Photograph by Howard Rice
A green grove
Friends’ News At the eastern end of the Glasshouse Range, a new green grove has been developed that extends the story of plant life before flowers: hardy ferns and cone-bearing coniferous trees predominate, survivors of some of the most ancient plant lineages on earth. When the Garden boundary was straightened up to meet the new machinery barn, this reunited the Cork Oak (Quercus suber) with its hybrid, the Fulham Oak (Quercus x hispanica ‘Fulhamensis’), and brought both back into the public domain. Peter Kerley and Paul Aston of the Demo & Display team quickly realised that the domed semi-evergreen canopies of the Oaks would provide the perfect, sheltered climate to plant up with ferns, tree ferns, and some early conifers. This would expand the theme of ‘life before flowers’, the subject of the small north-facing shady glasshouse tucked behind the main Range . The two curved benches that edge the paved area have been pulled apart to allow a winding path of bark chips to snake around the Cork Oaks and through the new planting. Longhoarded, salvaged tree rootballs (the biggest being the Robinia that blew down in the Gilbert Carter area around 2006) have been scattered into an informal stumpery, the rotting niches providing perfect footholds for maidenhair and hart’s tongue ferns.
Once established, the area will have a very distinct feel – a green, almost aqueous grove of fronds, and notable for a total lack of colourful flowers. The plants are all survivors or
Fern prothallii, an intermediate stage.
descendants of some of the early plant lineages to evolve on land. These include the horsetails, and although they are the scourge of tidy-minded gardeners, we have included several Equisetum in the display, their expansionist tendencies curtailed by being grown in sunken pots. Ferns are a very ancient group of plants that appeared 200 million years before flowering plants and are far older than the land animals and dinosaurs. They are some of the earliest vascular plants with systems for transporting water and nutrients, but unlike other vascular plants, where the adult plant grows directly from the seed, ferns reproduce from spores in a circuitous process. Spores are released from the underside of fern fronds; if a spore finds suitable conditions, it will grow into a tiny heart-shaped intermediate plantlet called a prothallus, in which the male and female genetic material is separately held. If there is sufficient moisture for the sperm cells to swim to the female eggs, then fertilisation occurs and a complete mature fern grows. In propagating stock for the display, Paul found the recycled microwave take-away food containers created exactly the right conditions to ensure that this involved process ended up with mature plants! Although sheltered and shady, we will also install some irrigation to give short bursts of spray in the early morning and late evening from the borehole supply to ensure the moist conditions the ferns will need to proliferate. After the Carboniferous Age, when the great coal seams were laid down, few horsetails survived and the ferns had severely dwindled in variety. New plants emerged including wind-pollinated seed plants that produce naked seeds on woody scales gathered into
Paul Aston plants out. cone-like structures. We have included Maidenhair (Ginkgo biloba), Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) and the Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria augustifolia) in the display to provide structure but also to tell that next chapter in the story of plant evolution. By the end of the Jurassic era, insects and insect-pollinated flowering plants brought an explosion of colour, but this new planting takes us back to when the world was only green.
Juliet Day, Peter Kerley and Paul Aston
Giving in Memory The original fern courtyard at the eastern exit of the Glasshouse Range was developed with a generous gift from Mrs Jemima Atkinson and her family in memory of husband John, for whom the Garden became a ‘home from home’. It was thrilling to have the help once again of Mrs Atkinson in planting out some of the new ferns for the extended display. To make a gift to the Garden in memory or in celebration, please contact Juliet Day on 01223 762994 or email@example.com
Friends’ News – Issue 89 – May 2012
Welcome The weather is again dominating the gardening season. The relatively mild winter was punctuated by a very sharp frost on 13 February which has left its mark with many plants badly scorched. The unseasonal high temperatures prior to this meant many plants had not hardened successfully leaving them particularly susceptible to cold damage. This appears to be more severe than in either of the previous prolonged winters and we can but hope that the affected plants successfully regrow – there are hopeful signs on the Hoheria in the New Zealand plantings in the Terrace Garden, so our fingers remain crossed for minimal losses. Winter rainfall was again below average and insufficient to recharge the underground aquifers on which we rely. Notwithstanding the April deluges, we garden in one of the driest climates in the UK, meaning that water is a particularly valuable resource to be used sparingly. The Garden has a policy of not watering established plants, but rather we focus on new plantings to ensure their survival. Methods of watering are also
