Topics for Modern Botanic Gardens

This was a particularly successful meeting, with much earnest discussion and some practical suggestions and ideas that could be implemented. The speakers had been asked to be provocative and they clearly succeeded in eliciting comments and responses from delegates. More than 70 people attended. A report of the meeting will be sent out later in the summer.

Many points were raised during the talks and discussions:

  • the importance of enabling horticultural staff to see in the wild the plants for which they are responsible
  • blurring the distinctions between different types of staff in botanic gardens and raising the status of horticultural staff
  • promoting plant collections to the research councils, particularly to organisations that need accurately identified plant material of known origin for scientific research, but do not have the facilities to obtain and grow the plants themselves
  • the benefits of facilitating temporary staff exchanges between gardens or arboreta within PlantNet
  • the importance of keeping records up to date (various aspects of record-keeping were discussed throughout the conference, highlighting the need for the Plant Records Group)
  • ensuring that information on the successful cultivation of particular plants is not lost
  • problems in passing on plant material that is no longer needed for research but complying with agreements under the Convention on Biological Diversity and other legislation – it was suggested that PlantNet could compile a list of botanic and other gardens that are actively taking measures to comply with the CBD.

Ways of implementing and taking forward these ideas will be considered by the Executive Committee in due course, as part of the Strategy Plan.

We escaped from the lecture theatre for a while to visit Clyne Gardens, near Swansea – our thanks to Julie Bowen for giving us a tour of the plant collection. It was not until the end of the conference that we had a chance to see the National Botanic Garden of Wales, but it was well worth the wait. The Great Glasshouse was, indeed, spectacular and it was interesting to go down inside to see the landscaping in progress. Outside, the water and stone features are delightful, and there was much interest in the reed filtration system.

Our thanks go to Professor Charles Stirton, Ivor Stokes and Wolfgang Bopp and their helpers for their hospitality and hard work. We were particularly grateful to Kathy Stark and the team of volunteers from the Garden who took endless trouble to ensure that all ran smoothly and to make us feel welcome. It was interesting for us to talk to the volunteers, most of whom had been in the area long before the Garden was even thought of and were able to tell us how the concepts and ideas had been received locally as the plans for the Garden developed. I had the impression that our visit also helped them to see the new Botanic Garden in the context of problems and progress in other botanic gardens in Britain and Ireland.