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The National Botanic Gardens of Wales
Gardd Fotaneg Genedlaethol Cymru

Anne and David Rees

Wales is a small country but it is one that has some of the most beautiful and historic gardens in all of Britain.

The Welsh Historic Gardens Trust is a charity dedicated to the knowledge and well being of the historic gardens of Wales. Their booklet, Guide to the Historic Parks and Gardens of Wales, contains details of some 87 gardens or parks throughout the country, gardens on a grand scale. Victorian public parks and small manor houses set in the countryside.

Some of the finest gardens mentioned in the booklet, and ones that thousands of visitors come to, are the National Trust Gardens at Bodnant, near Colwyn Bay, Conwy and Powis Castle and garden, Welshpool, and in Southern Wales, the formal gardens, borders and knot garden at St Fagans Castle at The Museum of Welsh Life.

And in Carmarthenshire in West Wales, the exciting new modern garden set within an eighteenth-century estate, the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

Set in the 18th century parkland of the former Middleton Hall at Llanarthne, the National Botanic Garden of Wales is situated within a 568 acre estate on the edge of the Tywi valley with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

The Great Glasshouse in Winter

It is the first 'national' botanic garden to be created in the UK for over 200 years, dedicated to conservation, horticulture, science, education, leisure and the arts. The design of the garden, which includes a Water Discovery Centre, a 250m long herbaceous broadwalk, a double-walled garden, a Rocks of Ages display of rocks from all across Wales used in fountains, pools and cascades, and many other features, is centred on the Great Glasshouse.

The Great Glasshouse has been designed to blend in with the contours of the hilltops around, but it does not completely blend, the man-made materials certainly stand out.

The Great Glasshouse is the world's largest single-span glasshouse. It is 95m long and 55m wide.

The roof contains 785 panes of glass and measures 4,500m2. Most panes are about 4m by l.5m and consist of an 18mm thick 'sandwich' of laminated film between sheets of glass.

Heat provided by the Biomass Furnace in another area of the garden maintains the Great Glasshouse at about 5o above ambient temperature and keeps it from falling below 9oC. One hundred and forty-seven computer-controlled vents regulate a fully controllable and natural airflow. Rainwater, for irrigation, is collected in two vast tanks situated beneath the Great Glasshouse and high-mounted fans blow blasts of air to simulate the windy conditions of a Mediterranean climate.

The Great Glasshouse contains plants from California, the Mediterranean basin, the central coastal region of Chile, the Cape region of South Africa, and Australia, with most Australian plants coming from the south-western area of Australia but with some from the eastern states.

Inside, as well as the plants, there are rock faces and ravines, streams, waterfalls and lakes.

We visited the National Botanic Garden of Wales when we were in Wales in 2000, on a day when the rain absolutely bucketed down, but even with such weather, we must say that our visit to this garden was one of the highlights of our trip.

The Garden was opened in May, 2000, so as we had expected, the growth of the plants still has a long way to go. Another couple of years and all the sections inside the Great Glasshouse will be spectacular.

Everything about the garden is wonderful, all the various features, but we will confine ourselves to writing about what would be of most interest to readers...the Australian plants to be found inside the Great Glasshouse.

The Australian Section

The section given over to the Australian plantings is on two levels, and of an area of about a quarter of the Great Glasshouse. Among the plants are rocks, graveled areas, and charred bushes 'planted' to show the important role of fire in an Australian environment.

Not many of the Australian plants were in flower when we visited but some which were included Hibbertia scandens (syn. H.volubilis - snake vine) with lovely yellow flowers, several bushes of Alyogyne huegelii (lilac hibiscus) scattered throughout the gardens, and quite a few Anigozanthos manglesii (red and green kangaroo paw) with their stunning flowers. There was a medium-sized bush of Banksia speciosa (showy banksia) with some flower spikes and several bushes of B.marginata (silver banksia) with lots of flowers. A small Melaleuca fulgens (purple form) was covered with flowers, and some Dampiera diversfolia plants were showing some lovely blue flowers.

Throughout the area were many Xanthorrhoea species (grass trees) and some Eucalyptus camaldulensis (river red gum) and E.macrocarpa (mottlecah).

