Ventnor Botanic Garden: Refurbishment of terrace ‘a complete embarrassment’

A lifelong fan of the Ventnor Botanic Garden is less than pleased with the latest refurbishment to the lower terrace, calling it ‘a complete embarrassment’.

Ventnor Botanic Garden

An OnTheWight reader who is passionate about the Ventnor Botanic Garden, has been in touch regarding changes recently made at the lower terrace where the large pond is situated.

They told us,

“With an RHS designer/plantsman visiting VBG this week, it is a complete embarrassment that the lower terrace which was in need of refurbishment has been subject to a complete garden design disaster.

The attention to detail is nil, the lack of mature tree specimens indicative to the Mediterranean is lacking, the grass which offers places to sit with your dog and children has been removed. There is no hard landscaping or paving, the sparse crushed cotswold stone looks dreadful and needs breaking up.

There is no shade, which is what this area has always needed and the pond looks lost and completely out of place now. I would be very interested to find out who is accountable for this and what other people’s thoughts are about this subject.”

Completion of first phase only
Having not seen it ourselves, we got in touch with Chris Kidd, Curator at Ventnor Botanic Garden to find out more about the refurbishment.

He told OnTheWight,

“This new garden is part of the progression westwards and eastwards of our Mediterranean Terrace, in which we show plants growing in association with each other as they would in the wild.

This expansion has a phased programme of planting beginning with the large tree layer, now complete, as can be seen in the Olive Grove planted with fruiting cultivars.

The next phase will be the planting of the shrub layer, followed by the transitional flora sub-layer. On completion we anticipate our guests enjoying al fresco dining immersed within an authentic Mediterranean flora.

These developments resulted from our monthly Design Walks and collaboration with the VBG Friends Society.”

More photos of the changes can be found on the Friends of the Ventnor Botanic Garden Website.

Image: © Friends of the Ventnor Botanic Garden

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Monday, 25th March, 2013 1:47pm



Filed under: Letter to the Editor, Top story, Ventnor

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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. some people need to get out more if this is all they got to complain about

  2. fingermouse

    25.Mar.2013 2:04pm

    but its not finished yet! bit harsh to criticise a work in progress, at least wait til its done to pass judgement

    • Is there any public information/signage in this area setting out the development plans & time scale for the plans.

      If not then one can understand the assumption that this area is complete.

  3. Andrea Richter

    25.Mar.2013 3:59pm

    There is nothing on the Friends site to say this area in particular is still a work in progress. I haven’t seen any designs, drawings or plans, probably only privy to a select few!! It is obvious from the un-planted beds that there is still work to be done, but the hard landscaping when designing a garden area should be the first thing to be finished and that does indeed look like an eyesore. The only place for crushed cotswold stone in my opinion, and I design gardens, is on pathways and more utilitarian areas like car parks, not feature garden areas like this. This sort of area, if it is supposed to be indicative of the Mediterranean should have more artisan paving, cobbles, pebbles, box hedges around the trees to highlight areas and make them into features, add height and shade to the area with a pergola.
    The continuing work Chris has spoken about is in other parts of the garden adjacent to this, not this area in particular. I have just read the article on the Friends website and it does lead you to believe this area is complete.

  4. walrus and the eggman

    25.Mar.2013 7:40pm

    I remember the previous layout from when I was a child, 30 years ago, and it looked old and dated then. Its about time this work was done. You only need to look at the photos to see it is incomplete, and only have to read the start date of 6th March to realise that work is ongoing.
    It may not be to everyones taste. but I quite like it so far, and given some time to be finished and for plants to mature, it will probably look fantastic.
    Was I the only one to spot this by the way:

    “the lack of mature tree specimens indicative to the Mediterranean is lacking”

    urm… if there is a lack of mature trees, then clearly they are lacking…

    • Andrea Richter

      25.Mar.2013 8:47pm

      With respect, the tables and chairs are all laid out and it gives the impression it is a picture of the finished project. You can’t expect people to assume, because the start date is the 6th March, that it is incomplete without pointing this out, it has been ‘dressed’ for the photo.

      • walrus and the eggman

        25.Mar.2013 8:55pm

        It certainly gives no such impression. Just look at the photo. Look at the absence of bedding plants and shrubs. Look at the absence of edging to the beds. It is clearly an unfinished project. So what if there are tables and chairs in place? Perhaps its simply easier to bring in the tables whilst there is space to drive a lorry in over the beds. Perhaps the owners want tables in place for customers now the heavy work is done and the lighter work of planting shrubs is still to be done.
        It is clear from the photos and the start date that this is an ongoing project. Just look at them. If you think thats finished then I hate to think what state your own garden is in.

        • Andrea richter

          26.Mar.2013 7:34am

          The original letter was concerned about the ‘heavy work’ lack of mature trees and details, and my comment did point out the fact the planting of borders needed to be done, but my concern is the hard landscaping or lack of it. There is no information about the ongoing plan for this feature area anywhere on vbg or the friends site, so I’m afraid unless you actually know, then you can only assume………
          There is no need to get personal about my garden.

          • Well said. Mud-flinging (how appropriate) is a sign of desperation in the fsce of ressonable points being made & having difficulty responding on the same terms.

          • …’face’ & ‘reasonable’ (where are my glasses?)

          • walrus and the eggman

            26.Mar.2013 7:40pm

            Im not entirely sure what is at all unreasonable about saying that I disagree with your assertation that the photos give the impression of a finished project. They most certainly do not give that impression, as anyone can see. So far, I think it looks quite nice, and you disagree, but Im certain we can both agree that this is certainly not a finished project. If you think the photos show a finished project as you suggest, then I feel it only appropriate to question your outlook, and I dont think its at all personal to suggest that if your garden was in a similar state to the photos, then you would not think it finished.
            I dont need to have designed gardens or anything like that to see the unfinished state of the garden in the photo, and I am astounded that you can suggest it is a finished project. You dont need any information about ongoing work to see that there is still work to be done.

          • Andrea Richter

            26.Mar.2013 9:08pm

            I am talking about the HARD LANDSCAPING, that is structural, not planting or ‘bedding’
            The HARD LANDSCAPING, ie the crushed cotswold stone is FINISHED.
            I quote from the Friends website
            ‘By the end of the second week all of the new surface has been laid’
            The design is in the detail, and tbh, I struggling to see any.

          • walrus and the eggman

            26.Mar.2013 9:39pm

            Let me quote from your own comment:
            “With respect, the tables and chairs are all laid out and it gives the impression it is a picture of the finished project.”

            Not finished hard landscaping. A finished project.
            You say the design is in the detail. It is clear the detail is not yet complete, and the project is in no way finished. Why do you seem to need the friends website to tell you what is self evident from looking at the photos?

          • Andrea, imo W&E is in this only for attention-seeking & winding-up purposes, & so there is nothing to be gained by responding to him.

            May I wish you some respondents who know VBG well & are able to debate constructively your interesting & totally relevant points.

          • walrus and the eggman

            27.Mar.2013 7:25am

            on the contrary. I think VBG is an important place for the entire island. I have no wish to wind up anyone, but I wont have someone telling me that they are talking about only one aspect of a project when they have clearly stated that the photos look like a finished project, and I certainly wont just agree with the majority blindly, but would rather give my own opinion. Its far too easy on here to say what people want to hear, often in a quite offensive way, and then to pass it off as humour. I would rather just say what I think, bluntly if needs be, and ignore trolls like tryme who jump into the middle of things and try to rock the boat. It makes me laugh, but not for the reasons tryme intends. I laugh at him, not with him. Anyhow, now thats said, Im off back to the real world, where I have actually seen the garden in question and have a constructive opinion on it… how interesting that tryme seems to assume I havnt. Could it be because he thinks his is the only opinion that matters?

          • I rest my case.

          • From my observations of the patterns of ‘certain’ commenters, this is good advice from Tryme.

  5. If I’d sent a single letter to On The Wight stating how I thought the refurbishment was a complete delight, would that have been published as the headline instead? It should be made clearer that this is just an opinion. After all, how can you judge public opinion from a single letter?

    • Sally Perry

      25.Mar.2013 8:24pm

      It’s seems very obvious that the comments in the quotes are the opinion of the reader. Not sure how I could possibly make it clearer.

      And yes, if you sent a Letter to the Editor praising the work at the Garden, we would have run it, with an appropriate headline.

      • Really? I’m not a fan of the design. At the auction at Niton school which raised a stunning 10k for the Lottie Rann trust I did chuckle in irony at cllr dave Stewart auctioning off 4 tickets to vbg when his mates had flogged the lot for sweet fa.

      • It seems a little unfair that the usual “Letter:…” is missing from the headline, given that it seems to have been used in 99% of the stories in the Letter to the Editor category. It might lead one to assume that this individual’s view is shared by On The Wight Sally! ;-)

        • Sally Perry

          25.Mar.2013 11:32pm

          Had it been just the opinion of the reader that we published then it would have been titled Letter to the Editor, but as you can see from the article above, we decided to seek a response from the curator to include.

