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Did you think that I would be toasting myself on a sunny beach? No, I’ve seen enough sand with my poor dusty soil and salt water is a real deterrent for greenly growing things. Perhaps a vacation spent scaling lofty mounts and dusty knolls. I regard physical exercise as a waste of my resources, unless digging a new flower bed, sinking a pristine pool or siting some exotic and previously unknown specimen is the end result of all that toil. For my birthday, the family have clubbed together and bought me a break at one of the best gardens in the country. They are all staying here as well which is brave. They must be well aware that I’m going to spend the duration nattering about plants.
Bodnant Gardens - Pond, sky & mountains
Pond, sky & mountains

Bodnant is owned by the National Trust and comprises some eighty acres of loveliness ranging from sculpted lawns and decorous beds, to meadow walks and hill climbs. I didn’t see all of it by any stretch of the imagination but I gave it my best shot. The Magnolias and Laburnum arch were over but the Cornus kousas dazzled from their corners and the Eucryphias were ablaze with bees. The rose collection was opulent, arranged with old fashioned charm and the perfume which filled the air was too gorgeous to be entirely legal. The long borders of hardy perennials had me dribbling with lust and full of urgent plans full of possibilities. At every turn, there were little gems tucked beneath the skirts of hefty, more imposing examples. Not an inch of soil was wasted and although I could name many unusual varieties whether my comrades wanted or not, there were others which I had never seen before, not even in a picture. The ponds were a mixture of relaxed and formal, all perfectly planned, the most stunning reflecting the endless sky and having vistas across the Conwy river, to the blue Snowden range and Carneddau mountains beyond. When we reached the view outwards from the terrace in front of the house, I found myself speechless.
Bodnant Gardens - Waterfall & rill
Waterfall & rill

The Welsh countryside is underlain with slate and flint, meaning that the copious rain stays mostly where it’s put. The hills and valleys are bosomy with bouffant trees and the hedgerows are studded with closely knit wild flowers, misty with spires of foxgloves. The landscape is artfully plastered with sheep, cows and birds, most of whom made it their business to lurk beneath my window, urging me to get out of bed earlier than I had intended.
Bodnant Gardens - The long border
The long border

This is hilly country; after a couple of decades of living amid low lying terrain, I realise that it is the changes in elevation that I miss, more than anything. The restaurants are of wonderful quality and bearing in mind that this was an eating holiday as well as a horticultural experience, we gave great attention to delicious menus written in two languages. The fitter members of the party insisted on walking through the deepening twilight to our cottage. Basil drove me up the steep road towards a comfortable armchair with more than his customary care. As he said, he had to keep an eye out for Attila, Cineraria and Leo, who were pudding impaired.

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