From Hospital Beds to Flower Beds

A brief timeline of Ventnor Botanic Garden's History and development

Hospital GardenVentnor Botanic Garden

We are 5˚C hotter than the rest of the Isle of Wight and the UK mainland which inspired our strapline, “Britain’s Hottest Garden.”

The story of Ventnor Botanic Garden (VBG) starts and stops with its microclimate. Cataclysmic landslips during the last Ice Age roughly 100,000 years ago created the topography that supports the microclimate.

We are 5˚C hotter than the rest of the Isle of Wight and the UK mainland which inspired our strapline, “Britain’s Hottest Garden.” As such we are a bellwether for climate change, for what is likely to grow and what is likely to perish in UK gardens in future.

Hospital ChapelVentnor Botanic Garden

From the canna lilies we no longer lift in winter to the plants that we alone can grow outdoors in the UK, we take pushing the boundaries of half hardiness seriously. 

Hospital PlaqueVentnor Botanic Garden

We rarely get a frost and if we do the Garden reheats quickly when the sun returns due to the temperature buffer of the English Channel, the south facing aspect of the Undercliff, and the shelter from the north winds which pass overhead.

Orginal Hospital BuildingVentnor Botanic Garden

We are able to grow plants outside that are normally under glass elsewhere in the UK because of this microclimate. The microclimate originally inspired Dr Arthur Hill Hassall, a Victorian polymath, to build the National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest in 1869 on the site of today’s garden.

Hill Hassall visited Ventnor to recuperate from consumption, also known as tuberculosis (TB), and foresaw the role the microclimate could play in alleviating the scourge of the day – TB. 

Few in London expected to see Hill Hassall recuperate; hence, the willingness to back his hospital vision. Overtime families stepped up as benefactors to build the hospital wings or blocks as they came to be called. 

Rose GardenVentnor Botanic Garden

Each family had their crest positioned over the entry door of the block they financed. 150 years later the health giving attributes of the microclimate continue to benefit VBG’s plants and visitors.

Credits: Story

Ventnor Botanic Garden Today Book

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