Talking the talk and walking the walk


We’ve got an amazing garden…and a passionate team of staff and volunteers willing, able and just itching to tell you about it! Whether it’s Champion Trees, everything you ever wanted to know about salvias or Bodnant history, our team regularly give talks, from daytime guided walks around the garden to evening presentations for outside groups.

Our head gardener John Rippin, supervisor Bill Warrell and gardener Fiona Braithwaite regularly give presentations to local groups, and some further afield, on subjects ranging from garden history to plants to wildlife, supported by other staff and volunteers.

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Head gardener John joined the team in January but is already making his mark and giving presentations on his vision for Bodnant Garden, what areas of the garden are opening in the coming years and our plans for the future.

It’s all about the plants for Bill, who will wax lyrical about the diverse collection of plants to be found throughout the seasons, as well as the garden work entailed in maintaining this much-visited, much-loved, Grade 1 listed gem.


Bill Warrell giving a talk on Champion Trees

Fiona is our history expert and is well known, and in demand, for her presentations about Bodnant Garden through the ages; the families, famous plant hunters and gardeners who developed it.

If you’d like one of our team to come and give a presentation to your group all we ask is a donation; £50 for small local groups under 25 members and £60 for large local groups over 25 members within 10 miles (with a travel allowance for further distances.)


Volunteers giving a tour of the garden

As well as group presentations there is a regular programme of monthly specialist guided walks and talks around the garden provided by our gardeners and students. Topics covered this year have ranged from rose care, plants and folklore to propagation.  This year we’ve also started a new series of bird walks with local experts BirdwatchingTrips, which are becoming increasingly popular. Our knowledgeable volunteers also provide free guided tours of areas of the garden throughout the week.

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A Birds of Bodnant tour

For details of our guided garden walks check our website and Facebook page and if you’d like to book a presentation to your group call the garden office on 01492 650460.



Autumn’s so bright you’ll need to wear shades

There’s plenty to warm the cockles of your heart at Bodnant Garden this autumn. We’ve got 80 acres of autumn glow, plus events for all the family and a warm welcome in our tearooms.

Bodnant Garden is a firework display of colour in autumn, with the dazzling leaf colour of trees and shrubs, ripening fruit and berries and late flowering plants putting on a show to rival the bright colours of summer.

The garden’s 140-year-old collection of trees are at their finest at this time of year, especially in Chapel Park (seen below) where you can enjoy the reds, purples and ambers of Japanese acers plus many others – some exotics collected by plant hunters more than a century ago along with other beautiful native trees.

Chapel Park in all its autumn glory2

For the first time in the garden’s history this autumn, visitors can explore the arboretum in the newly opened lakeside area, The Far End, which includes some of the garden’s Champion Trees.

Aster novae-angliae 'Lye End Beauty' Dahlia coccinea - Copy

In the formal gardens on The Terraces roses are still in bloom and herbaceous beds are full with late flowering asters, sedums and dahlias; in The Dell our swathes of hydrangeas are changing all the colours of the kaleidoscope as they age; and in the Shrub Borders plants are laden with berries and fruit.

Decaisnea fargesii (Dead Man's Fingers) - Copy Cornus kousa against a blue sky - Copy

Look out for the weirdest fruit of the garden, the blue pods of Decaisnea fargesii (Dead Man’s Fingers), and giant raspberries of Cornus kousa (seen above). Birds are loving the autumn too as they make the most of the fruits on offer. There’s a chance to see them on October 9 with our Birds of Bodnant Walk at 11am. This is a free guided tour with an expert from Birdwatching Trips.

There’s plenty for younger visitors during half term week – from Monday October 26 to Friday October 31 we’re hosting Wild About Gardens Week with craft activities in the Old Mill in The Dell, from 11am to 2pm.

There will be environmental art around the garden and families will be encouraged to make their own from items like leaves and cones. There will also be a trail of pumpkins to lead people to the Old Mill. On Saturday, October 31, there are Halloween activities at The Far End and the Old Mill from 12am to 3pm including Making a Witch’s Hovel. These are free events so drop in at any time.

On Wednesday November 18 there’s a Walk with the Head Gardener – this is an opportunity to meet John Rippin, who took over in January, and find out about his vision for the future (cost £10, call 01492 650460 to book a place.)


And talking of walks…Dogs Welcome starts again in November (Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays), with the garden now open to our four-legged friends every day from January until the end of February.

