A CONSERVATION project to restore an endangered flower in Conwy has reaped “fast results" that bode well for its return elsewhere.

The buzzing of bees and fluttering of butterflies have become noticeably louder at Bodnant Garden because the wildflowers that attract them have begun to flourish there.

Orchids used to be commonplace at the historic gardens, built in the 1874, but they started to disappear during the Second World War when invasive grasses took over.

It was part of a trend in which has resulted in 97 per cent of meadows being lost in the UK amid modern agricultural methods that use chemical fertilisers.

The National Trust, which manages the Conwy heritage site, has encouraged efforts to have wildflowers restored across Wales and four years ago horticulturalists at Bodnant decided to act. Within a short space of time at work at the site's Old Park meadow they have witnessed the return of four species of orchid.

"We started by introducing yellow rattle, a yellow flowering plant, which is able to out-compete the grasses and make space for more tender flower species," John Rippin, head gardener at Bodnant Garden said.

“Orchids used to be common in Britain but they have been killed by agricultural fertilisers such as nitrogen and weed spray so they are far more endangered now. That is why National Trust is pushing for the restoration of meadows.

“Bodnant Garden was historically not sprayed because it is near to Bodnant Hall and would have been valued part of its grounds, so we had a good starting point, and that makes the meadow more important."

North Wales Pioneer:

After the yellow rattle had defeated the grasses, the team used machinery to move the meadows to ankle height and scarify it to create bare patches.

They then received special batches of hay from the Bryn Pydew reserve in Llandudno, managed by the North Wales Wildlife Trust, which contained the seeds of the different orchids including early purple orchids, health orchids, green winged orchids and even bee orchids.

And the wildflowers have now returned for the first time since the end of the Second World War.

“It has been really encouraging to see that in such a short space of time there has been a big change," Mr Rippin added.

“The meadow is not knee height like many people imagine; we needed to cut the grass shorter to allow the orchids to grow.

"The flowers have attracted insects and I saw a spotted flycatcher for the first time since I started here four years ago."

Mr Rippin now hopes to share wildflower seeds with landowners around Conwy and Bodnant Garden’s immediate neighbours – a homeowner who wants to grow her own orchids – with the aim to bring about further restoration in Wales.

“It is not a straightforward process to grow wildflower meadow, however, and they can disrupt important plants that are already there such as daffodils," he said.

“In a way we are pioneering the restoration of meadows and balancing it with the flowers that already exist there."

For more information about Bodnant Garden call 01492 650460 or visit the website.