Yes, I know we’re done with Christmas, but whilst I think it’s a little optimistic to say we are done with winter, Ventnor Botanic Garden seems to have other ideas.
Tuesday’s beautiful weather prompted me to head there for a visit and to renew my annual pass. Astonishingly, apart from some magnificent Echium skeletons towering throughout the garden, there was very little sign of death and decay, with numerous plants still flowering like it was late September.
Much of the interest during today’s visit came from the South African terraces which get the most sunshine at this time of year, and Grevillea, Euryops, Osteospermum and Geranium were all found there, but there was still interest elsewhere, with Salvia and Schizostylis, as well as a white shrub I’m not familiar with (see bottom right).
As you may know, following the withdrawal of council support in 2012, the garden is now run by a Community Interest Company (CIC) and they are working hard to make the garden financially viable. A number of ‘Design Walks’ have taken place with John Curtis (head of the CIC) and Chris Kidd (Curator) to invite ideas and suggestions from members of the public. On the walk A and I attended last autumn, talk ranged from zip wires to luxury accommodation, so I think it’s fair to say they’re open to new thinking.
One of the CIC’s stated aims at inception was to establish three National Collections and it’s exciting to learn that in August last year they were officially recognised by Plant Heritage as the National Collection holders of Puya, Hardy and Half Hardy. Further progress has also been made in the area of volunteers. The garden is far from break even, let alone profit, and therefore volunteers are key to its future success. Already gardening volunteers have doubled in number, and others have volunteered in ‘Meet and greet’ and ‘Education’ roles. There will be a Volunteer Fair on Saturday 18th January (11-4) at the garden and I’m sure they’d be delighted to see you. I’ll be going along to see what I can offer, and to see whether they’ve got another slice of fabulous Victoria Sandwich with my name on it….