garden photography: inside the glasshouse

In January I’m looking for a Winter Garden

(This month I want to see photos and stories about winter gardens. You can interpret this any way you want; a garden in winter, winter flowers, or plants in a glasshouse)

This is the Great Glasshouse at the Botanic Garden of Wales. The unusual raindrop-shaped design was the work of world-renowned architects Norman Foster and Partners and it is the largest single span glasshouse in the world.


The plants come from six areas of the world: California, Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile, South Africa and the Mediterranean Basin and the glasshouse is used to protect and conserve some of the most endangered plants on the planet. Continue reading

Garden Portrait: Logan Botanic Garden

Logan Botanic Garden is situated at the south-western tip of Scotland in an almost island-like setting, where the warming influence of the Gulf Stream allows thousands of different species from the warm temperate regions of the world to flourish. There are two contrasting areas in the garden: The Walled Garden and The Woodland Garden. As you walk into the gardens from the Visitor Reception area, you have little idea of what awaits you. On the left pathways lead to the woodland, which is no ordinary woodland as it contains Chilean specimens, Australasian collections and a Tasmanian Creek and viewing platform. Not really what you’d expect this far north of the UK.  Walking through the entrance into the Walled Garden lies a complete surprise. Sheltered by 15 foot high walls are rolling lawns, groves of tree ferns and palms, water features and exotic plants. DSCF9015

DSCF9060 It’s all very strange and not remotely Scottish – even the sun is burning down making me feel as though I have suddenly been transported to the southern hemisphere.

There is even a Chusan Palm Avenue


A formal pond with sculptures and irises

Cordyline Avenue


Exotic Plants

Towards the Verandah

Asphodelus-ramosus and a bee on stilts!

Asphodelus-ramosus and a bee on stilts!

A Bug Hotel in the Castle Woodland


And when you have exhausted the Walled Garden, turn your attention to the Woodland Garden where we met an Aussie from Sydney who was astonished to have come all this way only to find eucalyptus and palms and callistemons from New Zealand and Australia. DSCF9240

And before leaving (almost the last people there as usual, but that’s a good thing because then you get to photograph the gardens without people getting in the way) we headed to the Potting Shed Bistro (how could I possibly resist with a name like that? ) for a slice of key lime pie and vanilla ice-cream. We took it out onto the terrace and admired the lovely rock garden with its succulents and slate sculptures for one last time. DSCF9022

I hope you have been as bedazzled by this garden as I was.

More lovely walks can be found over at my friend Jo’s place.

Lisbon’s Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico)

The University of Lisbon Botanical Garden was designed as a scientific garden, planting began in 1873 through the initiative of professors Andrade Corvo and the Earl of Ficalho. Tucked away in the Principe Real district, near the legendary Bairro Alto, the Botanical Garden is a lush retreat from the afternoon sun. Well that is what the tourist information says, but perhaps it should be renamed ‘The Lost Gardens’. When I finally found the entrance to the gardens I noticed a sign saying that “works are being carried out” but the only evidence of this was the red and white striped tape blocking off access to several of the crumbling pathways. Access denied.

The gardens look as though they have been neglected since 2008 – the notice showing which flowers are in bloom was dated April, 2008. My visit was in May 2012. The padlocked entrance was rusty and the paintwork was peeling. No-one had come this way for a long time. The bright pink Bougainvillea still managed to flourish though. The paths that lead through the park were uneven in places, rock strewn in others and covered in leaf debris from the winter. Treacherous smooth worn cobbled steps lead up to the Xerophyte plant area where drought-tolerant plants can be found such as aloes and cacti. It is steep and sloping here but indicative of the different species of plants from Africa, New Zealand, Australia and South America. There is a sign to the Butterfly House, but it is not clear which of the dilapidated buildings it is in.

