“Our winter garden was designed by Troy Scott-Smith, and opened in 2013,” says Bodnant’s Head Gardener John Rippin. “Troy revitalised an old Victorian rockery that had become very overgrown. He cherry-picked the best ideas from other good winter gardens and created a more condensed, more intimate version here, which means there are lots of planting combinations for visitors to take away and replicate at home.
“One idea we’ve used here is layering,” says John. “We aim to create a naturalistic community of plants using a tree, a mid-height shrub, a smaller shrub or perennial and then bulbs at ground level. This gives visual interest at different heights and helps the eye to move around.
“We also love to use contrasts of colour, shape and texture. So, one moment you’re dazzled by a bright and jazzy plant combination, such as golden bamboo Phyllostachys aureosulcata spectabilis with red Cornus alba ‘Sibiricia’ and the white ghost bramble Rubus cockburnianus, then you turn a corner and you’re looking at something far more subtle, such as a carpet of Cyclamen coum or snowdrops planted under a mahonia.
“The best way to create layers is to start with your bigger structural plants such as conifers and Japanese maples. These add a real sculptural element, so we’ve planted ours on the highest point of the rockery, using white-barked Betula utilis jacquemontii and maples with bright stems, such as acer ‘Red Flamingo’.
“Once the structure is built up you have your set piece colour schemes. Here it’s helpful to use variations on a theme – using the same plants with different partners to vary the colour effects. Snowdrops planted under the red stems of Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ look completely different planted under the olive-green stems of Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’, but they’re equally effective. In a similar vein, we’ll use blue scillas and Iris reticulata below red-stemmed cornus, with cultivars such as ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ looking really good with red or white stems.”
LOCATION Bodnant Garden, Bodnant Road, Tal-y-cafn, Colwyn Bay LL28 5RE OPEN Daily except 24-26 December, 10am-4pm in winter. Adults £12, NT members free CONTACT 01492 650460; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden