Birmingham Botanical Garden Glasshouses

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I felt in need of some plant therapy this weekend.  I don’t feel as though I have had much horticultural time for the last few weeks particularly over the Christmas break when I was decorating.  Sunday’s forecast was cold and grey so a quick bit of research pointed me in the direction of Birmingham Botanical Garden and its glasshouses.

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I have never visited the gardens before and it is just under an hour’s drive so an easy outing.  You enter through the Tropical Glasshouse whose heat was very welcome after the 3C outside.  The lushness was strangely comforting and quite reviving.  The glasshouse was built in 1852 and is a Grade 1 listed building, its Victorian history positively exudes from its pores and I amused myself imagining Victorian ladies being awed by the exotic planting.2014_01120025I was also reminded of the importance of looking up when you are visiting any sort of garden as high up were various glamorous orchids. From the Tropical greenhouse you go through into the Sub-tropical greenhouse.

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After the exuberance of the Tropical glasshouse the Sub-tropical one was a little disappointing.  But signage quickly explained that the planting was being revisited over the Autumn and Winter and a diagram explained the future organisation of plants into shady dry, shady moist, sunny dry and sunny moist.  Saying this as I walked around the glasshouse there were parts which looked great, maybe they were the bits that had already done and if so then it wasnt at all obvious they were recently planted.

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I love the metal framework of the glasshouses, so beautiful.

From here you enter the Mediterranean glasshouse and here if you needed a wake up call you certainly got one with masses Coleus and Poinsettia all down one side.  I’m not a fan of Coleus particularly but I have to admit that, as you can see below, they certain give  value for money when grouped en mass.

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Finally I walked through into the Arid House.  I have been avoiding these since I had an asthma attack on entering the dry atmosphere of the arid house at Oxford Botanic Garden.  For some reason the environment in Birmingham’s Arid House was fine for me, maybe it’s because it’s a larger space but I enjoyed walking around here despite n0t particularly liking cactus.  I was fascinated by the various other non-cactus arids including Sand Lily, Acanthus sennii and Acacia.

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Despite the cold the glasshouses had warmed me up enough to have a wander around the gardens.  I was very impressed since they promise to be excellent as the year progresses including rock, alpine, fern and woodland gardens.  I liked the way the gardens were laid out, with many plants grouped according to the plant hunter who had discovered them, rather than by plant family.  I think I will try to go back again this year to see the gardens when the weather is kinder and it is more floriferous.

By the time I drove home the blue  sky had disappeared and the sky was becoming misty.  I drove back via Worcester and crossing the Severn River the scale of the current flooding was very apparent.  I don’t think I have seen the extent of flooding so great even in 2006 when we had severe summer flooding.  It was strange to think that no more than an hour before I  had been wandering amongst exotic climbers and palms – I have to say I felt much better and relaxed as a result

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. Saralou says:

    I used to go to “the Botty Gardens” frequently when my children were small, it was our local park. Now I only seem to go when we have visitors. There are lots of delightful nooks and crannies to explore. Have you been to Birmingham University’s Winterbourne Gardens? They’re very close, cheaper and have a large lake, a beautiful bluebell wood and an attractive Arts and Crafts house to explore.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Saralou
      I havent been to Winterbourne Gardens yet, but its on the list

  2. pianolearner says:

    We went there last winter. I think Wellywoman did a post on it. I really liked the place, the only thing that I wasn’t keen on was what I dubbed “The Tree Prison”. they had a section for Bonsai, that they obviously didn’t want stealing, but it looked like you were wandering around looking at a load of incarcerated trees. i wondered what crimes they might have commited 😉

  3. Cathy says:

    Glad you enjoyed your day, Helen – I have been a few times although not for a bit, but it was invariably on days when the glasshouses were very welcome! I haven’t yet been to the Winterbourne Gardens though but keep intending to do so as from their leaflet (and Saralou’s comment) they sound delightful!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Cathy – Winterbourne is on my list too

  4. sueturner31 says:

    thanks for the virtual trip…I really enjoyed it …must find time to visit in person.

  5. Judy says:

    I enjoyed this post. I love the Birmingham Botanical Gardens but I haven’t been for ages. You’ve inspired me to try and visit again

  6. Sheds Direct says:

    I have not been to the Botanical Gardens for years. I may been wrong but I remember a butterfly house? I watched a butterfly shed it’s chrysalis. Was it in Birmingham I am really not that sure now. Anyway thanks for the tour.

    1. Saralou says:

      Last summer they had a poly tunnel with butterflies and chrysalis’s in it.

    2. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi SD
      I didnt spot any butterfly house only an aviary unless there is one at winterbourne gardens and you are getting muddled. Saw peacocks and other tropical birds though

  7. Anna says:

    Must have been so cheering to step out of the cold into greenhouse packed with plants Helen. Our garden club is on the Birmingham Botanical Garden’s mailing list. We’ve considered a trip there but wonder how long it might hold people’s attention for.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      It took me no more than 30mins to go round the glasshouses and probably another 45 minutes outside but then again there wasnt much to see outside given the time of year. I think at the right time of year you could fill 2 hours total. As someone else says there is Winterbourne garden near by which I havent visited yet but I understand the Head Gardener does good guided tours

  8. Yvonne Ryan says:

    We also have a couple of lovely glasshouses in the Domain just below the Auckland War Memorial Museum. A great favourite for tourists and locals. They often have music around the huge interconnecting lily pond. This year the huge stinky lily was out and created great interest with ques of people waiting to see (and smell) it. Our temperatures don’t drop so low as yours but is also nice to wander around in the winter. Hope you are not getting too flooded out. Hot and windy here and going for a swim later at Kennedy Bay over the hill from old Coromandel town. Used to be gold mining area. Fresh mussels for dins last night and courgette fritters. Masses of courgettes out in grand-daughters garden. She sells all the veg and fruit she can grow! Inherited my green fingers!

  9. bittster says:

    Glad to see you reporting back on garden visits again, it sounds like this was one was a great way to recharge the batteries during your cold rainy season.
    I love looking at all the well preserved ironwork, it really oozes the Victorian feel!

  10. My most favorite thing in the world is to walk through the green house in the dead of winter, there is no more special place. Thank you for sharing your photos, your botanical garden is really wonderful.

  11. Reminds me of our visit to the Eden project shortly after it first opened. That visit had me dreaming about a biome over our allotment plot with climate and pest control!

  12. annette2121 says:

    Hi Helen,
    Thanks for the lovely photos of your trip to Birmingham Botanic Gardens. It got me dreaming of holidays I have had in Thailand and also reminded me I should visit our very own Winter Gardens in Duthie Park, Aberdeen. As Saralou mentioned you usually only remember these things when you have visitors, but what better way to spend a cold wet afternoon in January.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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