Magnificent May

How did it get to be May already? It seems a very short time ago that we were looking at the low sun and listening to the lone robins sing, bare earth and branches waiting for a temperature hike. Well, the Garden has plumped up with leaves and life, almost fluorescent in its vibrancy. It’s a wonderful time of year, even when it rains you can almost see the plants growing. 

While the rain is soaking into the May soil, it also threatens the flowers of one group of plants in our Chinese Herb Garden. This year we have completed our peony garden, a unique display here in the west country, and on Sunday 12th May we’re holding a day dedicated to peonies in celebration. One thing we’d like for people to see in this area is of course the flowers of peonies, and the weather was doing its best to rain on our peony parade. So we decided to pamper these plants with an umbrella each. It might seem over the top, but it’s a treatment that some of them are accustomed to. In days gone by the gansu mudan peony has led a life of privilege; ancient China knew it as the Emperor’s flower and law decreed that it was only grown in his gardens. Specialist growers were tasked with cultivating it for use in the imperial borders, but if anyone got ideas above their station and sneaked some in their own garden, well, they were executed! So some of these peony flowers have the air of ‘an umbrella is no more than I deserve’.

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The gobbledegook on plant labels explained.

By Nicola ‘Froggie’ Rathbone

If you visit the garden regularly you may have noticed that the green vinyl we normally scribble plant names on with a big black indelible marker pen are being replaced with black and white vinyl. They look pretty much like engraved labels but are far cheaper and easier to replace when a name changes. This has happened quite a number of times since the 1990’s when botanists began looking at the DNA of plants and decided that some have been misnamed….. (more…)

Plant blindness

 

You may or may not of heard of the term ‘plant blindness’; it’s a phrase that we in the Botanic Garden have been hearing much more of in recent years and will continue to throw around in the future. It refers to the slow shutting off of plant knowledge from generation to generation resulting in an inability to acknowledge plants around us. The simple things that were once common knowledge, such as dock leaves used for nettle stings are becoming bred out of a collective instinct and plants are becoming irrelevant and annoying green things to many people.

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The Impossible Garden

Luke Jerram sits casually dressed on an over-sized picnic bench in the Botanic Garden
Luke Jerram on one of his exhibits.

We’ve always felt that art and the Garden work well together. Every Easter we run a sculpture exhibition which brings this home, plants and art are good friends; nature’s sculpture makes the Garden a gallery and placing human art amongst it embellishes both. With this in mind, for some time we’ve wanted to show a permanent summer exhibition but nothing has fit the bill.

Step in Luke Jerram this year. If art and plants are good friends, so are Luke and Bristol; he has created a perfect replica of the moon which is floating at various locations around the world at the moment; he created a giant water slide down one of Bristol’s busiest shopping streets for one day in 2014, a day that brought the city together, everyone was smiling; he also positioned pianos around the city for anyone to play, I’d love walking home from work to hear music drifting along the street. As you can see Luke is very much a force for good in the city, and unknown to us was regularly visiting the Garden with his family. So, when he contacted us to ask if it was ok to display The Impossible Garden here we took five seconds before nodding vigorously, yes please! (more…)