important – drip irrigation, leaky hoses and even a simple watering can are all good ways of ensuring water is concentrated around the roots of the plant. Plant choice is also becoming increasingly important. We have been further developing the Mediterranean plantings around the western end of the Glasshouse Range, not only as a resource for teaching but as an experiment to find plants that may grow and perform well in a changing climate likely to be increasingly punctuated by droughts. This coming year is one of multiple celebrations. On Saturday 19 May we hosted Plant Power as part of the Europe-wide Fascination of Plants initiative that seeks to highlight just how essential plants are to our everyday lives – the event also emphasised just how vital the eastern region is for plant research. In May we also marked the 30th anniversary of the Friends and the 60th of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden Association, both events celebrating and acknowledging the contribution of people
to the Garden whether as supporters or staff members. We also celebrate 250 continuous years of botanic gardening in Cambridge – our original Botanic Garden was founded in 1762. We have invited two keen supporters of the Garden to delve into the origins of a Cambridge Botanic Garden and they contribute this edition’s feature articles. One final task and challenge for the Garden’s team this spring and into summer will be to fill a number of vacancies, from new posts through to the annual recruitment of horticultural trainees. This will ensure we are not only back to full strength, but in an improved situation with new support to the Director and the Library. It was with particular sadness we said goodbye to the Head of Education, Karen Van Oostrum in early February as the family is relocating away from Cambridge. She will be greatly missed but we are pleased to have recently recruited temporary cover and plan to make a permanent appointment in the summer. Dr Tim Upson, Curator and Acting Director
A moving tribute! It was all in a morning’s work to move the millstone that commemorates the work of Botanic Garden staff past and present from its original position at the far eastern end of the Garden to a more prominent, central location close to the new Garden Cafe. Once manoeuvred onto the forklift, the estimated 2 tonne weight was trundled smoothly along the paths to its new home. It was a much swifter operation compared to its first installation in 1990. Pete Kerley of Demonstration & Display, recalls: ‘We discovered the millstone after some elms were felled due to Dutch Elm disease. It was partly buried in the ground with a wild cherry growing through the square shaft hole and we had no idea how much the millstone would weigh. We cut down the cherry, and as we
dug away the surrounding soil the stone just kept getting bigger! We lifted it with the tripod, block and tackle used for building the Rock Garden at the end of the 1950s – no forklift in those days!! The stone was then lowered onto a trailer and manoeuvred into place before being lifted off the trailer using the tripod, block and tackle once again and lowered into its final position. I guess it took us well over a day to move it, whereas with the forklift this time round, the whole operation was completed in just over an hour!' It is thought that the millstone must have been left behind after local masonry company, Rattee and Kett, vacated their once extensive premises at the top of Station Road, which included a works yard that became part of the Botanic Garden. Former Garden Supervisor, Norman Villis had the idea of placing the millstone in the landscape as a tribute to the work of staff former and present, and former Garden Superintendent, Peter Orriss, composed a fitting plaque.
Friends’ News – Issue 89 – May 2012
In its new position, the rough hewn stone is backed with Bamboo and shrubby Honeysuckle while in front, a light woodland planting of Euphorbia and Aquilegia, giving way to Phlomis russeliana, will provide an airy transparent contrast to the solidity of the stone. The millstone was rededicated in its new position at the 60th anniversary meeting of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden Association for current and former members of staff in mid May, and a new plaque will shortly be installed to acknowledge all those who have contributed to the development of the Garden.
Pauline Bryant retires
Farewell, and thankyou Two key members of staff with whom many Friends will have interacted have left the Garden for new adventures. Dr Karen van Oostrum, Head of Education, has relocated with husband Jos and children Jasmine and Charlie. Her achievements are too many to list,
Moving the millstone.
but many, many Friends will have benefited from her expansion of the What’s On offering of life-long courses and the development of the many family activities, festivals and events. We also wish the happiest of retirements to Pauline Bryant, head of our customer service
team, who has brought the team through a challenging period of transition, and always had a smile for visitors, even when hauling children out of the tree collection!
From the molecular to the masterly Two new initiatives highlight the breadth of the Garden’s appeal.
First Saturday Family Fun No need to book, just drop-in anytime between 11am – 3pm on the first Saturday of every month for plant-inspired fun. £2 per child, plus normal Garden admission for accompanying adults. Saturday 2 June Doodle bugs Take a look at some minibeasts and create a stunning bug suncatcher to decorate your window.
