Tropical Ravine at Belfast Botanic Gardens

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The construction of the Tropical Ravine house was undertaken by the then curator of the gardens Charles McKimm and completed in 1889. It is the only one of its size in Europe. Divided into a temperate and a stove section, the interior is designed as a sunken ravine with a railed balcony extended around the perimeter from which the visitor can view the plant collection.

Here lush plants and trees compete for light and moisture in a veritable jungle. The ferns and mosses reside down below while the stronger bigger plants, including banana trees, reach the roof. The Dombeya is the real show stopper in this jungle with it's heavenly caramel scent. It responds well to pruning (every two years) and flowers annually around February, forming a cluster of over a hundred individual blooms. The artist, Diana Oxlade, recreated the Dombeya as well as many other beautiful plants in the celebratory 'Florilegium of Belfast Botanic Gardens', published specially for the millennium.

The importance of the Ravine House is exemplified by the statement from Burnbridge of Trinity College Botanic Garden, who noted that it was one of the finest and best arranged fern houses in Europe.

Work is now under way on a major restoration of the Ravine with finance from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Belfast City Council. The ravine is now closed to the public and most of the precious plant collection has been removed for storage in the Botanic Gardens greenhouses and in the Palm House. Contractors are being selected for various stages of the project and the main building work should start in spring of 2015. This is a very exciting time for the Belfast Botanic Gardens!

Ravine Spring 2016

Most of the plants have now been removed from the ravine and housed in the greenhouses with the larger items finding homes in the Palmhouse. There are still a few larger items to move and those items that are remaining during the building work (such as the huge Cycads) have to the protected. The BCC are close to appointing the main structural contractor and arrangements are under way to make an area available as the contractor's compound. It has been very exciting to see the underlying structure now most of the plants are out. It is now much easier to imagine the structure and the overall effect that Charles McKimm was trying to achieve - a much more impressive ravine rather than the jungle we have become used to. The terraces and structures built of Scrabo stone are most impressive (see photos below). The clearance has also highlighted just how badly deteriorated the roof and some other areas had become.

below you can see some of the impressive stone work, the old waterfall - this will be re-instated and much enhanced, and some of the Cycads.

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Have a look at the web page for the Palmhouse for more history!