Blooming Bodnant!

We started a week of garden visits, based in Chester, with a visit to Bodnant Gardens in north Wales. It had been quite a few years since we visited – a planned visit two years ago had to be cancelled as I spent the holiday in hospital in Chester!  – and we had previously only visited in spring or in May to see the iconic Laburnum Arch which is one of England’s gardening wonders.

We  had never visited in Summer and were a little apprehensive that the gardens might not live up to their spring standards. Rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias give a great display early in the year but we wondered if the summer show would be a match and worth the visit.

We need not have worried at all as the gardens most certainly filled that garden description to perfection – a garden with all year interest. We were delighted with the state of the garden, the level of colour and plant interest, the extraordinary level of maintenance and that it is obvious that ongoing renovations and new developments will ensure that this garden not only continues to be excellent but will even improve with each passing year. Despite the almost fashionable habit of garden commentators complaining about the work of the National Trust, which cares for these gardens, I  must say that their work here in Bodnant is outstanding and deserving of recognition and great praise.

Let me give you a peep at the gardens through my photographs and suggest you pay a visit yourself. You will enjoy it.

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Immediately on entering the garden the visitor is greeted by a very colourful border of mainly herbaceous perennial plants. 
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The house is imposing but not daunting and garden and house fit together perfectly 
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The rill and pond on the terrace below the house opens to wonderful views to the surrounding Welsh countryside. 
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The rose beds were in excellent condition with all plants growing well and providing a wonderful display of colour. 
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A view over the Rose Terraces to the lower parterre
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One of the Rose Terraces 

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One of the picture postcard views at Bodnant

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The walk to The Dell is quite steep but provides enticing glimpses of the delights below 
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The Dell is home to a fabulous collection of impressing trees and an area where great clearance work has been carried out and significant improvements made – The Dell has been cleared and extended and provides an excellent contrast to the more formal areas of the garden near the house. 
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Trees, water, dappled sunlight, bridges and trees make The Dell a very special place. 
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The rebuilt and restored boathouse on the pond at The Far End, an area being cleared, developed and planted which will add wonderfully to the woodland, riverside walk along The Dell. 

Paddy Tobin 

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Members’ Garden Visit: Victor and Roz

Normally, when I am sent photographs of a garden visit by society members I post a small selection on the “Latest News” section of our website  with a short comment to report on the occasion, generally no more than a few sentences as this is what fits best in that location. However, Maeve Bell, Chairperson of the Northern Region of the IGPS, has sent a particularly nice selection of photographs from a recent visit to the garden of Victor and Roz Henry in Belfast. Victor and Roz are IGPS members and also contribute as committee members in the North so I feel I can do more justice to Maeve’s work and to Victor’s and Roz’s garden by showing the material here.

This is Meave’s note to me following the visit:

Hi Paddy, 

We had a very enjoyable visit to Victor and Roz Henry’s garden in Newtownards yesterday despite the most unseasonable weather – heavy downpours, gusts of wind which caused the gazebo for the plant sale to lift off, and a temperature of about 12*C. But IGPS members and their friends are a hardy lot and made the most of the fleeting sunny periods to explore a garden packed with plants, both well known and exotic, and well-chosen interesting detail. Some highlights were the pergola festooned with Rosa ‘Francis E. Lester’, a fabulous cardiocrinum with blooms soaring to about three metres, and a stand of mouth-watering delphiniums in glorious shades of blue. There was a seriously well-stocked plant stall which included a decent selection of Irish cultivars including Dahlia ‘Matt Armour’, Cytissus ‘Donard Gem’, and Primula ‘Rowallane Rose’. And a final touch was the beautiful music played by their ten year old grand-daughter Josie on her harp.

Maeve’s photographs and captions will tell the story far more eloquently than I ever could so, read on and enjoy – and many thanks and a most sincere “Well done!” to Victor and Roz and a big “Thank You” to Maeve, our Roving Reporter in the North!

