What do you think of when you imagine an English garden – bees buzzing around pretty flowers? Birds tweeting in leafy oak trees? Winding paths leading to thatched cottages? Well prepare yourself for something completely different in the heart of Cornwall, on the south-west tip of Britain…
The Eden Project is like no other garden on Earth, let alone in England! Built 15 years ago in a disused clay pit, Eden’s iconic Biome greenhouses contain the largest indoor rainforest in the world and are also surrounded by vast outdoor gardens. To celebrate 15 years of Eden, here are 15 surprises you’d never expect to find in an English country garden...
1. A rainforest canopy walkway
Inside the world’s biggest enclosed rainforest, the canopy walkway offers a treetop trail with breath-taking views across the Rainforest Biome. There are also plans to extend this even further in coming years, so visitors will be able to venture behind the waterfall, walk through mist and clouds, and journey across a wobbly bridge at the top of a rainforest.
2. A giant stinky flower
The titan arum is a perennial herb with the largest flowering structure in the world. The flower itself only opens for 48 hours and attracts insect pollinators with its stench of rotting flesh – it’s sometimes referred to as the corpse flower. If you’re lucky you might catch one of these rare blooms at Eden – they usually have one about once a year.
3. A 70-tonne seed, with a message from the Queen
The Seed sculpture weighs the same as around 10 elephants – it had to be lowered in by one of the largest cranes in the world. Buried underneath is a time capsule that includes a message from the Queen, who visited the Eden Project in 2006. Her message reads: “I am confident that the Eden Project will continue to encourage a better understanding of the planet on which we live, to offer a vision of hope for the future, and to inspire us all to work to make this world a better place for everyone.”
4. Famous musicians
Throughout June and July each year, Eden plays hosts to internationally acclaimed musicians. Elton John, Primal Scream and Muse are just a few of the acts that have performed in the past. For 2016 the line-up includes Lionel Richie and Tom Jones.
That’s right – chocolate quite literally grows on trees at the Eden Project! Native to South America, the cacao tree’s delicious beans are roasted and ground to form the basis of chocolate. These beans have been revered by humans throughout the centuries, even being used as currency by the Mayans and Aztecs.
In the summer months, prehistoric beasts are known to invade Eden. Great fun for the whole family, the annual event gives you the chance to get up close and personal with ferocious dinosaurs, as well as learn more about our scaly ancestors.
7. A Mediterranean dining experience
Enjoy Mediterranean-inspired food in the heart of the Mediterranean Biome at Eden. Surrounded by citrus trees, olive groves and colourful flower displays, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve relocated to Southern Europe for lunch.
Did you know bananas are a very large herb, which can grow up to 23ft (7m) tall? Each plant produces only one stem of bananas, comprising up to 200 bananas. Find a variety growing in Eden’s Rainforest Biome.
Adventuring around Eden is thirsty work. Why not stop off for a quenching drink at the Baobab Bar in the Rainforest Biome? You can have a vitamin-packed smoothie made with coconut milk, bananas and baobab, or treat yourself to baobab rum cocktail!
10. Flying people
Zoom over the top of the biomes on the longest zip-wire in England. Reaching speeds of 60mph, this isn’t for the faint-hearted, but brave adventure-seekers will be rewarded with stunning views of Eden and to the Cornish coastline beyond.
11. Carnivore plants!
Tropical pitcher plants (sometimes known as the monkey cup) are so used to growing in areas with low soil nutrients, that they’ve developed a really clever way of getting the sustenance they need – by eating flies and insects. Some of the bigger ones even eat birds! There are loads of them living in the Rainforest Biome.
12. A giant man made of rubbish
A 23ft (7m) high structure of a man towers over the Eden Project Outdoor Gardens. The WEEE Man is a 3.3-tonne structure which represents the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) the average British household throws away in a lifetime. Mobile phones, mp3 players, lawnmowers and the like make up his bones and sinews; his teeth are computer mice; his ears are satellite dishes; and his brain is built from computer parts.
13. A giant bee
So you’re likely to see a bee in an English garden, but not usually one this big. The giant bee in the Outdoor Gardens at Eden is placed there as a reminder of how important pollinating insects are to plants – and to us humans, since over a third of our food plants depend on pollinators to reproduce.
14. A Malaysian house
Deep in the Rainforest Biome, you'll find an authentic south-east Asian home and vegetable garden. Explore and you’ll see herbs and flowers, vegetables and fruit, including star fruit, yardlong beans and pak choi, all of which are used.
Stories told in the lovely surroundings of the Citrus Grove inside the Mediterranean Biome delight young and old alike. From local Cornish folk stories, to fables about rainforest plants all the way from the Amazon, the storytellers at Eden make every tale come to life.