          As I state in the article, we have not seen the works ourselves, so I do not have any opinion as to whether the refurbishment is an improvement or not.

          • It’s clear from first reading that the article is a fair one.

            I like the way the grey backgrounds are used for the 2 different quotes.

  6. Rhys Smith

    26.Mar.2013 8:04am

    As a fellow journalist and one which avidly reads Ventnor Blog/On The Wight as much as possible I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the articles featuring the Botanic Garden at Ventnor. It is clear for all to see that the community interest company that have brought this Phoenix from its ashes is keen to improve the infrastructure to support its Botany. This should be applauded by all around, yet we find a very local news outlet continually vilifying this inveterate island treasure.

    Say what you like about it being a letter, just go back and read all of the other articles published within the last 8 months, all of the headlines shout “We will ruin the Ventnor Botanic Garden” I see it almost every day in the press with tabloid newspapers but I would have thought that something supposedly held so dear by so many local folk would be supported to the hilt especially when the only other alternative to the CIC was closing!

    Let us all embrace what the Island has to offer, I know I enjoy everything there is, especially the stunning scenery and the amazing work happening at places like the Botanic Garden.

    In reply to Tryme, in my experience very few articles in Journalism are fair, there is generally an underlying point that is waiting to reveal its ugly head. In this case it is the headline, right at a point where the season is about to come alive for the IOW. Call me cynical but to me this whole article was planned to cause friction.

    Come on “onthewight” get your act together and support what this Island has to offer. Good news can sell newspapers, it is a common misconception that it cannot.

  7. Andrea Richter

    26.Mar.2013 8:42am

    Totally agree with Rhys Smith about celebrating the IW and all it has to offer.
    John Curtis has certainly been a ‘Wight Knight’ insofar as VBG is concerned.
    The area the article is concerned with is an iconic view of VBG, seen in magazines and advertising. The idea of creating a Mediterranean, alfresco area is great, they could have created something really beautiful down there. The pond was the central area,an iconic feature, now it is lost in a sea of yellow dusty aggregate.
    I love the Botanic Gardens, I too have spent 30 years since being a child there, but I am reading the article as a garden designer, who may I add, has offered her services for free to VBG!!
    People are paying to walk through the doors now and whilst the garden is focused on the Botanical uses for plants, the aesthetics still need to be considered to get heads through the door and make them want to recommend it to others.

    • Let’s hope you’re right for the sake of the Island, but it’s far too early to declare at this stage. As John himself says, time is needed to see what develops from the changes that are being made.

      Let’s judge his candidature of a Wight Knight-hood in a few years. To attempt to do so now is simply hollow.

  8. How much is it to visit VBG now? I haven’t been since they started charging an admission fee (I used to visit twice a month previous) but I think it’s time to pay it a visit this spring with my family.

    I think the refurbishment looks fine – these sorts of things need their surroundings to grow into.

  9. peaceful_life

    26.Mar.2013 10:52am

    This has to be set in the background of realtime societal events.

    OTW appear to be critical of what’s going on at VBG, not the place or the utility of pleasure gained from it.

    We’re in a time where the only growing industry in many places (including the island) are foodbanks, the global.. and uk…financial structure is in meltdown, energy shortage alerts, the slow erosion of the NHS, weather is in total flux, serious coastal problems, expense and service of ferries, educational facilities under fire, farmers land under water, services being cut, taxes and goods rising, wages and standards lowering etc etc etc…… and nothing being put on the table to stabilize the situation as the chasm of disparity widens.

    Probably then…….not the best time to be exercising minature privatisation schemes cloaked in CIC or not, this was/is a public asset best left in the hands of the public, there’s money enough (look at the numbers involved) for the QE of a bonus for failure culture, but none for benign social pleasure.

    Either a sharp business acumen has been blunted with no foresight of economic events, or…..the hope is that the affluent bourgeois shall underpin this terraced exrtavaganza as our countrymen/women dig out their livestock from the snow………in spring, the island isn’t a private playground…….yet.

    Perhaps if we had some decent journalism that was given the light of day we might not be in the situation we’re all in due to the vacum of vapidity and denial.


    • Sally Perry

      26.Mar.2013 12:27pm

      @Peaceful life – please point us to an example of where OnTheWight has been “critical of what’s going on at VBG”.

      I think you’ll find it impossible, because we haven’t expressed any criticism of “what’s going on at VBG”.

      • peaceful_life

        26.Mar.2013 1:10pm

        It’s a craft to hide things in plain view.

        • Let me translate that for you Sally. They are saying – No, sorry, I can’t!

          • peaceful_life

            26.Mar.2013 2:33pm

            Try the ‘leading’ headline alone.

            FWIW, I’m not against criticism, in fact…it’s healthy, blatant…or couched.

          • Actually I think the article is unbiased, interesting and is quite clear that the main content is from a letter received by OTW. I do not find the headline nasty in any way, shape or form. I would like to congratulate OTW, particularly Sally and Simon for being honest, unbiased and fair in all their reporting.
            Those that are trying to undermine a good article are the one’s that should be questioning their motives.
            Thanks Sally and Simon for a good website, good journalism and may you continue for many years to come. Sam

    • Andrea Richter

      26.Mar.2013 7:14pm

      peaceful_life – sorry, could I ask you what you actually think of the design and leave the ranting to another forum??

      • peaceful_life

        26.Mar.2013 9:11pm

        Hi Andrea, missed this one.

        I thought it was perfectly clear what I think about the whole shenanigans, let alone the design.

        Ranting?….ok let’s look at this with reality goggles on. The economy is in decline as is the energy that runs said economy, result…. loss of jobs/wages/economic activity that’s also faced with rising costs of everything else, and this trend is set to continue thus far.

        VBG is now geared to make money, this makes it exclusive at a time when it’s very ethos should be inclusive to ALL.
        The design looks over structured and synthetic, certainly not a symbiotic flowing woodland garden of permaculture design, although… the wording of ‘layers’ does pay some lip service.
        I’m biased there though….as I feel VBG should be a permaculture teaching facility that produces.

        No, what I see is money wasted… at the wrong time….by the wrong people….in an attempt to gain more money from the ever dwindling few that have it, and that…is a bad design IMHO.

        I’ll not mention the weather, no rant, hope that answers your question.


  10. wightywight

    26.Mar.2013 12:03pm

    …..meantime, in real societal event time… the way our democracy works is that we elect Councillors at *local level* to administer, manage and run the Local Authority for the residents of said LA.
    That task is controlled in no small way by Central Government, both politically and financially, and it is impacted by even wider implications from Europe and the World.
    The ‘global’ financial crisis is underpinning much of the disturbing events that are occuring and pushing down into local authorities and out into the community.
    No-one with any rational thought can want what we have at the moment and the ideologies and arguments about who brought us *here* on this journey are of little consequence since we have already arrived. Very definitely arrived.
    Massive conundrums such as you pose, including factors outside of the Islands ‘immediate’ control are worthy of note, they are indicators, perhaps, of the failure of past strategies but for many of them…there is absolutely nothing the Island administration can do in the short term and, most likely, in the long term either.
    I prefer to see an approach that takes into account those things which we, as Islanders, CAN affect, administer and manage at a local level.
    Like you, (?) I am at odds with the whole concept of the notion that selling off Council (read community…) owned property in a once in a lifetime fire sale is a sustainable solution to local problems and administrative tasks as the problems are being pushed further back for future residents and future administrations to deal with.

    Any new administration will be faced with great difficulties but there are other ways of setting up the whole approach to management of the local economy which are contradictory to the present ruling group approach and which might prevent further sell offs of property.
    VBG is an open sore for the Island population in general and in particular for the residents of Ventnor who have seen the Gardens lost to the Public and given over to a private owner. Given (plus financial support for the first year is another irritant) is the underlying problem together with the loss.
    My thoughts are that many people would like the current arrangement to fail, the CIC to become bankrupt and the gardens to be taken back into local authority ownership.. and therefore are critical of any attempts at making the venture under its’ current ownership and circumstance to be viable.
    The underlying aggravation derives from the need of the CIC to raise income by charging for access to the gardens where once it was *free* access (free in a loose term, there are broader considerations of financial consideration in reality)at a personal level. It also is part of a wider approach by this administration of selling off property to maintain it’s political aspirations by rewarding itself with capital income. People are very sensitive to this and aware of the policy. VBG is part of that policy.
    In my view, this has less to do with “journalism” and more to do with Political intent which we trust may be coming to an end in May this year. Clearly, if we do not change this administration and hence a different approach to local administration we shall witness more ‘VBG’s’ and more public disquiet.
    I happen to think there are very good reasons also to discuss the wider issues you mention…just that this medium is actually quite precious to the Island and worthy of concentrating on those Island issues that we can affect and change……not the weather! ;0)


    • Andrea Richter

      26.Mar.2013 12:24pm

      Guys, can we stick to the topic!!!

    • peaceful_life

      26.Mar.2013 1:34pm


      And here in lays the paradox, if we relocalise at local level then we do indeed influence global events including the weather, it is then fair to say that local media outlets should be acting as a conduit to facilitate shuch changes.

