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Explore Western Australia

Our horticulturist Catherine talks through some of the botanical wonders in the garden.

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What to look for in November

Outdoor Gardens

Be sure to bring you camera with you this month, as the gardens are ablaze with rich autumn colour. As usual, the sweet gums at the top of the land-train route are displaying clouds of feathery leaves, dazzling in shades of gold, crimson and purple. Along the Zigzag Steps, see the fiery glow of gorgeous shrubs like Aronia arbutifolia ‘Erecta’, Aronia melanocarpa and Enkianthus campanulatus, and in the Japanese Swale Garden, magnificent zelkovas and acers

Rainforest Biome

You might have seen sugar cane, Saccharum officinarum, rich in sucrose and growing in the Rainforest with its thick, jointed, fibrous stems, but did you know sweetness can be found in other forms here in the Biome? People today are looking for healthier alternatives to sugar, and there are some interesting sugar substitutes like the sugarberry, found in the southern states of the USA and Mexico, and the miracle berry, Synsepalum dulcificum. The miracle berry itself contains little sugar, but has the ability to make sour foods taste sweet. The Spice exhibit is also looking great this month, with ‘super spice’ turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and vanilla all worth your attention.   

Mediterranean Biome

The grapevines are still glowing with warm autumn colour, whilst Cyclamen bloom on the Olive Terraces. The first snowdrops and Narcissus are beginning to pop their heads up, and the Mediterranean Beach is still looking fabulous. Proteas and ericas are flowering in South Africa, and the Swan River pea, Gastrolobium celsianum, and the flame pea, Chorizema cordata, are lighting up Western Australia amidst the banksias and grevilleas.

Winter plant displays

This season, you’ll be greeted by a carpet of thousands of paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) filling the Mediterranean Biome with their heady scent. Elsewhere, a herd of willow woven reindeer prances against a festive background of silver and red foliage, and our winter flowering salvias put on a colourful show – in shade of red, pink purple and even orange. 

Highlights over the coming year…

What to look out for in spring

Outdoor Gardens

Fresh blues predominate in early spring, with gorgeous displays of Scilla, Anemone, Pulmonaria and Iris. The scent of blossom from Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ fills the air in the Japanese Swale, while drifts of Erythronium and late-flowering Narcissus adorn the Plane Tree Steps. 

The Plants for a changing climate beds are the very essence of spring, as the handsome Euphorbia characias displays its chartreuse-green blooms amongst spring bulbs. Giant alliums appear in beds and borders alongside Aquilegia, Camassia, Campanula and Digitalis

Rainforest Biome

The beautiful jade vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys, displays its turquoise flowers in early spring followed by purple Ipomoea and peace lilies, Hibiscus and Heliconia

The Rainforest Canopy Walkway provides access to life in the forest canopy, with its splendid collection of orchids, and our quirky luffa vines are in fruit

Mediterranean Biome

Rock roses (Cistus), adorn the Mediterranean landscape in early spring and tulips are beginning to flower in a blaze of vibrant colour. 

In Western Australia, the iconic grass trees sit among Acacia, Banksia, Grevillea, Hardenbergia, Melaleuca and Callistemon, while the black and green kangaroo paw blooms beneath. 

In the Perfume Garden, the beautiful Damask rose is in flower, with its heavenly perfume, and South Africa is showing off its princess protea, Protea grandiceps. In late spring, Persian buttercups, Ranunculus asiaticus bloom, just as the tulips begin to fade.

What to look out for in summer

Outdoor Gardens

There are some exciting additions to Bright Sparks this year, with new species of fiery Kniphofia, Watsonia and Dierama. Changes in the landscape see lavender and sunflowers in close proximity, providing a wonderful view from below. 

The Plants for a changing climate beds come into their own during the summer months, with magnificent Puyas, Agaves, and a myriad of tender flowering plants to admire, and in the Veg Garden, Global Gardens and Cornish Crops, there are always tasty new varieties to be found. 