If the candyfloss scent of Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura Tree) gives you an appetite there are refreshments on offer every day in the Pavilion and Magnolia tearooms throughout the autumn, plus the kiosks in the Dell and Far End at weekends.

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.

In praise of the humble hydrangea

Hydrangeas in The Dell

One of the memorable sights of summer and early autumn at Bodnant Garden is the swathe of blue hydrangeas which light up the lush shade of the riverside in The Dell, along with the kaleidoscopic Liquorice Allsorts display lining Lily Terrace walls.

So often sniffed at as suburban stalwarts there’s no denying that, seen on mass, these huge, flamboyant flowers create an fantastic visual impact…well worth a double take.

Originally a foreign import, the hydrangea has become a staple in our gardens, now regarded as traditionally British as…rhododendrons…which aren’t British either! Among my own earliest memories are the big, blousy blooms which lined the path to my nan’s front door – as a child I couldn’t resist batting the flowerheads as I walked by, along with popping the fuchsia buds (sorry Nan.)

Sadly hydrangeas have suffered the same fate as their other exotic friends – that’s to say not being abused by small children, but their hardiness and dependability has made them such a common sight that they have pretty much lost their mystique. But it’s not all about the pom-poms. Aside from the ornamental displays on our Terraces, the shrubs dotted through The Dell and Shrub Borders give a glimpse of how the plants look in their native lands – in woods, scrabbling up rocky slopes and along riverbanks.

Trees, shrubs and climbers native to Asia and the Americas, hydrangeas have been around for longer than the people loving or hating them – the oldest fossil finds come from North America from 40 to 65 million years ago. In China and Japan hydrangeas have been cultivated for their ornamental value for thousands of years, while in North America they were used in medicine.

The first Hydrangea arborescens was introduced in England around 1736 from Pennsylvania by Peter Collison. A little later in 1788 explorer Sir Joseph Banks presented a Hydrangea macrophylla from Japan to Kew Gardens. Specimens continued to dribble into Europe but in 1879 the English nursery Veitch sent botanist Charles Maries to China and Japan and in the decades following, as planthunters were discovering new species abroad nurseries from Europe were introducing numerous cultivars to the market.

Today, there are known to be around 70 species of hydrangea. Here are some of the most notable you can see at Bodnant Garden:

Mophead Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Renate Steiniger’

The most common forms are Hydrangea macrophylla which produce characteristic blue, pink and purple flowers (most other species are white). They come in two types, the mopheads and the lacecaps, distinct by the shape of the blooms – the mopheads bear showy, dense, pompom-like blooms while the lacecaps have frothy heads made up of fertile flower buds in the centre surrounded by sterile blossom. Both have large, thick, toothed leaves, often heart-shaped.

Lacecap Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blue Wave’

As they flower on wood produced the previous year it’s best to prune after flowering by cutting out one or two of the oldest stems at the base to encourage the production of new growth. However neglected plants can be renovated by cutting off all the stems at the base (though you’ll have to wait a year for it to flower). The dead flower heads are decorative in their own right and can be left on over winter, cutting back in spring.

Similar to the macrophylla (some botanists believe it to be a sub-species) is the Japanese Hydrangea serrata (Japanese Mountain Hydrangea) which produces neat shrubs with lacecap-type clusters of blue and pink flowers in summer and autumn. Like the macrophylla it flowers on old wood but because of its compact size and form needs little pruning.

hydrangea serrata 'Blue Bird' 

Above, H. serrata ‘Blue Bird’ and H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’

One of the white forms is Hydrangea paniculata. Some of these are upright and some drooping in shape but they all bear cone shaped flowers, starting creamy white and turning shades of pale pink as they age in the autumn. The leaves are smaller, thinner, and rougher than leaves of the macrophyllas. The plants can be sprawling but they can be kept compact (and flower more profusely) if you cut back last year’s sideshoots to 5cm of the older wood in spring, keeping to a framework of branches.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

Another lovely white hydrangea is the Hydrangea arborescens. Like macrophyllas they bear large lollipop-type blooms but the leaves of arborescens are generally thin, heart shaped, and not as stiff. Some flowers open green and turn white, then back to green again. Like Hydrangea paniculata, they can be pruned in spring back to pair of healthy buds to maintain a permanent framework.

Hydrangea quercifolia

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oak Leaved Hydrangea) gets its name from the shape of its beautiful large leaves which turn russet in the autumn. Again these hydrangeas open ivory, turning to pink as they age. Like macrophyllas they flower on old wood and to keep their informal shape need only minimal pruning in spring to remove old and rangey stems.

H.involucrata ‘Hortensis’

A smaller hydrangea is Hydrangea involucrata which has peony-shaped, pinky flowers that open late summer to autumn, with velvety leaves. They flower on new wood and can be pruned early in the year, though their size rarely makes it necessary.

Hydrangea aspera, villosa and sargentiana are tall, erect plants characterised by their furry foliage, and leaves which are the longest of all species, reaching as much as a foot in shade. They have large flat flower heads, usually pale pink and blue, and need little pruning, being more suited to informal settings.


Above, H.aspera villosa and H.anomola petiolaris

And then there’s the climbing hydrangea Hydrangea anomola petiolaris a vigorous and sturdy plant which has creamy blooms and lacecap flowers in mid-summer. Long hanging shoots should be cut back after flowering and again spring to maintain a framework.

Hydangeas have become so popular because they are generally tough, suited to a range of situations, and reliably produce long lasting and eye catching displays. They last into autumn, changing colour wonderfully as they age, and even the seedheads and bare stems provide welcome structure to beds and borders in winter. Granted, the only thing missing is scent.

 Hydrangea macrophylla 'Altona' (2)

Ageing gracefully (and disgracefully) in winter

Achieving that Holy Grail of hydrangeas – the vivid blue – depends on your species and your soil type. White hydrangeas do not generally change colour but it is possible to change pinks to blues and vice-versa. If the soil is naturally acidic and contains aluminium the colour of the hydrangea will tend to be blue and purple. Aluminium sulfate may be added to the soil, and a fertilizer low in phosphorus and high in potassium may help too. Here at Bodnant Garden we’re lucky to have acidic soil, responsible for some amazing electric blues like the Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Renate Steiniger’ in our Shrub Borders.

Visually rewarding, hardy, versatile, long lived…what’s not to like? The right plant in the right place, or even in glorious abundance, the homely hydrangea has earned its place in out hearts and gardens.

Jewels of July at Bodnant Garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASummer at Bodnant Garden means roses, water lilies and formal beds and borders …and now, for the first time, wildflowers. We’ve created a mini-meadow next to the Pin Mill and it’s been a real success, with visitors and with butterflies, bees and dragonflies. The long border is being renovated and the idea was to sow a wildflower mix to create a summer display while we plan a new design. By popular request, we may be doing it again at other places around the garden in future.

Elsewhere, the garden is looking splendid is all its summer glory, from the rose-tinted formality of the Terraces to the drama of The Dell with it’s swathes of blue hydrangeas and the lakeside tranquiltiy of the Far End. Here’s a little tour in pictures:


Hot colours in The Range border


Calceolaria integrifolia (left) alliums and campanula on the Top Lawn


Dierama pulcherrimum (Angel’s Fishing Rod) on the Terraces

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Water lilies and roses, roses, roses…


Also causing a stir on the rose terraces, Lilium regale


Shrubs and perennials mingle in the shade of the Shrub Borders


Lilium martagon and Hemerocalis lilioasphodelus  


Sprawling Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (left) and Desmodium elegans


Lovely all in white, the Poem beds


Blue hydrangeas and Cardiocrum giganteum in The Dell


Astilbe and campanula light up the shade


You’ll even find a late flowering Rhododendron ‘Argosy’


Lush lakeside in the Far may spot an otter

Back to the upper the garden, and the subject of meadows…as well as out little ‘experiment’ at the Pin Mill we’re developing three wildflower meadows. The Old Park is already open to the public and we’re hoping to open Cae Poeth and Furnace meadows in the next few years. When last surveyed we identified 26 species of wildflowers in The Old Park. Come along and have a look for yourself; sit and enjoy the birds, butterflies and bees, even have a picnic. After your grand your of the garden, what nicer way to relax on a summer’s day?


For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.



There’s blooming good fun to be had at Bodnant Garden this summer

The roses are out…summer has officially arrived at Bodnant Garden and it’s time to get the family out and enjoying the great outdoors.

Family visitors looking at the waterlilies on the Canal Terrace in August at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales

The garden has six weeks of special summer activities and events to delight visitors of all ages. Charlie Stretton, our events officer, says: “There’s something for everyone; adults can enjoy the beauty of the garden to the sound of harp music, while the kids can get their hands dirty building dens, pond dipping  and even being gardeners for a day. It’s the perfect place for everyone to get outdoors and a little closer to nature.”

Our summer kicks-off with a fortnight of Kids’ Crafts, from July 20. There will be activities Monday to Friday at the Old Mill in The Dell (11-1pm), a chance to get creative making Cone Creatures, Dancing Dragonflies and Lovely Leaf Crowns.

In August our Grow Wild events take over, with a programme of nature activities for youngsters: Pond Dipping at the Skating Pond on Tuesdays (12-3pm), Nature Walks on Wednesdays (11-12noon), Wild Art on Thursdays under the Laburnum Arch (12-3pm), Wildlife Detectives on Fridays (2-3.30pm), Den Building on Saturday in the Far End (11-3pm) and Gardener’s Apprentice on Sundays (2-3pm).

There’s also Music in the Pin Mill most Sundays through the summer (2-4pm), plus a series of Guided Walks (2-3pm) including Champion Trees on July 29, Students’ Walk on August 12 and History of Bodnant Garden on August 26.

There are Falconry Displays on July 22 and August 19 (10.30-4pm) and Poem Open Days on July 28 and August 25, offering a chance to explore inside the mausoleum dedicated to Bodnant Garden’s founder family.


Play Nature Detectives during our Grow Wild month

Summer ends on a high note with our Big Tree Climb on August 30 and 31 (10-3pm) when visitors of all ages can join experts to scale some of our giants. There’s no extra charge for any of these events but booking is essential for a place on the tree climbing and guided walks, by calling 01492 650460.

Don’t forget dogs are welcome every Wednesday evening all through the summer, from 5-8pm, until the end of August.

After all that activity if you have time to stop and eat there’s indoor dining at the garden’s two tearooms and al fresco snacks at kiosks at The Old Mill and the newly opened Far End. Visitors can also picnic among the meadow grass in the Old Park and Chapel Park, under trees in the Yew Dell and in The Dell.

July (2)

Arts and crafts under the Laburnum Arch

Charlie says: “And let’s not forget the garden! There are spectacular displays on our two rose terraces, flowering beds and borders are at their peak, wildflower meadows are buzzing with butterflies and bees, and the riverside gardens are cool and lush. There’s so much to do and see you could spend all summer here!”

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.

Memories are made of this

The Laburnum Arch may be fading for another year, but what a show it’s been…and what memories it’s made. Visitors numbers to Bodnant Garden soared during the annual spectacle, from around 8,000 a week in mid May BL (Before Laburnum) to almost 14,000 one week later, where figures hovered for four weeks of the flowering phenomenon. The display made the BBC Wales news, The Times newspaper and whipped up a storm on social media.

Clodagh Murphy

What is it that generates such a frenzy of interest? As a wonder of nature (or horticulture) this pergola walkway of drooping golden flowers is dazzlingly beautiful and on a scale not many of us get to see very often. At a jaw-dropping 180 feet our arch is believed to be the longest in the UK and is certainly the oldest, at 130 years plus. It’s both a testament to the man who envisaged it but never saw it in its full glory – the garden’s founder Henry Pochin – and to the gardeners who have painstakingly cared for it in the years since.


Derek Brockway gives us a shout out on BBC Wales News weather

But the emotions the Laburnum Arch conjures are something else. From the visitor numbers, the comment cards and just the look on people’s faces as you watch them wandering through, it clearly means a lot of things to a lot of people. There are those just delighted by the all-enveloping sensory experience – the sight, the scent, the hum of bees feasting on the flowers – there are others for whom it’s creating memories, as they enjoy the delight on their children’s faces, and others for who it brings back memories, of visiting as children themselves, or with loved ones now gone.


Comments ranged from the ‘amazing’, ‘stunning’ and ‘magical’ to one visitor who described it as a ‘tunnel of yellowy loveliness’ and another who made the post-general election quip, ‘reminds me of the Lib Dems hanging out to dry’ (views expressed do not reflect our own)! Several visitors, moved by thoughts of previous visits with family and friends, suggested the idea of a memory tree or garden feature for people to somehow mark their reminiscences.