Moving downwards I discover a man-made disused lake and river, both dry and empty of any life. There are no ducks, no fish and no sign of any gardeners either, though there is some evidence that the edges around some of the beds have been recently trimmed. I hope that this garden is restored as it is a tranquil oasis in the middle of a hot and dusty city; the sounds of the city are muted and the air is filled with birdsong. You can wander through collections of palms from every continent, creating a tropical environment. There are cycads too, real living fossils, now living in the undergrowth. There are bamboos, orchids, bulbs and grasses too, though few flowers were in evidence.

In addition to significant collections of preserved specimens and seeds, the garden housed the Astronomical Institute Observatory and the Meteorological Observatory, which was opened in 1863, with continuous records going back to the nineteenth century. Also located at Jardim Botânico is a department of the Science Museum, which visitors can see by appointment. Unfortunately many of the historic buildings are now in disrepair.

The €1.50 entrance fee will not help to revive this garden. I believe it was that price back in 2008. I hope that the economy of Portugal improves and civil and nature conservation groups get involved to rescue this important collection of plants which were brought here to assist their survival. That survival seems under threat now.

VanDusen Botanical Garden

I have written about visiting this garden in Vancouver, British Columbia in my Travel Words blog, but I didn’t post many photos from the actual garden so I thought I’d remedy that. It is a large garden (55 acres)  to walk around, but it is not difficult terrain. The garden displays plants, grouped by genus or geographic location, in picturesque landscape settings. There are vast lawns, quiet lakes, trails and pathways to stroll along, all with a background of Vancouver city and the mountains. I have been there twice – the first time was in 2005, the second in 2010 when there was a Zimsculpt exhibition which featured wonderful African sculptures naturally within the landscape.

Close to the Visitor centre you can find a lovely Fragrance Garden and the Phyllis Bentall Garden which features a lily pond and pots full of unusual pitcher plants. A short stroll brings you to Livingstone Lake, a Woodland Garden, the Mediterranean Garden and Southern Hemisphere Gardens from where you can cross the lake over a floating board-walk to the Heather Garden, a uniquely planted Black Garden and the Heritage Rose Garden. The natural planting in the Perennials leads you back towards the entrance along the great lawn and to the Rhododendron Walk. This leads to a lovely Korean Pavilion and Meditation Garden before heading up to  the Sino-Himalayan area where rocks and waterfalls can be found.

If you do find yourself in Vancouver then I urge you to make time to visit this lovely botanic garden.

(click on an image to take a walk through this garden)

RHS Wisley Glasshouse

For St George’s Day here is another view of one of my favourite English gardens, RHS Wisley in Surrey, the Glasshouse viewed from the Wild Garden.

RHS wisley glass house

Indoors you’ll find colourful intricate flowers
Great orchids we have – they’ll entrance you for hours.
Plus cacti and cycads, bananas and climbers
Staghorn ferns – now they’re really old-timers!
Explore the Rootzone where there’s too much to mention.
Outside, tall alliums grab your attention.
At ‘Wild at Wisley’ let young visitors play
Then refresh yourself at the Glasshouse Café.

(from the Visitors Map – Springtime at Wisley)

Kirstenbosch turns 100

kirstenbosch garden

One of the world’s best-loved botanic gardens and the most beautiful garden in Africa, Kirstenbosch celebrates its 100th birthday this year. It was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country’s indigenous flora and where you can find wonderful proteas, ericas, restios and other South African specimens such as agapanthus, pelargonium, watsonia and oxalis. There are several trails within the garden as well as walking paths through the different garden areas.


Coincidentally it would also have been my father’s 100th birthday on 6th April so it seemed a good post to start off this new blog of mine with. Sadly my father died in 2001, only a few days before Christmas, but happily I did have the chance to visit Kirstenbosch with him in the 1970s. I lived in Cape Town then and my parents came over for a couple of visits and to meet a new grandchild. On both occasions we spent many hours wandering around this beautiful garden on the east slope of Table Mountain near Cape Town discussing the various plants and I am left with many happy memories.

If you are in Cape Town this year then make sure you visit as there will be lots of events, concerts and guided walks to celebrate the centenary.

More information can be found at Kirstenbosch Centenary