Lush gardens and exotic plant life are not what most people would associate with the city of Belfast but located in the South of the city is a 28-acre park with a palm house and a recently renovated tropical ‘ravine’ house.
Belfast Botanic Gardens were created in the 1820s and were intended to be private. The Palm House was designed by architect Charles Lanyon and has remained unchanged until the present day. There is a myriad of interesting plant life in the Palm House for those interested in botany. If you’re an artist or photographer you will no doubt find inspiration amongst the striking leaf shapes and exotic flowers.
The later Victorian era ’Tropical Ravine’ was more recently restored in a project costing around 4 million pounds. This building was a favourite of mine even before it’s fancy make-over and I was excited to see what had been done on such a large budget.
Inside the newly restored, glass topped building, you'll find colourful Hibiscus flowers, banana plants with vast leaves and some very ancient-looking specimens like this Australian Cycad.
Some of the tree ferns in the collection are over 150 years old. The Tropical Ravine is kept hot and humid to mimic a rainforest habitat, mist is constantly being pumped out to keep the humidity up.
It was slightly disappointing for the bottom half of the building to be closed off, leaving visitors only tantalising glimpses of the veritable jungle below. A good reason for this is that some of the plants are so old and quite rare. Guided tours can be booked to see the lower area of the Ravine, although I didn't know this until I visited.
Outside were borders filled with seas of bright annuals, cosmos and rudbeckia. They were so stunning, I just had to try and get a photo of my head in amongst them!