The surge in smart phones has brought a deluge of photos and feedback from people all wanting to share their experience (including, for all those of a certain age,  H from Steps)… 2015 has officially been the year of the Laburnum Selfie! As pictures speak a thousand words, here are just a few which sum up the Laburnum effect perfectly. Thanks everyone for sharing your Laburnum Arch with us – here’s to next year:

Clodagh 11222021_1142934259057455_2703573207786138035_n

Ruth and Alan

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LIndsay williams Laura Fairbairn

Chris and Ria

Sarah Breeze-Roberts Mandy Farrall

Charlotte Mattin Clare Miller

Kirstie Pool

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For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or catch up with us on Facebook  or Twitter.


Take your seat for a tour of Bodnant Garden


Bodnant is a garden for all seasons…but May is a bit special, a time when the garden is at its most dazzling. The sudden burst of rhododendrons, along with other flowering trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, all combine to make the garden explode with colour. That’s before we even mention the Laburnum Arch, the garden’s most famous and most visited attraction, which crowns the season with its breathtaking golden display at the end of the month.

I am now enjoying my fourth spring working at Bodnant Garden and am still taken aback by the intensity of the spectacle at this time of year. Hardy surprising, when you consider that this kaleidoscopic show is the result of a century or more of plant collecting and husbandry; from the towering magnolias introduced at the turn of the 1900s, to the thousands of rhododendrons brought here and bred here in the 1920s and 30s, the gnarled and twisted old wisteria which drape walls and pergolas, the swathes of tulips, iris and lilies planted by generations of gardeners and, to give Mother Nature her due, the carpets of English Bluebells which cross meadows and glades.

If you’re visiting this Bank Holiday weekend you are in for a real treat. If not, sit back and take a tour here:


As you walk through the entrance gates, prepare to drop your jaw at the upper garden. The Range Borders are a riot of hot-coloured herbaceous plants emblazened against a backdrop of sweeping manicured lawns, giant conifers and of course rhododendrons upon rhododendrons upon rhododendrons. Take it all in as you walk from the Puddle Garden to the The Round Garden and Winter Garden (which is still full of interest mid spring.) And of course if you’re here at the end of May/beginning of June when the Laburnum Arch is flowering, put your sunglasses on and bask in a stroll through this 180-foot tunnel of light.

Anne Murray, Penrhyndeudraeth OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above: Bodnant’s famous Laburnum Arch and our rhododendrons

Below: On The Range borders Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’, Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night, Trollius cultorum ‘Orange Princess, Bergenia ‘Sunningdale’, Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ and Paeonia delayvii.





Crossing the Old Park meadow you move from the finery and formality of the upper garden to the cool, laid back lushness of The Shrub Borders. Bluebells run through the grass of Chapel Park and The Glades and under the dappled shade of trees are beds filled with native and exotic shrubs, underplanted with herbaceous perennials – if you’re lucky you may see the first tissue-papery bracts of the Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata.) Continue to the Yew Dell where you’ll find a wonderful collection of old rhododendrons, among them many Bodnant hybrids.


Above:Bluebells in Chapel Park and old rhododendrons in the Yew Dell

Below: Enkianthus campanulatus, Viburnum x judii, Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’ and Davidia involucrata in the Shrub Borders


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 Below: Take your pick of paths to the Far End


Continuing from the Yew Dell you can take one of the paths to the Far End – through a 140-year-old arboretum of native and foreign trees, or following the River Hiraethlyn upstream passing a series of pools and water features – both of which bring you to the Skating Pond, a lake lined with weeping willows. This area only opened to the public in March and has a natural, tranquil character quite different to the rest of the garden. There are some exotic trees for sure – Asian magnolias, acers and conifers – but the natives blend the whole scene into the valley landscape beyond. Look out for the enormous Royal Ferns (Osmunds regalis) unfurling along the water’s edge, some of which we think may be a century old.


Above: Clumps of Royal Fern by the lake at The Far End

Below: The Waterfall Bridge in The Dell


Returning to The Dell downstream along the River Hiraethlyn the mood becomes more dramatic; as you pass the Waterfall Bridge the valley sides steepen, water now rushes through a narrow channel over rocks and boulders and the eyes are drawn skywards to the canopy of giant conifers. Beneath the breathtaking collection of trees, some of them UK Champions because of their age and size, rhododendrons light up the shade. One to look out for (you will smell it before you see it) is Rhododendron luteum with its intense perfume.


