IT HAS been owned by John Curtis for ten years now, but what are people saying about Ventnor Botanic Garden?

The spotlight has been shone on the former Isle of Wight Council run attraction after the fallout between the Friends charity who support the garden and the CIC running the garden was reported in the County Press yesterday.

A letter was also sent to the newspaper by the garden's former curator, the highly-respected gardener Simon Goodenough.

Both Simon and Valerie Pitts, chair of the Friends group, mentioned bad TripAdvisor reviews so the County Press has had a look to see what people are saying.

Scroll down to see the latest Tripadvisor comments

Simon told us: "I have tended to ignore bad Tripadvisor comments but having seen the “garden” with my own eyes to say I was shocked is an understatement.

"There is obviously little or no maintenance going on the place is overrun with weed species and what was a rich and diverse horticultural and botanical collection is completely run down."

Valerie Pitts, chair of VBGFS told members recently: "A recent article in Gardens Illustrated politely described the garden as ‘wild’ but many Tripadvisor contributors are less forgiving."

Gardening website Caerhays printed a damning review of Ventnor Botanic Garden last month (read it here).

It states: "Despite its obvious popularity with summer visitors and the improvements to its shops, catering and outside events I am afraid that in horticultural terms it is regressing and parts of it are becoming terribly overgrown and uncared for.

"The faintly woke claim on the blackboard at the garden entrance has much to say about biodiversity and nature but is clearly also a tacit admission that the place is becoming scruffy and untended."

Mr Curtis has defended the garden and said it was transitioning from the methods of traditional horticulturists and instead creating synthetic ecosystems, which take years to create.

He said: "We believe the future of gardening in the face of climate change and accelerating plant extinction rates will celebrate this approach. We call this approach The Ventnor Method. It is not a flower-filled quaint English border with graduated heights of planting in threes and fives."

He did admit there were more weeds than he would like, but said they were due to appoint junior gardeners, following the recent departure of the head gardener.

Read more of Mr Curtis's statement here

Tripadvisor reviews about Ventnor Botanic Garden

Overall, the Tripadvisor rating is 3.5 out of 5 and is rated 7th out of 15 listed things to do in Ventnor.

Here's the most recent comments:

Catriona C wrote: "A recent trip to the gardens left me feeling very sad and upset to see what a terrible decline there has been in the upkeep of the gardens.
The so called new Japanese garden was also very disappointing as it bears no real resemblance to Japan at all!"

Vicks96 wrote: "We enjoyed our visit to the gardens. It was relaxing and peaceful and the smells of the different plants as you walked around was lovely. I appreciate that the aim of the gardens is to let plants naturally thrive without being too preened etc. but some pathways were inaccessible due to how much some plants had overgrown. The tea and cakes from the cafe were nice. Being able to return within 7 days for free makes it better value."

Anne wrote: "Really wish I’d read the reviews before we went 😔 we were saddened by how much the gardens had been left to go wild we last came 13 years ago and remember it as a wonderful place to wander around , this time however we were so disappointed, the Japanese garden was totally overgrown, we couldn’t find any signs and spent half an hour trying to get out ! Only to see people wandering in for free when we’d just spent £21 so sad to see the decline."

Katina D wrote: "We loved the Botanic gardens & really don’t agree with reviews that say it’s dilapidated & ignore entrance fee and walk in for free. It’s not a show garden where everything’s perfect and yes the glass house is in need of a little love and money, but it certainly doesnt help if your attitude is ‘don’t bother paying’
It kinda of has a secret garden / lost world feel to it, which we really liked.
Plants are wonderful, lots of exotics & we spied a Red Squirrel (which was a real treat!) The plant shop at the front is fab, we indulged! and the terrace for tea / lunch area was lovely. The staff were welcoming & there was a chap showing a couple round for their potential wedding festivities. Go, take the kids & a picnic and enjoy this lovely place for a few hours - we did!"

Katie wrote: "I visited the gardens 3 years ago and it was great. Since then it has gotten progressively worse. It is in the worst state of disrepair currently. NOT WORTH PAYING FOR. Walk in for free if you like, there are not exactly enough staff to man the place. Maybe worth strolling in for the cafe at an off peak time."

She also complained about an "overworked" member of staff in the cafe.

She went on to say: "It is a real shame because the garden was so well maintained many years ago (and free) now it is overgrown, full of weeds. Some paths you can't even walk down since it is so overgrown. The old fig tree is probably the best part. The poor glasshouse is dilapidated and overgrown. Didn't see one gardener in sight. Really needs attention. 'Japanese' garden was literally just some overgrown bamboo. Have that at the end of my own garden if I wanted. The entrance to the tunnel was of course closed. Random opening times for that and no info on what or why there is a tunnel there. Walk round the back and you can get to a nice cliff walk (again walk in for free) which is better than the garden itself. At least you get a nice view of the sea.
Also the car park tries to claim you need to pay. Don't be conned. They can't charge you for that and the garden also, so just ignore it. Overall the place needs investment, new management/ownership and a complete overhaul. I know a lot of places on the Island have been going downhill recently but if you charge a high fee what are you doing? There is absolutely no excuse for such a low standard when years ago they didn't charge and it was well maintained."

Rachel_A_2602 wrote: "We spent a couple of hours here during one of the hottest days of the year. The gardens are beautiful and well maintained, although could have a bit more signage. The staff were really friendly and helpful. It was an enjoyable day out."

Mark R wrote: "Our cycling club stopped off for a break yesterday and received such a welcome from the Manager Kerry. Kerry and her staff couldn’t of done enough to accommodate us and made us feel so very welcome. On top of that, the food and location was lovely. We will be back again, thanks Kerry and pass on our thanks to your staff."

JulieDS_12 wrote: "Was looking forward to a morning wandering around the gardens, looking at all the lovely plants and trees. The garden is clearly in urgent need of money and staff, it was run down, and poorly maintained. Nothing had been dead headed, and most of the garden looked like it needed a good tidy up. Which was disappointing. Would not spend the money to go again, very disappointing."

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