A walk around Ness Gardens

On Sunday morning we went along to have a quick walk around Ness Botanic Gardens which are located just outside the village of Ness in South Wirral.  After a gloriously sunny Saturday the weather was again about to change so we took the opportunity to have a wander around before the rain arrived.

The gardens cover over 18 hectares and have a wide range of plants, so there’s a lot to see.  We had the morning to explore just a small part of the gardens.  The interest changes with the seasons so we set off to see what the late summer display was to be.  It was a warm day and there were lots of insects and butterflies in the gardens.

Ness Botanic Gardens started when the Liverpool cotton merchant Arthur Bulley, with his considerable wealth, began to create a garden here in 1898.  He was interested in introducing new plant species from across the world.  He was sure that Himalayan and Chinese mountain plants could be established in Britain and he sponsored expeditions to the Far East to collect new plants to prove his theory.  He introduced hundreds of new plants to Britain including rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.

At Ness Mr Bulley propagated the plants they had collected and many of the seeds from the Far East were first cultivated here and he set up a plant and seed company, Bees Ltd, from this pioneering work.

Mr Bulley died in 1942 and his daughter Lois presented the gardens to the University of Liverpool in 1948 with an endowment of £75,000 with a stipulation that they continue be kept as botanic and ornamental gardens open to the public as a tribute to the memory of her father.

But during and following the Second World War it had not been possible to maintain the gardens as they had been and by the time the University took over they needed a lot of attention.  The University developed a more naturalistic setting for the plants and spent the next three decades achieving Mr Bulley’s dream.

The old building is still there but a new building the ‘Horsfall Rushby’ Visitor Centre opened in 2006, with a central courtyard area with reception, indoor cafe with outside seating area, shop, lecture theatre, conservatory and exhibition space.  It has a ‘green’ ‘living’ roof made up of sedums and mosses.  Along with propagation glasshouses there is an apiary where members of the public dressed in suitable protective gear are shown how the bees are kept.

The University continues to manage the gardens and there is an increasing emphasis on research, conservation and educating the public particularly schoolchildren.  There are around 10,000 types of plants grown in the gardens including many rare and interesting specimens.