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Image © Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh via Facebook

Discover the UK’s Best Botanical Gardens

28 May 2019 | Maisy Farren

Your chance to see something beautiful in both inner-city and rural UK locations. These botanical gardens are a sight to behold and a remarkable day out for all the family. Interested in a different kind of botany? Click here to see what boozy goodness we can get out of specialised botanical gardens.  


Image credit: Eden Project via Facebook 
Eden Project 
St Blazey, Cornwall
 
The golf ball style domes of the Eden Project are an iconic part of the Cornish skyline and a bustling tourist attraction for coastal bound families. Those golf balls are, in fact, huge manufactured Biomes (definition: a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g. forest or tundra) in which you’ll find impressive botanical displays of plants that wouldn’t dream of growing in the cold UK climate. The tropical Rainforest Biome is the biggest of the two, and here you can spot banana plants, coffee plants, rubber trees and a giant bamboo stalk, all kept at a toasty 18-35°C. The second Biome is a slightly smaller Mediterranean biome, where at 9-25°C you can search for West Australian and South African flowers, as well as olive trunks and huge aloe veras. The site is devoted to sustainability and education, using plant-based research to support the conservation of botany. 
 
Fun fact: the gallons of water they need to create the humid Biome conditions is recycled rain water, collected from the site and then sanitised!


Image credit: Wakehurst via Facebook 
Wakehurst 
Haywards Heath, Sussex 
 
Everyone’s heard of Kew Gardens, but be sure to check out their rural High Weald location of Wakehurst Place. Here you’ll find 500 acres of plants from around the world, as well as a wild wetland and the extensive Millennium Seed Bank. You can wander through Coates Wood, an atmospheric woodland filled with trees of Australasia and South America, before heading to the Pinetum to stand under the shadow of a towering conifer trees. The Millennium Seed Bank is a vital visiting location for learning about the threat of extinction that faces the world’s plants. Built in, you guess it, 2000, the Millennium Seed Bank is an extensive bank of seeds carefully stored to ensure we’ll never lose their flora. The seeds are collected and preserved ex situ (definition: away from their natural habitat), and environmental scientists have worked hard to protect almost all of the UK’s native plant species. By 2020 they aim to have preserved 25% of the world’s plant species. 
 
Fun fact: Wakehurst is home to the UK’s tallest Christmas tree. At 36 meters tall, this tree has been a fabulous festive addition to the site for 25 years. 


Image credit: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh via Facebook 
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 
Arboretum Place, Edinburgh
 
The 10 greenhouses at The Botanics, just one mile from the city centre, boast over 3,000 exotic plants from around the world in 10 different climate zones. The centre was founded nearly 350 years ago, as a garden for growing medicinal plants. It’s a centre of plant study and research that seeks to conserve worldwide biodiversity. It’s free to walk around the glorious 70-acres of landscape, and entry to the glasshouses is only a small fee. The RBGE’s strong relationship with China is displayed in the Chinese Hillside area, where 1,600 native Chinese plants are displayed to make you feel like you’re climbing a hillside in south west China. Many of these plants are rare and endangered in their natural habitat and are planted together to encourage natural growth. Their herbarium (basically a huge dried plant library) boasts a unique collection that represents almost two thirds of the world’s flora. 
 
Fun fact: the gardens participate in the Silent Space project, where a few hours a week the gardens become calm and quiet silent spots, ideal antidotes to the stress of city life. 


Image credit: Birmingham Botanical Gardens via Facebook 
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens 
Edgbaston, Birmingham 
 
The 15-acre Victorian garden has four amazing glasshouses as well as glorious shrubbery, wildlife and Japanese gardens to roam and relax in. They boast houses kept at tropical and subtropical conditions, as well as Mediterranean areas and arid houses, where plants are kept at low and dry controlled climates. Here in Birmingham you’ll also find an abundance of tropical butterflies from the Philippines, Central America and tropical Africa. One of the most glorious features of this tourist attraction is the much-loved Davidia Involucrate, which is commonly known as the handkerchief tree or ghost tree and is typically native to China. This was brought to the UK by Ernest Henry Wilson in 1890, who embarked on four long Chinese expeditions into China and relocated a wealth of plants and flora. You can also see the beautiful Regal Lilly in the Alpine yard and Pinetum and cottage gardens. 
 
Fun fact: ‘fun’ might be a bad word to describe this fact, but Wilson risked his life to bring the Regal Lilly (or Lilium Regale) back to the UK, getting caught in an avalanche and injuring his leg for the rest of his life. 


Image credit: @MaccWildlife via Twitter 
Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden 
Didsbury, Manchester 
 
We’ve already mentioned Fletcher Moss park in our round-up of stuff to do in Didsbury, but this city centre haven deserves another mention for its dedicated botanical gardens. The Green Flag Awarded space stretches right down to the River Mersey, making it an ideal spot for a day out. The south-facing garden is sheltered from the elements which creates a thriving micro-climate, and space for glorious plants to flourish. Where else in Manchester are you going to see royal ferns, giant rhubarb and skunk cabbage? The area is named after philanthropist Fletcher Moss who acquired the land in 1912, and it became the meeting place of the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds – now known as the charity RSPB. 
 
Fun fact: The Parsonage gardens contain graves of the late Fletcher Moss’ favourite dogs, and rumour has it he even buried his horse there.  
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