Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Making the most of it (part 1) Cambridge Botanic Garden

My useful car/van/tardis received a manufacturer's recall notice; apparently, a little thingamajig that monitors the temperature of something or other and would tell me if the car was overheating, basically wasn't and wouldn't. So, I had arranged to take the car into Peugeot HQ Cambridge yesterday morning, I was told the wait would be 2 to 3 hours but I'd get a free ticket for the Park & Ride bus into town.

Well, I arrived at P-HQ at just after 9.30am to be told the expected completion time would be 4pm! . . . there followed a pregnant pause while this sank in and I gave the receptionist a quizzical stare . . . So! (deep breath) with 6 hours to fill what was I going to do? To be honest I wasn't in the mood for mooching about town, but I had no choice, I'd better make the most of my day . . .

I walked south from the city centre to the Botanic Garden, I hadn't visited for years but frequently drive past; there's now a smart new entrance gate and inside there's a brand new café next to the new labs with new landscaping, none of which I'd seen. For those who don't know Cambridge, the Botanic Garden is bounded on four sides by Trumpington Road, Brooklands Avenue, Hills Road and Bateman Street; in the rush-hour, most drivers waiting for the lights to change at either end of Brooklands Avenue are oblivious that there are 40 acres of paradise just a few feet away.

The garden is a mix of big vistas and detail – after all it is a place of academic botanical research as well as being a visually pleasing garden; and it was heartening to see that, even on an overcast Tuesday morning, lots of people were there to enjoy it. The highlights for me yesterday were the muted tones of the New Zealand plants on rocky terraces; the stunning new landscape around the Cory Lawn by Bradley-Hole/Schoenaich Landscape Architects; the dry garden; the recreation of a fen (I loved the explanation of why a fen is not a bog); and the amazing variety of seed-pods on the trees.

Here's a slide show of my morning . . .

The gorgeous tune is 'Gabriel's Oboe' from film The Mission
composed by Ennio Morricone and played on the cello by Yo-Yo Ma

I felt re-ignited with enthusiasm about plants and gardens! Recently I've felt a bit fed up with designed contrived show gardens, I think all the TV coverage of Chelsea and Tatton etc has been the last straw and I decided to not renew my RHS membership – all that hype about show gardens alongside hastily put together 'garden tips' was, for me, a turn-off. As I left the Botanic Garden I picked up a leaflet about getting a season ticket – so I can just pop in when I'm passing by and have a half hour to spare.

Most of all, the Cory Lawn landscapes where stunning, I took a photo of the information board listing the matrix of plants used to create the mixed plantings – one for shade areas and another for sun – so I could study it in detail later (click on the image to enlarge or you can download the list here).

The use of colour – a palette of lavender through all shades of blue to purple and maroon with accents of scarlet and white – was calm and beautiful; the integration with the pre-existing mature trees was done with a light touch; I want to watch it change through the seasons and learn how such a complex mix of plants work together.

So, that filled up the morning nicely! The lovely new Garden Café was very popular and there was a very long queue, so I moved on to another place for the afternoon . . . I'll tell you about that in part 2.



  1. Ooh! I'm going to come back to this tomorrow and have a leisurely look(and listen-I love that music!)

    I know what you mean about a surfeit of TV garden shows. A bit like the cooking and the renovation shows.

  2. Botanic gardens are so inspiring, always come away with fresh ideas and renewed enthusiasm for the garden!! Time for a picnic visit I think...

  3. what a lovely way to spend a morning! glad your tardis didn't overheat before you could get the fix.

  4. While I do commiserate with your receiving the unwelcome news about how long the Tardis repair would take, I compliment you on your moving along to a delightful Plan B.

    The gardens are wonderful, and I would also be tempted to get that seasonal pass. Repeat visits could be grand...with camera and sketchbook.

    The difference between a fen and a bog.... I will have to look that one up!

    I do look forward to seeing Part 2.


  5. Firstly, may I thank you for the delightful slideshow and music? The music has, in fact, slowed my heart rate so I am going to bookmark it for future use.

    Secondly, to be told that there was such a long wait was very bad but how lovely that there was a botanic garden within easy reach. I'd like to try to get there one day. It is so easy to lose oneself in such a place.

  6. We are particularly fond of the medicinal man!

    The Botanic Gardens are a regular standby for us, especially since they have an excellent education department who run fab workshops for the children!

  7. It's been a couple of years since I've been to the botanic gardens... I think another visit is in order.

  8. Celia,
    What a stunning film. You can tell it's taken by an artist. Wonderful seedheads and textures in it and the music was divine. Can't wait for part two! Lesley

  9. It's been way too long since I visited Cambridge Botanic Garden, its definitely on the agenda now. Your film was delightful Celia ... and that music ... lovely! Coincidentally I'm off to the Fitzwilliam Museum tomorrow to see the Redoute exhibition.

    Thank you for spotting the difference on my recent post!


  10. I heartily agree with you about the contrived show gardens at the shows. What is the point?

  11. We used to go as kids, when for some reason I remember we had a key to the gate that would let us in on Sundays.
    There is an apple tree reportedly descended from Isaac Newtons famous apple.
    Sometimes I do miss Cambridge.

  12. I used to work at the Station end of Station road, and an entrance to the Botanic Gardens was just off the junction with Hills road and Station road, so a regular lunchtime treat in the summer.

  13. Really loved the slideshow. You have reminded me that it has been far too long since I last paid the Durham Botanical Gardens a visit, must get over there soon.

  14. What a great way to rescue the day. I found the BBC coverage of Chelsea and Tatton mostly very frustrating, they never seem to spend much time on how plants are being used, and there is only so much interest I can generate in learning about how all the plants for a stand came together. Having been to my first show this year I now think there is no real substitute. I think the show gardens there were less "unreal", and each had ideas I could take away with me - something you just don't get from the TV view. Glad you got energised and excited about plants again.


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