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South East Ventnor Botanic Garden, Isle of Wight

On the south coast and protected from the cold northerly winds by chalk cliffs, this is a sub tropical garden growing a wide variety of plants normally too tender for much of mainland Britain. Temperatures on average are 5˚ than the rest of the island.

It is very much a botanic garden rather than a flower garden, with trees and shrubs organised by region.

The garden was founded in 1970 on the site of the old 1860s Royal Hospital for the diseases of the Chest, which was surrounded by extensive grounds and pleasure gardens. When Prince Albert redesigned the gardens of Osbourne house, he set the trend for other gardens on the larger estates on the Island, with the owners creating exotic looking gardens with many sub tropical trees and shrubs.

It was a dull, damp and misty day in Mid March when I visited, so I didn’t see the gardens at their best. There was little in bloom - mainly magnolias and camellias with a few daffodils growing in the large grassed area. Do try and plan a visit for the summer months when there will be more in flower.


There is no set route and the website has ideas for different trails. There is a wheelchair accessible path around the gardens with many smaller paths and steps off to explore. There were few labels and little information about the different plants or areas in the garden itself, although there is a lot of information on the website. I enjoyed the visit, but I came away not much the wiser about the different plants growing in different regions of the world.

I began at the top of the garden with the cascade in the herb garden


This led into the South African terrace, a dense planting of trees and shrubs.


The path now begins to drop down the hillside into the Australian garden with Eucalyptus trees. The rock with the Aboriginal paintings is man made and is intended to help stabilise the bank.



Next is the New Zealand garden dominated by tree ferns.



Beyond is the Palm Garden. This contains some of the oldest palms in the British Isles and is one of the few areas of the garden surviving from when it was a hospital. It remains a classic example of a Victorian sub-tropical garden.


The fountain court with goldfish, terrapins and picnic tables is overlooked by the Visitor Centre and Restaurant. On a dull damp day it felt drear and wasn't the find of place you wanted to spend long.

Beyond is the Mediterranean Garden.


Much of this is rock and dry stream beds. Plants here thrive in dry hot conditions and it needs to be visited in the summer to enjoy the smells of all the volatile oils they produce.


Beyond is the olive grove


On the hillside above is the Tropical House with rampant creepers and a pool with giant waterlilies in the summer months.


The path now loops back through the Japanese garden with its ornamental bridge and arch climbing up the hillside.


This leads into the Far East section with bamboos and opening out into an ornamental garden with camellias, magnolias and incense burners.



There is also a newly planted hop garden. The Isle of Wight was a major hop growing area in the C19th but by the end of the C20th there were just a few remnant escapee hops left in hedgerows.


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