Below is a list of all the Australian plants in the Great Glasshouse at the present time. Wolfgang Bopp, the Curator of Gardens, at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, kindly provided this list.

Australian Plants in the Great Glasshouse
Acacia pycnanthaActinostrobus pyramidalisAdenanthos cuneata
Adenanthos cunninghamiiAgonis flexuosaAgonis linearifolia
Allocasuarina crassaAlyogyne hakeifoliaAlyogyne huegelii
Alyxia buxifoliaAnigozanthos manglesiiAnigozanthos manglesii "Royal Cheer"
Astartea fasicularisBaeckea astarteoidesBaeckea crenatifolia
Baeckea imbricataBaeckea virgataBanksia baueri
Banksia blechnifoliaBanksia burdettiiBanksia caleyi
Banksia ericifoliaBanksia grandisBanksia marginata
Banksia speciosiaBanksia spinulosa var.collinaBeaufortia sparsa
Beaufortia squarrosaBillardiera cymosaBoronia heterophylla
Boronia parvifloraBrachysema lanceolatumBrachysema sericeum (black)
Brachysema sericeum (cream)Callistemon "Captain Cook"Callistemon citrinus "Splendens"
Callistemon "Kings Park Special"Callistemon phoeniceusCallistemon rigidus
Callistemon speciosusCallitris drummondiiCallitris preissii
Callitris roeiCalothamnus quadrifidusCalothamnus quadrifidus (dwarf)
Calothamnus quadrifidus (grey)Calothamnus quadrifidus (prostrate)Calothamnus rupestris
Calothamnus sanguineusCalothamnus validusCalytrix alpestris
Calytrix tetragonaCassia artemisiodesChamelaucium uncinatum
Dampiera alataDampiera diversifoliaDarwinia citriodora
Darwinia citriodora (prostrate)Darwinia collinaDarwinia "Coolamon Pink"
Darwinia leijostylaDarwinia neildianaDiplarrena dampiera
Eremophila decipiensEucalyptus camaldulensisEucalyptus formanii
Eucalyptus macrocarpaEutaxia cuneataEutaxia epacridoides
Goodia lotifolia var.pubescensGrevillea crithmifoliaGrevillea curviloba
Grevillea eriostachyaGrevillea obtusifolia "Gin Gin Gem"Grevillea pinaster
Grevillea stenomera (prostrate)Grevillea synaphaeaHakea bucculenta
Hakea laurinaHakea lissospermaHakea saligna
Hakea suaveolensHardenbergia comptonianaHardenbergia violacea
Hardenbergia violacea "Alba"HemiandraHibbertia volubilis
Hypocalymma angustifoliumHypocalymma angustifolium "rubrum"Hypocalymma cordifolium "Golden Veil"
Hypocalymma robustumIsopogon cuneatusIsopogon formosus
Isopogon formosus (grey leaf)Isopogon latifoliusKennedia beckxiana
Kennedia rubicundaKunzea ambiguaKunzea baxteri
Kunzea ericifoliaKunzea ericoidesKunzea pomifera
Lasiopetalum floribundumLechenaultia formosa "Scarlet O'Hara"Lobelia tenuior
Melaleuca acuminataMelaleuca armillarisMelaleuca bracteosa
Melaleuca citrinaMelaleuca ellipticaMelaleuca fulgens (hot pink)
Melaleuca fulgens (purple)Melaleuca fulgens (red)Melaleuca huegelii
Melaleuca incanaMelaleuca lateritia (dwarf)Melaleuca radula
Melaleuca rhaphiophyllaMelaleuca scabra (dwarf)Melaleuca thymfolia
Myoporum insulareMyoporum parvifolium (white)Senna artemisioides
Thomasia foliosaThryptomene saxicolaVerticordia plumosa (pink)
Verticordia plumosa (purple)Xanthorrhoea sp.Xanthosia rotundifolia

Visit the National Botanic Gardens of Wales' web site

Thanks go to Wolfgang Bopp, and to the National Botanical Garden of Wales for permission to use details from their Summer Souvenir Guide and to The Welsh Historic Garden Trust for permission to use information from their booklet Guide to the Historic Parks and Gardens of Wales.

From 'Growing Australian', newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (Victoria), December 2001.


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Australian Plants online - March 2002
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants