Heligan was amazing, not the most amazing garden but amazing in its restoration effort. Abandoned after the first world war when many of the workers didn’t return, the gardens and broken glasshouses were rediscovered in the nineties under eighty years of brambles and painstakingly restored. The site of many of the first exotic plant introductions into Britain by explorers and plant enthusiasts in Victorian times, there was a sheltered valley of giant rhubarb, bananas and new Zealand tree ferns and more rhododendrons than you'd probably find in the himalayas. All survived the weather on their own and were rescued from the weeds.
The walled gardens and glasshouses have all been rebuilt and you can see peach trees and grapevines. They have the world's only working victorian pineapple pit, a cold frame heated by decomposing horse manure to provide enough warmth to grow pineapples, and they have loads of varieties including a white variegated one! They require a lot of work to run, hence this being the only model that is still kept working!
Whilst the plants are a bit less impressive than Eden, that they were maintained a hundred years ago with manual labour is phenomenal, not to mention the effort that went into rescuing everything from the weeds after eighty years of neglect!
There are extensive grounds of native woodland that has been decorated with sculptures- I particularly liked the troll, with eyes made of mosaic china peeking out from the moss.
If you’re looking for garden ideas then Heligan is a much better one to visit- much more attainable!
I'm not entirely sure why I've never visited the biggest greenhouse in the world before, my excuse is that it is quite a long way. But it is well worth the travel time.
There are two biomes- Mediterranean- which has with a patio to die for, loads of citrus trees and some familiar crops such as aubergine and courgette
The second biome is a tropical rainforest- with some immense tropical trees and a collection of orchids and epiphytes to rival Kew Gardens.
One day I endeavour to grow papayas.
The mission of the Eden project is to showcase the relationship of humanity to the natural world, familiar crop plants like wheat sit next to plants you use everyday but might not recognise such as vanilla or cocoa. There are big examples of plants you rely on but know nothing about like rubber- including working examples of tapping the trees. There are plants that have shaped the world or are purely cultural, like tobacco. Its an amazing riot of green with leaves in every shape and size. It is a true layered garden, from a jungle canopy walkway to taro growing almost in the dark under the trees, and pineapple perched on large branches. The signs are all in plain English, I thought they could have done with more signs and information, but then I'm a bit of a plant nerd and most people probably wouldn't read everything.
Out of the biomes the food was reasonably priced, looked good though I only tried the ice cream, and everything was explained -the ice cream ingredients are pictured and described, and you are told where you could go and look at the plants!
I'd have liked more information on how they built the site, one of the biggest engineering project in Cornwall ever. And on how they maintained the environment, it appeared to be a passive heat sink of granite at the back, and massive fans for air exchange that I assume have electric elements for use in the winter. The engineering is phenomenal- it is all built in an old clay pit and from the top rim it looks amazing but the scale isn’t evident. Only once you get down to the biomes do you realise that all of those little hexagons are each metres across, the structure contains uncountable numbers of steel posts and fixings, and everything is on an absolutely giant scale.