Leeds City Council have won numerous European and National awards for the quality of their flower displays throughout the city over many years. Many of the local districts and villages which comprise the city have won awards from both the Yorkshire in Bloom and the Britain In Bloom competitions.
I am proud to say, that my home village took a Gold award last month.
The vast majority of the plants are home-grown at the Council greenhouses at Red Hall on the outskirts of Leeds, but things have changed recently.
The greenhouses sit in the path of the planned new Leeds Outer Ring Road which will run from the junction of the M1 to the existing junction of the A6120 at Roundhay Park.
Construction of this road is just about to begin and the greenhouses will, in due course, have to be demolished.
In anticipation of this event, and with breath-taking foresight (for once), the Council have constructed brand new glasshouses on a massive complex off Thorner Lane, just a mile away.
Named The Arium (a suffix normally used to signify an artificial environment – for plants, fish etc.), the facilities opened to the public on 7th October 2017.
Astoundingly, The Ariums’ gardeners will grow over 3.5 million plants a year and more than 500 varieties for the city’s parks, lamp-posts, roundabouts, flower beds, school grounds and other locations across the city, in order to support the In Bloom initiative.
Several Garden Centres in the area have upped their game in the last few years, to offer more than just the basics and to create a destination at which several hours, and pounds, can be spent.
Many of these now have very good quality restaurants and cafes with the majority of the dishes on the menu made on the premises (see my earlier review of Garforth Garden Centre).
We swept down the drive towards the impressive acreage of glass to park in the extensive, landscaped parking area.
The glasshouse covers an area of more than 3 football pitches and comprises more than 22,000 panes of glass. The glasshouses themselves are plain and simple from the outside. They are what they are, functional, though to my mind they could have been made more aesthetically pleasing in design.
I assume that the basic design was the cheapest way to construct it. Either that or the Council architects have no imagination. This is no Zaha Hadid project. In scale, they are very impressive nevertheless.
In the grounds, where more than 4,500 trees have been planted, there are outdoor plant displays for sale, a large picnic area, and a soft-floored children’s play area which includes a large sandpit and a selection of rides and climbing frames.
The nature and wildlife area is still under construction and this will include a lagoon.
The site is eco-friendly, with all rainwater across the site draining into the lagoon and into underground tanks for use in watering the plants.
On entering via the main doors you are struck by how high the glass ceiling is.
It is a light and airy space, with automatic, temperature controlled roof vents. The gardening equipment section is well stocked and provides an entrance to the large cafe area.
Light wood flooring, wooden tables, comfy chairs and sofas create a relaxing area in which to sit and chat. Wisely, they are not competing with the full menus of other local garden centres, instead concentrating on full breakfasts, soup, sandwiches, pies, pasties, ploughman’s and salads in the main. Hot drinks, home made scones and cakes complete the set. The prices in the cafe are very good., as is the quality of the food.
The scones we had were freshly made, light and fluffy and the coffee was just right, neither wishy-washy nor bitter. I have no doubt, judging from the number of cars parked there when I pass, that this venture will be a huge success.
When the landscaping is complete and the tree planting matures, this will be an excellent place to visit, as it is now, even in it’s early days.
The Arium is open seven days a week. For opening times go to:
It will be found by your sat-nav at LS14 8FB or by good old fashioned maps by following the A64 out of Leeds towards York and turning left into Thorner Lane towards Thorner village.
The Arium is about 300yds on your right and signposted at the entrance.