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Bodnant in Autumn


Bodnant in Autumn

Story and photos by Thomas Wheaton

Tal-y-Cafn, Wales, October 21, 2015

It was late on a cool, drizzly, Welsh morning when we arrived at Bodnant Estate after a mist-shrouded drive over rain and leaf-slicked roads through the vales of Snowdonia.

We parked in the stree, terraced car park outside of the wall, and after some fortifying scones and hot chocolate in the Pavillion Tearoom, followed the ramp down and through a pedestrian tunnel under the road and wall, emerging in front of the welcome center for the 80-acre gardens

Entrance and Winter Garden

entrance_and_winter_gardenMy partner and I were visiting on a recommendation from my former Garden Design School mentor Robin Templar Williams, whom we'd caught up with two days prior during a stop in Bath. 

Bodnant lived up to his description from the moment we stepped out the back door of the reception building.

A broad, straight gravel path, lined on one side with a deep herbaceous border along a high wall, led toward a glasshouse at the corner of the hall itself. In the border, maroon and crimson Cotinus contrasted beautifully with tawny drifts of tall grasses puctuated by dwarf evergreens.

Opposite, past a narrower border filled with exuberant sprays of scarlet dahlias and Verbena bonariensis lay a rectagular lawn featuring a small, formal quadrangle of box-fringed beds with a fountain in the center. On the far side of the lawn stands the recently-opened Winter Garden, with its gently curving paved paths connecting to another small formal garden, this one circular in shape.

The Terraces

the_terracesCrossing the wide lawn to the south of the Hall, we explored the Italiante terraces. These compromise five levels with massive, buttressed granite retaining walls supporting lawns, lily ponds and lush mixed borders.

The uppermost terrace, adjacent to the Hall, features a multitude of roses and offers views of the Carneddau mountains to the west...Well, on a clear day, perhaps -- but not today.

Paths and steps of stone and brick (and beautifully repurposed millstones) led us down to the wide arc of a rose pergola which overlooks a long, narrow reflecting pool on the lowest terrace (known as the Canal Terrace) facing the Pin Mill, an 18th- century structure which was dismantled, moved to Bodnant from Gloucestershire and re-erected in 1938. 

The Dell

the_dellFrom the Pin Mill, we took a path which led behind it, and across a stream and wound its way down the Old Mill, situated at the lower end of the Dell

The river Hiraethlyn wends its way amongst moss-covered boulders through this steep valley after cascading over a spillway from a small pond higher up.

It was here, under the direction of then-owner Henry Davis Pochin beginning in the 1870's, that designer Edward Milner created a showcase for specimen broadleaf and needle evergreens collected from Asia and North American including a number of Sequoiadendron. Looking up from the floow of the profoundly calm, shady valley at the broad, tall trunks of the century-and-a-half-old trees, I was reminded of the Muir Woods in California (and perhaps this is why).

An assortment of Hydrangeas line the stream bed and paths up to the Waterfall Bridge, where we ascended steep paths and steps up and out of the Dell. 

The Shrub Borders

the_shrub_bordersExtending from the Poem back toward the Hall, the Shrub Borders contain aa myriad of rhododendrons, magnolias, Viburnums and camellias as well as shade perennials like astilbes.

Here and there among the taller shrubs, hydrangeas continued to peak (owing, perhaps to north Wales' cool summers?). One in paricular literally stopped me in my tracks, its profusion of cerulean blooms set against a backdrop of golden foliage.

At the end of the shrub borders nearest the Hall sits an oval pool called the Deep Bath, flanked by high walls and steps up to the main lawn. Magenta and red spikes of Agastache and Perisicaria stood out in the planting beds atop the


Departing the Shrub Borders, we crossed the lawn again to exit the garden, stopping to look over the Old Park,the_shrub_borders_2

where a crew of hooved and wooly experts were tending to a light trim of the grass.

And, of course, just as we were ready to leave, the sun decided to make an appearance.

Stopping once again to admire the border we'd seen as we arrived -- now glimmering gold and orange, bathed in mid-afternoon sunlight -- before bidding Bodnant goodbye...until our next visit. 

Welcome to our Chapter

The Association of Professional Landscape Designers is an international organization that was formed in 1989 and is dedicated to promoting and supporting the highly qualified professional landscape designer.

The goals of APLD® are to:

  • Promulgate and encourage the Association's standards of practice
  • Keep landscape designers abreast of the latest information and developments in the field and broadening the field's scope of traditional landscape design to new and important areas such as management of the environment and the preservation of historically significant landscapes
  • Provide a forum for landscape designers to share ideas and learn from the experiences of others
  • Educate the public about the profession

The APLD New England Chapter represents APLD members in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Organized in 2005, the Chapter is committed to the common pursuit of the goals of the international organization.  The chapter organizes and participates in local events, provides workshops for members to develop their professional skills and educates the public to the merits of quality landscape design and the benefits of working with a professional landscape designer.


Looking for a Designer? 

The decision to hire a professional landscape designer can be one of the smartest investments you'll make toward enhancing your home and its setting. A landscape designer can work with you to turn that neglected corner into a garden sanctuary, or help you completely plan and furnish your outdoor living spaces with the creative use of plants, hardscaping, and other garden elements, resulting in a unified, balanced environment that you'll enjoy for years to come.

APLD® New England Chapter members continually hone their landscape design skills. Many of our members are Certified, which means they have submitted their work to a rigorous, juried peer-review process.

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