The Ness Botanic Gardens UK, an outstation of Liverpool University, Liverpool, England, are situated on the south facing slopes of the estuary of the River Dee. The gardens started life in 1897 as private gardens, not formal botanic gardens. For fifty years they belonged tof the estate of Arthur Kilpin Bulley who funded many of the famous plant hunters of the early 1900s and eventually formed his own seed business, Bees Ltd.
Park in the summer. Organizes steep weddings Ness Botanic Gardens UK. Price in 2017 is £950. Ceremony: Monday – Thursday £950; Friday – Sunday £1300; Bank Holiday Monday and Sunday – £1500.
The gardens are entered from above and this allows the visitor to leisurely wander down the gentle grade. The natural contours of the slope have been designed and planted to give maximum visual effect at various times of the year.
In spring the Azalea Walk, planted in 1984, is a mass of yellows and oranges. The rhododendron border–which has had species in bloom since January–is also at its best, with pride of place going to Pieris formosa forestii. This Pieris was raised from the original seed brought back from China in 1934 by the plant hunter George Forrest and at sixty years old it still looks great.
The wide herbaceous border sits in a natural hollow and in the summer it is best viewed from the picnic area near to the gardens’ entrance. From there you can actually see the colours of the whole border at once, laid out like an artist’s palette. It pays to take time to study the colours and pinpoint anything that really catches the eye before going down to the border. Closer examination of the border reveals gems like Eryngium agavifolium. Its flowers are a greeny blue and are not rich in colour, but are obviously rich in nectar, as they are covered by a mass of butterflies and bees. The Rose Garden–off to the right of the border–traces the history of the cultivated rose from the Damask, said to be prized by the Romans, through to the present-day Hybrid Tea and Floribundas. All are at their glorious best in summer.
The sheltered south facing terraced walks display some of the more tender species and provide vistas over the specimen trees at the foot of the slope with their foliage in hues of green, blue and gold.
A large part of the gardens are used for practical aspects of the University’s work, and this is reflected in some of the displays. One of the projects has been the study of the genus Sorbus and the garden has a rich variety of these, providing spectacular leaf and berry colour in the autumn. The variety Sorbus “Pink Ness” was developed in the garden.
Another of the University’s projects is the management of heathland and their expertise with heathers is apparent in the magnificent heather beds laid out on one of the slopes. The beds provide colour twelve months of the year and have impressive, eight feet tall specimens of the drought resistant Ericas australis and E. arborea. A word with the staff reveals that to maintain the quality of the display, the plants are replaced every ten years.
If you are lucky enough to visit the Ness Botanic Gardens UK, allow yourself a full day to appreciate all that they have to offer.