After a very enjoyable Sunday lunch with our friends in Edgbaston, we set off for a post-prandial walk to the Botanic Gardens, where we encountered caged Bonsai and roaming peacocks, but neither of the National Collections I expected to find. A quick search on the Internet brought up a picture of the Anthemis collection by a red path, but there was no red path to follow. Being Sunday there were no gardeners around to help us and announcements were being made about the garden closing soon. I was ready to give up but back at the entrance we asked about the Winterbourne National Collections, and found that there are two Botanic Gardens in Edgbaston; the one we were in, the Birmingham Botanical Garden, near Birmingham City University and Winterbourne Botanic Garden, part of the University of Birmingham which is the one we wanted.
The next day we were waiting for the Winterbourne garden to open at 10. Being February we were not expecting to see much, certainly not of the Anthemis but I hoped to see something of the Iris unguicularis. However these plants are in the process of being moved and are in pots behind the scenes. But it always pays off to talk to people in gardens and chatting to Abby who was watering the Orchid house led to an invitation to go and see the Iris in their pots.
Then we were shown the Anthemis beds, and told about the much improved performance of the plants by moving them just a few yards a couple of years ago.
The rest of the garden is a delight, with a woodland area which forms part of a local wetland scheme, a walled garden in the original vegetable garden and a beautiful Arts and Crafts mansion built by the Nettlefold family. Nettlefolds Ltd. began in 1823 as a small ironmongers making screws and when they merged with Guest, Keen and Co. in 1902 became the world’s largest metal manufacturing business (GKN) and a huge local employer.
Another gardener was patiently separating the moss out of some rockery plants and I asked her about the garden. She described herself as a new volunteer gardener, but she was very knowledgeable about it. We were near the Anthemis beds and she told us about the fantastic display of the previous year but was a little puzzled that I was taking pictures of the almost empty beds. Owning up to a ‘professional’ interest as ‘I work for Plant Heritage’ our helpful volunteer owned up to ‘being a member of the West Midlands PH group’. I don’t know if our fondness for cakes really has spread far and wide or it was just chance, but her parting comment when we said we were going for a coffee was ‘ they do very good cakes in there’.
The tea room is in the mansion, which is in itself worth a trip for the history of the family and of manufacturing in Birmingham. I will try to time our next trip to see our friends so that I can see the Anthemis in flower.