Rainforest Biome

The ginger family always put on a show at this time of year – pungent, aromatic and beautiful, you will be able to see ginger itself, turmeric, torch ginger and many others. 

The Aerial Walkway provides access to a host of orchids hiding in the treetops, and in Tropical Crops there are always novelties to be found, like the warty gourd, Momordica charantia

Giant waterlilies from tropical South America, Victoria cruzian, are displaying their beautiful flowers, nestled among enormous leaves. See a video of them online.

Mediterranean Biome

King proteas, brugmansias, and the bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae, can all be admired this summer, along with a host of wildflowers adorning California and Western Australia, creating rich tapestries of colour and texture. 

New for this year is an exhibit showcasing many types of beans, including borlotti, haricot, faba, navy, broad and yard-long beans. There will also be an edible flower meadow, and a Mediterranean vegetable garden, containing a few curiosities, like agretti, chenopodium and rapunzel

The beautiful Perfume Garden with its collection of aromatic plants provides a feast for all the senses.

What to look out for in autumn

Outdoor Gardens

Bright Sparks continues to look great, with late-flowering species and cultivars of Kniphofia and Crocosmia. Berkleya, Grevillea and Fasicularia provide interest in Plants for a Changing Climate, while salvias bring vibrant colour to the Sense of Memory Garden

Liquidambar, zelkovas and acers are resplendent in rich autumn colour, and in the Veg Garden, Cornish Crops and Global Gardens, the last of the summer harvest is being gathered in, to make way for an array of brassicas and other winter veg.

Rainforest biome

In the humidity of autumn, coffee berries are beginning to ripen, and chocolate bears masses of small pods. 

The beautiful blue ginger, Dichorisandra thrysiflora, is flowering profusely in Amazonia, and in West Africa, our agroforestry exhibit tells the story of saving the soil, producing more food and making money for local communities.  

There is plenty to see in our spice exhibit, with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and vanilla

Mediterranean Biome

In South Africa, Amaryllis belladonna is looking gorgeous, and banksias are beginning to flower in Western Australia, including Banksia menziesii. There are chillies galore, representing cuisines from different cultures, and juicy tomatoes for different uses. 

In the Perfume Garden, night-scented jasmine, Cestrum nocturnum, is flowering, and the grapevines are ablaze with autumn colour. Warm shades can also be found in Western Australia where kangaroo paw, Anigozanthos, are in full flower. The vigorous climber, Podranea ricasoliana, is in bloom, and the first snowdrops and Narcissus have begun to appear in the Mediterranean landscape.

What to look out for in winter

Outdoor Gardens

Shimmering grasses, like the beautiful Deschampsia flexuosa, glow beneath the spooky white stems of Rubus cockburnianus, while fiery dogwood stems illuminate Eco-Engineering and Myth and Folklore.

The Street and Ice rink are decorated with a festive array of horticultural delights, and the scents of Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ and Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postil’ linger in the air. 

Drifts of sweetly-scented Narcissus ‘Treglisson’, bred here in Cornwall, decorate beds and borders, while delicate hellebores adorn path edges. 

Rainforest Biome

The Life in the Treetops area has been planted up with 52 different species of orchid, including the beautiful Brassia

Amidst luxuriant foliage, tropical gems, Solandra maxima and Calliandra haematocephala bloom, along with the stunning purple Crinum. The cola tree,  Cola acuminata, is displaying its beautiful, bell-shaped flowers, and the glorybower, Clerodendrum, is putting on a show. A new collection of bromeliads adorns the Rainforest Canopy Walkway.

Mediterranean Biome

‘Christmas trees’ of vibrant Cyclamen herald the arrival of the festive season, and a bed overflowing with paper-white Narcissus provides a cool contrast to over 50 different species of tender Salvia.

The scarlet and gold inflorescences of Aloe ferox, light up South Africa, along with a host of beautiful proteas, ericas and zantedeschias, enhanced by the ‘scent of Africa’ – the aromatic Agathosma. Bulb species are beginning to appear across the Biome. 

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