Bodnant.

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.
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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?IMG_8399
The garden sits on a south west facing slope and the area around the house is formal with terraces and beautiful pergolas. IMG_8595
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. IMG_8598
In front of the the house are two amazing specimens of Arbutus arachnoides planted in 1905. They have spectacular coloured, red flaky bark. IMG_8567
Lower down there are lawns, a large pond and formal beds. IMG_8391
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.
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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. IMG_8550 IMG_8515
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. IMG_8535
If you really can’t stand rhododendrons, then how about this one which doesn’t look like a rhododendron at all?

Rhododendron stenopetalum 'Linearifolium'

Rhododendron stenopetalum ‘Linearifolium’

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. IMG_8440
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? IMG_8452
Bodnant has the National Collection of Magnolias and this amazing one is over a hundred years old.

Magnolia x veitchii 'Peter Veitch'

Magnolia x veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’

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.
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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.
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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.
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The other end though was in full sun and looking wonderful.
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34 Responses to Bodnant.

  1. sueturner31 says:

    Stunning photos…been to Bodnant many times….have many plants growing from there including an Enkianthus and a Eucryphia ….both doing very well.

  2. alison says:

    Lovely photographs of luxurious planting. A wonderful place and memories of visiting there with my father many years ago. One thought – is it unusual for tulips (if indeed that’s what they are) to be flowering the same time as Alliums?

  3. Julie says:

    I feel that I have visited here before, but maybe its the Laburnham walk I have seen photographs of that makes it so familiar, in any case after reading your review I’d love to visit again, what a wonderful garden. I really like the veteran Rhodos, the trunks are fabulous. Looks like you had some very nice weather to on your trip.

    • Chloris says:

      The laburnum tunnel is a familiar sight as it is photographed so often. We were lucky with the weather and everything looked radiant in the sunlight.

  4. Laurin Lindsey says:

    Thank you for the lovely tour!

  5. Kris P says:

    Although I can’t imagine having a formal garden myself (much less one as large as this one must be), I’m blown away by the beauty of Bodnant. It’s filled with plants I can’t grow either. Spectacular! Thanks for sharing your visit, Chloris!

    • Chloris says:

      It is spectacular and filled with the azaleas and rhododendrons which I can’ t grow either. I wouldn’t want to really, but I do enjoy looking at them grown so well. The whole garden is over the top and exuberant. But I prefer my colours a bit more subtle.

  6. pbmgarden says:

    Yes, the Chilean Flame Bush is gorgeous! Also, that Arbutus arachnids is interesting-have not heard of it. Would love to have a laburnum tunnel nearby to enjoy.

    • Chloris says:

      I would love a Chilean Flame Bush, I wonder if it would do in a pot if you brought it in to the greenhouse for the winter.
      I planted a laburnum tunnel in a previous garden, on a much smaller scale obviously. I moved away before it had time to mature, I often wonder what it looks like now.

  7. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Beautiful images of this gorgeous garden! It would be interesting to live there but one would need a staff. I covet the conservatory!

    • Chloris says:

      Sorry, I’ m having the conservatory. I might go and live in it. Mind you, there won’ t be much privacy with so many people walking past.

  8. Annette says:

    Dear Chloris, you’ve made me very happy with this post. Bodnant is one of the very first gardens I visited when the garden bug struck and it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Not only is the location spectacular, the house and planting are a delight too. I remember drooling over the blue Meconopsis knowing that I’d never be able to have such a display myself. Fab pictures, thanks again for sharing.

    • Chloris says:

      It is a very special garden and a delight to wander around with new vistas round every corner. I didn’ t see your blue poppies so maybe even Bodnant can’ t keep these elusive beauties going.

  9. rusty duck says:

    Somewhere I’ve never been, and that omission must be corrected.
    I have a Davidia and am still waiting for the first flowers. I’ve not helped its cause by moving it, digging it up from our previous garden and keeping it three years in a pot. I hope it will forgive me soon.

    • Chloris says:

      I do recommend it, specially in May. How long have you had your Davidia? It is always a long wait for the first flowers, but worth it.

      • rusty duck says:

        It must be 8 or 9 years, but having been disturbed a couple of times I’m not surprised it’s taking so long. But each year now I watch and hope..

  10. jenhumm116 says:

    I feel like I’ve just been on a fabulous, sunny half term trip to Wales, (when in fact I’m at home with two dear offspring fretting over AS and A2 exams respectively). Thanks Chloris!

    • Chloris says:

      Oh dear! Exam time is stressful for all the family. Good luck with it. It’s certainly not sunny here. It rained all day yesterday and all the poor roses are hanging their heads and looking miserable.

  11. Cathy says:

    It looks lovely there Chloris and it was wonderful seeing it through your eyes… all those gorgeous colours are stunning – maybe a bit too much for me too! I do like that chocolatey rhododendron though, and the apricot one too.Wouldn’t it be a fine job working there in the garden with perhaps just a wing of the house to live in (including that conservatory of course!) 😉

    • Chloris says:

      The colours are stunning but like you I prefer the chocolatey one ( a good description) and the apricot one. There was also a primrose one I loved. It is a wonderful place.

  12. What a riot of colour! Although the R. didymum appeals to me more. Nonetheless, the whole garden is magnificent. The Arbutus are amazing. Bark is another feature I like to have in my garden for winter interest. You almost got the laburnum arch at its best – you should be there next week! Bodnant is now added to my list. By the way, I left a comment on your previous post, about the identity of our iris. If you haven’t noticed it yet, the nursery reckons it is “Immorality”.

    • Chloris says:

      I love that dark rhododendron, Cathy describes it as chocolatey which is a good description. I love the colour and the little bells.
      I love winter bark too but I suspect that it would be many years before this tree would be mature enough to look good.
      I do recommended a visit to Bodnant but I would suggest the second half of May to enjoy the laburnum tunnel at its best.

  13. What a magnificent garden, I must get there one day. Brilliant photos!

  14. Anna says:

    Oh thanks for the tour Chloris which I really enjoyed. I’m not so sure about the conservatory (unless someone else cleaned the windows) but oh what a view to contemplate. What good timing to be there when the laburnum tunnel was in flower. There was a fascinating tv series not so long ago which featured Bodnant and the changes that were taking place in the garden. Troy Scott sounded so enthusiastic and committed to his plans for the future and now he’s gone! Still I suppose the lure of being head gardener at Sissinghurst would be impossible to resist.

    • Chloris says:

      I didn’ t see the TV programme, I wish I had. I think Troy made lots of improvements to what was already a wonderful garden.
      If you lived at Bodnant you wouldn’ t have to worry about cleaning the conservatory windows. Or doing the weeding. Mind you, I’ m glad that I haven’ t got gardeners all over my garden. It wouldn’ t feel like mine. But I wouldn’t object too much to someone coming in the night and magically clearing all the ground elder.

  15. Cathy says:

    It looks just a little different from we saw it in December, Chloris – how lovely to be visiting it in May! I am not sure about the laburnum arch though – imagine pulling out all those seedlings….

  16. Bodnant was the very first garden I visited in the UK and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m planning to visit again in 2015. Thanks for the tour!

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