Above: Layers of conifers and rhododendrons in The Dell, underplanted by hostas, astilbes, ferns and the distinctive cerise Primula pulverulenta

Below: Maianthemum racemosum, Rhododendron luteum



When you get to The Old Mill stop and take it all in, look up and admire The Rockery which cascades down the valley side (seen left)…and take a breath before starting the climb back up to the upper garden! A short, winding walk brings you back into sunlight and open spaces. This is where you’ll see the grandeur of Bodnant Garden at its best – looking across the Italianate Terraces to the Conwy Valley and Carneddau mountains beyond.


 Above: The Pin Mill  seen from the Yucca Garden

Below: Clematis, wisteria and climbing roses on terrace walls 


Perennials are filling out beds in the White Garden and Pink Garden, wisteria and clematis are now climbing walls and pergolas and the first climbing roses are even in bloom, setting the scene for the show to come (and talking of things to come, you may notice some empty beds nearby – these are under renovation as we speak – watch this space.) Near the Lower Rose Terrace take a look at the newly renovated Gentian Bed, which has some miniature gems to wonder at, such as the contender for one of Bodnant’s tiniest rhododendron, Rhododendron campylogynum ‘Myrtilloides’ (seen below).


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASummer is when the terraces really take on their starring role in the garden, with the glorious display of roses, water lilies, herbaceous perennials and hydrangeas. That said, bucking this trend is the Yucca Garden which is providing a splash of hot colour right now, with vibrant euphorbias billowing out of every nook and cranny. While you’re here take a side-step from the Terraces along the Prim Path, opened just last year, and discover the Himalayan primulas now settling in there (seen above). This will bring you out at the North Garden, home to another wonderful collection of rhododendrons, and to the Alpine Garden on the Top Rose Terrace, which is full of dainty sun-loving curiosities like this Pulsatilla turczaninovii (seen below).

Copy of Pulsatilla turczaninovii Copy of alpine 048

Whichever route you take around Bodnant Garden, however much or little of the garden you cover, there will be something to surprise and delight you right now, that we can promise. Added to the floral factor we’ve also got some special events on over the Bank Holiday weekend and Half Term week which follows. 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 family activities running every day through the Half Term week. Don’t forget dogs are welcome every Wednesday evening through the summer too, at our late night openings from 5-8pm.

Of course a garden is not just for Bank Holiday it’s for life…and if you’re visiting we hope you’ll take away some lasting memories.

Bodnant Garden map

Compiled by gardener Fran Llewellyn. For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check our website or catch us on Facebook  or Twitter.

For the love of Laburnum

  The annual excitement over Bodnant Garden’s Laburnum Arch has reached fever pitch once again. The arch attracts around 45,ooo people in the three weeks of its flowering (property adminstrator Rose also estimates this number have phoned in asking about it…the lines have been red hot!) It is without doubt the most visited, photographed, talked about and eagerly anticipated event of our year.

  photocomp Jules Girling - Copy

Feeling the love…visitor Jules Girling 

  Why so popular? I guess it’s a question of scale; there are other lovely laburnum arches in the UK – including at nearby Ness Gardens on the Wirral, the Dorothy Clive Gardens in Shropshire, at Kew Palace as well as others at private gardens up and down the country – but we believe ours is the oldest and certainly the longest, forming a dazzling 55 metre-long, shimmering golden walkway. 


  We’ve got the garden’s founder Henry Pochin (seen above) to thank for that. A ground-breaking chemist, businessman, JP, MP and visionary, Henry bought the Bodnant estate in 1874 and dramatically landscaped the garden to the west of the house, making the most of the terrain and views sweeping down the valley side by planting the Pinetum in The Dell. In the top of the garden Henry’s other lasting legacy was the Laburnum Arch, built around 1881.

  photo comp Zsolt D Kovats

  It’s not just people who love the Laburnum

  The first pergola walkways were developed during the Renaissance period in the Mediterranean, to provide shelter, shade and a place to grow flowering vines and fruit bearing trees – the Italian word ‘pergola’ actually meaning ‘a close walk of boughs’.  They became popular throughout European gardens up to the 1600s, but fell out of fashion in the centuries which followed, replaced by grand formal gardens and by the naturalistic landscape movement.

  They rose in favour again in the late Victorian era with the rustic, romantic Arts and Crafts movement. Henry Pochin decided he wanted a pergola walkway at Bodnant and, not being a man to do things by halves, he designed the biggest and the best!


