Ness Botanic Gardens (University of Liverpool)
Institution Code: LIVU
International Agenda Registration: No
BGCI Member: Yes
About the Ness Botanic Gardens (University of Liverpool)
Ness Botanic Gardens was born of one man’s passionate interest in plants and his desire to share that interest with others.
When the Liverpool cotton merchant Arthur Kilpin Bulley began to create a garden in 1898, he laid the foundations of one of the major botanic gardens in the United Kingdom.
Expeditions to the Far East
Bulley was interested in introducing new plant species from abroad. As he believed that Himalayan and Chinese mountain plants could be established in Britain, he sponsored expeditions to the Far East employing the renowned British plant collectors George Forrest and Frank Kingdon Ward to prove his theory.
In this way Bulley was responsible for introducing hundreds of new plants to Britain. Two species introduced by Forrest, Rhododendron griersonianum and Camelia saluenensis, have both been used in hybridisation programmes resulting in many hybrids common in Britain today.
The beautiful blue Gentiana sino-ornata, in flower at Ness in the autumn, is another of his introductions, and the Pieris formosa ‘Forrestii’, which can be seen in all its glory on the Specimen Lawn in spring, was actually grown from seed collected by Forrest in China. Part of the Bulley’s garden was devoted to the propagation of these plants, and it was here that many of the seeds from the Far East were first cultivated and where his plant and seed company, Bees Ltd, had its beginnings.
Presented to The University of Liverpool
After his death, Bulley’s daughter Lois presented the Gardens to the University of Liverpool in 1948 with an endowment of £75,000. There is a stipulation that they be kept as a botanic gardens as a practical and fitting tribute to the memory of her father. Bulley’s policy of opening a specified area of ornamental ground to the public was also to be continued.
These were not, however, the pre-war gardens which had, at times, maintained a staff of 48. In the war years only the elderly Josiah Hope and his assistant, Bill Cottrell were left to care for the Gardens and, when the University inherited them, the Gardens were in sore need of attention.
When Ken Hulme was appointed as Director in 1957, it presented him with both a challenge and an opportunity. Bulley who was interested in rare plants and massed flower displays but not, garden design had compartmentalised the Gardens, separating one area from another with Hawthorn hedges netted against rabbits. Ken Hulme envisaged a more naturalistic setting for the plants and spent the next three decades achieving his dream.
During this period the size of the ornamental gardens increased from 2.4 to 25 hectares (six to 64 acres) and superb collections of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, Cherries and Heathers were established.
To the present
Today, the commitment to maintain and develop the beauty of the Gardens remains, but there is an increasing emphasis on research, conservation and education of the public – areas reflecting Bulley’s original interests.
In addition, there has been an increased emphasis on educating schoolchildren.
On a larger scale, the Horsfall Rushby Visitor Centre opened in 2006, featuring a central courtyard area with reception, indoor cafe with outside seating area, shop, lecture theatre, conservatory and exhibition space.
Ness Botanic Gardens (University of Liverpool)
Cheshire CH64 4AY United Kingdom
Telephone: 0151 795 6300
Primary Email: [email protected]
- Director’s Name: Matthew Clough
Curator’s Name: Nick Lightfoot
Plant Records Officer’s Name: Tim Baxter
- Total Staff:
Horticultural Staff Number: 7
Educational Staff Number: 3
Research Staff Number: 1
Administration Staff Number: 8
About the Garden
- Institution Type: Botanic Garden
- Status: Educational: Yes
- Date founded: 1898
- Physical Data
- Total Area: 26 Hectares
Annual Rainfall: 726 mm
Altitude: 42.00 Metres
Total area of glasshouses: 270 Metres
Features and Facilities
- Herbarium: Yes
Arboretum Size: 10
- Micropropagation/ Tissue Culture Facilities: No
Seed Bank: No
Computer Plant Record System: Yes
- Open to public: Yes
Friends society: Yes
Retail Outlet: Shop: Yes
Retail Outlet: Plant Sales: Yes
Disabled access: Yes
- Number of Visitors: 70000
Number of Volunteers: 160
- Accession Number: 8000
- Special Collections:Extensive collections of Sorbus, Betula, Alnus, Rhododendron, Camellia, Conifers and Spiraea.
