In 2013 VBG was visited by Dr Mike Maunder, lately Director of Fairchild Botanic Garden and Hawaii Botanic Garden, now Associate Dean of Florida International University. We are lucky to have him agree to join the VBG Advisory Group. On his visit we had lengthy discussions on the direction and operation of this garden and feel there is a lot to be learned from the way botanic gardens operate in the US. Dr Maunder highlighted the need for annual development of the botanic garden in order to reinvent the offer to the visiting public both to the new visitor, strengthen existing customer base and encourage repeat visits core to survival. A Visitor survey this summer taught us we have a surprising volume of “spontaneous” visitors who drive by unaware of the garden.
Resultant from this insight we have looked at development opportunities within VBG that are in keeping and appropriate with our objective and key strength as Britain’s finest botanic collection of sub-tropical plants displayed out of doors.
For many years it has been desired to break into the land to the north of Undercliff Drive and expand the botanic garden onto the south facing slopes therein. The objective is to display on this land the “greatest hits” of this garden in a landscape and style appropriate to the visitor driving through the Undercliff, in other words viewed at 30mph. Existing landform already is hugely in favour of our style of planting, with some heavy landscaping we can make three distinctive views or vistas: arid, Med, and bush. To the Eastern end of the land and opposite our main entrance exists a natural rock promontory elevating 4m above the road surface that will be a prime location for Agaves, Aloes, Carpobrotus, and Lampranthus – in other words the classic spiky and stunningly coloured desert plants we specialise in on our Arid Bank. In the middle part of the land can be a vista relying on swathes of Agapanthus spp, Echium pininana and Verbascum olympicum that can be appreciated at speed, characteristic of our Mediterranean Garden. To the western end can be examples of the palms and mighty Eucalyptus which in time will dominate the position and overarch the Undercliff Drive itself.