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urg day out
A trip to Ness Gardens, September 9th, 2001
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The Group
The intrepid Urglers despatched on this mission
Back Row Standing: Trevor Rimmer | Jill Bell | cormaic | Jane Ransom | Graham Ransom | Stuart Baldwin
Front Row Kneeling: Matt & Sarah (Dale, as was) | Karen (Kay-ren) Rimmer | Mrs Taz | Irene Baldwin

plaque Ness Botanic Gardens, tucked into the sheltered south-west corner of the Wirral peninsula overlooking the Dee estuary, is now owned and managed by the University of Liverpool, but it began its life over a hundred years ago as a result of one man's passion for new and exotic plants and his desire to share his pleasure with others.

The inscription reads.............
These gardens were created for his delight by Arthur Kilpin Bulley 1861-1942 who shared his pleasure by opening them to the public. They were given to the University by his daughter in 1948 as a practical and fitting tribute to his memory.

The way into the gardens is via part of the original house, which is rather understated, given the scale and grandeur of the rest of the estate. Where one might expect some almighty statement of wealth and position, Arthur Kilpin Bulley, the wealthy Liverpool Cotton Broker and man who created the original gardens back in 1897, chose to have a more modest house of Accrington Stock Brick built on the sandstone outcrop overlooking the River Dee in South Wirral. The House

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The Jubilee Gardens

Jubilee Garden The first garden we encountered was this sunken garden, part of the Jubilee Gardens, constructed in 1977 to celebrate the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The stone setts were salvaged from the nearby Neston South Railway Station and the planting of contrasting foliage effects behind clipped hedges of yew, box and beech are just one element of this part of the garden; there is also an Education Facility, a Visitors' Centre as well as Restuarant and Tea Room.

The Jubilee Gardens and Visitors' centre boasts a damned impressive collection of MASSIVE stone troughs, may of which must weigh a couple of tonnes or more, and range from long and shallow to football-team bath size!

This one, like many of the others, is planted up with a selection of smaller alpines, in this case, sempervivums and smaller sedums of various hues, tucked in between upright slabs of stone.

Sempervivum trough

viewpoint After a brief packed lunch on the picnic lawn, exploration begins in earnest.

After clambering up the viewpoint tower, which offers a northward panorama, albeit sadly blocked by a silver birch planted slap bang in the middle of the view, Trevor and Karen lead the way to the rest of the garden.

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The Herbaceous Border

From the top of the slope adjacent to the picnic area, the vista downhill, northward over the herbaceous border.

This border is richly planted, with something to interest everyone, from eryngiums to the dreaded pampas grass. The garden staff put a lot of thought into what will thrive in this border, given the very free-draining nature of the sandy soil at Ness, and have deliberately introduced drought-resistant asters, such as A.laterifolius, A.ericoides and A.laevis, to better cope with the prevailing conditions.

herbaceous border

herbaceous border herbaceous border
The Sedum spectabile had just begun to show its colour within the herbaceous border. A view eastwards across the lawn and herbaceous border to the vast Glasshouses.

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The Heather Garden

The Heather Bed is possibly the most visuualy stunning attraction at Ness. Originally created in the late 1950s and early 1960s from a gorse and broom covered bank, the old quarry at the top of the bank had originally provided much of the stone for the garden and had acted as an air-raid shelter during the war years.

The bed has been planted to ensure all-year round interest, but is at its best during summer and autumn.

heathers

heathers more heathers
The inescapable limitations of web photography just don't allow justice to be done for this marvellous view. There is so much colour, shape, form and texture in the heather bed that has to be seen to be fully appreciated. It brings to mind an Impressionist painting with all the contrasting hues and surfaces. All one can do is stand and wonder, for hours on end, if necessary. Stunning!

The heathers include Erica cinerea and Calluna vulgaris, with some local varieties, such as "Plummer's Seedling". There are also tree heathers, E.australis and E.arborea, grown for their drought tolerance, and heathers that are threatened in their natural homes, such as McKays' Heather (E.mackaiana) from Ireland and Cornish Heath (E.vagans ) from Cornwall.

The bed is not a passive arrangement, though; new species are continually being introduced and weaker or ailing plants replaced as and when required to ensure the overall dispaly is always at its best.

At the top of the heather-clad escarpment lies this charming waterfall, constructed in 1997 at the head of the old quarry.

waterfall

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