 The arch looking quite different with its original yew hedges

   The arch was originally made of Laburnum anagyroides plants, the common laburnum which occurs across Southern Europe. It was later replaced with hybrid cultivar Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’  developed in the 1860s by Waterer’s Nursery in Surrey. This form produces longer racemes, up to 5ocm long, and fewer toxic seeds, something which deters people from planting them in their gardens. There is doubt these days about exactly how harmful the seeds are; you would probably have to eat alot of them…but we wouldn’t recommend anyone trying it!

   The structure of the arch was originally wooden but as these rotted it has been replaced by a metal frame. Originally there were yew hedges alongside the arch but these were in poor condition and removed in the 1950s, replaced by azaleas, creating a wider tunnel with a colourful flowering backdrop.

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Former gardener Tony winter pruning the arch and Laura deadheading in July

  It takes two gardeners up to five weeks to prune the arch by hand in January at the coldest time of the year – painstakingly untying, cutting back and tying back in each strand to the framework – and it takes a further two weeks of work deadheading the flowers in July. But as the visitor figures prove, it’s well worth the effort.

  There’ s still time to see the Laburnum Arch at Bodnant Garden. If you’ve not been lucky enough to get here you can still enjoy the pictures on our social media sites. For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460 or check out:


Facebook page 

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Now Showing – Signs of Spring

imagesCAXRQQK2 Spring is here! We thought it would never come but there’s no denying the emergence of flowers around the garden. These delicate dwarf  Narcissus cyclamineus are some of the first daffodils to show their faces and will soon be followed by great swathes of others. Camellias, early rhododendrons, the first cherry blossom, colourful hellebores and iris are among the plants leading the way. Here are some you can see around Bodnant Garden:


Camellia japonica ‘Gloie de Nantes’ and Eranthis hyemalis ‘Guinea Gold’


Helleborus niger and Prunus mume ‘Beni-Chidori’


Iris winowgradowii and Rhododendron ririei


Rhododendron augustinii and Bergenia purpurescens ‘Helen Dillion’


Helleborus x hybridus Ashwood Strain and Sarcococa confusa


Scilla mischtschenkoana and early rhododendrons


Crocus tommasinianus and Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’


Helleborus ericsmithii and Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

For more details about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460, check out our website or Facebook page

Laid back pleasures of late summer


There’s an autumnal feel in the air. We’ve enjoyed a fantastic summer – one of the best in years – and there’s still time for more balmy days and nights yet, but as we move from August to September there are subtle changes in the garden and signs that the season is moving on.


Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’

But that’s no cause to be down hearted. Here at Bodnant Garden the gradual burnishing of the leaves across our tree-rich landscape and the burst of late summer flowering shrubs and herbaceous perennials promise a host of delights yet to come.

The upper garden is alive with colour; dahlias, rudbekias and heleniums provide an explosion of heat in the Range Borders; roses are still blooming their hearts out in a kaleidoscope of colour and scent across our two rose terraces and the Lily Terrace is a pastel pink picture of swaying ornamental grasses, lavenders, salvias, verbenas and diascias.

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Anemone hupehensis and Monarda citriodora

Japanese anemones jostle along the stone terrace steps and paths and late flowering clematis still scramble over the walls and pergolas. A familiar face at this time of year is Clematis tangutica, its yellow flowers now beginning to turn to drooping fluffy seedheads.

Hedge cutting has started again in the formal upper garden now we are safely out of bird nesting season and you might catch the smell of fresh clippings as you wander around.

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Eucryphia glutinosa and the hips of Rosa moyesii geranium

In the dappled shade of the Shrub Borders eucryphias burst with white blossom overhead in the tree canopy while dotted through the greenery of the beds are scarlet crocosmia and the crismson hips of species roses. From here you can also see the mowing going on through the meadow grass of The Glades, Chapel Park and the Old Park – the bales of hay another reminder of harvest time ahead.


Blue hydrangeas in The Dell

Meanwhile down in The Dell it is the season for hydrangeas;  swathes of thousands of blue mopheads and lacecaps sweep all along the riverside. But look out too for the spires of ivory Hydrangea paniculata and creamy Hydrangea quercifolia with its oak-like leaves – now turning copper and pink. Ferns are beginning to bronze, set against great mounds of lush hostas  – you’d have to go along way to see slug-free displays like the ones here too (how we keep them that way is one of the most asked questions by visitors…watch this space and we might tell you one day!)

It’s a lovely time of year, as the heat of high summer turns to something softer, deeper and richer. We’ve lots to look back on and still lots to look forward to – and who knows we might yet get an Indian Summer.


The Lower Rose Terrace and Pin Mill

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