Garden Visit: Eden Project Cornwall October 2017

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If you’re holidaying in the UK there are plenty of world-class gardens to discover and Cornwall’s flagship is The Eden Project

During a mini-break staycation for our anniversary, my wife and I met up with my lovely gardening aunt for a day out to two Cornish Gardens. We visited the Eden Project in the morning and The Pinetum, which is just down the road from its more famous neighbour, after filling up on a pasty for lunch.

How to find the Eden Project

The safest route is to head towards St Austell and following the brown tourist signs to find the main entrance. Previously we’ve followed the Sat Nav and ended up coming through some small lanes. It’s probably a longer route on the main roads but at least you cant get lost.

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Useful Information

Website: www.edenproject.com

Entrance: an eye-watering £27 per adult at the gate.

Opening times – quite variable within the month. Somewhere between 9-9:30 and closing by 6pm. The biomes open later at 10am. It’s best to check for the day you’re planning on going.

Outside areas

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A view over the two large Biomes

The site is split into a few areas of note. The two main Biomes share a linkway which houses facilities and restaurant. One side is a tropical rainforest biome and the other house is a more arid, Meditteranean-like environment. There are purely ornamental plantings and on the steep slopes at the far end are various food crops from around the world on show.  It’s sold as a full day attraction, and it would have to be for the entry costs, but even with two gardening fans in the group we only managed 3 hours before it was time to move on.

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Sunflower planting in front of the Rainforest Biome

The biomes

The biggest draw is the two biomes. These amazing structures are the real highlights for me. It’s interesting visiting again after living overseas and spending some time in Thailand and Singapore as the rainforest biome. On my first visit the plants we alien to me and I didn’t find them that interesting. Coming back this year they’re now familiar, almost ubiquitous, and I found myself spending more time looking at the foliage and flowers.

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Inside the Rainforest Biome

The temperate biome has a special feature on Western Australia which is an interesting, if small, new addition.

In summary

I’m glad to have visited again as it’s been a good number of years since we were last there. That being said there’s nothing really new to see so if you’ve been in the last 5 years you’re not missing out. For the money spent it feels a bit overpriced, as impressive as the biomes are, it almost needs more here to keep your interest. We also noted that the amount of plant labeling is poor. Where plants are so international and unique you have to have labels to fully appreciate what you’re seeing.

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Grass borders on the slopes

Other UK Garden Visits

Sussex Prairie Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

Kew Garden

Queens Park Botanic Gardens, Toowoomba

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The botanic gardens in Toowoomba are a pleasant stop on a road trip

I’ve been traversing the East Coast of New South Wales, Australia, in a campervan with my wife and our dog. One of the many stops was to visit some relatives living in the West of Brisbane. We spent a day heading into the cooler hinterland where a higher altitude brings a relief from the humid conditions nearer sea-level. The higher, more inland, towns of Australia have a feel much more familiar to us Brits and show a wider range of street trees and historic buildings. Waiting for us there was the unexpected Toowoomba Botanic Garden.

Queens Park Gardens

To the East of the main town centre sits the Queens Park Gardens which contain the botanic gardens, playgrounds and cricket pitches.

The highlights were the mature trees and the fountains.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Vera Lacaze Memorial Fountains

These space-ship fountains looked great in the sun. What’s clever is that they’re all different sizes but that’s not so easy to see from the photo. The largest fountain is closest and they get smaller the further away they get. This clever trick of perspective makes them look like they’re stretching away into the distance. Such a clever design trick I’ll have to remember.

Botanical Gardens

The best thing about botanical gardens, apart from the free day out, is the opportunity to get close to some plants you wouldn’t have space for or may never have come across before.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Wollombi Pine (it lives behind a caged enclosure so I apologise for the interrupted view) 

The Wollombi Pine is an extremely interesting bit of botany of recent times. It was thought to be extinct and to only be found as fossilised samples but was rediscovered by chance in the 90s. Its natural location is a closely guarded secret to avoid people raiding the wild population for plants.  More work is being done to understand the genetics at play to inform research and conservation efforts. You’ve got ancient history, botany, science, conservation all unfolding in our lifetime – what could be better?

toowoomba botanical gardens
Grass Trees in a mixed border

The native grass trees are impressive with their soft fibre-optic-like foliage radiating out from the main stem. It can take 100 years to turn into the tree as it’s so slow growing. It adds an interesting addition to a mixed border.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Castanea sativa – Spanish Chestnut

This Chestnut was a strong impressive specimen just begging for a photo.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus tiliaceus – Sea Hibiscus

I always find it funny seeing such large blooms on a tree. A very elegant specimen.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus mutabilis – Confederate Rose

This tree looks like a white rose has been on steroids. I had never seen it before.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Singapore Botanical Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

During a recent weekend away to Melbourne my wife and I took a leisurely stroll from the hotel down to the botanical gardens. We have been there twice before but it’s always a highlight of our stays and since this is going to be our last trip for a while we made the most of it.

The Melbourne Garden is one of two botanical gardens run by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. The other is Cranbourne and is a large site to the south east of the city. We visited this two years ago on our way to Philip Island.

How to find the garden

The gardens are a large area of green sitting below the River Yarra that bisects the main city. We walked from the CBD through the open parks to the west and entered at the Observatory Gate which is located beside the Shrine of Remembrance. A full PDF map of the garden can be found here.

Melbourne Botanical Garden map
A tram line runs below the park but it’s easily accessed from the river by foot
Map of Melbourne Botanical garden location
The garden is located to the South East of the CBD.

Useful Information

www.rbg.vic.gov.au

Entrance Fee: FREE!

Opening hours: 07:30 until sunset every day

There is cycle parking at the Observatory Gate as you’re not allowed to cycle around the garden itself. We weren’t aware of this when we first visited and entered through the top gate and spent the morning pushing to very heavy rental bikes around the garden.

Main Features

  • Guilfoyles Volcano
  • Children’s Garden
  • Lakes and Islands
  • Canna Bed Rain Garden
  • Tropical Glasshouse
  • Herbarium
  • Potager
  • Eucalyptus Walk
  • Rainforest Walk

Guilfoyle’s Volcano

Guilfoyle's Volcano Pond
Guilfoyle’s Volcano Pond

At the top of the garden is a cone of planting with a raised pond. This is the where the parks water management system begins and rainwater is collected and managed as it passes through the grounds. It’s a lovely elevated spot for viewing the gardens with the city skyscrapers in the background.

Guilfoyle's Volcano
Guilfoyle’s Volcano at the Melbourne Botanical Garden.

Canna Bed Rain Garden

Canna Bed Rain Garden
Canna Bed Rain Garden

This eye-searing display is planted over a sump that forms the next part of the waterway that eventually leads to the lake. It was nice to see the variety of heights and colours in this genus. Instead of being a utilitarian eye-sore they’ve turned this into a feature to make use of the damp soil. Everyone had their phones out taking pictures and selfies with this backdrop.

Lakes and Islands

A main focus of the garden is the lake where you can take a gondola ride or have something to eat from the cafe overlooking the water.

Lotus in flower on the lake
Lotus in flower on the lake

This is the first time I had seen a lotus in real life. It’s easy to see why they’ve been revered for centuries. Simple yet elegant flowers stand proud of the foliage.

Potager

This summer I will be back in the UK I’m looking forward to starting a new allotment project. This potager garden is great inspiration for an orderly and beautiful productive space. My wife even conceded that a vegetable garden can be pretty as she’s not normally too enamoured with them.

Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Sunflower blooming in the Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Unusual infestation at the Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Ordered beds in the Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden

 Plant Highlights

Mother-in-laws Cushion (Echinocactus grusonii).
Mother-in-laws Cushion (Echinocactus grusonii).

This cactus was growing at the volcano on steep well-drained borders in full sun. It’s also known as the Golden Barrel Cactus (but where’s the fun in that?).

Hosperaloe funifera
Hosperaloe funifera -a mexican agavae relative

Throughout the park there are large flat-leaved Agavae with names and initials scraped in to them. I’m sure someone will find it an interesting urban trend like graffiti but I don’t like it.

Agave
Grafitti or community engagement? This Agave looks abused.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Singapore Botanical Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

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This could be the most impressive urban garden in the world

Continuing this series of reports about the gardening highlights we’ve experienced during our recent holidays.

The Singapore skyline seen above the Grey Garden
The Singapore skyline seen above the Grey Garden

A highlight of my recent trip to Singapore was a visit to the Gardens by the Bay which has been on my bucket list since I first saw glimpses of it in a magazine article. Singapore is hoping to be a City in a Garden rather than a Garden City. The wider bay is a development on reclaimed land which is a new focus for the city and the site of the New Year’s Eve fireworks. The garden development consists of three larger sites named the Central, East and South Gardens. The most iconic of these is the South Garden with its grove of Supertrees. Since we were only staying in Singapore for a few nights we only visited this garden.

Gardens by the Bay Map

Gardens by the Bay Map
Gardens by the Bay Map showing the Bayfront MRT
Gardens by the Bay Map
Map showing location of Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

How to get to the South Garden

The nearest metro station is the Bayfront station located next to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel complex. From there you walk through the hotel lobby and over a skybridge into the garden proper.

An alternative is to get to the Tanjong Pagar metro station and take the 400 bus which drops you at the garden entrance.

