NESTLING in the Snowdonian foothills of north Wales, Bodnant Garden, situated near Tal-y-Cafn, Colwyn Bay, and overlooking the Conwy Valley towards the Carneddau mountains, was forged by the Victorian vision of one extraordinary man, honed by his descendants and is today cherished by visitors the world over.
Established in 1874 by scientist, businessman and politician Henry Pochin, he and his family filled the garden with plants collected by famous global explorers such as Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Harold Comber.
Pochin enlisted the skills of landscape designer Edward Milner to develop the formal Victorian shrub garden around the house, including the famous Laburnum Arch. He also sculpted the sloping valley sides down to the river, planting North American conifers and creating pathways to form the romantic dells and water gardens.
The transformation continued under Pochin’s daughter Laura (married to Charles McLaren 1st Lord Aberconway) who developed the wild garden in the Far End at the turn of the century. Laura was a lover of herbaceous plants and developed the upper formal gardens in the newly emerging Edwardian style, with billowing flower borders.
Laura entrusted the care of the garden to her son Henry McLaren on his coming of age but maintained a keen interest and together they created the stunning Italianate Terraces, built 1904-1914.
Cared for by the National Trust since 1949, Bodnant (which in Welsh means ‘dwelling by a stream’) is a garden of firsts – home to the earliest and grandest laburnum arch built in 1880, to Britain’s earliest magnolias introduced from China in the late 1800s and to unique rhododendron hybrids which were born and bred here from the 1920s.
Today it is home to exotic plants from the blue poppy of the Himalayas to the fire bush of the Andes, as well as five national collections – of magnolia, embothrium, eucryphia, rhododendron forrestii and Bodnant rhododendron hybrids. It is also boasts Wales’ largest collection of UK champion trees, which provide a year-round spectacle.
In spring, enjoy swathes of daffodils, camellias, magnolias, and rhododendrons; the heady sight and scent of roses, lily ponds, herbaceous beds and buzzing wildflower meadows in summer; a kaleidoscope of rich leaf colour in autumn; and sparkling, frosted landscapes in winter.
With intimate corners, sweeping lawns, grand terraces and verdant woodland, there are many gardens in one at Bodnant.
With the incredible vision of generations of the McLaren family and Puddle head gardeners, this haven of rarity and beauty with a stunning backdrop of the Carneddau mountains of Snowdonia is a delight for the senses.
With year-round colour, the garden can be whatever you want it to be, whether that’s a hive of activity or a haven of tranquility and relaxation, this is truly a special place for all ages.
(sources include National Trust)
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