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17 September 2014
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Parks - National Botanic Garden of Wales

Glorious gardens

National Botanic Garden of Wales

The National Botanic Gardens is is a slice of paradise in the heart of Wales. It's packed with exotic plants from around the world, and it's also a haven for a wide variety of UK wildlife.

 

Outdoor and indoor flora and fauna.
Photo - National Botanic Garden of Wales.


Back in the year 2000, the National Botanic Garden of Wales officially opened its doors to the public.

But the history of this remarkable site goes back much earlier when the land formed part of the Middleton family 400 years ago.

When the Middletons were forced to sell the estate, the gardens were bought by William Paxton who started their transformation into a park.

Today the evolution of the gardens is complete with the opening of the National Botanic Garden of Wales where visitors can take in a wide variety of the world's plants and trees.

As well as a fabulous display of flowers and plants, there's also a rich variety of wildlife including:

* Mammals - approximately 20 species.
* Reptiles and amphibians.
* More than 100 types of moth and butterfly.
* A superb range of over 50 bird varieties.

The Great Dome

McCutcheon's Grevillea c/o National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales boasts several important plant collections.

The Great Glasshouse Collection is at the heart of any visit and it's a good place to start your tour indoors.

Designed by Norman Foster and Partners, this impressive dome is one of the largest single span glass buildings on the planet.

Under its glass roof there are thousands of plants from parts of the world with a Mediterranean climate.

Amongst the areas featured are central Chile, South West Australia, South Africa’s Cape, California, and the Mediterranean.

Look out for Aquilegas, Sea Roses, Giant Lobelias and Agapanthus.

One of the rarest plants is McCutcheon's Grevillea, an Australian shrub - five years ago there were only 10 of these flame-coloured plants left in the wild.

Profusion of flowers

Water Lily c/o National Botanic Garden of WalesThe nearby outdoor Mediterranean Garden also has a fine selection of flowering plants including Rock Roses, Cynaras and Red Hot Pokers.

These colourful plants attract a large number of butterflies and bees in the summer months.

A trip to the Double Walled Garden Collection traces the story of flowering plants from around the world.

This garden illustrates how plants evolved using modern DNA analysis and research.

If you've time, don't forget to check out the bee hives in the corner of the Walled Garden.

Also worth a detour is the Lakes area which is a magnet for Damselflies and Dragonflies in the summer.

Birds, bees and reptiles

Bee c/o National Botanic Garden of WalesThe great thing about the National Botanic Garden of Wales is that there's something to do whatever the weather.

So if the heavens open, why not head indoors to the glasshouse?

Look above you and you're also likely to see a wide variety of birds including dozens of House Sparrows which have seized the opportunity to colonise this brave new world.

The Sparrows have nested in the wall next to the waterfall.

The one thing which is essential to a botanic garden is pollinating insects, and there's no shortage of them here.

This place is home to over a million bees attracted by the many flowers rich with nectar.

It's a food source that is exploited by a vast range of insects including Soldier Beetles, nicknamed Bonking Beetles.

Woods and meadows

DormouseThe estate surrounding the gardens is also rich in wildlife with pockets of semi-natural woodland.

Amongst the trees are Alder, Oak and Sweet Chestnut.

The estate's small hazel coppices are good places to look for birds as well as ferns, mosses, lichens and fungi.

The meadows are also a riot of colour in late spring and summer with wild flowers.

They are also home to the Dormouse, an endangered mammal which is seldom seen because of its nocturnal habits.

They are famously sluggish during the daytime hours - remember the Dormouse in Alice in Wonderland?

Amongst the reptiles which can be seen are Common Lizards, Grass Snakes and Slow Worms.

Photo credits

Centaurium scilloides c/o National Botanic Garden of WalesPhotos copyright and courtesy of the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

Dormouse copyright of BBC Nature's Calendar.

 

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