It’s possible to walk directly from the city around the bay and into the gardens. One word of caution though – the distances covered are huge and that’s before you even get in to the garden. Pace yourself.

Entrance Fees

Entry to the wider garden is free. To enter the Conservatories or the Sky walk there is a fee (see below). If you’re looking for a beautiful walk for the day then utilising the free entry means you see the attractions from the outside and get to enjoy the main gardens on a thrifty budget. For those visiting just for the day then the Skywalk and Double Conservatory price is definitely worth paying for a full experience.

  • Skyway SG$8
  • One Conservatory SG$12
  • Both Conservatories SG$20

Garden Highlights

  • Flower Dome Conservatory
  • Cloud Forest Conservatory
  • Skyway
  • Supertrees Grove
  • Heritage Gardens
  • World of Plants
  • Silver Garden
  • Gold Garden

Flower Dome Conservatory

Pyrostegia venusta 'Orange Trumpet Vine'
Pyrostegia venusta ‘Orange Trumpet Vine’

The Flower Conservatory is a temperate zone showing plants from across the world. When we visited there was a Christmas display. It’s odd walking from a hot and humid environment into a cooler and drier conservatory as we’re so used to experiencing the other way around.

This bright climbing plant caught my eye (and my new camera’s lens) as we strolled around. I think I’ll try and source this back in the UK. I’m not sure yet whether it will be hardy enough but it can always be used as an annual.

Cloud Forest Conservatory

The waterfall within the Cloud Forest Conservatory
The waterfall within the Cloud Forest Conservatory

The mountain in this conservatory is planted with sheer walls of mountain plants displaying their variety of foliage types and colours with exotic orchids mixed in. The experience takes you through the levels of cloud forests and educational signage and displays highlight the strengths and threats to these environments.

A living green wall in the Cloud Forest
A living green wall in the Cloud Forest

Supertrees grove

Supertrees Grove
Vertical exotic planting seen on the Supertrees Grove

The Supertrees are designed to draw hot air up and away and collect rainwater for the garden. They are architecturally stunning but also provide planting opportunities. The Heritage gardens are located on a circular loop around the grove.

Bourgainvillea flowering on the vertical planting of the Supertrees
Bougainvillea flowering on the vertical planting of the Supertrees

Skywalk

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay Skywalk

The Skywalk takes you above the gardens for a unique vantage point of the dense planting below. This semi-circle walkway is suspended from some of the Supertrees and gives great photo opportunities of the city skyline.

A world-class display of science and society striving for better

This has to be on anyone’s bucket list but I would especially recommend it for anyone interested in horticulture, gardening, urban development and planning, sustainable cities and architecture.

The grey garden
The grey garden

 

MyPottingBench: Down Under – Mount Tomah Botanical Garden

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden

 

 

The Mount Tomah Botanical Garden is part of three gardens that make up the botanical gardens in New South Wales. The other two are the Royal Garden, in the CBD of Sydney, and a larger, spreading garden at Mount Annan.

The greatest things about these three superb gardens is that they all offer free entry.

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Blue Mountains Botanical Garden at Mount Tomah.

Even if there was an entry fee it would be very worth it.This garden is located in the famous Blue Mountains and are well worth a morning or afternoon visit if you’re travelling that way.

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
Blue Mountains Botanical Garden at Mount Tomah.

 

 

 

The gardens are situated on a north-facing slope (remember in Oz that means facing the sun) within the Blue Mountains. Despite being so high above sea-level this aspect allows a continental climate where the summers are warm but temperatures can dip below freezing in the winter months.

It is set out as a variety of themed areas touring different horticultural geographies and this allows for a wide variety of plants. The terraces manage the slope and provide interesting changes of levels and hard landscaping consisting of formal and informal pools and ponds.

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
A summer view of the gardens
MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
The garden’s most recognisable feature is a spiral stone walkway

The gardens illustrate the use of native plants in mixed borders and carry examples of all the most well-known native species. Below you can see two examples of Proteas. These woody plants can handle the cool winters due to the extreme drainage offered from the slope.

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
Protea cynaroides amongst an exotic shrubby border
MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
Protea longifolia x pudens

 

This garden is a must on any tour of Australian gardens. I have visited with my wife on two occasions; once in the middle of winter where there was a freezing wind blowing and some snow had fallen the week before, and a second time in the heat of summer. We found the gardens to be full of interest and colour with amazing views both times.

MyPottingBench: Down Under - Mount Tomah Botanical Garden
View out over the terraces towards the Blue Mountains in the background.

Toby Buckland’s Gardening Festival 2014

Powderham Castle

The inaugural local gardening festival

Yesterday was the first Toby Buckland Gardening Festival held at Powderham Castle in Kenton near Exeter. It’s been widely advertised in the local area and was generating lots of excitement on twitter this week.

Powderham Castle is a beautiful setting looking out onto the estuary and surrounded with acres of parkland. It’s also home to Toby Buckland’s nursery. I took my mum and the other half to have a look around yesterday.

A marquee was set up in the ground to host the guest speakers
A marquee was set up in the ground to host the guest speakers

South West nurseries proudly showing their best

It was great to see so many stalls attending the event and quite a few were showing off what the south west has to offer. Hill House Nursery were there and Ray did a talk in the morning. Heucheraholics had a good selection but the prize for most colourful stand goes to Avon Bulbs .

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Getting there and parking

The site is easy to find on the A-road between Exeter and Dawlish. We were able to park in the disabled area but still had a bit of a hike up the hill into the castle itself. For everyone else there was a good 10 minute walk through the grounds from the parking field. Although if you’re steady on your pins it’s a great walk past the lake in the sunshine!

Hill House Nursery on the rose terrace
Hill House Nursery on the rose terrace

There were lots of stalls on the lower terrace offering furniture and some informative stands on composting and other topics. There weren’t as many gardening sundries stands but I see this as only a good thing. My attention was on the plants and often find novelty sign stands an irritation. There were loads of good food outlets available. We were really lucky and arrived at a vendor when there was no queue and a table available – within 2 minutes of tucking in there was a queue. We all joined in with our favourite chorus of ‘timed that right’.

As well the nurseries there was a speakers tent where a program of talks was delivered. We caught part of a question and answer session with Anne Swithinbank and Jim Buttress.

My 2 companions went away happy with bunches of cut flowers from The Good Flower Company. I was very restrained and bought 2 chilli plants from the Dartmoor Chilli Farm to replace my failing seedlings. Overall it was a great afternoon out, lots of good food, fantastic weather, and a great selection of local and national nurseries.

Crocus Open Day 2014

Crocus Open Day 2014

 

This weekend I went to the Crocus open day for the first time. It’s been on my list of things to do for a while but I’ve never been able to attend before. We had a weekend visiting family in Surrey and Hampshire so were in the area. Having read the online information and some other blog entries I had a fair idea of what the day would bring. The gates were due to open at 9:30 but I ended up arriving early at 9:10 – which meant I was the fourth car through the gates when the time came!

How it works

We were greeted at the entrance by the smiling team handing out brochures, buying information and the most important item – the stickers!. For those who don’t already know; instead of carrying round your items or pushing round trolleys, you’re given a strip of numbered stickers to place on the pots which you then place on the path for the staff to collect. They’re then ready and waiting for you at the tills in your own numbered crate.

Briza media
Briza media

 

Like these Briza media all the plants look really healthy and well grown. I was glad to see their Briza media looking just like my seedlings – I had started to worry they were just ‘grass’.

 

A tempting selection of Hellebores
A tempting selection of Hellebores

 

I spent ages with these lovely Hellebores. There were a good selection of Helleborus orientalis but a few Helleborus x sternii mixed in. At one point I did end up in the middle of the plants trying to reach a very pretty double pink orientalis I had spotted (everyone else stuck to the paths and behaved themselves).

 

 

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How the pricing works

The pricing structure is pretty simple 9cm/1L pots were £3, 2-3L pots were £6. The Hellebores were all in 9cm pots so I managed to get 4 for a bargain price. They also had some offers of the day – lavenders, a Daphne, a Jasmine. These were at reduced prices for the day but they were dotted around the site rather than in one place. Similarly, the open areas were all over the site so you had to do some exploring to make sure you didn’t miss anything. I kept seeing things on the trolleys that I hadn’t found myself. As you can see from the pics there weren’t many flowers on show. I imagine the open days later in the year offer more of a spectacle.

 

Euphorbia wulfenii
Euphorbia wulfenii
Beautiful Paeonies
Beautiful Paeonies

 

Behind the scenes at the Chelsea preparations

One highlight of the day was a tour by joint-founder Peter Clay and nursery manager Karen. They took us round the site where Peter gave us details of the designer plans for the 2 show gardens for Chelsea. Karen then detailed the efforts that go into preparing and bringing on the Chelsea plants. We saw some of the plants that are due to be part of the gardens, and a few that have been discarded as they’ve come on too much in the mild spring or are just the wrong colour!

 

Plants destined for Chelsea
Plants destined for Chelsea

 

The damage

I was concerned that I’d walk to the tills to be confronted with a huge pile of plants that I couldn’t fit into the car. As it turned out I ended up with a really restrained collection of purchases. They’re now making themselves at home in the garden. I think the next open day I’ll attend will be one later in the year to see the huge pens in full bloom.

Very restrained purchases
Very restrained purchases