Saturday, 3 September 2016

Bristol Botanic Garden's Bee and Pollinator Festival

This weekend is the annual Bee and Pollinator Festival at Bristol Botanic Garden. It is a fabulous event that sees the garden full of bee keepers, demonstartion hives, local nuseries and seed sellers along with passionate people who all want to help and support our bees and other pollinators in the city and beyond. It has become one of the highlights of my Bristol year.

At this time of year the Botanic Garden is full of exciting and beautiful planting. The garden has so many different areas, many of which are used by Bristol University and others for teaching life sciences and, in particular, biology. The Chinese medicine garden is one of a kind with it's plants divided into areas of Chinese medicine and mirroring that area, the herb garden is also planted by the areas of the body that the plants are used for.

Other planting areas include a prehistoric garden fill of Cycads, monkey puzzles, tree ferns and several Wollemi pines, with an underplanting of mares tail, a brave and very beautiful planting, as well as areas full of Magnolias, an area where the plants are planted depending on what type of insect or animal pollinates them, and some very wonderful greenhouses!!

In September the beds outside the main building, which itself is steeped in history, are full of richly coloured flowering plants studded with plantings of exotic bananas and huge, towering ornamental maize. These beds are constantly buzzing with bees, wasps and hover flies and are a great backdrop for the local nurseries at the Pollination Festival, and their nectar rich offerings.

What has really excited me in the last two years is the Native American food bed, a rich cornucopia of edible goodies that includes a three sisters planting of squash, beans and corn, as well as chillies, tomatoes, tomatilloes and some excitiung and new crops to the UK such as Oca and custard apple. The bed is planted throughout with nasturtiums that link the whole space beautifully together and stop it from being a food growing bed and turn it into a beautiful and productive garden. Culturally beds like this excite me more than I can say because it is so important bioth culturally, but also with an ever changing climate, that we experiment with other traditions of food growing, and to see a botanic garden trialling this and changing it slightly from year to year fills me with hope. Surely this is what these soaces should begin to concentrate on, telling what has gone before but also looking at the future and how we will grow into the future.

Finally today, due mainly to the not so great weather, I popped into the tropical greenhouse. In the centre of this space is a large pond full of Victoria cruziana, the huge, tropical Amazonian waterlilies, as well as a collection of Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera with their enormous leaves and quite stunning blooms. At the moment there is also an Aristochlia gigantea regularly flowering with it's quite unlpleasant scent; quite a sight to see. There are also bananas including Musa acuminata with it's amazing bright pink flowers and Musa textiles which I am fortunate enough to have been given seeds of by Nick Wray, the curator of the garden, which are now growing well in my house. Below are a few photos of the tropical greenhouse, but before you get to them, please, if you visit Bristol, make an effort to get to this garden. It is run by the University of Bristol and a team of fiercely loyal volunteers who are always happy to chat about the garden and what they are working on and you will be supporting the garden to continue and move forwards.
Tree frog!! Sadly not a real one.

A beautiful dragonfly sculpture
The Sacred Lotus leaves are extraordinary.
A seed head fallen into the pond.

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