Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Eden - the garden of?


One of my reasons for this summer's West Country pilgrimage was to finally lose the reputation of being the only serious horticulturalist in the UK that had never seen the Eden Project. I have finally done it and I wasn't disappointed. The story of Eden is stupendous without even seeing it. And how does one describe it? It is a tourist attraction but that's too trite! It has huge educational values in terms of the environment,  ecology and sustainability but that sounds like hard work. But is it a garden? Well now its achieving some maturity, it is really quite beautiful.

Back to the story! Ten years ago this was a barren wasteland - the remains of a worked out china clay pit - desolate.  This is a story of success initiated by Tim Smit who was also key in the discovery and restoration of Heligan. (that's tomorrow!) Together, the local authority, architects and builders, most of whom took no payment for the first 18 months, rose to the challenge to build 'the eighth wonder of the world'. The biomes are the largest greenhouses in the world. If this wasn't challenge enough, there was no topsoil on site - a pretty basic need for growing plants. 83,000 tons were manufactured from recycled waste materials. Now ten years later and after £140M investment, plants are burgeoning both in the biomes and outside and the visitors are loving it.

Although basically dry, bar a few showers, the day of my visit was very cloudy so apologies for the grey skies and dull colours in the pictures!

First views on arrival
Part of the outdoor biome as its called

The Mediterranean Biome is divided up geographically and emphasises the importance of crops such as citrus, grapes, olives and sunflowers

Inside the Mediterranean Biome
The Rainforest Biome is huge, filled with tropical plants and various displays none of which I seem to have captured! But there are bananas, coffee, cocoa, rubber, palms, mangoes, sugar cane and a host more as well as a wealth of ornamental plants

The Rainforest Biome - Visitors can climb right to the viewing platform high in the roof apex bit I didn't!





 
Apologies some pics hazy - just impossible to keep the lens clean in the high humidity!

And outside there are some fabulous garden areas, a great range of plants and some thoughtful planting combinations.
















Lunch was great, simple cafeteria style serving good but basic food fast. I chose the Cornish pasty - sorry predictable! I got to the pay station and was told I could have had roast potatoes and salad with it - 'just go back help yourself'! Long pine tables and bench seating, cups hanging on overhead racks - no napkins but a very practical kitchen roll on each table!



On the way out I picked up the Wild Cornwall walk - simple but beautifully done, the path changing from tarmac to wooden slats, to grass as the landscape became more wild, complete with Cornish dry stone walls, meadow flowers and native orchids.




If I have any criticism, and it really is the only one, it is a lack of labels for the cultivated plants - hence the lack of captions in the above pictures! Whilst there is a huge amount of interpretation about plants, their value in the world and so on, relatively few of the individual plants or groups, both outside and in biomes had labels. Such a pity!

2 comments:

  1. Good to see the planting of Eden project outside starting to mature and fill out, it was still on the sparse side the last time we visited (I thing a couple of years ago now). The Tropical biome is our favourite and its main crowd drawer. The Mediterranean biome could do with a bit more xerophytic planting I think but based on your pics it's strating to look much better than before. Must visit again next year!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have been a couple of times, the biomes are absolutely fantastic!

    ReplyDelete