Winter just doesn’t seem to want to go away this year. It seems that every time we get a peek of blue skies and a hopeful promise of spring, winter comes blustering back in like an unwelcome house guest, traipsing snow all over your carpet. It’s no wonder many of us are craving a tropical getaway! Unfortunately, jetting off to the Caribbean at a moment’s notice isn’t on the cards for most of us. So why not do the next best thing; treat yourself a mini safari and spend an afternoon somewhere warm, tropical and beautiful. There’s no better way to fend off a chill than to find a little piece of endless summer close to home. The UK boasts many stunning glasshouses, winter gardens and botanical wonders to explore. Browse through our list to learn about some of our favourites, and grab a few tips for photographing them while you’re there.
The Barbican Conservatory
The Barbican Centre is a huge arts centre in London, known for its theatre performances, art exhibitions and music concerts. But it’s also home to The Barbican Conservatory, one of the most surprising and unique places in the capital.
The Barbican Conservatory is a bit of a hidden gem; located on top of the theatre’s fly tower, and only open on selected Sunday afternoons, it’s London’s secret garden. In here, Brutalist architecture is overrun with tropical plants. Vines creep over concrete and palms brush the glass ceiling, while fronds and foliage burst over its grey balconies and iron railings. The plants sprawl over the sharp edges of architecture like they’re taking it over, giving the place a dramatic effect that looks more like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie than a conventional conservatory.
If you’re a shutterbug, you won’t be able to resist capturing a shot or two. The location is ideal for a nice wide landscape style shot, maximise your depth of field with a small aperture setting to keep as much of the detail in focus as possible. Do keep in mind that a smaller aperture means that less light is hitting your image sensor, so make use of the glass ceiling and walls to ensure you’re getting enough light. If it’s a cloudy day, you can compensate by lengthening your shutter speed or increasing your ISO.
Sheffield Winter Gardens
Located in the heart of one of England’s biggest cities, the Sheffield Winter Garden is a welcome oasis of warmth and greenery. Inside you’ll find more than 2,500 plants from all around the world, which are all carefully cultivated and individually watered to ensure they stay healthy.
Architecturally, the building is fascinating; its high arched ceiling soars high, made from sustainably sourced Larch wood, which complements the organic nature of the plants it houses. It’s completely free to visit, and open every day of the year except Christmas. The perfect mini escape for whenever you feel the need to flee from the grey winter chill.
The airy nature of the building lets in lots of light even on the cloudiest day, making this an excellent location to photograph. Make the most of the lush greens and bright pops of colourful flowers with an Acrylic Print. With the photo printed directly behind acrylic glass, more light is allowed to pass through, making the colours appear brighter and sharper.
Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly Farm
A little pocket of the tropics, right in the middle of Warwickshire. These greenhouses are home to hundreds of exotic butterflies, who fly freely throughout the enclosure.
The butterfly farm is as warm and humid as a rainforest, to ensure its residents are kept comfortable all year round. Inside you’ll find exhibits featuring other insects and arachnids, as well as the Caterpillar Room where you can view caterpillars and cocoons. But the star attraction is undoubtedly the flight area; a large walk-through glasshouse with a huge selection of gorgeous tropical plants that have been specifically chosen for the benefit of the resident butterflies. There’s over 250 different species, and approximately 1,500 free-flying butterflies. They’re even known to land on visitors, so keep your camera ready at all times!
This is a rare opportunity to get really close to some exotic butterflies, so don’t leave home without your macro lens. Butterflies in flight are very difficult to photograph, so keep an eye out for the farm’s feeding stations and nectar pods, as well as brightly-coloured Lantana plants. Butterflies will frequently land here to feed, giving you the perfect opportunity to capture some snaps.
National Botanical Garden of Wales
Set in the stunning Carmarthenshire countryside, from a distance the largest single-span glasshouse in the world looks almost like an enormous dewdrop on the hills. You’ll find The National Botanical Garden of Wales is much quieter at this time of year, yet it offers as much to do on rainy days as it does in the summer.
Inside, you’ll find appropriately world-class botanical gardens. Featuring thousands of plants from six different regions that all require a Mediterranean climate to flourish. Many of the flora are endangered, so this is a rare opportunity to capture plants that you won’t find anywhere else.
The Great Glasshouse has been specifically designed to provide a range of habitats that mimics the plants’ natural environment. You’ll find gravelled slopes, rocky terraces and impressive water features, to provide a range of terrain, moisture levels and varying levels of light and shade. So there’s a lot going on! You’ll no doubt find plenty of subjects to capture, but it can be challenging to make sure the shot you take isn’t too busy. To help, use your rear LCD facility to ensure that each shot you take is just right before you move on. Pay special attention to the corners to make sure there is no unwanted clutter. And don’t forget to bring a spare battery! Reviewing your shots with the LCD panel will drain your power much more quickly, but it’s worth it to walk away with a photo book of pictures you’re really proud of.
The Eden Project
The Eden Project is an enormous attraction in Cornwall, that’s all about the environment and education. Located in a huge reclaimed china clay pit, the complex includes two massive Biomes that house a huge array of stunning plants and exhibitions.
The larger of the Biomes houses the world’s largest indoor rainforest, while the second simulates a Mediterranean environment. Definitely a welcome climate for those of us who are tired of being chilly! Here you’ll find over 5,000 varieties of plant, from towering rainforest trees to exotic Hottentot Sugarbush. You’re guaranteed to see something new.
There’s so many tropical plants here that you won’t find anywhere else in the UK, so it’s a great opportunity to capture some unique photographs. If you’re not afraid of heights, you must try the Rainforest Canopy Walkway. Enjoy a walk through the treetops, and you’ll be treated to some impressive views across the Rainforest Biome. This is a great opportunity to grab an exciting panoramic shot. If your camera doesn’t have a panoramic setting, you can still create a stunning panoramic image by taking multiple images and joining them together in an editing program later. Just be sure to give lots of space for each shot to overlap so you don’t miss any detail, and try to keep your camera as level as possible.
Glasgow Botanic Gardens
You’ll find these botanical gardens in the West End of Glasgow, and they’re filled with all manner of both local and exotic flowers to enjoy.
One of the most notable structures is the historic Kibble Palace. A 19th century wrought iron framed glasshouse with an impressive collection of tree ferns, some of which have lived there for over 120 years. With its ornate columns and intricate ironwork detailing, as well as several antique statues and sculptures, it’s a wonderful fusion of art, history and botany.
The classical style of these Victorian-era winter gardens is an unmissable opportunity to capture some of the beauty that has delighted people for generations. The combination of white sculpture and ironwork against the lush greenery of the ferns will inspire any shutterbug to reach for their camera. If you capture an image you’re really pleased with, you can bring some of that timeless beauty into your home and enjoy it for years to come with one of our UV resistant Canvas Prints.
We hope our list has inspired you to get out and find something beautiful to photograph while we all wait for the warmer weather to arrive. We can’t wait to see what you capture!