What is a Botanic Garden?

Tropical zone pool
Tropical zone pool

When I’m out and about outside work, and people ask what I do, and I tell them I work in a Botanic Garden, the most common next question is, what IS a Botanic Garden? I answer my stock response, a museum with living exhibits, but this reply just scratches the surface of what a Botanic Garden really is in the 21st century.

The more accurate answer to this question is that a Botanic Garden is many things, we are at our core a living museum, a curated collection of significant species; but surrounding this core are layers that create a life and vibrancy, each as important as each other. (more…)

The return of an old friend

After winter, the ground slowly wakes up in increments; snowdrops and hellebores in January, crocus in February. By March we’re looking up at magnolias and cherries, down at daffodils and forward to longer days and warmer temperatures. The old spring favourites quicken our heartbeat, but I’m going to talk about an understated gem at the Botanic Garden. This is a plant that I look forward to seeing every year; you could easily walk its path without noticing, as it produces flower low to the ground while everyone is looking elsewhere. One of those plants that when you’ve seen it one year you look out for it again, until it becomes like greeting an old friend who always seems happy to see you.   (more…)

March of the Magnolias

Magnolia campbellii subsp.mollicomata ‘Lanarth’.

There’s nothing like watching nature mark off the times of the year, like familiar landmarks of a train journey to a favourite place, we know we’re moving away from winter when we see magnolias flower. The last time they flowered we couldn’t have known the year we had in store until they bloomed again, but here we are a year later and there they are with a comforting familiarity that the seasons bring, but for magnolias, they’ve seen it all before. (more…)

Four months without you.

It’s been four months without you, the visitors, students, University staff and members of the Garden; four months maintaining a Garden without volunteers, just each other and wildlife for company. Without doubt we’ve all missed you. Missed when the sun shines and people are walking around, some pointing some ambling with their hands behind their backs (also my own chosen method of garden viewing), some sitting with eyes closed feeling the warmth and listening to the chatter of birds around them.  On days like this we feel a sense of Gardening for a purpose, when visitors have had an hour away from their usual existence in the company of plants, or taken away new facts and knowledge about the plant world that they’ll forget until that pub quiz, or time has run away from them and its suddenly four o’clock; these all make our work worthwhile. The Garden was built for people to view and without people here it feels a little eerie. (more…)