Winter Walk Around Bodnant Garden in Wales

Bodnant House dwarfed by a large cedar tree

Only last week I was bemoaning the lack of a Tardis to transport me to a snow-covered Bodnant Garden, near Tal-y-Cafn, Conwy, Wales. The universe did not send me a Tardis, but it did the next best thing. A friend asked us to check out the place his family came from – Dolgellau – and Bodnant just happened to be on our way home.

While the snow in the garden had long gone, heavy white shawls on the Snowdonia mountain range opposite gave Bodnant a wintry feeling. The 130 acres of garden give plenty of scope for walking: you really need some form of season ticket* to make the most of it all.

Yellow witch hazel in a garden with tall grasses, dogwoods and heather

We headed for the winter garden, one of several favourite places at Bodnant, created by clearing azaleas from a neglected hillside rockery. The stems of rubus, cornus, Betula utlis and Prunus serrula provide architecture while witch hazel’s spidery yellow flowers hang eerily in the air. Tall grasses make the most of the light, with spreading plants such as heather, cyclamen, hellebores and irises scattered below.

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In Praise Of Winter Gardens, Plus A Tip Or Two

Wooden bench amongst winter plants and grasses

Bodnant Garden’s colourful winter garden

I’m a big fan of winter gardens that make the most of plants that look good when herbaceous borders are expanses of mulch-covered dirt. Trees with white trunks such as this Betula utilis var jacquemontii (Himalayan birch) often feature, together with evergreens, light-reflecting grasses, red stemmed Cornus (dogwood), Skimmia, Hamamelis (witch hazel), flowering heather, hellebores, Bergenia, Cyclamen and winter flowering bulbs.

Plants like this seem to shrug off winter weather, but the current cold spell means that the hardiness of plants of all types is being tested in many UK and American gardens.

Some gardeners go to great lengths to keep tender plants alive, wrapping their pots up, covering them with some form of plant blanket, or moving them indoors. Others will only plant what grows. Many of us are somewhere in-between, willing to offer our plant treasures a helping hand if conditions are unusually bad, provided we know what to do.

Overhead view of a pot protected from the frost

A pot of bulbs wrapped in burlap, with a double layer of netting to deter squirrels

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Bodnant Gardens, Wales, In Spring Haute Couture

Pink blossom

This year it’s too easy for gardens to be on trend, the Pantone colour of the year being Greenery. Well… yes, I’ll go with that, but if Pantone’s colour trend experts think greenery is the colour for 2017, perhaps they should get out more. Hardly a passing trend, greenery should be named the colour of the millennium (in the hope it might, by some miracle, be the millennium to come, not the one we’ve recently left behind).

Field of daffodils

Bodnant Gardens, where these pictures were taken, had acknowledged the colour of the year with a knowing wink, but decided greenery was just the start. It was a great start – no one could deny that – but the surrounding countryside had got greenery off to a T too. So much so that after finally leaving the North Wales Expressway (an optimistic name on a very sunny Sunday) I found myself winding towards the National Trust garden along Llanrwst Road thinking “This land is such a bright green, it’s almost too much. How will the camera lens cope with this? Are my sunglasses not on?” (they were).  Continue reading

Bodnant Garden: One of Britain’s Best Rose Gardens

Rosa 'Grace'

Bodnant is a hillside garden with five grand terraces overlooking the Conway valley in Wales. Like so many of our best-loved gardens, it was created over several generations by a succession of enthusiasts.

I first visited as a child and mainly remember the grassy hillside above the ‘main’ gardens. Children are such funny creatures. I wonder if I was encouraged to run off a little energy there or taken on a lengthy hike? More recently my sweetheart and I have visited at various times of the year, though never in autumn. Gathering the pictures for this post has given me a longing to go and see the fall colours, so another visit may be imminent!

Interesting at any time of the year, Bodnant is spread over 80 acres, so most visitors will only manage to explore a fraction on a single visit. During the summer I’m sure many people make a beeline for the rose gardens on the upper and lower terraces.

White roses at Bodnant Gardens

The upper rose terrace is so long that it has room for several colour themes. I’m sharing the white roses for the moon garden lovers among us – just look at all those buds!   Continue reading