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

Growing Bodnant Garden’s tearoom team

When naturalist Iolo Williams visited Bodnant Garden to open a new area our catering team provided the icing on the cake – with a gigantic celebration sponge.

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VIP guest Iolo Williams helps Mark cut the Furnace celebration cake

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Rachel and Julie creating THE CAKE

 

The 1mx1m baking masterpiece was created to mark the opening of Furnace Wood and Meadow. It was so big it nearly didn’t fit through the Pavilion cafe’s kitchen doors – but staff and volunteers managed to carry it down to the Old Mill in one piece where VIP guest Iolo served it out to hundreds of visitors.

It was one of the highlights of the big day on April 11. The stop to our tearooms is often a highlight of visitors’ day at Bodnant Garden – that pre or post coffee and cake, the leisurely lunch, the al fresco ice cream in summer and hot chocolate in winter, these are the treats which make a garden visit a memorable day out.

And with another garden highlight approaching, the flowering of the famous Laburnum Arch in June, we’re growing our catering team for the summer season.

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Elain  takes the ice cream trike for a spin

We’re looking to recruit around ten staff from May to the end of October (both full time and part time hours available.) There will be an open day on Thursday, May 4, when anyone can drop by at the Pavilion tearoom, from 10am – 4pm, and chat to catering manager Ailsa Morris about working at Bodnant Garden.

Ailsa says: “There’s never a dull moment working here at Bodnant Garden! It’s a beautiful place to work, and you get to work with a great team of staff and volunteers.”

Our tearooms provide varied menus of Welsh produce (some of it comes from the garden) and are creative designing menus for events like Valentine’s and other special days. Based at our Pavilion and Magnolia tearooms, staff get to go out into the garden, serving at our kiosks in the Dell and Far End. We’ve also got a new ice cream trike in the upper garden – another opportunity to enjoy the garden and mingle.

Chef Jay Rayner and BBC Radio 4 team with Bodnant Garden property manager William Greenwood and our catering manager Ailsa Morris

Bodnant Garden property manager William and catering manager Ailsa with chef Jay Rayner

As well as looking after visitors on a daily basis there are events to cater for here at the garden – like cooking up lunch for staff and volunteer work groups or hosting school parties – and outside events too, such as exhibitions and shows. This last year the team have represented the National Trust at Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace and hosted BBC Radio 4 programme with celebrity chef Jay Rayner at the Pavilion tearoom.

If you’d like to be part of our team here at Bodnant Garden drop in anytime on our open day on Thursday, or call Ailsa on 01492 651924 for more information.

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 Insta

 

 

Tempest to tropics: 2016 at Bodnant Garden

A garden is full of surprises; one minute you’re in waders, the next it’s flip-flops and a sarong.

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Our New Year 2016 at Bodnant Garden didn’t exactly get off to a great start. Floods hit over the Christmas period, bringing rain and river water surging through from the Pavilion tearoom at the top of the garden all the way down to the Far End, and leaving a trail of debris in its wake. But with true Bodnant Garden grit, staff and volunteers put their holiday breaks on hold to come in and clear up the mess.

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Things soon began to look brighter In January when we launched an appeal for special volunteers – Laburnum Archers – to help us look after the crowds of visitors who flock to see our famous floral pergola walkway in late spring. We were amazed by the response; in no time we were welcoming a new crack team of helpers into the fold and kitting them out with distinctive, not-to-be missed, eye-wateringly yellow jackets:

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Our Laburnum Archers with Bodnant Garden events officer Charlie Stretton (who may have been responsible for those yellow jackets…)

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In February we launched our #BodnantFountainAppeal to raise money to replace the crumbling 18th century water feature on the Croquet Terrace. Gardener Dave (seen below) kicked off the effort by collecting coins thrown into ponds around the garden. By the end of this year our volunteers had raised a whopping £5,000 from raffle ticket sales towards the conservation cause.

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A mild March arrived bringing blue skies, sunshine and the early appearance of flowers like this century-old magnolia on the Terraces. There was also a welcome sighting of daffodils in the Old Park:

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As well as providing wonderful garden displays this lovely spring weather, which continued into April, gave us a memorable Easter holiday, with families making the most of outdoor activities like kite flying, nature trails, crafts and wild art.

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In May some of our gardeners joined volunteers from Happy Valley in Llandudno (seen below) to share their experience of laburnum pruning with the team there, who look after their park’s own miniature arch. It’s not as long as our 55-metre version but with more TLC in years to come it should blossom into a beautiful feature.

