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Click here for the Events calendar up to September 2005

  Friends of Botanic Gardens

The Belfast Botanic Gardens is situated in the South of the City between Queen's University and the River Lagan. It's long and interesting history began during the late 18th and early 19th centuries when there was a substantial upsurge of interest in botany, horticulture and gardening, consequently the formation of `Botanic Gardens' became very fashionable.

The Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens have started a development fund project and are assisting with lottery funding in providing a number of improvements to the gardens.

The aims of the project are to preserve, restore and enhance the historic character of the Botanic Gardens while increasing the publics enjoyment of the site, through capital projects and improved management packages.

  The objectives of the project include:
• To preserve and maintain a site of historical horticultural importance.
• To restore the unique Tropical Ravine House.
• To restore the major Victorian features of the park.
• To provide for future generations a park suitable to meet modern demands for recreational and educational enjoyment.
• To make the Botanic Gardens a focus of interest for the local community and cross community organisations.

Major improvements funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens:

  • Tropical Ravine restoration
• Restoration of shelter
• Restoration of Pinetum
• Enhancement of existing entrances
• Boundary improvements and screening of intrusive buildings, refurbishment of shrub beds
• Reintroduction of Garden furniture
• Renovation of Jaffe Fountain
• Provision of Victorian Street Lighting
• Restoration of local Kelvin Memorial
• Provision of information points, interpretation and signage
• Refurbishment of Palm House toilets

If you are interested in making a donation to assist our development fund, please make cheques payable to: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens. All donations are greatly received and will enable us to further our preservation and development of one on the Norths most famous Landmarks. Please send donations to:

Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens, The Bothy, Botanic Gardens, Stranmillis Road, Belfast.

Friends of Botanic

What are friends for?

By becoming a member of the Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens your support ensures the continuation of this famous garden. You can also gain great pleasure by becoming involved in the many events organised by the group. Benefits of membership include: a regular newsletter with a programme of events, opportunities to meet people with similar interests and become involved in promoting and supporting the development of the gardens, visits to special interest towns and areas behind the scenes, invitations to members only functions and much, much more!

The objectives of the group are:

• To provide a focal point for the involvement of local and other interested persons in the care and use of the Botanic Gardens.

• To promote public interest and participation in the protection and appreciation of the Botanic Gardens.

• To co-operate with Belfast City Council in the general support and promotion of the Park, whether through fund raising activities, assisting with events, providing advice to visitors and otherwise.



Annual Subscriptions cost £3.00 for individuals and £5.00 for the family. Cheques can be made payable to: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens and send the following information IN BLOCK CAPITALS

- Your Name, Address and Telephone Number to:

The Secretary,
Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens
The Bothy
Botanic Gardens
Stranmillis Road

History of Botanic Gardens

The Belfast Botanic Gardens is situated in the South of the City between Queen's University and the River Lagan. It's long and interesting history began during the late 18th and early 19th centuries when there was a substantial upsurge of interest in botany, horticulture and gardening, consequently the formation of `Botanic Gardens' became very fashionable. Such gardens had already been established in Dublin and in Cork when the Belfast Botanic and Horticultural Society was formed in 1827. In 1828 a 14 acre site was purchased outside the town at the junction of the Malone and Stranmillis Road. This area was rendered suitable for the cultivation of botanical science and a botanical museum opened in the grounds.

Finance of the Botanic Gardens

The Belfast Botanic and Horticultural Society issued 500 shares at a price of seven guineas each to help finance the project. Members of the public were required to pay for admission, one shilling for adults, sixpence for children. Shareholders and subscribers who paid an annual subscription were either admitted free or at a reduced charge.

Although the original intention was to provide a pleasant and well laid out garden primarily for instruction and study of plants, it soon became evident that more popular support was required to raise the finances necessary for the running of the property. From June 1838, when two successful garden fetes were organised for fund raising, right through the nineteenth century, the Botanic Gardens became the venue for all manner of outdoor activities and entertainment. This tradition has been continued to the present day.

The present Botanic Gardens contain an attractive rose garden, colourful herbaceous and shrub borders, a bowling green and children's playground. The property is also often used for a variety of events, including band performances, circus visits and concerts. Approximately 600,000 visitors come to discover the distinctive beauty of Botanic each year.

The Palm House

The Palm House, a famous landmark of Belfast, has stood serenely within the Botanic Gardens for many decades and will remain so for many years to come, as a constant reminder of Victorian times in Belfast. The Palm House was designed by the noted architect Charles Lanyon and is one of the earliest and most exquisite examples of a curvilinear glass and cast iron glass house.

Credit must be given to the society for initiating the building of such a house, long before any existed at Dublin's Glasnevin or London's Kew Gardens. The foundation stone was laid in 1839 and the two wings completed the following year, at a cost of £ 1400. The 49ft high elliptical dome was not added until 1852.

The Palm House provides excellent facilities for plants that would not be able to exist outdoors. The Dome of the Palm House is a sub tropical area and is covered from floor to ceiling with a vast array of magnificent plants. To make the optimal use of space, plants are aligned on benches, along the floor, climbers up along the walls and even hanging baskets overhead. The oldest plant in the glasshouse is housed in the dome, the Australian Grasstress Xanthorrhoea preissii which is over 400 years old.

The cool and temperate West wing of the Palm House contains a cascade of orchid type plants in a magnificent array of colour, even the benches within this wing are edged with baccopa, a beautiful white trailing plant. The real showstopper in this wing has got to be the marvellously fragrant Rhododendron fragrantissimum.

The east wing or stove section contains may tropical plants of both botanic and economic interest. This highly humid area of the Palm House (which is also partially shaded) contains a wide array of eye-catching plants. As you enter the door you are welcomed by a radiant Peace Lily, Spathyphyllum. Various Codiums or Josephs Coat are also exhibited in this wing alongside the heavily scented Gardenia.

Over the years the tropical plant collection in the Palm House has been kept at a consistently high standard. For example, in 1861, in his "Guide to Belfast", McComb writes that "the conservatories are magnificent, extensive and richly stocked, and in them are many of the rarest specimens to be found in any collection in the United Kingdom".

The Tropical Ravine

The construction of the Tropical Ravine house was undertaken by the then curator of the gardens Charles McKimm and completed in 1889. It is the only one of its size in Europe. Divided into a temperate and a stove section, the interior is designed as a sunken ravine with a railed balcony extended around the perimeter from which the visitor can view the plant collection.

Here lush plants and trees compete for light and moisture in a veritable jungle. The ferns and mosses reside down below while the stronger bigger plants, including banana trees reach the roof. The Dombeya is the real show stopper in this jungle with it's heavenly caramel scent. It responds well to pruning (every two years) and flowers annually around February, forming a cluster of over a hundred individual blooms. The artist, Diana Oxlade will be recreating the Dombeya as well as many other beautiful plants in the celebratory Florilegium of Belfast Botanic Gardens, to be published specially for the millennium.

The importance of the Ravine House is exemplified by the statement from Burnbridge of Trinity College Botanic Garden, that it was one of the finest and best arranged fern houses in Europe.



Copyright A Walsh 2002-2007