I don't know how much was perfect planning, and how much was serendipity,
but the combination that has been put together at a shopping centre
in Swansea, in South Wales, appears to be the answer to a marketing
At one side of a covered mall, the end structure is a dramatic
angular conservatory. Adjacent to it is a Toys-R-Us,
and close by a Mothercare, with the rest of the mall
made up of the usual mix of stores.
is so perfect is that the conservatory is skillfully and attractively
laid out, on two main levels connected by a curving path, to
portray various plant habitats, with a rich palette of plant
material grouped to demonstrate the differences between them.
There is a climate
control system that really works - no doubt at all which is the
steamy jungle, and which the arid desert. Everything is labelled,
and there is a simple guide to the important plants. Associated
with the plantings are a number of rooms with a set of exhibits
aimed at the same young audience likely to be visiting the family-oriented
shops. Hands-on classes are held
not forgotten, with several glass cases housing the weird and the
wonderful, and most striking of all, a large part of the interior
of the conservatory caged off to support a breeding colony of cotton
top tamarins, whose antics were delighting the children watching
from a path at treetop height. It is obviously a very popular spot
for mothers with their children and for school groups, to judge
from the stream of visitors there while I was visiting.
The staff are
accomplished crowd-pleasers in explaining their success with the
monkeys, and I was extremely impressed by the standard of plant
maintenance, by the diversity of the collection and by the knowledge
of the gardeners.
So who is to
be thanked for putting the young-family stores and the enormously
appealing conservatory together to the obvious benefit of both?
The shopping area was developed by Prudential Insurance, and the
conservatory and all the teaching areas are maintained by Swansea
Museum Service of the City of Swansea. Whoever had the great idea
of citing the conservatory where it is deserves congratulations.
South Wales would find a morning at Plantasia, as it is known, a
very worthwhile experience, and one that I know that I will repeat.
Agave mediopicta and Agave attenuata
in the desert area of the conservatory
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