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In May we opened the garden gates again to dogs, including the team from Guide Dogs Cymru who brought some of their VIP pooches along to launch our summer season:

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13332972_1138412542872953_289533962182889784_nThis month saw the first flowering of our Poppy Beds flanking the Terraces. Sown in 2015, these contain Himalayan poppies (like the blue Meconopsis seen here) and primulas. Our garden team also celebrated winning a national horticulture award for Best Garden Restoration (for the Far End, opened in 2015) – Maxine, Steve and Nathan (seen below) put on their best bibs and tuckers to attend a prize-giving at Chelsea Physic Garden, London.1431756014024-far-end.jpg

June is traditionally Laburnum Arch time but this year we also unveiled a floral wow of the future – The Penjerrick Walk. This is a newly planted avenue of historic rhododendrons on Furnace Hill, a garden area under renovation which opens to the public in spring 2017. We hope the 100m long Penjerrick Walk will be a feature to rival the Laburnum Arch in generations to come. Head gardener John Rippin (seen below) welcomed the press for a sneak preview of Furnace, unveiling an artists’s impression of how the Penjerrick Walk could look in future.

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The arch itself was featured on Gardener’s World (seen filming, below) and attracted a record-breaking crowds – 20,000 visitors in the first week of June – which kept our Laburnum Archers, along with other volunteers and staff, on their toes!

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In June we also had a day by the seaside in Llandudno where we set up a patio garden on the prom. Staff and volunteers, bearing home-made lemonade and shortbread, were able to chat with passers-by about the #WorldOfGardens around @NationalTrustWales.

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July sunshine brought out the wildflowers (and wildlife) on our temporary Canal Terrace borders. The collection was chosen by the public in response to our #PinMillFlowerPoll held earlier in the year. Thanks everyone who voted, the results were outstanding! These borders are now being permanently re-designed – watch this space.

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In August the garden was brought to life with a host of #50Things events like Pooh-Sticking, den building, pond dipping and bug hunting. We also hosted a textile exhibition staged by the members of North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild, whose beautiful, colourful, skilful work decorated the garden for two weeks through the summer (some of it modelled, below, by our volunteers.) The young musicians of Denbighshire Music Co-operative brought a summer party to the garden with a performance in front of the Pin Mill and the holidays closed with a bank holiday tree climbing weekend.

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In the summer we also opened a new riverside walkway in the Dell. The Mill Pond Path (below) has been renovated by gardeners and offers visitors a new view of the Waterfall Bridge – plus some surprising greenery along the way including tree ferns and carnivorous plants.

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September opened with a bang – and a hot-coloured tropical one at that – in the shape of a party to launch the opening of the Bath, our renovated poolside garden. Visitors who came to admire the exotic new planting scheme were greeted by staff and volunteers dressed in Hawaiian shirts and flower garlands, offering exotic fruit cocktails. We all cheered on gardeners as they introduced goldfish back into the ornamental pond:

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October brought a spectacular, long autumn display, with the leaf colour of trees and shrubs mingling with late flowering plants, as seen here in this magical image sent to us by visitor Nerys Haynes:

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Autumn was the perfect time to celebrate our Champion Trees. These are the biggest or best of their kind in the UK and a new survey by the Tree Register revealed that our collection has doubled to more than 40 in the last decade! We held a tree festival week with guided walks and a new Tree Trail and Map; children from Eglwysbach School came in to help us plant new oaks (seen below), and there followed a half term week full of woodland-inspired events.

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Below: Volunteer Gwen with our new Champion Tree Trail, and Great Orme ranger Doug doing wood turning demonstrations

And talking of trees, in November our old Sweet Chestnut on the Top Lawn (seen below) was also a finalist in the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year competition, making it onto the shortlist of six top specimens.

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15675864_1299018636812342_6620073918418315799_oDecember is all about the little people. Our Elves’ Workshop in the Old Mill in the Dell has become a popular event for families in the run-up to Christmas. The workshop was started by volunteers four years ago who renovated a redundant room in the mill building. It’s now a big part part of our Christmas calendar and this year the elves were happily run off their teeny-tiny feet.

As we say goodbye to 2016 were’re also waving a fond farewell to Jenny from the catering team, who’s retiring, and to garden supervisor Bill Warrell, who leaves us to become head gardener at our National Trust Wales neighbours, Plas Newydd and Penrhyn Castle. So we’ll leave you with an image of Bill (far left) as we’d like to remember him…in a Hawaiian shirt and sarong.

Happy New Year everyone!

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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.

Help crown Bodnant Garden’s old chestnut as Wales Tree of the Year

Here at Bodnant Garden the grand old Sweet Chestnut on our Top Lawn is one of our most loved residents. Known as a ‘walking tree’, she’s now in the running for the title of Wales Tree of the Year.

