Sheffield Botanic Gardens

The Sheffield Botanical gardens are situated approximately 1 mile (2km) from the City centre on a 19 acre (7.7 ha) south facing sloping site.

At the time of writing this blog entry to the gardens was free.

Most paths are accessable to the disabled and abled bodied people alike, plus there is the provision of alternative pathways available to avoid any stepped areas.

These factors and many more, offers the ideal location for people to escape the pressures of modern day living, and indeed many business people from the surrounding area use it during their lunch break in order to get a break from the workplace!

Courtesy of the Botanic Garden's Website here is a brief summary of key points in the origins of the gardens:

In 1833 the Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society was formed to promote both healthy recreation and self-education, through the development of a botanical garden.

A period of fundraising followed and the land was purchased.

In 1834, the Society appointed Robert Marnock, gardener of Bretton Hall, Wakefield (now the Yorkshire Sculpture Park), to design the Gardens and act as their first Curator.

He laid out the Gardens in the then highly fashionable Gardenesque style, where each plant was displayed to perfection in scattered plantings.

The Gardens were finally opened on the 29th and 30th June, and 4th and 5th July, 1836, when more than 12,000 people visited.

Thereafter the Gardens were only open to the general public on four Gala days per year, otherwise admission was limited to shareholders and annual subscribers.

In 1844, financial problems led to the failure of the first society but the Gardens were rescued with the formation of a second society (also known as the Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society).

The conservatories were extended, a tea pavilion and the present Curator's House were constructed within the succeeding ten years.

A period of steady development and international renown followed for the next 30 years.

In 1897, falling income, competition from the new free city parks, and residential development in the area, meant that the Gardens were in danger again, fortunately, the Sheffield Town Trust came to the rescue and saved the Gardens for the city in 1898.

It was then that free admission was introduced and continues to this day.

The site has many different garden areas featuring collections of plants from all over the world, including Mediterranean, Asian, American prairie-style, Woodland and Rock and Water plantings.

The National Collections of Weigela, Diervilla and Sarcococca are also sited in the gardens.

The Gardens contain several listed buildings including the restored Grade II listed curvilinear Glass Pavilions, which are among some of the earliest ever built.

The Gardens have undergone a major restoration programme, and the restored Glass Pavilions were officially opened by HRH Prince Charles on 1 September 2003.

Later,the fully landscaped and replanted gardens were formally re-opened on 20 June 2008. by Michael Palin, the Sheffield-born actor and TV presenter.

Now it is left to The Gardens staff and Friends of the Botanical Gardens (FOBS) to continue developing and maintaining the plantings throughout the Gardens.


The Garden Tour

Visitors are free to wander through the gardens at will, or alternatively take a Group Tour.

I chose to go unaccompanied!

In order to give you the reader some idea of my route I have copied the Visitors Map shown here for reference!

As you will see it is laid out in alphabetical areas, so I will use this legend as the basis for my tour!

Basically I went around the perimeter in an anti-clockwise direction then up the centre of the gardens to the Pavillions.


Click on picture to enlarge

Four Seasons Garden (A & B)

This garden is situated at the northern end of the gardens resulting in it being somewhat starved of light due to it being in the shadow of the Pavilions.

This makes it quite a cold garden, plus the Pavilions also create a bit of a wind tunnel.

This area has been planted out with plants that can tolerate such conditions yet give all the year round interest!

For example: In Spring there are some early flowering Shrubs, Hellebores, Pulmonarias and a wide range of Spring bulbs.

In Early Summer one can see a selection of summer flowering shrubs under planted with things such as Hostas, Bergenias, Dicentras and some summer flowering bulbs.

Mid Summer is the time to see a mixture of Iris,Paeonys,Roses and Oriental poppies.

Autumn: One can see a wide selection of Grasses and late flowering perennials and the autumn tints on the leaves of the shrubs.

Winter: There are some colourful and evergreen shrubs along with hoar frost on the deciduous shrubs and grasses!


Birch Hill (E)

This area is basically in two parts where the garden went from a predominantly lawned area with Mature trees onto a woodland path that runs parallel to Botanical Road.


The Bear pit

Indicated on the map as a circle on the border of areas E & L.

The Pit was built in 1836, and is a Grade II listed building.

It once housed two bears until the 1870's when they were removed, following an incident when a child fell into the pit and was killed.