Plants are nature’s great chemists, producing a bewildering range of chemicals that for the major part deter feeding animals whether they are insects or grazing mammals. They can be found in all parts of a plant, commonly in the leaves, from the roots in Daucus carota, wild carrot, to the seeds of Lupinus mutabilis, lupin. Chemicals from Plants is the subject of a new trail around the Systematic Beds and Glasshouse Range, developed in partnership with the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre. It is published in full on the website, and given in summary form on trail maps that can be borrowed from the ticket offices and via brief information signs placed by the highlighted plants in the landscape. The trail identifies just a small selection of plants in the collections from which chemical compounds have been extracted for a variety of human uses. Coumarin, for example, synthesised from sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is used in both rat poison and heart treatments. Melatonin, a chemical compound which regulates photoperiods (the plant’s responses to night and day) in Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is used in humans to treat circadian rhythm sleep disorders. From each website page, you can click through to the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD) maintained by the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre for further information, including
the capacity to rotate the 3D visualisation of each chemical compound molecule. This can also be accessed when out in the Garden by scanning the QR codes on the trail map or on each individual interpretive panel with a smartphone. In complementary contrast, we are hoping to build up a picture of how the Garden has inspired artists. Friend of CUBG, Derek Wilson, (whose picture of the Birch Collection is shown above) invited the Botanic Garden to consider a group show of art inspired by painting and sketching in the Garden. Since there is no suitable exhibition space within the Garden, we are creating an on-line gallery that plots the pictures on the spots they were painted to give a very different perspective. It is still under development, but if you would like to contribute, please submit a high quality digital scan of the work, with details of medium used, along with a short description of what particularly caught your eye or inspired you. Please send discs in to Juliet Day, Development Officer, Cambridge University Botanic Garden, 1 Brookside, Cambridge, CB2 1JE. We plan to create two exhibitions from work submitted, going live in the spring and the autumn each year. You can find both trails on the Garden’s website at www.botanic.cam.ac.uk by following The Garden/Trails
Saturday 7 July Cress initials Sow some cress in the shape of your initials, and enjoy eating it a few days later! Find out what seeds need to germinate successfully. Saturday 1 September Nature Trail Pick up a trail map and discover what you may find in the Garden. Draw what you see, and compete with your family and friends, ticking things off as you spot them!
For the half-term & summer holiday.… Thursday 7 & Friday 8 June 2012, 10.30am – 12 noon. Dragonfly Workshops After observing dragonflies in the Garden to learn more about their lifecycles, try making your own dragonfly to take home. For ages 3-16 years. Parents/carers to stay. £5 per child, normal Garden admission for accompanying adults. Thursday 2, Friday 3 & Saturday 4 August 2012, 11am – 3pm. Summer Sweets & Treats Join in our summer festival in celebration of flowers and plants used to make and flavour some of our favourite sweets and treats. Drop-in, £3 per child, normal Garden admission for accompanying adults.
Train the Trainers event Many of us date our own interest in plants from the influence of an inspirational teacher. But how can we make sure that a younger generation of teachers remain enthusiastic about plant science? Twenty people who in turn influence those teachers joined the Science and Plants for Schools (SAPS) team in the wonderful surroundings of the Sainsbury Laboratory and the Botanic Garden. They were here to deepen their understanding of the importance of plants in the 21st century, to get a sense of the world-class research going on in the Laboratory, and to better understand the potential for botanic gardens in science teaching.
Aimed at Initial Teacher Education tutors and others involved in teacher training, the first SAPS ‘Train the Trainer’ event welcomed people from across England. The venue impressed from the start, with tutors welcomed into a light-filled lab, with floor to ceiling windows looking out across the olive courtyard and the Garden’s ecological mound. SAPS has been known for high-quality practical work since its beginning, and this event was no exception. The delegates were soon cloning cauliflowers, looking at pollen under microscopes and making balls of photosynthetic algae. Dr Judy Fox of the Garden’s Education Team led the
group on a tour which contrasted the garden’s origins in John Stephens Henslow’s research with its present day role. New developments in plant research were highlighted by a fascinating talk from Dr Beverly Glover of the Department of Plant Sciences. Delegates described the event as “totally inspirational” with “lots and lots of brilliant ideas”. The SAPS team hopes that this will be the start of a long and fruitful collaboration with tutors across the country, and will encourage a new generation of teachers to love teaching with plants.