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Gardener Dave Larter hugging our Sweet Chestnut

Striding across the grass of the formal lawn with her gnarled, many-legged trunk, the old girl is one of the first sights to greet visitors when they arrive through the garden gates, much photographed, painted and admired.

Now, she is one of six great trees around the country vying for the prestigious title of Wales Tree of the Year in a competition being run by the Woodland Trust. The public are being asked to vote for their favourite and the winner will be announced in mid-October.

So why is she so special? This tree is one of the oldest at Bodnant Garden, a remnant of its early, Georgian past.

Owner John Forbes built the original hall in 1782 and created a parkland around it in the Landscape style of the day after designers like Kent, Capability Brown and Repton. This brought nature close to the house with a panorama of rolling grassland dotted with native trees like oak, beech, sycamore and chestnut, and a ha-ha or ditch keep grazing animals away from the hall.

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She’s there somewhere… among the group of trees in front of the hall in this picture of Bodnant Garden from the mid 1800s

With her solid Georgian roots, our Sweet Chestnut has withstood the passage of time and the rugged North Wales weather, being encorporated into the later, formal Victorian upper garden and ageing into her very own, unique character. Her main stem was blown out at some point in the past by a lightening strike causing the trunk to split. Over time several of the larger branches have layered themselves upon the lawn, giving her ‘legs’.

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Today, a great place for a bug hunt

She’s a favourite of gardener Dave Larter who watches over our trees here at Bodnant Garden. He says: “I love trees! Especially old trees with some history, trees with character and trees with potential for the future. This one has it all. At well over 200 years of age, maybe 250, she is making her claim on the top lawn for sure.

“Having lost her top many decades ago, she started to ‘walk’ northwards. Beaten back by strong winds and chainsaws, she is now intent on a south-westerly route. A truly ‘walking tree’, she  appears almost Elephantine without foliage, placing her trunk where she wants to go next. She has already layered daughters which are layering their own offspring and, given chance, they will layer theirs. Who knows where she could be in years to come?”

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Perfect for just enjoying the shade on a hot day

Bodnant Garden is home to many exotic and native trees, some of them UK Champions – the biggest and best of their kind in the UK. The Sweet Chestnut is an honourary native, having been introduced to Britain by the Romans, and while ours hasn’t attained any official Champion status (yet!) she certainly holds a special place of honour here at the garden.

The Wales Tree of the Year competition runs until October 9. To vote for our Sweet Chestnut find the details at the Woodland Trust website here http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/tree-of-the-year/wales

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Draped in finery during our recent textile exhibition at the garden

 

 

Curtain up on Bodnant’s colourful Festival of Fabric

The curtain is up on our festival of fabric at Bodnant Garden. Members of North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild have adorned sites around the garden with artwork reflecting our trees, plants and flowers in an exhibition called Landscapes and Gardens.

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Bodnant Garden volunteers Megan, Linda and Pam with some of the artwork outside the Old Mill

It’s part of a national Embroiderers’ Guild celebration marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of the great landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. As a leader of the English Landscape movement during the 18th century, Brown transformed stately home estates and parks throughout the land with his naturalistic style, which brought the countryside into the garden.

Embroiderers have performed their own engaging, beautiful and subtle transformation around Bodnant Garden this summer. Silken birds, butterflies and bees glint in the sunshine among the plants and fabric hangings sway from the branches of trees. These unexpected works of art are delighting visitors; many stop and do a double take and then as recognition dawns (oh look there, a dragonfly!), eyes light and admiration follows.

We’re delighted to welcome the guild to the garden, whose talented members have clearly put a huge amount of work, time and love into this exhibition. Running from August 20 to September 8, it’s a first for Bodnant Garden too. Here’s a taste…

Tapestries hanging in the old Sweet Chestnut tree

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Marilyn Smith from the guild says: “There are a good mixture of techniques used in the exhibits from felting, hand and machine embroidery, weaving and the use of recycled materials, a good combination of traditional and modern with lots of variety.  There are approximately 20 members contributing work, some have been working on their own creations and others have been working in small teams.

“We are all very excited to be given the opportunity to become part of Bodnant for this period. It comes of course with its challenges being outdoors, so fingers crossed that the weather will be kind!”

You can find out more from the North Wales Embroiderers’ Guild – a thriving group of more than 100 members who aim to build awareness of stitch and textile art. Check out their colourful Facebook page for more information at www.facebook.com/northwalesembroiderersguild

 

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.