Roses to mark WW1 centenary at Bodnant Garden

It is roses rather than poppies which will mark a century since the outbreak of World War One at Bodnant Garden in Conwy as its rose terraces were completed just before the war started.

Events planned in celebration and remembrance include a guided rose walk with one of the gardeners this month, a special tour with one of the UK’s leading rose experts in July and, in August, a special rose planting to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War.

Gardener Fran Llewellyn said: "1914 marked probably the biggest achievement at Bodnant with the completion of the terraces. They are a testament to the vision of the garden’s founder family and to the men who built them, some of whom went away to fight and never came back. The fact that roses are still blooming on our beautiful terraces, and visitors from all over the world come to see them, is a lasting tribute."

Bodnant’s five Italianate terraces which were built by the garden’s owner Henry McLaren in the years between 1904 and 1914. He completely resculpted the grassed hillside overlooking the Snowdonian mountain range creating a Top Rose Terrace, lawned Croquet Terrace, Lily Terrace with pond, Lower Rose Terrace with pergola walkways and Canal Terrace with the canal pond and Pin Mill.

It was a grand earth and stone moving project all done by hand by men with wheelbarrows. It is estimated that the work done by 50 labourers in an hour before WW1 would equate to one skilled labourer using machinery after 1966. Granite was quarried from the surrounding estate to build great buttressed walls which supported the earthed up levels and provided shelter for tender and exotic new plants being introduced to the garden from abroad such as Chinese magnolias.

In recent years the two rose terraces have been completely renovated; the Top Rose Terrace in 2006 and the Lower Rose Terrace in 2012. Gardeners had to dig out and replace around 500 tonnes of soil from both terraces, paths were re-laid and pergolas repainted. The beds were then planted with fragrant English roses, many from the award-winning David Austin collection, which provide a continuous display from June to October.

Acting head gardener Adam Salvin said: "Developing the rose beds has been a top priority in recent years and has taken a lot of time, skill and dedication by our gardeners. I’m proud to say we now have one of the finest rose gardens in Wales."

One of the gardeners who cares for the rose gardens will give a guided tour of them on 25 June while on 15 July visitors can meet technical director of David Austin Roses Michael Marriot, who was involved in the renovation of the rose beds during a morning tour.

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