Sunday, 12 June 2011

Top botanic garden in the UK

From the Mediterranean - the (pseudo) location of my last post - to as far north as I've been in the UK here are a few pictures from the top* (in a North-centric cartographic sense) botanic garden in the UK.

Of course I'm in Scotland and this is Benmore Botanic Garden, a wee way west of Glasgow. There are 11,000 plants from all over the world - particulary Asia and the Americas - including an impressive collection of more than 300 species of Rhododendron. (For no other reason than I like this picture, I'm showing a close of up a Magnolia, of which there are a few...)


The giant redwood entry avenue is an impressive start but the local topography is the star. Well that and the rainfall. This botanic gardens gets more than three times the rainfall in Edinburgh, where a pretty impressive botanic garden is situated (certainly one of the top half dozen in the world). An average of 2,500 mm (100 inches in UK money) rain falls in each year, helping maintain these luscious moss cushions - consisting of a Polytrichium-like moss over the top of Sphagnum.


The wet mountains date back 500 or so million years, and glint with metallic flecks of mica. But mostly they are carpeted by plants, planted or otherwise. One lovely intervention is the Victorian fernery, sitting up on the hillside like some ancient monastry, recently restored and reopened. Very nice.


While in the west we (Lynda and I) also visited a woodland garden called Ardkinglas. This is a private garden, also enjoying/enduring 2.5 metres of rain a year. It's claim to fame is a goodly number of 'Champion Trees'. These are the tallest or broadest examples of a particular species in the British Isles, as measured and approved by TROBI, the Tree Register of the British Isles (just published is Owen Johnson's Champion Trees of Britain and Ireland).


By the way, Kew Gardens has plenty of them - I think it is only second to Sir Harold Hillier Garden in having the most Champion Trees in the whole of the UK. Tony Kirkham, our head of arboriculture, is a Trustee of TROBI and can tell an enthralling story (or two) about every one of the TROBI trees, and more. As for Benmore, I'm afraid I don't know - but Peter Baxter, the Curator there would!

The Ardkinglas trees of repute include a European Silver Fir (Abies alba) descrbed in 1905 as 'undeniably the mightiest conifer in Europe if not the biggest bole of any living kind'. A Grand Fir (Abies grandis) was the first tree in the British Isles to pass 200 feet (60 meteres) in height. It reached 208 feet a few decades ago and for ten years it was deemed the talles of any species in Britain, or so the brochure says that I picked up at the garden.

And finally, what is it about the Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia). Every botanic garden worth its name has at least a half dozen. Benmore did...


And just to whet the appetite of all phycologists in my readership (yes you) and those who look down, rather than up at the trees, a river looking like it should be full of algae but wasn't.


[*Late addition: it seems my geography has let me down. In my rush to claim the northernmost (top) UK botanic garden title for Benmore Botanic Garden, I just used my road map and pointed it vaguely northward. My internet research indicates that while Benmore is 56 degrees and 1 minute north, Edinburgh just pips it at 55 degrees and 57 minutes. My apologies to everyone in Edinburgh for this slight. What's four minutes between friends?]

2 comments:

Tim Entwisle said...

Well, it seems my geography has let me down. In my rush to claim the northernmost (top) UK botanic garden title for Benmore Botanic Garden, I just used my road map and pointed it vaguely northward. My internet research indicates that while Benmore is 56 degrees and 1 minute north, Edinburgh just pips it at 55 degrees and 57 minutes. My apologies to everyone in Edinburgh for this slight. What's four minutes between friends?

edmonton cheap deals said...

Pretty good there and i love the sight seeing view.