Cornwall’s Eden Project is a different type of garden. It consists of not just outdoor gardens but gigantic plant conservatories, said to be the largest in the world. The project opened on March 17, 2001 with its purpose being that of bringing plants and people together. Its motto, “a gateway into the world of plants and people” reflects this. The project is particularly relevant today with global warming a threat as it shows how sustainable development is dependent on plants.
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The Eden Project sits in a former 37 acre china clay pit, 197 feet deep, with its most arresting feature the biomes or domes under which the plants shelter. The domes are made up of sections of tubular steel (46,000 poles altogether) each forming hexagons about 29.5 feet across with no internal support. The hollow frames of the domes are filled with translucent, triple-layered ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) foil—100 times lighter than glass, anti-static and self-cleaning. The special foil will be recycled at the end of its 30 year lifespan. A heat and power unit controls the climate of each zone along with the panels. Each dome represents a different climate zone. Birds, insects, and reptiles native to each zone are a part of the scheme. There is, throughout the project, much helpful information on the plants to educate the viewer.
The Humid or Tropical Zone (large enough to house the tower of London) brings the sites and sounds of the rainforest to the visitor. It has palm trees, teak, mahogany, a rubber plantation, and a mangrove swamp. Crops include bananas, coffee, balsa, mahogany, orchids, spices, and tropical ferns. The plants come from Malaysia, West Africa, tropical South America, and tropical islands. There’s also a large waterfall and a Malay house. The walkways constructed in this area have bamboo railings to fit in with the theme.
The Warm Temperate Zone dome showcases Mediterranean, southern Africa, and California plants. Here are orchids, orange and lemon trees, thyme, rosemary and other herbs, and olives. Plants also include California annuals such as poppies and lupins, and shrubs of the chapparal. Fruits, vegetables, and other crops are grown. Dry stone walls are a feature here. Between the two large biomes is the Cool Temperate Zone, home to UK, Japan, Chile, and Australasia species.
Outdoors (the Outside Biome) are thirty acres of gardens appropriate to the Cornish climate from around the world, along with native Cornish plants. In the spring 800,000 daffodils, tulips, and crocuses bloom. All together there are over 1,000,000 plants, more than 5000 different species, some common and some rare. They are all plants that people depend on every day.
Artistic pieces are placed throughout the site among the plants and greenery. The Eden Project uses them to show the connection between the creative and scientific use of art to illustrate the link between plants and people. Cork, driftwood, and other natural materials are used to create the art.
When you visit, you can wander on your own or join a guided tour. Allow four hours. There are events that encompass theatre, art displays, gardening talks, children’s events, music, and workshops. These are listed on the website. The education centre, The Core (opened in June 2006), was designed based on the Fibonacci code, Nature's fundamental growth blueprint. It incorporates a central trunk and canopy roof that shades the ground and harvests the sun.
Future plans are for the Edge, which will focus on the challenges of water use and water security, energy use, energy security, and climate change.
On the National Cycle Network; by car from the A30 or A28; by Dedicated bus from St. Austell (buses connect with a number of national trains at the station), Newquay, Helston, Falmouth, and Truro—for full timetable details contact Truronian on 01872 273453 or First on 0870 6082608.
Tel. 0 1726 811 911
Open: check website for full details as varies depending on days and months of the year
Visitor centre, café, snack bar, restaurant (all offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options and don’t knowingly include GM ingredients); plant sales; gift shop with many garden and plant related items that are environmentally friendly and fairly-traded, organic foodstuffs, recycled crafts, books, plants, postcards, souvenirs, and mementos.
Website: Eden Project
Photos of waterfall, Malaysian house, and African house courtesy Calverton Cam