Our Winter Garden Walk
Enjoy some pre-Christmas calm or chill our after the festive season with a stroll among the sights, scents and sounds of nature in Bodnant’s Winter Garden. And while this walk is short, it takes you through 250 years of horticultural history at Bodnant Garden.
Begin your walk at the Visitor Centre
As you leave the Visitor Centre take the curving gravel path straight ahead beside the old acer tree (look out for birds gathering around the feeders hanging from its branches.) After a few metres take the first left turn and head for the Laburnum Arch. On the left of the arch entrance you’ll see another old acer (Acer dissectum palmatum). Its twisted trunk looks stunning even in winter.
The Laburnum Arch
Built in 1881, the 55-metre long pergola is decked with golden flowers in late May. In December and January gardeners painstakingly untie the plants from their metal frame, prune back the stems and tie them in again. Winter is the perfect time to see this intricate structure (and maybe catch the gardeners at work). Look out, too, for the remnants of a Victorian glass partition on the left hand wall, which once sheltered exotic climbing plants.
Exit the arch turning right and then left back to the main path. Turn left again where this path splits – marked on the corner by a group of young Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) with distinctive bronze peeling bark. You’re now walking along the east border of the Winter Garden. Look out for flowering bulbs in beds marking the way - miniature daffodils from as early as December, followed by cyclamen, scilla, iris and many varieties of snowdrops in the New Year.
An old rockery
This whole area used to be an Edwardian rockery which had become overgrown with shrubs. It had a grand unveiling as our new Winter Garden in January 2012 after a four year renovation costing £35,000. Much of the rockwork is original, as are the mature trees and shrubs such as rhododendrons, garrya and camellia.
At the end of this path turn right, next to the group of peeling, pink-barked Rhododendron Redwing, into the Winter Garden. Looking left you’ll see the Old Park, a meadow with native trees laid out in Georgian times. Continue down the path alongside the boundary beech hedge and see how the layers of new planting in the Winter Garden are lit up by low winter sun shining across the meadow.
We’re adding to the display of native snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) in the meadow by planting every February – our aim is to create a Snowdrop Walk right through the garden from to Old Park to Furnace Meadow. See our events listings for dates to drop by to give us a hand!
Just past the gate to the Old Park meadow you’ll see an evergreen Champion Tree on your left – you may catch the scent of its white winter flowers too. This is False Holly (Osmanthus fortuneii) at 8m high the tallest of its kind in the British Isles. At this junction you can turn right and loop back up in a circular route along the crazy paving through the Winter Garden, taking in more of the planting (there are five shallow steps along the way).
The new planting scheme includes the coloured bark of trees like Prunus serrula (Tibetan Cherry), Betulala utlis (Himalayan Birch), Acer conspicuum (Snakebark Maple), and the stems of cornus and rubus; notice the scents from shrubs like sarcococca (Winter Box), hamamelis (Witch Hazel) and daphne; all around you’ll also see flowering perennials such as helleborus and bergenia, berrying plants like skimmia, and the swaying foliage of ornamental grasses.
From the Osmanthus tree continue onward a few metres towards a bench on the left. A little further on the right hand side spot a large group of early flowering, pink Rhododendron nobleanum (they often start blooming in December) From this bench you’ll get a great view of the formal East Garden - running from the Round Garden to Bodnant Hall.
The East Garden
This area was created in the Victorian period by the garden’s founder Henry Pochin and the famous landscape designer Edward Millner, with a Round Garden and Parterre and ornamental lawns intersected by paths, stone steps and balustrades. Our garden team are redesigning this area in 2018 – watch this space.
Loop around the Round Garden and back up along the north boundary of Winter Garden alongside the Top Lawn. You can see more of the layout of the Victorian formal garden from here, and signs of the original Georgian landscape design too in naturalistic parkland grouping of native trees.
Notice the group of old native trees on your left, which were planted in the late 1700s. Spot our Sweet Chestnut with its legs marching across the lawn. This 250-year-old was hit by a lightning strike in the past which split the main trunk. As you can see it’s still going strong.
At the top of this path turn left along the Puddle Garden (running parallel to the Laburnum Arch). Developed in 2011, this area pays tribute to three generations of Bodnant head gardeners, Frederick, Charles and Martin Puddle, who played a key part in the development of the garden from 1920 to 2006. It is filled with plants loved by these men, including a number of rhododendron hybrids raised here.
Behind the bench in the Puddle Garden on the right you’ll see a massive Magnolia x veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’ (originating from Asia and bred by the famous Veitch Nursery.) A little further on the left notice a towering Pinus radiata (native to Central America.) These trees and many others were brought to Bodnant Garden in the early 1900s by owners the McLaren family, who sponsored global plant hunting expeditions.
Back at the birds’ favourite Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ near the Visitor Centre, turn left on to the Range borders. On the left take a closer look at the parterre and fountain. You’ll find the garden exit along the garden wall on the right. Be sure to pop in at the Pavilion tearoom– warm up with our special winter menu and leave a wish on our Wishing Tree during December.
This area used to be a kitchen garden and Victorian glasshouses, which were demolished in the 1980s. It has since been developed into hot-coloured herbaceous beds, which look stunning from spring right through to late summer.
End your walk at the garden exit
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