Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, January 28, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.
Enjoy a spot of peace A big day out! RICHARD THOMAS heads to …. the Botanical Gardens at Singleton Park in Swansea.
WHY? Although the gardens are at their most stunning in August there is still lots to see even in the winter months, with up to 200 different plants having been seen in flower during this time of the year. Set within the tranquil surroundings of Singleton main park, it is a very relaxing place to sit, relax and maybe seek some inspiration for your own garden. WHAT’S THE BUZZ? The beautiful Botanical Gardens are based in the old Walled Garden which was used as the kitchen and flower garden by the Vivian family from 1853. Today the gardens contain fine specimens of rare and exotic plants from across the world. There’s plenty to take in, the Botanical Gardens house one of Wales' premier collections of florae, with spectacular herbaceous borders and large glasshouses packed full of displays. The gardens are also home to Ty'r Blodau, an educational and visitor centre available for school visits, workshops and meetings. ANY HISTORY? In 1847 John Henry Vivian purchased Veranda House for his son Henry Vivian and his wife Jessie. Less than a year later, sadly, Jessie died giving birth to their son. Distraught by his wife’s death, the rich industrialist resolved never to live in the house and by 1853 only the estate lodge remained, the principal part of Veranda House
having been dismantled. St Paul's Church in Sketty was built as a memorial to Jessie and a bronze and red granite statue of Henry Vivian still stands near St. Mary’s Church in the city centre.
By 1919 the Singleton Estate as it had become had amalgamated some 12 farms to amass 250 acres. That year the Swansea County Borough Council decided to purchase the land
from the Vivian family for use as a public park. Daniel Bliss, who was trained at Kew Gardens, was chiefly responsible for the purchase of the estate and in 1920 began to oversee its transformation into a public park and garden. Today’s Botanical Gardens is largely the result of his vision. WHAT TO TAKE? Singleton Botanical Gardens are free for the public to visit. Parking can be found on Sketty Road outside Singleton Park. Inside the park is the fabulous Pub On The Pond serving great value food everyday of the week for the whole family. With their Squire Deal you can enjoy two main meals for just £10! There’s even a children’s adventure playground just outside, so dress warmly. LOOK OUT FOR? The glasshouses simulate a variety of different climates from around the world: in the hot Desert House environment you'll find cacti and succulent plants, while in the Tropical House you can see plants found in the rain forest and tropical jungles. These include the comprehensive collection of orchids and epiphytes such as bromeliads and tillandsias. In the Economics glasshouse you’ll find plants that come from mostly sub-tropical regions and some Mediterranean countries, and that are of economic importance, including sugar cane, coconuts, olives and coffee. This glasshouse also contains a colourful collection of begonias. WHEN TO GO? The gardens are open everyday until 4.30pm. Regular plant sales take place in the gardens every Saturday. TELL ME MORE: You can find them at Singleton Park in Swansea.For sat nav users the postcode is SA2 8QD. Phone 01792 298637.