In January 2005 an 8ft tall (2.4m) mild steel sculpture of a bear was installed, to remind people of the former use of this structure.

The sculpture was originally a pale silver grey colour, but the sculptor wanted the metal to rust naturally.

He therefore treated the sculpture with acetic acid, and now, with the added influence of a traditional English summer,the sculpture is an interesting and very realistic grizzly-brown colour.

It is hoped to establish a collection of hardy ferns in the Bear Pit, while still continuing to allow access to see and touch the sculpture.


The Mediterranean Garden (L)

This is quite a large garden part of which was undergoing refurbishment when I visited.

As can be seen the upper part of this garden is in its infancy, and like all recently refurbished gardens the planting is still lacking maturity.

Meaning it will take a few years to mature when I think it will become a beautiful area to sit in and watch the world go by.

The lower part of the garden is a secluded lawned area surrounded with island bed shrubbery and mature trees.


Upper Garden


Lower Garden


The Asia Garden (N)

This woodland area is filled with trees and shrubs from the Far East, and includes Pieries and Rhododendrons to name but a few.


The Evolution Garden (P)

This area contains ancient plants such as Ferns, Ginkgo and Dawn Redwoods.

There are also a few samples of fossilised plant life.


The Long Border (T)

The long border runs along the western boundary of the gardens and is filled with various shrubs and mature trees, many of which originate from the Americas.


The Prairie Garden (U)

This area comprises of approximately 30 species of herbacious perennials and grasses reminiscent of central parts of North America.

Many of these Prairie plants have become popular garden plants e.g. Echinacea and Rudbeckia.


The Woodland Garden (Q)

As the title suggests, this is an area filled with trees and shrubs to give dappled shade plus encourage drifts of colour at ground level.

Note; As with most woodland gardens a lot depends upon which season you visit as to what you are likely to see!


Thompson Road Walk (V)

This walk is actually the southern access / exit point to the gardens.

It is bordered by two wide herbaceous borders filled with plants to give seasonal colour throughout the year.


The Lower Lawns (R)

As the title suggests, these lawns are situated at the bottom end of the gardens, and along with the lawns, they feature many mature trees and shrubs dotted across and around them.


The AGM Border (S)

This area consists of a long narrow bordersurrounded by a path to allow uninterupted views of the many AGM (Award of Garden Merit) plants contained within the border.


The Rock and Water Garden (H)

This again is quite a large area so I have split the area in two and shown the Surrounding Area, and the Pond and Water courses serparately.

The three linked ponds are surrounded by a number of plants native to The Pennines.


Surrounding Area


The Ponds and Water courses


The Marnock Garden (K)

Marnock Garden is a small, sheltered terraced garden and was opened in 1988, to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the main Gardens.

Emphasis has been put on the inclusion of sensory plants.

Planting and maintenance has been carried out by the Garden staff and FOBS volunteers.

In 2007 the lower corner of the garden was modified to include seating, primarily to cater for small educational groups.


Osborn's Field (J)

Osborn's Field is a secluded, south-west facing garden and was donated to the Botanical Gardens in 1935 by Sir Samuel Osborn, when he was chairman of the Town Trust’s Gardens Committee.

It is located in a very sheltered area and, therefore, perfect for trialling borderline hardy plants, as has been proved by the survival of plants such as Sophora, Abutilon, Coronilla, Corokia, Vestia and many others.


The Victorian Garden (D)

Records indicate that this garden has been around since 1853

Where practicable,it has been planted with shrubs, perennials and bulbs,using species and cultivars which would have been available to Robert Marnock.

This area requires a great deal of maintenance, and together with the rectangular beds in front of the pavilions, they are regularly planted out with colourful seasonal plants by the Gardens' staff.


Approach to Garden


The Garden


Close up of Planting


View from Curator's House


The Main Lawns (F&G)

The main lawns are planted to emulate the Gardenesque design style, where scattered plantings have been given enough space to develop their full beauty.

The National Collections of Weigela and Diervilla have been established on the East Lawn.


The Rose Garden (M)

This garden was restored in 2004 / 5 which included re-instating the complex swirling layout first produced in 1836 by the Garden's designer and first curator Robert Marnock.

Today's plantings demonstrate the history of the rose, in combination with a trial to assess the value of different kinds of ground cover under the rose bushes.

