If you are a lover of gardens, then a visit to North Wales is not complete without a visit to Bodnant Garden in the Conwy Valley. Beautiful at any time of the year, this historic garden, which is now managed by the National Trust, spans over 80 acres of hillside above the Afon Conwy. With a series of themes that seamlessly blend - Italianate terraces, colourful herbaceous borders, the famous laburnum arch, a maturing winter garden, woodland and riverside walks and meadow spaces - it will sweep you up for hours on end as you explore this wonderful space at your own pace.
One of the lovely things about living in this lovely corner of North Wales (and being fortunate to be a National Trust member) is that it is possible to visit whenever you want. So this week, a little space was carved between busy times for a stroll around the Winter Garden. What a sensory treat!
Renovated and repurposed back in 2012, ten years on, this lovely corner of the upper garden delivers treats to all the senses. Even better, it is on flat and accessible ground which means that visitors of all ages are able to enjoy this spending time there.
The first thing that hits you as you start to walk towards the winter garden is the gorgeous scent. Now, in early February, tall daphnes (in this case Daphne bholua), are studded with rosettes of pale pink flowers which smell of sweet honey. There were even early bumblebees noisily gathering pollen and making the most of the winter sunshine. The smell is so sweet and enticing, it stops you in your tracks whilst you breathe in the scented air. Witch Hazel (hamamelis) and Sweet Box (sarcococca) add to the winter perfume with darts of mustard yellow and orange and little splashes of white flower. Glorious.
The beds are dotted with hellebore, snowdrops, tiny iris, crocus and daffodils - flashes of colour that remind you that spring is on its way. The planting in this part of the garden is now mature and, even now in the middle of winter, colourful and varied. Bright dogwood stems contrast with the shiny evergreen leaves of camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons, some of which are in full flower. The peeling papery stems of Acer griseum draw in your eye - it would be tempting to reach out and touch! There are slender white birches with bone-white trunks that contrast with the smooth and glassy mahogany and copper bark of the paperbark cherry, bringing you to a momentary halt. Under planted with early flowering heathers and skimmia, there is a feast of plant life to enjoy.
This visit to Bodnant Garden was short and sweet but long enough to clear the head. It would have been tempting to stay for longer if time allowed, exploring the Italianate terraces and following the winding paths down to the river and The Dell. There you can pick up a hot chocolate and slowly wander along the valley path towards the waterfall and lake and loop back up the hill along woodland paths. There will be frogspawn in the lake soon - and in another month, spring green leaves will be beginning to break - both good reasons to return for more exploring and time out.
If you'd like to visit Bodnant Garden NT, it is located at Tal-y-Cafn which is less than 10 minutes drive up A470 off junction 19 of the A55.
Even better, if you'd like to stay nearby, take a look at The Old Barn which was part of the original Old Bodnod estate and is within walking distance of Bodnant Garden. And Cae Mab Dafydd, Tal y Bont Cottage, Tal y Bont Stables, Plas y Coed and 43 Plas y Coed are all less than 30 minutes drive away.