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!)
Cutting the Log (During)

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Easter from Bodnant Garden!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpring may be late coming, but it’s definitely in the air at Bodnant Garden and visitors who come this Easter holiday can enjoy beautiful sights to lift the weary winter heart.

Daffodils, the symbol of spring and our national emblem, are beginning to bloom at last in great swathes in the meadow of the Old Park and through the grassy glades of the Shrub Borders. The impressive display is the result of decades of bulb planting by gardeners – with a little help from Mother Nature who has helped them to multiply!

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Camelia x williamsii ‘Mary Christian’

Other seasonal sights include the camellias – glossy, evergreen and in beautiful colours from pale pastels to vibrant reds and pinks – and the first of the rhododendrons, for which our garden is famous. Many of Bodnant’s rhododendrons were brought here from Asia by plant hunters in the early 20th Century and have been hybridised over the years, creating new plants unique to Bodnant. They can be seen all around the garden and in a special collection in beds on the Lily Terrace such as these two below, Rhododendron ‘Fine Feathers’ and Rhododendron ‘Cilpinense’

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In fact the garden holds a national collection of rhododendrons…and also magnolias (some of which are now towering trees more than one hundred years old) which can be seen here in April and May. Their fat, furry buds are swelling in earnest..a few have been trying to burst open already but have been knocked back by the cold snap; let’s hope slightly later flowering varieties are more successful!

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Euphorbia myrsinites

Roses are beginning to bud up in the Terraces and climbers like clematis and wisteria are slowly but surely making their way up and across stone walls and pergolas ready for flowering. Formal flower beds are slowly filling out as herbaceous plants re-emmerge from their long winter sleep.

In the Shrub Borders trees such as cherries are starting to blossom and a host of flowering shrubs are already lighting up the borders such as berberis, forsythia and corylopsis. Down in the Dell giant conifers look down on lush river banks filling out with greenery. Primroses are popping up and everywhere bulbs are dotting the ground with colour – snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, cyclamen and iris.

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Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii’

The Pin Mill is looking stunning after a recent renovation; work is also underway on a new White Garden on the Lower Rose Terrace, and on an extension to the Alpine Garden on the Top Rose Terrace – come and see the works in progress.

There are a host of activities in April – Easter events for families such as chocolate egg hunts, special walks, storytelling and music in the Pin Mill and a specialist plant fair. We’re also launching new events from April such as Walk and Wine evenings and late night openings. There’s so much to see and do, so celebrate spring at Bodnant Garden!  By gardener Fran Llewellyn

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EASTER WEEK EVENTS AT BODNANT GARDEN:

MARCH 29: Quoits in the garden, every day until April 6 (free).
MARCH 30: Story telling in the Pin Mill, 2 – 2.30pm (free)
MARCH 31: Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Pavilion tearoom 3pm (booking required), Cadbury’s Easter Egg Trails (£2).
APRIL 1: Cadbury’s Easter Egg Trails (£2), National Trust Egg and Spoon Race, 12 noon, no extra charge.
APRIL 2: Walk with the gardener at 11am, £2
APRIL 3: Falconry, 10.30am-4pm (free)
APRIL 6: Story telling in the Pin Mill, 2 – 2.30pm (free)
APRIL 7: Plant Hunters’ Fair 10am – 4pm

FOR DETAILS CALL THE GARDEN ON 01492 650460