Minutes of the 15th Annual General Meeting of PlantNetwork

(1)      Welcome

Dr David Rae, Honorary President of PlantNetwork, welcomed all those present and chaired the meeting. Dr Matthew Jebb, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of PlantNetwork was unable to attend and had sent his apologies.

(2)      Minutes of the Fourteenth Annual General Meeting

Minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 23 March 2010 at The Ridge, University of Sheffield were approved and signed as a correct record.

(3)      Report for the year to 31 March 2011

David Rae gave the report, based on a PowerPoint compiled by Matthew Jebb, Chairman of the Board.

Meetings: The previous year (2009/10) had been unusual in that three conferences fell within the financial year, including the spring conference (Pests, Diseases and Invasive Plants: running a clean garden, at University of Sheffield) in March 2010. The number of PlantNetwork meetings had increased over the past few years; the Board was mindful of financial and staff constraints faced by many gardens, and it had been decided not to organise too many meetings in the year. In the year to 31 March 2011, the following meetings had been held, including one conference. All had been well attended, and talks and reports had been posted on the website.

Micropropagation for Gardens,Propagators’ Forum,Duchy College, Rosewarne, 20 April 2010

Bees in Gardens, Training Day, Dyffryn Gardens, Cardiff, 6 May 2010

Contemporary Issues for Gardens and Plant Collections, Conference, Eden Project 7–8 September 2010

Visit to Heligan Gardens, 9 September 2010

Phytogeographic Planting, Tree Forum, Benmore Botanic Garden, 21 October 2010.

Membership in the year had totalled 202, with 93 institutional members and 109 individual or personal members, including free membership for 16 Trainees on placements in gardens as part of the Historic and Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme. Personal members within institutions that are already members of PlantNetwork can become individual members at the special rate of £15/year and then receive their own copies of newsletters and other mailings; the idea is to improve dissemination of PlantNetwork information at gardens with a lot of staff. Subscription rates had last been increased in 2008; the Board had decided not to increase the rates for this year. The Board would like to encourage more student members to join.

The website https://plantnetwork.org) had continued to provide network news and reports from PlantNetwork meetings, as well as information on forthcoming meetings. Christopher Weddell had redesigned the website and put it into a management system, so it should be easier to search and update. Members were urged to update the entry for their garden in the PlantNetwork Directory of Botanical Collections in Britain and Ireland on the website. Some entries had not been updated since 1999!

PlantNetwork Newsletter: two issues (numbers 40 and 41) had been published and sent to members, in September 2010 and March 2011.

Plant Health had been a particular concern of PlantNetwork, following on from the conference on Pests, Diseases and Invasive Plants: running a clean garden, at University of Sheffield, in March 2010. We have been working with the Food and Environment Research Agency to develop a set of best-practice protocols for parks and gardens to minimise the risks from Phytophthora species and other pests and diseases. This is part of the ‘Joint Phytophthora behaviour change and working group on biosecurity for heritage and botanic gardens’, in which PlantNetwork takes part.

Networking living collections has been an aim of PlantNetwork from the very outset. In 2011, a small meeting was convened in Dublin to look at how we can develop this. More information will follow in PlantNetwork newsletters.

As explained by the Charity Commission, the Board has a duty of care (explicit about public benefits) and a duty of prudence (especially finances). Our objectives are to advance the education of the public in horticulture and related subjects, with particular reference to the study and appreciation of plant collections and their management and conservation, and to promote for the public benefit the general preservation and conservation of plant collections of importance, beauty or historical or scientific interest. PlantNetwork helps staff to manage, maintain and develop their collections, by sharing information, expertise and experience. Public benefits include facilitating networking and training to ensure that the quality of collections and gardens throughout Britain and Ireland are maintained and developed for all. The major activity of the public visiting gardens is supported by PlantNetwork’s activities; without PlantNetwork, such training would not occur.

