Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Supporting local horticulture....

When I sat down to write this post I was intending to write about a recent trip to Bristol Botanic Garden but I wanted to put it into an important context, or it just ends up being a stream of photos. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, but it's not really what I do or what people expect!!
Almost every time I mention the Bristol Botanic Garden in a group, someone remarks they didn't know Bristol had a botanic garden. People in the city don't know it's there, let alone what a fantastic resource it is, with extraordinary plant collections, including a collection of sacred lotus flowers that are magical to say the least. It also has an entire garden set out for study of Chinese medicine, which is a rare and special resource used by students from around the globe. I could go on, but I intend to visit often this summer and blog about the collections so I won't bore you now.

But what I wonder at, is how we keep our botanic gardens alive and thriving in a world where they are constantly struggling for funds, meaning a marketing budget is a thing of the past? I hope by embarking on this series of posts I can help our garden here in Bristol a tiny bit, but how many others go unrecognised within their own communities? 
So why do I think these gardens are so vital? I guess in the first place as they are usually allied to universities, they're spaces for learning, best horticultural practice and research all of which are important not just for the horticultural industry, but for our world, our environment and our health. As our climate changes, plants are inevitably going to play an enormous role in the way we have to design our cities and towns for health of people, but more importantly for flood relief, for cooling and to maintain biodiversity within our sprawling urban spaces. Botanic gardens role perhaps should, and may be, trial grounds for this. Experimentation with new species, as well as best practice with those we already are familiar with, but in practice rather than in a lab. Field trials for the world of our future?
Volunteers helping to clear out and replant the Victoria Water Lily

But secondly these are beautiful gardens, with rich and diverse plant collections that can inspire not just gardeners, but any visitor to look at our horticultural history, geographical or social or political, and want to know more. And it can be just that spark that hooks a young person for life.

What always amazes me is that the Bristol Botanic Garden runs on an army of mainly volunteers, some of whom are retired, or career changers learning more about hands on horticulture, as well as others from many different places and of all ages. They are an inspirational bunch in themselves, always happy to stop and chat about what they're doing, and why they're doing it, as well as being fierce advocates for the garden. Volunteers not just work in the garden, but in the entry hut, behind the scenes writing newsletters and organising such great events as the annual Pollination Festival. And I know there's a waiting list to be a volunteer!! But we can all volunteer for our botanic gardens by being fierce supporters of them, writing blogs, taking and sharing photos, visiting and buying tea and cake, all of which keeps the interest in these gardens alive. 
I'll be back soon with a blog about the Chinese Medicine Garden!!


  1. Thanks for this great post Sara. You touch on so many aspects that BGs are able to inspire and educate visitors about. Ex-situ conservation, origins of food crops and medicines. BGs can also be places for reflection or cool green sanctuaries in urban settings. Hope your post will inspire readers to seek out and visit their local BG. You can find BGs and other plant collections via

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