The secret magic in a garden

Local school pupils gave us a welcome hand in the garden recently. It brought back memories of childhood for Bodnant’s events officer Charlie Stretton:

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When I was a child, my very favourite book was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s the story of a spoilt and unhappy young girl who is brought from India to Yorkshire after the death of her parents. She discovers a hidden garden in the grounds of the rambling and lonely mansion where she is sent to live, and gradually, with the help of two friends, and of the blossoming nature all around her, she finds happiness again.

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It’s a magical tale, with beautiful and evocative descriptions of a garden being tended back to life and I think its message still rings true today – that nature has healing and restorative powers, and that everyone, especially children, can benefit from contact with the great outdoors.

Recently, our gardeners had a helping hand from the young people at Ysgol Nant Y Coed Gardening Club. The twelve girls, aged 8 to 11, visited on a (fortunately very sunny) day, and worked hard, raking leaves from under the trees and shrubs in the North Garden.

As they worked they were visited, not only by several of the gardeners here, who thanked them for their efforts, but also by a hungry robin and a blackbird, who were probably no less grateful for their work, as they hoovered up the bugs and worms in the children’s wake! The girls were fascinated by the birds pecking around in the disturbed earth, as was Mary, in The Secret Garden.

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Particularly at this time of year, when gardens are emerging from winter, we want to inspire children to take an interest in the natural world and to learn what they can do to help, whether that be by gardening, planting trees and flowers, or by feeding their garden birds. These young children are the gardeners and the conservationists of the future, and we here at Bodnant Garden are pleased and proud to have helped them on their way.

“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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The Ysgol Nant y Coed garden club hard at work – thanks guys!

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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.

Final push for The Far End

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith just over a week to go until the opening of The Far End it’s all hands to the pump. We had a big blitz day this week when gardeners, volunteers and office staff got together for a final push – mulching, gravelling and turfing the ten acres. Everyone was rewarded by luscious lemon cake at tea break and pizza at lunch time, provided by our very own Pietro from the Pavilion tearoom, enjoyed around the brazier in The Dell. There were even chocolatey prizes for the best team efforts.

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Grass seed sowing (left) and gardeners Nathan and Fiona

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Volunteers Joy and Karen 

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Property administrator Rose mucking in, left

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Gravelling the new bridge path

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Pulling his weight, new head gardener John, right

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The massive Williams bed mid and after mulching

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Gravelling before and after

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Nathan and Dell supervisor Maxine, left

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Gardener Paul and property manager William enjoy a paned

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Looking tranquil in March sunshine, The Far End

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It’s taken many years of renovation to get to this point, so don’t miss our big opening day, on Saturday, March 28.

Garden manager Michael McLaren from Bodnant’s donor family will be here to welcome visitors and the horticulturalist and broadcaster Christine Walkden will perform the official opening at 12 noon with a ribbon cutting on the new bridge.

We’ve got harp music at 11am and 1pm in the boathouse, Morris Dancing and coracle making through the day plus guided walks during the afternoon. There’s also a new refreshment kiosk serving hot and cold snacks, plus seating and toilet facilities, and special mini-buses will be running to take people from the garden’s main car park to the Far End during Saturday and Sunday of the opening weekend.

Residents of our neighbouring village of Eglwysbach are being invited to the garden free for the opening day – free entry tickets are available from the village shop.

It is the first time in Bodnant Garden’s 140-year history that The Far End has been open to the public so join us for a historic day!

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

Breathing life back into an old dream

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A special part of our garden which has been hidden from public view for more than a century will open to visitors for the first time in March.

  Named after the many yew trees that grow there, the Yew Dell  is a wooded area with stream running through it; full of old, rare rhododendrons and reminiscent of a Himalayan glade.  Its opening on the weekend of March 8 and 9 marks the first phase of a  renovation project. Visitors will be able to come along and see the work in progress – and even get their hands dirty helping the gardeners.

  Bill Warrell, area supervisor, says: “The Yew Dell is a beautiful and uniquely atmospheric part of the garden. With mature rhododendrons and hydrangeas overhung by oak, ash and magnolia, it has a secluded, lush atmosphere. We hope that, over the next couple of years, visitors will enjoy watching the transformation.”

  yew dell 011   The 3.5 acres of the Yew Dell were originally laid out from the 1870s by BodnantGarden’s creator Henry Pochin, who was inspired by leading Victorian designer William Robinson. In his book The Wild Garden, published in 1870, Robinson recommended mixing exotic and native plants suited to climate and terrain rather than according to a particular horticultural style. The popularity of this idea, together with the influx of foreign plants fed by the travels of intrepid plant hunters, led to the creation of woodland gardens like that at Bodnant which harmonised trees, shrubs and perennials from all over the world. The rugged environment of Snowdonia proved particularly suited to many Asian plants, particularly Himalayan ones like rhododendrons.

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A glade of rhododendrons and two which are flowering right now in the Yew Dell. The first (left) is a mystery – we think it’s a cross between Rh.praevernum and Rh. sutchuenense, both species rhododendrons which grow nearby – the vivid purple one (right)  is Rh. rirei, another old species.

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  Today the Yew Dell is home to many old rhododendrons grown from seed collected by famous plant hunters George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward during their Asian travels in the early 1900s; also to many rare Bodnant Hybrid rhododendrons, bred at the garden last century. Over the years the area has remained untouched apart from basic management and during the last two years gardeners have been weeding, cutting back brambles, renovating shrubs and trees, as well as repairing paths and drains.

   Bill says: “After some hard work to make the area safe and accessible it is now ready to welcome the public – but there’s plenty more to do yet! During the renovation work new plants will be added, including hydrangea, euonymus and acer to extend interest into autumn. The rhododendron collection will also be expanded, as more Bodnant Hybrids are planted.”

  On the Yew Dell’s opening weekend we will also be launching our new Plant Hunter Tracker Packs – a backpack crammed with map and exploration kit to help families to enjoy discovery activities around the garden.  We will be launching a Mother’s Day competition too – the winner will receive a Bodnant rhododendron to take home and another to plant in the Yew Dell, plus lunch at the Pavilion tearoom on Mothering Sunday.

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Gardeners Graeme, Roger and Katie working on the Yew Dell

  The opening of the Yew Dell is the first phase in a transformation of the lower garden at Bodnant. It will be followed in 2015 by another private riverside area known as the Skating Pond, and in 2017 by Furnace Wood. The National Trust looks after special places, for ever for everyone – we hope a new generation of visitors will love exploring more of Bodnant Garden than ever before.