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Victor Henry greeting the visitors as all admire the wonderful delphiniums before the downpour arrived
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Adrian Walsh and Carol Dobson ready to check visitors in
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IGPS Chairperson, Billy McCone, putting the final touches to a display of Irish plants
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Lots of seats on which to pause and enjoy the day
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A view from the entrance towards the pool and the summer house. Unfortunately, the parasol was needed more to shelter from the rain than the sun!
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Star of the show on the day was this Cardiocrinum giganteum 
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The afternoon was enhanced by the lovely harp music played by the Henry’s grand daughter.
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Lush plating around the pool, including Zantedeschia aethopica 
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This sums up why we all go out whatever the weather to visit interesting gardens.
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The mask, representing The Green Man, was a recent introduction to the garden.
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At times, the bigger the umbrella the better!
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Some visitors: Adrian Walsh from the Northern Committee, Ali Rochford-O’Connor, the newly elected Hon. Sec. with her son,  and Billy McCone, the newly elected Chairperon of the IGPS.
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Rosa ‘Francis E. Lester’ in full bloom on the pergola
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Exotic planting: A tree fern with a lush under-planting of hostas and Myosotidium hortensia, the Chatham Island Forget-Me-Not.

Many thanks to Victor and Roz for inviting IGPS members to their garden and many thanks to Maeve for her excellent report on the event.

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

Gardens of the Italian Lakes

Gardens of the Italian Lakes by Steven Desmond with photographs by Marianne Majerus.

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The gardens of Lake Como and Lake Maggiore in the north of Italy are among the most dramatic and beautiful one could visit. With this new book to hand the visitor’s experience will be all the more enjoyable.

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Villa Carlotta on Lake Como 

Thanks to today’s transport systems getting there is easy and, while there, moving from one garden to another is part of the pleasure of the experience. We have been to both lakes to visit gardens and might have enjoyed them even more had we had this book to hand before we travelled.  There are several excellent books on Italian gardens but none, that I know of, dealing purely with the lakes. For both lakes we travelled from Dublin to Milan and were transported onward by bus. On Maggiore we stayed in Streasa and on Como in Bellagio. From these bases travel around the lakes was by ferries which in both areas were convenient, frequent and gave one great views of the magnificent scenery.

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Villa Melzi across the lake from Villa Carlotta

The garden highlights on Lake Maggiore are Isola Bella, Isola Madre, Villa San Remidio and Villa Taranto which we visited along with the lesser Alpinia and the Botanic Gardens of the Brissago Islands while the feature visits of Lake Como were Villa Melzi, Villa Carlotta, Villa del Balbianello, Villa Serbelloni, Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero all within immediate and easy reach from Bellagio. This book lists a few other gardens which I might describe as lesser gardens – ones I would most certainly wish to visit if I had further time but on a limited timescale, as I was, I had to select and prioritise and feel reassured from reading this guide that my choices were well made.

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Villa Balbianello on a promontory on Lake Como, one of the great delights of the lakes  

Having visited the lakes and most of the gardens before reading this book puts me in a good position to judge it and, quite simply, I can say that I am sorry I didn’t have it to hand before I went on my holidays. It is the single best book on the area that I have come across and combines clear, informed and informative text with outstanding photography. The author, Steven Desmond, is a gardener, writer and lecturer who has led garden tours to the lakes over many years while Marianne Majerus, the photographer, is simply the best and any book with her photographs is guaranteed to be a treat to the eyes. Nine gardens are described for Lake Maggiore and seven for Como, certainly a comprehensive listing and more than sufficient for the average holiday.

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Villa Monastero, typical of many of the gardens on the lake, fitted into a narrow strip on the lake shore and with fabulous views. 

I recommend this book without hesitation and with great enthusiasm as I likewise recommend both areas for your holidays – with the proviso that you make use of this book so you get the best from your time and enjoy it to the fullest.

Gardens of the Italian Lakes, Steven Desmond, photographs by Marianne Majerus, Frances Lincoln, London, 2016, Hardback, 224 pages, £20 ISBN: 978-0-7112-3630-1

Paddy Tobin.

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook