The Puddle Family of Bodnant Garden
For 85 years the development of Bodnant Garden was a family affair, a partnership between the McLarens and their head gardeners the Puddles.
When Frederick Puddle arrived at Bodnant as head gardener in 1920 it was the start of a dynamic new chapter for the garden. A talented horticulturalist, he shared a passion for plants with the 2nd Lord Aberconway, who was an active sponsor of global botanical expeditions.
Together they transformed the garden with this influx of exotic plants from Asia and America. They also worked closely together on the garden’s plant breeding programme producing many hybrids, especially rhododendrons, from the new plant discoveries. Frederick's skill took Bodnant Garden to gold success at several Chelsea Flower Shows and he was awarded the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour alongside his employer.
From 1947 Frederick's son Charles followed in his footsteps to become head gardener and was also awarded the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour for his horticultural achievements. Charles Puddle was at the helm when Bodnant Garden was given into the care of the National Trust in 1949.
Charles and his son Martin, who went on to be head gardener from 1982, steered Bodnant through this new era, during which time it became one of Britain's most famous gardens. The long family link was broken when Martin died in 2005. The Puddle Garden close to our Visitor Centre was created in 2011 in tribute to these three men and is filled with the plants which they loved.
The challenge of following in the footsteps of the Puddles was taken up in 2007 by Troy Smith - a former student gardener at Bodnant and now head gardener at Sissinghurst in Kent. Our current head gardener John Rippin took over in 2015, coming from the National Trust gardens of Hidcote and Castle Drogo.