Victoria's Palm Garden

Read about the wonderful history of Victoria's Palm Garden at Ventnor Botanic Garden.

By Ventnor Botanic Garden

The Original Palm GardenVentnor Botanic Garden

The Palm Garden survives from the days of the tuberculosis hospital. This area was formerly known as the Palm Court due to the presence of the Chusan palm, Trachycarpus fortunei.

Palm Garden BenchVentnor Botanic Garden

These are the first palms to be cultivated in the British Isles, originally collected by Robert Fortune for Veitch’s Nursery.

Palm GardenVentnor Botanic Garden

Robert Fortune arrived in China in 1843 on his first multi-year plant collecting mission soon after the Treaty of Nanking was signed to end the Opium Wars.

Palm GardenVentnor Botanic Garden

To travel around the country, he resorted to disguising himself so as not to arouse suspicions of sinister foreign intentions. His palms were presented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who deigned that some of them be planted Ventnor Botanic Garden.

PalmsVentnor Botanic Garden

Although VBG was badly damaged in the 1987 storm, all of Fortune’s palms survived. 

The Palm Garden, as updated by Curator Simon Goodenough and his wife Deb in the 1990’s, epitomises the classic Victorian image of a sub-tropical garden and looks distinctly different to its untamed neighbours in our Australian and New Zealand Gardens.

Palm GardenVentnor Botanic Garden

During the era of the Empire the importation of exotic plants carried on at pace. The owners of large estates vied with one another to create the most exotic looking gardens by means of bedding out these tender plants.

The use of colourful Agapanthus spp., Canna, Kniphofia, Hedychium spp., and Watsonia spp. in the Palm Garden beds echoes this practice.

Sunny Palm GardenVentnor Botanic Garden

Many foraged plants did not survive their journeys back to England, exposed to salt air and the hostile environment on the decks of sailing ships. 

The Wardian Case, invented by Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward (1791–1868), a small glass case like a miniature greenhouse or large terrarium, protected plants on deck during their perilous sea journeys. New arrivals were grouped by family or genus in emerging botanic gardens fitting the paradigm of the day namely, the increasing reach of Empire and trade around the world.

Go beyond the garden

See a natural palm garden for yourself

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