      Energy and climate have a direct affect on economies in all localities, and that filters down to who….and who cannot afford to visit a charged botanical gardens, nothing is independent and to ignore such things renders any attempt at democracy useless.

      I see no parochialism with OTW when covering issues in Israel, which I enjoy reading btw.



  11. wightywight

    26.Mar.2013 12:26pm

  12. Find out who has paid for all the changes… it might be interesting! :-))

    • How would someone go about doing that now the gardens are no longer run by a public body (ie, foi requests not relevant)?

      • Here are some of the potential sources- the CIC itself, some of the £200,000 donated in the first year by IWC and the reserves of the Friends. The role of journalists is to ask questions. :-))

    • Andrea Richter

      26.Mar.2013 7:21pm

      ‘The CIC approached the Friends with a request for them to make a contribution to the cost of landscaping of the area. At the Executive Committee meeting on 20 February 2013 it was agreed that a grant of £10,000 would be made to the CIC as the Society’s contribution to the scheme. The total budget cost of the proposals is £15,000. The proposal was to remove all of the grass and concrete paths from the area and replace them with a crushed Cotswold stone surface similar to the area outside the main entrance.’

      Taken directly from the Friends website, they get donations and membership contributions for their charity.

  13. peaceful_life

    26.Mar.2013 5:51pm

    ‘As a fellow journalist and one which avidly reads Ventnor Blog/On The Wight as much as possible I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the articles featuring the Botanic Garden at Ventnor’

    ‘OTW *APPEAR* to be critical of what’s going on at VBG, NOT the place or the utility of pleasure gained from it’

    I was in fact….defending OTW, there was no mention of the word ‘nasty’ so let’s stick to the script, things have got convoluted enough as is.

    I threw in the context of the economic breakdown of our community that sits in stark contrast with the business model of VBG at present, also how the lack of journalistic joined up thinking connecting this square peg and round hole was levelled at Rhys too, perhaps I wasn’t clear enough with this, and….the subjects I mention are upsetting, but they are what they are.

    Of course OTW have ethics of impartiality to uphold, but contributors don’t, in hindsight….maybe I could of dealt with the ‘critical’ quip more…tactfully… shall we say.
    My concern is with VBG not OTW, I hope I’ve made that clear.


  14. OTW receive a rational letter about something happening at VBG, and – gasp! – they put it as a topic, quoting a few words in the headline to give a bit of a flavour of it.

    They contact VBG for a reaction, & put it in the article too – shock horror!

    That much I understand. What happens next I don’t; apparently we then had to choose between VBG & a holiday camp.

    The tone from one poster seems irrelevantly intimidatory: we seem to know now that any criticism of VBG will be met with disproportionate attack, (possibly with no sanction at all from the owner of the gardens).

    I would be interested whether the paper where the poster purports to work has all-bland, neutral headlines: but is then accused of “hiding things in plain view”: you can’t win!

    The owners of OTW can publish exactly as they like on their site within the laws of the land, but we are lucky that they are in fact so consistently fair. Their standards are very high. As the BBC says, there don’t have to be both sides in the same article, fairness can be demonstrated over the whole output.

    But in this case, OTW gave a platform for a view & included in the same article the response from VBG. What more could anyone wish for?

    The best response to these over-the-top accusations is to carry on raising/publishing issues about VBG regardless: don’t be cowed! And don’t be sidetracked away from the actual topic.

    • walrus and the eggman

      26.Mar.2013 7:59pm

      I agree with much of what you say, which surprises me as usually I find your comments to be invasive and condecsending. I think in this case, the coverage has been fair, although making it clearer in the headline that this is a letter and not the opinion of OTW would be an improvement, even though this is made clear in the article itself.

      What perhaps could have improved the article is if Simon and Sally had actually gone to the VBG and had a look at the work themselves. Perhaps then, rather than being accused of disguising their opinion in some way, or being biased, they could have instead simply added their own opinion to the story and avoided any accusations – even though I think such accusations are complete garbage.

      • You have tied youself in such knots in your last paragraph alone – people get accused of all sorts of things, & OTW should research every daft possibility before publishing? Even though you think the accusations “garbage”! What a lovely waste of time, when the sentiments of mine you say you agree with, cover all requirements.

        I suggest you start your own website & let us know how you get on!

        • walrus and the eggman

          26.Mar.2013 8:18pm

          what are you on about?

          Research every daft possibility? Im simply saying that perhaps in this case OTW should have seen for themselves and given their opinion with this letter.

          Not in every case. Not before publishing everything. Just in this case.

          Still, back to form tryme… arrogant enough to think yours is the only opinion which matters.

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