This iconic garden in North Wales enjoys a spectacular position overlooking the Conwy valley and the hills of Snowdonia. Henry Pochin purchased the house in 1875 and did much of the planting, including the famous laburnum tunnel.
The Pianist and I decided we would rather like to live here but realistically, the two of us would probably rather rattle around a bit. But what would you give for a conservatory like this?
The garden sits on a south west facing slope and the area around the house is formal with terraces and beautiful pergolas.
I love the way this terrace is lined with lovely white Libertia grandiflora. It makes a real impact. Fragrant rhododendrons are trained along the wall.
In front of the the house are two amazing specimens of Arbutus arachnoides planted in 1905. They have spectacular coloured, red flaky bark.
Lower down there are lawns, a large pond and formal beds.
There is a statue which is supposed to be of Priapus but this must be a mistake. He doesn’t have the necessary equipment to be Priapus. He is holding a bunch of grapes and so I think he is actually Bacchus, the father of Priapus.
Henry Pochin’s grandson, the second Lord Aberconway was a keen gardener and he was responsible for the terraces and the famous collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. He was president of The Royal Horticultural Society and he financed plant expeditions. With the help of his gardener, Frederick Puddle he raised many new plants at Bodnant. Frederick Puddle was the the first of three generations of talented head gardeners at Bodnant. Unfortunately the last one, Martin Puddle was found dead in the pond in 2005 amongst rumours of stress caused by problems with his staff. What a sad end to three generations of gardeners here. He was followed by the very talented Troy Scott Smith who brought a great enthusiasm and many fresh ideas to the garden. He came to speak to my garden club about his work at Bodnant and we were all enthralled. Troy is now head gardener at Sissinghurst.
In May the garden is alive with sweety shop colours as the rhodendrons and azaleas blaze away throughout the garden.
If you find all this sugary colour a bit cloying you may prefer the rather more sophisticated colour of this one, Rhododendron didymum. I can’t grow rhododendrons and I am quite happy not to. But I would like this one. What a gorgeous colour.
If you really can’t stand rhododendrons, then how about this one which doesn’t look like a rhododendron at all?
No? I don’t like it much either. What I love at Bodnant is the amazing collection of Enkianthus. I wish I could grow them. I love this Enkianthus cernum ‘Rubens’ growing with an apricot rhododendron.
Another plant which I would love to grow is the Chilean Flame Bush: Embothrium coccineum. This is a tender acid-loving plant, so out of the question in Suffolk .But isn’t it gorgeous?
Bodnant has the National Collection of Magnolias and this amazing one is over a hundred years old.
I used to have a Davidia involucrata: Handkerchief Tree in a previous garden. I didn’t plant it so I didn’t have the long wait for the first blooms. This one is probably a good few years old and is full of flowers. The flowers are actually tiny but they are enclosed within long fluttering white bracts. The other name for the tree is Dove Tree and you can see why.
The dell garden is a wooded valley with streams and tall trees. It is very beautiful and delightful to walk through. There are very old rhododendrons here and I love the shapes of their twisted trunks.
I can’t finish a tour of Bodnant without mention of the famous laburnum tunnel. It is a curved walk, 55 metres long, and when in full bloom it is an amazing sight. Unfortunately when we were there it was only just coming in to flower.
The other end though was in full sun and looking wonderful.