Ness Botanic Gardens (University of Liverpool)

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United Kingdom - Cheshire - Neston

Institution Code: LIVU

International Agenda Registration: No

BGCI Member: Yes

About the Ness Botanic Gardens (University of Liverpool)

Ness Botanic Gardens was born of one man's passionate interest in plants and his desire to share that interest with others.

When the Liverpool cotton merchant Arthur Kilpin Bulley began to create a garden in 1898, he laid the foundations of one of the major botanic gardens in the United Kingdom.

Expeditions to the Far East

Bulley was interested in introducing new plant species from abroad. As he believed that Himalayan and Chinese mountain plants could be established in Britain, he sponsored expeditions to the Far East employing the renowned British plant collectors George Forrest and Frank Kingdon Ward to prove his theory.

In this way Bulley was responsible for introducing hundreds of new plants to Britain. Two species introduced by Forrest, Rhododendron griersonianum and Camelia saluenensis, have both been used in hybridisation programmes resulting in many hybrids common in Britain today.

The beautiful blue Gentiana sino-ornata, in flower at Ness in the autumn, is another of his introductions, and the Pieris formosa 'Forrestii', which can be seen in all its glory on the Specimen Lawn in spring, was actually grown from seed collected by Forrest in China. Part of the Bulley's garden was devoted to the propagation of these plants, and it was here that many of the seeds from the Far East were first cultivated and where his plant and seed company, Bees Ltd, had its beginnings.

Presented to The University of Liverpool

After his death, Bulley's daughter Lois presented the Gardens to the University of Liverpool in 1948 with an endowment of £75,000. There is a stipulation that they be kept as a botanic gardens as a practical and fitting tribute to the memory of her father. Bulley's policy of opening a specified area of ornamental ground to the public was also to be continued.

These were not, however, the pre-war gardens which had, at times, maintained a staff of 48. In the war years only the elderly Josiah Hope and his assistant, Bill Cottrell were left to care for the Gardens and, when the University inherited them, the Gardens were in sore need of attention.

When Ken Hulme was appointed as Director in 1957, it presented him with both a challenge and an opportunity. Bulley who was interested in rare plants and massed flower displays but not, garden design had compartmentalised the Gardens, separating one area from another with Hawthorn hedges netted against rabbits. Ken Hulme envisaged a more naturalistic setting for the plants and spent the next three decades achieving his dream.

During this period the size of the ornamental gardens increased from 2.4 to 25 hectares (six to 64 acres) and superb collections of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, Cherries and Heathers were established.

To the present

Today, the commitment to maintain and develop the beauty of the Gardens remains, but there is an increasing emphasis on research, conservation and education of the public - areas reflecting Bulley's original interests.

In addition, there has been an increased emphasis on educating schoolchildren.

On a larger scale, the Horsfall Rushby Visitor Centre opened in 2006, featuring a central courtyard area with reception, indoor cafe with outside seating area, shop, lecture theatre, conservatory and exhibition space.

Main Address:
Ness Botanic Gardens (University of Liverpool)
Cheshire CH64 4AY United Kingdom

Telephone: 0151 795 6300
Primary Email:

Staff Details

  • Director's Name: Matthew Clough
    Curator's Name: Nick Lightfoot
    Plant Records Officer's Name: Tim Baxter
  • Total Staff:
    Horticultural Staff Number: 7
    Educational Staff Number: 3
    Research Staff Number: 1
    Administration Staff Number: 8

About the Garden

  • Institution Type: Botanic Garden
  • Status
  • Status: Educational: Yes
  • Date founded: 1898
  • Physical Data
  • Total Area: 26 Hectares
    Latitude: 53.2734
    Longitude: -3.04252
    Annual Rainfall: 726 mm
    Altitude: 42.00 Metres
    Total area of glasshouses: 270 Metres

Features and Facilities

  • Herbarium: Yes
    Arboretum: Yes
    Arboretum Size: 10
  • Micropropagation/ Tissue Culture Facilities: No
    Seed Bank: No
    Computer Plant Record System: Yes
  • Open to public: Yes
    Friends society: Yes
    Retail Outlet: Shop: Yes
    Retail Outlet: Plant Sales: Yes
    Disabled access: Yes
  • Number of Visitors: 70000
    Number of Volunteers: 160

Plant Collections

  • Accession Number: 8000
  • Special Collections:Extensive collections of Sorbus, Betula, Alnus, Rhododendron, Camellia, Conifers and Spiraea.

    Sorbus spp. especially wild collected material and numerous living type specimens (e.g. Sorbus kongboensis, S. fansipanensis, S. carmesina etc)
    Betula spp., from throughout geographic range except tropics. Many rarities (e.g. B. murrayana, B. chichibuensis, B. globispica etc.) and living type specimens (B. ashburneri, B. bomiensis)
    Ilex limii – unique in cultivation

    Special collections include:
    Conifers, ICCP – 10 Genera, 14 Species, 14 Taxa, 24 Accessions, 30 Plants
    Alnus,Univ – 32 Species, 33 Taxa, 50 Accessions, 150 Plants.
    Betula, Univ. – 44 Species, 50 Taxa, 208 Accessions, 400 Plants.
    Cotoneaster, Univ. – 70 Species, 80 Taxa, 100 Accessions, 300 Plants.
    Sorbus Univ. – 60 Species, ??? Taxa (many unique and unnamed microspecies), 300 Accessions, 450 Plants.
    Spiraea, Univ. – 30 species, 25 taxa, 80 accessions, 200 plants
  • Invasive Species Monitoring: Yes
    Invasive Species Policy: Yes
    Plant Collection Policy: No

Conservation Programmes

  • Conservation Programme: No
    Medicinal Plant Programme: No
    Ex Situ Conservation Programme: No
    Reintroduction Programme: No

Research Programmes

  • Conservation - Genetics: Yes
    Ecology: Yes
    Education: Yes
    Horticulture: Yes
    Molecular Genetics: Yes
    Systematics and Taxonomy: Yes

Education Programmes

  • Visitor/Education Centre: Yes
    Education Signs in Garden: Yes
    Public Lectures/Talks: Yes
    Education Booklets/Leaflets: Yes
    Guided Tours: Yes
    Permanent Public Displays: Yes
    Special Exhibitions: Yes
    Courses for School Children: Yes
    Courses for University/College Students: Yes
    Courses for General Public: Yes
    Education Programme: Yes