Feel the love this February

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It’s February – spring is around the corner and love is in the air. Snowdrops are popping out, as are the first lambs, and Valentine’s Day (like it or not) is slap bang in the middle of the month.

If ever there was a time to embrace spring it’s after the long wet winter we’ve all had. So let’s celebrate – with family, friends and nature – fill our lungs with fresh air and get inspired for the year ahead.

Here at Bodnant Garden we’ve got plenty for families to do this school holiday, so pull on those wellies and get outdoors for some fun, creativity and, more importantly, that special together-time.

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There will be activities around the garden for kids every day from 11am-3pm Monday to Friday of half term, February 15-19. Create some memories with our Trail Making Mondays, Pond Dipping Tuesdays, Wildlife Wednesdays, Pooh Stick Thursdays and Wild Art Fridays.

There’s also snowdrop planting in the Old Park, every day 1pm-3pm from Saturday, February 13, to Sunday, February 21.

The humble snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is an important symbol of hope and rebirth in many cultures. Every year at Bodnant Garden we plant more snowdrops ‘in the green’ – in flower – to bulk up the display for the future. This year we’re hoping to give a home to 25,000 of them – so there’s plenty to go round!

We supply the plants and gardeners will dig the holes, all we ask is some help from visitors to fill them. There’s no need to book, just drop by and do as many or as few as you like…the more the merrier. Then come back next year and see your efforts growing.

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And how could we forget, it’s also Valentine’s Day on Sunday, February 14. Treat the love of your life – person or pooch – with a visit to the garden. Dogs are welcome in the garden every day throughout February.

Enjoy the camellias, first flowering rhododendrons and magnolia buds ripening; spring flowers such as primroses and hellebores; and bulb displays of crocus, early daffodils and even, thanks to the warm winter, some tulips chomping at the bit!

Come along and feel the love…

There’s no extra charge for any of these events – normal garden admission applies. 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.

 

 

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A heartfelt plea for St Dwynwen’s Day

IMG_4677Romance is in the air…or is it the smell of freshly baked cakes? The team at the Pavilion tea room are preparing to lay on a special St Dwynwen’s Day menu on Friday to celebrate the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day.

St Dwynwen’s Day is marked on January 25th and commemorates the Welsh patron saint of lovers and friendship. Dwynwen’s is a rather poignant tale; her own romance thwarted, she pledged herself to spreading harmony in the world; a cause well worth celebrating, so let’s dust off the cobwebs from this forgotten heroine…

Back in the 5th Century, Dwynwen was reputedly one of the prettiest of the 24 daughters (yes, that is 24) of the king of Brecon. She fell in love with Prince Maelon but sadly her father had already arranged that she should marry someone else.

Heartbroken, Dwynwen fled to the woods, where she begged God to make her forget Maelon. On falling asleep she was visited by an angel who offered her a potion to grant her selective amnesia and to turn Maelon into a block of ice. For the cynics out there, in another version of the tale Dwynwen spurned Maelon’s (ahem) amorous advances and wanted a potion to wipe him from her memory!

On awaking, God then gave three wishes to Dwynwen; first she wished that Maelon be thawed and freed from his icy fate, second that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers and third that she should never marry. All three of her wishes were fulfilled and Dwynwen devoted herself to God for the rest of her life.

She travelled to Anglesey where she founded Llanddwynwen Church on the island of Llanddwyn, now a nature reserve. Her name is still recalled today in local place names such as Llanddwyn and Porthddwyn. Apparently Dwynwen attracted many followers during her own lifetime and became known for the saying: “Nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness!” – not a bad motto to live by in any age.

Devotion to her cult grew rapidly after her death. The church at Llanddwyn became an important shrine during the Middle Ages when pilgrims would visit from afar as Europe and St Dwynwen’s Day became widely celebrated in Wales. Also on the island is Dwynwen’s Well where a sacred fish was said to bring couples together! But today we have Snog, Marry, Avoid on television, so who are we to judge?

The church fell into ruin following the Reformation, as did Dwynwen’s following. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that a plain cross was erected near the ruins of the church in memory of St Dwynwen in the 1870s (co-incidentally, around the time that Bodnant Garden’s founder Henry Pochin was planting the first of the great conifers in The Dell) and in 1903 a Celtic cross was erected which can be seen today.

In the end Dwynwen’s tale is not such a sad one – she fared better in the end than St Valentine, a Roman priest stoned and beheaded around 270AD for marrying Christian couples who were being persecuted under the Emperor Claudius.

And at last our heroine is finding a well deserved place in the Welsh calendar. The popularity of St Dwynwen’s Day has gradually increased in recent years, with the making and exchanging of cards, sometimes anonymously. You can even feel a little of the love at Bodnant Garden this St Dwynwen’s Day, especially in our Daisy’s famous cakes!

By gardener Fran Llewellyn