Sorbus spp. especially wild collected material and numerous living type specimens (e.g. Sorbus kongboensis, S. fansipanensis, S. carmesina etc)
Betula spp., from throughout geographic range except tropics. Many rarities (e.g. B. murrayana, B. chichibuensis, B. globispica etc.) and living type specimens (B. ashburneri, B. bomiensis)
Ilex limii – unique in cultivation
Special collections include:
Conifers, ICCP – 10 Genera, 14 Species, 14 Taxa, 24 Accessions, 30 Plants
Alnus,Univ – 32 Species, 33 Taxa, 50 Accessions, 150 Plants.
Betula, Univ. – 44 Species, 50 Taxa, 208 Accessions, 400 Plants.
Cotoneaster, Univ. – 70 Species, 80 Taxa, 100 Accessions, 300 Plants.
Sorbus Univ. – 60 Species, ??? Taxa (many unique and unnamed microspecies), 300 Accessions, 450 Plants.
Spiraea, Univ. – 30 species, 25 taxa, 80 accessions, 200 plants
- Invasive Species Monitoring: Yes
Invasive Species Policy: Yes
Plant Collection Policy: No
- Conservation Programme: No
Medicinal Plant Programme: No
Ex Situ Conservation Programme: No
Reintroduction Programme: No
- Conservation – Genetics: Yes
Molecular Genetics: Yes
Systematics and Taxonomy: Yes
- Visitor/Education Centre: Yes
Education Signs in Garden: Yes
Public Lectures/Talks: Yes
Education Booklets/Leaflets: Yes
Guided Tours: Yes
Permanent Public Displays: Yes
Special Exhibitions: Yes
Courses for School Children: Yes
Courses for University/College Students: Yes
Courses for General Public: Yes
Education Programme: Yes
Ness Botanic Gardens is a beautiful 64 acre garden situated on the Dee Estuary in South Wirral. Its illustrious history is linked to the wealth, philanthropy and passion for plant-hunting of its creator AK Bulley.
From the start, Bulley shared his garden with his neighbours, and today’s visitors too are free to move around its relaxed and informal layout without restriction – so a visit to Ness feels more like strolling round the extensive grounds of a wealthy friend than a trip to a university botanic garden! The wealth of different areas within the Gardens – deciduous woodlands, wildflower meadows, stunning herbaceous borders, a delightful potager, orchard, rock garden, terraces, water gardens, specimen lawns, pine wood – give Ness genuine year-round interest.
During February the snowdrop collections carpets the Gardens, attracting visitors from far afield to see over 60 varieties. In March it is the turn of the Crocus Lawn to star, early pale yellow narcissi peppering drifts of hundreds of thousands of pale purple crocus. In spring the visitors flock to see the thousands of flowering trees and shrubs at their peak right across the Gardens and particularly in the Water Gardens and Rock Garden.
During high summer the Gardens are simply superb. Then with the onset of autumn, the changing colours of the leaves set the Garden views ablaze.
The Gardens have twice been the venue for BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time annual Summer Garden Party – attracting record audiences of thousands on both occasions and turning what was a niche occasion into a flagship event.
Ness has wheelchair-friendly paths throughout the Gardens (and free loan of wheelchairs and motorised scooters), refreshments and toilets available in the Gardens as well as in the large Visitor Centre, plenty of seating in every area and free plant and tree trails to follow.
Ness Botanic Gardens in South Wirral is not just a gardeners’ garden – it is a garden with very wide appeal which offers an unforgettable day out.
Ness Gardens not only have fantastic gardens and an amazing plant collection but also have regular concerts and events. Further details can be found on www.nessgardens.org.uk
Ness Gardens can offer you a perfect ‘outdoor’ venue for the Wedding Ceremony, providing an ideal setting for creating those perfect photographic memories to treasure.