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Garden director Professor Charles Stirton
BBC Wales's Rhidian Thomas
"It's taken ten years of planning, 44m of investment and years of hard graft."
 real 28k

Garden director Professor Charles Stirton
"It's a significant cultural day for Wales"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 24 May, 2000, 19:39 GMT 20:39 UK
Thousands pour in to National Botanic Garden
National Botanic Gardens of Wales
The Great Glasshouse forms the centrepiece
Thousands have been visiting the 44m National Botanic Garden of Wales as it officially opened to the public.

The project at Middleton Hall, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire, has taken three years to complete and features a specialist plant research centre.

The centrepiece of the gardens - the first of their kind in Britain for 200 years - is the Great Glasshouse, designed by Sir Norman Foster.

Crowds visiting the gardens
Crowds flocked in on the first day
It is the largest single span glasshouse in the world and houses a perfectly balanced Mediterranean landscape with a ravine, rock terrace, waterfalls and even a lake.

The gardens also feature a 220-metre herbaceous broadwalk, which take visitors from the gatehouse along deep flower borders and through a geological timewalk through Wales.

The Great Glasshouse is complemented by restored Regency-period buildings and historic parkland.

Another key attraction devised in the 10-year planning of the gardens is the interactive Simply Plants exhibition.

It allows visitors to take a journey into a world of roots and seeds and flowers, with features on gardens through the ages and legends about herbal healers.

The redevelopment of an 18th century courtyard has created a visitor centre with cafes, exhibition space, shops and cafes.

The gardens also serve a serious purpose in the promotion of sustainable development.

Battle against the elements

New and old technologies have been employed to serve the gardens energy needs, capturing and storing water and recycling garden waste.

Welsh utility company Hyder has created a water discovery centre on the site, built on stilts over a lake and is aimed at explaining water life to children.

Ivor Stokes, head of horticulture, said the gardeners had been busy battling against the elements to complete the final touches to the gardens.

"At the end of the day, the rain will save us having to water the plants in," said Mr Stokes.

"We have top mulched areas so it is not sticky and not churning up underfoot."

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