Last year we reported that we intended to subsidise a number of student places at our meetings. We have been pleased to offer places to students at reduced rates for conferences since then, enabling more people to benefit from our meetings. Membership of PlantNetwork is open to all and is not unfairly restricted; charges for meetings are kept as low as possible; and information from our meetings is posted on our website, freely accessible to all.

We endeavour to keep the environmental impact of our meetings and activities to a minimum, encouraging the use of public transport, dealing with bookings by email, using both sides of paper. The charity is run prudently: we have policies on institutional risk, financial reserves, internet and email usage.

(4)      Treasurer’s report

A report from Hugh Angus, Hon. Treasurer, was presented. From the outset, our subscriptions were set at low rates, to encourage as many botanic and historic gardens as possible to become members, and it was recognised that subscription income alone would not cover expenditure. There is an underlying deficit of about £12 000/year between income and expenditure. However, with awards from grant-making trusts, surplus from conferences and workshops, donations and other means, we sometimes manage to make a small surplus. The Charity Commission indicated a few years ago that we needed to build up our reserves to ensure our financial stability. Our reserves are now enough to cover our running costs for a year, if needed. We are examining ways of managing these reserves prudently.

Accounts for the year to 31 March 2010 had been audited by Critchleys and approved by the PlantNetwork Board in November 2010. Total expenditure, including conference and meeting costs, was almost £66K; office expenses were slightly lower than in the previous year. Income was more than £72K. A positive balance of £6510 was a result of (i) three conferences (rather than the more usual two) falling within the year, all well attended; (ii) donations totalling £2825, including an award of £1000 from the Finnis Scott Foundation and (iii) a particularly successful Silent Auction. The balance was added to our reserve. The national decline in interest rates showed in interest on the 30-day account at the Bank declining from £1160 in 2007/08 to £27 in 2009/10.

Accounts for the year to 31 March 2011 had not yet been audited. In summary, income was approximately £29 500 and expenditure was approximately £36 000, giving a negative balance of around £6000; this was  partly due to only one conference falling in this financial year and to receiving no funding from grant-making trusts. The accounts indicated the importance of continual fundraising. The Board had decided that PlantNetwork subscription rates for 2011/12 would remain the same as for the previous 3 years.

Critchleys, of Greyfriars Court, Paradise Square, Oxford, was appointed as auditor for a further year.

(5)      Election of officers to the Board of Trustees

The Board for 2010–2011 has been: Matthew Jebb (Chairman), Pamela Smith (Vice-Chair), Hugh Angus (Hon. Treasurer), David Rae (Hon. President), Louise Allen, Stephen Ansdell, Alistair Griffiths, Stewart Henchie, Alasdair Hood, David Knott, Edwin Mole, Harvey Stephens, Tim Upson and Christopher Weddell.

The Articles of Association of the Company require one-third of Board members to retire at each AGM; they may stand for re-election. Louise Allen stood down from the Board in October 2010, when she left University of Oxford Botanic Garden, and Alasdair Hood was standing down at this AGM in 2011. Hugh Angus, and Pamela Smith stood down from the Board at the AGM. Simon Goodenough, Ian Turner and Rupert Wilson had been nominated as Trustees by the Board; no other nominations had been received and they were all elected unanimously and unopposed. Hugh Angus, and Pamela Smith were re-elected.

David Rae gave special thanks to the trustees who had stood down: Louise Allen had made many helpful suggestions to PlantNetwork on policy, funding and meetings and had hosted several workshops and training meetings. Alasdair Hood had been a Board member since 2003, contributing to policy discussions, programme planning, conservation work for the Target 8 Project, hosting meetings and promoting PlantNetwork in Scotland.

(6)      David thanked all the members, particularly those who had hosted, attended and helped with meetings over the past year. He thanked the Trustees and Judy Cheney for their contributions to running another successful year for PlantNetwork.

The meeting closed just before 6 pm.