Cambridge Botanic Gardens

The Cambridge University Botanic Garden is located fairly centrally within in Cambridge, close to Cambridge railway station. It is quite a long established garden, initially founded back in 1831 by Professor John Stevens Henslow who was the Professor of Botany at Cambridge from 1825 - 1861. The gardens were opened to the public in 1846 and cover some 40 acres (16 hectares) housing 10 National Collections.

Henslow laid out the Garden to accommodate a wonderful tree collection. But he also planted his ideas about variation and the nature of species that would be taken up in a revolutionary fashion by his famous student, Charles Darwin.

The eastern part of the original plot of land purchased in 1831 remained undeveloped until the University received a significant legacy over 100 years later from Reginald Cory in 1934. Cory had been a life-long supporter and benefactor of the Botanic Gardens, and his legacy provided the funding to develop the remaining 20 acres of land. This exciting task fell to Bob Younger, who was the then Superintendent of the Garden and his staff, and it began after the war in 1951.

Although the western and eastern parts are stylistically linked through a consistently Gardenesque style and the continuation of the sinuous perimeter path, they are very different in feel, character and curatorial content. This reflects how the the primary foci of plant science studies had changed since the Garden's foundation in the mid 19th century. Whereas Murray's 19th century plan for the layout of the Garden in the western twenty acres focused on naming and organising of individual species into family groupings, the eastern part of the Garden developed from 1951 onwards is generally concerned with how plant communities develop. Thus, the 20th century science of ecology permeates the philosophy of its plantings such as the Fen Display and Limestone Mound in the British Wild Plants collections, and climate and sustainability issues dominate the thematic plantings of the Dry Garden, for example.

The Glasshouses flank the north side of the Main Lawn, and are full of a wide range of tender plants providing a full year-round interest - from the daintiest alpine to exotic tropical climbers such as the Jade Vine. The Glasshouses have been transformed over the last five years through a major restoration and replanting programme that has seen the glasshouse plants, all requiring some protection from the Cambridge climate, re-presented to reveal the drama of plant diversity and explore how plants have evolved to survive in key environments such as icy mountains and oceanic islands, desert and jungle. My favourite plant in the glass house is the Jade Vine, a native to the Philippines it really is a stunning plant.

Cambridge is well connected to the rest of the UK by both road and rail, the city as well as the garden are worth exploring fully. The Holiday Inn at Cambridge makes a good base from which to explore the city and gardens as it is well worth making a long weekend of any trip to the city.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did and that the Jade Vine is in flower for you!


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