Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Head for Britain's greatest glasshouses to beat the autumn blues!

The Eden Project is one of Britain's top 10 visitor attractions
Britain has some of the best and most innovative glasshouses in the world, and with winter around the corner, it's well-worth bearing them in mind for days out when garden visits are impossible, due to bad weather or lack of winter colour. The Eden Project in Cornwall  has received accolades the world over since it opened in 2001. It was the brainchild of Tim Smit of Lost Gardens of Heligan fame - who came up with the idea of converting disused china clay quarries into a magnificent garden under glass. But few believed the project costing £86 million, would actually go ahead. But it did and today it's one of the top ten visitor attractions in Britain and one of the top garden sites in the world.
The Rainforest Biome at the Eden Project is taller than the Statue of Liberty
The greenhouses, called biomes, look like huge golf balls rising out of the ground and the larger of the two - the Rainforest Biome (above) - is kept at 90% humidity and an average temperature of 75F (24C). With a height of 50 metres, the Rainforest structure could house the Tower of London and is taller than the Statue of Liberty. It's filled with lush vegetation throughout the year and part of the wonder of the interior is the the hexagonal panels towering above you. I haven't visited for years, but my son was there in June and said it's one of the most amazing sights he's seen. Open everyday of the year (except 24 and 25 December). Entry prices start at £19.50 for adults, for annual membership, children free.
The National Botanic Garden of Wales has the largest single-span glasshouse structure in the world
Another new Millennium garden that boasts the largest single-span glasshouse structure anywhere in the world can be found at the National Botanic Garden of Wales which opened its doors in 2000. It faced huge opposition when it was first conceived, but has stood the test of time and is now one of Wales' most popular tourist attractions and deservedly so. It's divided into five different climate regions and features plants from each. Certainly impressive from the outside and you'll be amazed by what's growing within! Open daily throughout the year (except Christmas Day) from 10.00. Really good value as admission is just £8.50 for adults and £4.50 for children.
The Palm House at Kew Gardens houses a collection of trees and plants from all over the world
Londoners are lucky enough to be able to stroll around the glasshouses at Kew to beat the winter blues - the Palm House (above) took four years to build and was completed in 1848. It's a Grade I listed building, is divided into three geographical areas and houses an exotic collection of foreign trees and plants from all over the globe. Although this is the largest of the glass structures at Kew, there are seven other glasshouses, including the Temperate House, which is the world's largest surviving Victorian greenhouse. Open year round (except 24 and 25 December), from 9.30, admission is £16.00 for adults. Annual members of Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire get free entry.
The annual Butterfly Exhibition at RHS Wisley delights all age groups - well worth catching in January
Just outside London, the glasshouse at RHS Wisley is a real winter wonderland. Opened in 2004 to mark the bicentenary of the Royal Horticultural Society, it houses three different climate zones - tropical, moist temperate and dry temperate - and covers an area equal to 10 tennis courts. There's always something on show here and it's particularly memorable during the Butterfly Exhibition in January. But if they've flown, there's always a fine collection of plants on show, particularly the orchids. Open every day except 25 December, from 10.00 during the week and 9.00 at weekends. Admission is £10.50 for adults and £4.50 for children. Free to RHS members. Free to all this Friday, 5th October!
The Kibble Palace glasshouse in Glasgow houses a magnificent collection of Australasian tree ferns.
The recently restored circular Kibble Palace glasshouse at Glasgow Botanic Garden is home to one of the largest collections of tree ferns in the UK. Recently restored at a cost of several million pounds, it's an impressive sight, both inside and out and you can expect to find many unusual exotics in flower here whenever you visit. Most of the Australasian ferns were brought here in the mid-19th century. Open daily throughout the year from 10.00 and free to visitors!


  1. Gardens with large glasshouses are great to visit in the winter indeed, providing a reliable shot of greenery during the winter where it's cold and mostly dreary outside. The Kibble Palace in Glasgow is very much on our places to visit very soon, thinking of doing a day visit to Glasgow in the next few months, aiming to see this magnificent glasshouse.

  2. These all look fantastic, and I'd love to visit them someday. Even a relatively "small" one like we have at the Missouri Botanical Garden gives such a soul recharge for the winter-weary gardener.

    Admission fee on that first one is *gulp* pretty steep though!