A fantastic Day Out In Birmingham (all year round, indoors & outdoors)
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Another great place to visit in Birmingham. It’s huge – 15 Acres / just over 6 Hectares of prime real estate just out from the city centre.
It was built by the Victorians who were great plant collectors. During this time people travelled all over the known world to bring back plants to the British Isles. Many, if not most were seen for the first time.
This period spawned great interest in botany and horticulture in general. Many horticultural / botany societies sprung up and it was no surprise to see an active one start in Birmingham (which was a lot less urbanised than now!). Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens was originally formed in 1829 on a site on the Calthorpe Estate called Holly Bank Farm. Some existing plants (trees mostly) can be dated back to the opening period.
Garden designer J C Loudon was brought in to oversee the development. Much of the original layout remains today (apart from large segments such as the glasshouses (of which there are four – more about these shortly). After three years, they opened the doors on 11th June 1832.
Nowadays, the Gardens contain over 7,000 different plants from all around the world. Many of these are contained within four different glasshouses.
1/ The Tropical House
The first of the glasshouses to be built (1852). Originally called the Lily House, it was home to the famous water Lily “Victoria Amazonica”. It contains both rare and exotic plants from the Tropics. It also houses more “common” but vitally important plants such as, bananas, cocoa plants, coffee bean plants, sugar cane and rubber plants. Who could manage without coffee?
2/ The Sub Tropical House.
Built in 1871, this houses the ferns, cycads, carnivorous plants and orchids. Ferns may all the same but they are not (nor are they boring!). One very special (and tall!) tree fern was actually propagated and grown at the Gardens back in the 1870s. No wonder it is so large. The cycads date all the way back to the dinosaur era (not the exact plants but their descendants). That’s over a hundred million years ago. Wow. These are conifer type plants that dominated the earths landscape at that time. Next up are probably the kid’s favourites, the carnivorous, flesh eating plants. Species such as the Venus flytraps, bladderworts, butterworts and pitcher plants. Also in the sub-tropical house are my favourites, the beautiful and delicate orchids. Amazingly, there are over seventeen thousand different natural species (with over a hundred thousand varieties produced by horticulturalists. This number increases by hundreds or even thousands every year.
3/ The Mediterranean House.
Built in 1884 when the fashion amongst wealthy families were to have their own orangeries. As the name suggests this contains all sorts of plants that flourish in the warm dry Mediterranean climate. Lot’s of amazing (and huge!) fruits.
4/ The Arid House.
Also built in 1884, this house pants not just from dessert regions but anywhere where a water supply is no regular. For instance, it houses plants that survive on cliff faces or rocky outcrops. Although cacti feature heavily, there are other things such as aloe vera (used in the manufacture of just about anything nowadays).
The gardens themselves are also used extensively for social events (Weddings, corporate events and even private parties!). I hope I’ve wetted your appetite and hope even more, you’ll visit them yourselves. More about Birmingham attractions…