Something for everyone at Durham Botanic Garden
PUBLISHED: 16:00 05 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:52 20 February 2013
The city's botanic garden has something for everyone, all year round, as Linda Viney reports
The wind may be howling, there could be snow in the air, but there are still few things can lift the spirits like a visit to a garden. There is still plenty to see the skeletal shapes and beautiful bark of the trees, glorious evergreens and stunning winter-flowering plants.
One garden open all year is the 25 acre garden Durham Botanic Garden which has been on its present site among beautiful mature woodlands since 1970. It was created for teaching and research at the university but as it developed a visitor centre was built and it now attracts over 80,000 visitors a year and although much of the garden is accessible to all, there are some steep slopes and steps, but there are also plenty of seats.
This is a garden with something for all ages the Childrens Garden is currently under construction but children already love it as there are places in there that adults cant get to. Anything which encourages children to garden and recycle is good I know from my experience there was nothing I liked more than helping my grandfather in the garden. I hope I can pass this on to my own grandchildren.
My first destination was the glasshouses the cactus house is packed with plants, some as small as your little finger, some, like the tall prickly pear, which loom over visitors. All exhibits are carefully labeled but the agave with its lethal spikes and spines of the parodia dont need signs reading do not touch.
In the tropical glasshouse you can (if you really want to) press a button and make it rain. Although severe pruning has been necessary as new doors and roof were to be fitted, plants including bromeliads, bananas and bamboo, still reach for the skies, as do many other species which thrive in the jungle.
A conservatory houses a collection of orchids with plants donated by the British Orchid Growers Association. There is a seating area and tanks containing tropical including giant African snails, tarantulas and stick insects.
Moving from the warmth and shelter there is still much to see outside with plant collections from around the world, including China, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile and North America.
All the plants are labelled although even the least dedicated gardener can identify the magnificent monkey puzzle tree dominates the centre of the garden. It is thought there may be more monkey puzzle trees surviving in Britain than in its native South America, where many are felled for wood from their tall straight trunks. The species was around when dinosaurs roamed and is now protected as an endangered species.
Other ancient plants on view include the ferns and horsetails which reproduce by wind blown spores that are carried long distances and some of the agricultural methods are age-old too; no pesticides are used and the wild flower meadows and arboretum are grazed by rare breed sheep.
There are contemporary touches around the gardens too, many of them artistic. The Millennium Bug took two local artists eight months to create and is currently on loan at the botanic garden with a view to being bought in the future and the Maharaja of Baroda unveiled his public sculpture Vessels of Life in the gardens two years ago.
The garden is open daily from 10am-4pm to the end of February and from10am to 5pm from March to the end of October. Closed Christmas and the New Year.
Admission adults 4, concessions 3, children and students 1.50, under fives and carers free. Season tickets are also available. The coffee shop offers light refreshments and you dont have to visit the garden to use the coffee shop or shop.
The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012 issue of North East Life
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