Rambler and climbing roses have also been included, to give height to the final design, and also to give perfumed protection to the many seats located within the garden.

At the centre of the Rose Garden stands a statue of Pan the Spirit of the Woods adorned with various animals.


The Broadwalk (F & G)

Robert Marnock's original design for the Gardens included a graceful four-tier fountain as a focal point at the southern end of the Broadwalk.

It is not known how long the fountain continued to operate, but in the 1920s the site was occupied by a circular flower bed, full of irises.

As part of the restoration of the Gardens landscape, it was decided to install a new fountain in order to recreate the beautiful vista down the Broadwalk from the Main Pavilion.

The replacement fountain was completed and commissioned just before Christmas 2004.

The central Broadwalk is situated between the East and West Lawns and is bordered with two 80m long herbaceous borders.

These were first developed in the 1930s, under the curatorship of Mr Charles Curtis.

As part of the Restoration Project in 2002, the borders were re-designed as mixed herbaceous perennial and shrub borders, with the intention creating year long colour.

This colour is shown to advantage by the solid green of the holly hedges at the rear of the borders.

Many ornamental grasses have been incorporated in the planting to give softer tones in the winter.

The current borders are planted and maintained by the FOBS and the Gardens' staff.


The Pavilions (C)

The Glass Pavilions are Grade II listed buildings.

These pavilions were an original feature of the Gardens when it opened in 1836.

During the 1850s, additional ridge-and-furrow glasshouses were added at each end of the range.

The western end housed a 30-foot diameter pool for the Victoria regia lily (now known as V. amazonica) and a collection of tender Camellias occupied the eastern one.

The conservatories were in such a state of dereliction, when the Town Trust took over the Gardens in 1898, that all the ridge-and-furrow houses had to be demolished soon afterwards, leaving only the three domes, which were repaired.

A colonnade was constructed between the central and eastern domes in 1937.

The Central Dome was converted into an aviary in 1961 and an aquarium was built inside the eastern dome in 1963.

Funding cuts led to a decline in the level of maintenance, and the resulting dereliction caused the pavilions to be boarded up in the mid 1990s.

The Pavilions including the linking ridge-and-furrow walkways were re-built using stainless steel framing, thus lovingly restoring the buildings to their original beauty.

The re-opening took place in 2003.

Most of the environmental factors in the resulting 90m conservatory are computer-monitored and controlled, with heating provided by four gas-fired boilers.

Because of their diverse moisture requirements, however, the plant collections are watered by hand using rainwater collected from the roofs and stored in huge underground tanks in front of the Pavilions.


Within the Pavillions the planting was split into areas representing plant life from various parts of the world, as can be seen here:







New Zealand



South Africa



South America




North Pavillion



Finally it was time to go home via this impressive exit / entrance!

....and that concludes this blog which I hope you have enjoyed as much as I enjoyed my trip to Sheffield Botanical Gardens.


Sheffield Winter Gardens and The Peace Garden

On leaving the Botanic Gardens I found I had still time on my hands so as I was in the area I decided to walk in to the city centre to see the famous Winter Gardens and the Peace Gardens.

The Winter Gardens is one of the largest temperate glasshouses to be built in the UK during the last hundred years.

It is situated in the heart of the city, adjacent to the Peace Gardens and Millenium Galleries.

The building is 70 metres long and 22 metres high (large enough to house 5,000 domestic greenhouses!) and contains more than 2,500 plants from around the world.


The Peace Gardens are situated near the Winter Garden, and within walking distance of the Millennium Galleries.

Among its water features are the Goodwin Fountain with its 89 jets of water, and 8 Cascades that have been constructed around the outer perimeter of the garden.

Sadly I was unable to take many pictures of the garden's features due to the Sheffield City council turning the area into a Seaside theme park.

This was their way of benefiting the children of the city who were on their school holidays at the time of my visit, and who's parents may not be able to afford to take them for a day at the seaside!

Normally it is a place where business people often leave the confines of their office during their lunch break to sit in these peaceful surroundings and listen to the rippling water while they eat their lunch.

Having an event like that seen on the day of my visit is not unusual as this area was designed and built for such outdoor events.

This amphitheatre often stages open air theatre, concerts and other such communal events for the benefit of the rate payers of Sheffield.

....and that concludes my visit to Sheffield's Winter & Peace Gardens.

Top of the Page