01Their hybridisation programme started during 1920s. Many of the early rhododendrons offered a new colour palette and range of genes to work with. Those that were most used at Bodnant Garden included Rh. wardii (the first strong yellow), Rh. cinnabarinum (which introduced orange shades), and the reds for which the garden became so famous, including Rh. forrestii and Rh. griersonianum (seen above). Nearly half of all hybrids registered were reds – the Bodnant Bloody Reds.

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Rhododendron wardii and Rhododendron cinnabarinum

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Rhododendron ‘Elizabeth’

One aim was to extend the flowering season by using particularly early and late flowering species; also to produce stronger plants by crossing tender plants with more hardy species; another reason was to produce smaller plants suitable for the domestic market, the most famous example being Rh.‘Elizabeth’ – still one of the most popular rhododendrons in the UK.

Alison says: “Over 300 hybrids were raised and registered to Bodnant. To date we have 115 varieties in the garden. Some exist only as a singular specimen. Those under threat of extinction are being actively propagated.

“Sadly today there are only perhaps ten or so that are widely available to buy. Some of the most well know are Rhododendrons Elizabeth, Cilpinense, Vanessa Pastel, Fabia Tangerine and Matador. We are actively searching for the others both in the garden and elsewhere, including nurseries selling them and other gardens which may have them.”

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Rhododendron Fabia Tangerine and Rhododendron Vanessa Pastel

Many of the ‘missing’ plants are thought to be still in the garden but have lost their labels so we are working with metal detectorists from Mold Historical Society to help find labels. In future DNA analysis may also help identify plants thought to be missing hybrids.

Meanwhile we are actively propagating ‘at risk’ hybrids using alternative methods such as grafting, layering and micro-propagation, and hope to one day restart a Bodnant Garden hybridisation programme.

Our registration as a National Collection will raise the profile of these special plants and hopefully encourage more people to grow them, helping to safeguard their future.

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.