Harriet Truscott, Communications Officer, SAPS Friends’ News – Issue 89 – May 2012
Marking 250 years of the Old Botanic Garden, founded 1762 This summer we celebrate 250 years of continuous botanic gardening at Cambridge University. We have asked two keen supporters of the Botanic Garden for comment: Stephen Tomkins gives us an overview of the approach to botany in the original Botanic Garden, while Judy Cheney chronicles the entrances and exits of this dynamically changing site from her birds-eye oﬃce view over the former Garden.
Plants and Purpose: a review by Stephen P Tomkins, Friend and Garden Guide It was in 1762 that Richard Walker, the Vice-Master of Trinity College, gave to the University the first five acres of land, right in the middle of town, that became the earliest Garden. This was superseded by Henslow's ten-fold larger Garden on our present site, less than a hundred years later. How many Friends, as they wander round Cambridge City today, know exactly where this first Botanic Garden was located? One might ask for what original purpose its plants were grown, and what sorts of beds of herbs or shrubs and trees were in this first collection? The land purchased and donated to the University by Richard Walker for a public Botanic Garden occupied that rough rectangle of land between Free School Lane, Downing Street, what is now Corn Exchange Street and Wheeler Street, behind the Guildhall. Subsequently this whole area became the focus for natural science buildings as ‘the New Museums Site’, which now includes the Department of Zoology and the old Cavendish Laboratory. The Garden was conceived as a ‘physic garden’, providing herbal plants for the teaching and practice of medicine.
Richard Walker (1679-1764), Vice-Master of Trinity College and Horticulturist, painted by John Theodore Heins Senior. Copyright Trinity College. Friends’ News – Issue 89 – May 2012
Medicine, as a discipline, had been taught in Cambridge from as early as 1549. Plants then provided the majority of potions, balms, infusions and medications for there were no synthetic drugs. That it took over 200 years to found a Cambridge garden is surprising. Richard Bradley, the very first Professor of Botany in 1724, keenly wanted a garden where ‘the young gentlemen who study Physic in the University will have opportunity of knowing the plants and even the drugs they are to use’. But it seems that Bradley, who was an outstanding pioneer of experimental and practical plant husbandry, lacked the political influence to secure a site. Eventual success in this had to
wait for the next Professor of Botany, John Martyn, who was both a keen botanist and physician. His own son, Thomas, became Professor of Botany at the age of 28 in the same year the Garden was founded. Charles Miller, a young practical ‘plantsman’ from the Chelsea Physic Garden, founded a century earlier in 1673, and Thomas Martyn, a keen ‘herborising’ field botanist, were the Garden’s originators. The Walkerian Botanic Garden, as it was often known, has left very few archival records of exactly what was grown, but it was certainly an admixture of local plants and imported exotics as well as plants of
Rudolph Ackermann published this aquatint of the Old Botanic Garden by W Westall in his A History of the University of Cambridge, Its Colleges, Halls, and Public Buildings.
medicinal value. The collection included a good alpine collection and there were ‘stoves’ for two glasshouses on the north wall of the Garden. The Garden was unshaded and open to the south. A branch of Hobson’s Conduit entered the Garden feeding a ‘frog pond’ and a large double pond at the Garden’s centre. The long beds of herbs ran ‘in the Dutch style’ parallel to the main central path. There were few shrubs and trees. In 1763, with a new found enthusiasm for the Linnaean system, Thomas Martyn published the Plantae Cantabrigiensis in which all the known county flora was listed. He used John Ray’s early names and common names but introduced the new Linnaean names for the first time. Later James Donn, the second Garden Curator, published a full Garden plant list, the Hortus Cantabrigiensis. A contemporary reviewer describes it as a ‘little catalogue... intended for the use of those students in botany who shall be disposed to inspect the productions of the Walkerian Garden. From it they may immediately learn what plants they may have an opportunity of finding there, and what is yet required to render the collection more worthy of their notice’. This list of plants was laid out with reference to whether each was ‘medicinal, annual, biennial or perennial’. There was a clear intention to use the whole Garden for broadening the student’s knowledge and indeed the appreciation of plants by others in the University and their visitors. The aquatint by W Westall published by Ackermann in 1815 gives us a snapshot of this Garden’s appearance. It undoubtedly served also as a small park in the town
Tanacetum parthenium, Feverfew, would have been cultivated in the Old Botanic Garden as a medecinal plant. centre, even after the Botanic Garden moved to today’s site. On one noteworthy occasion in 1861, 2,300 visitors came to watch the celebrated tightrope walker, Charles Blondin perform. With the rope attached 45 feet up at one end to a huge Japanese acacia tree, he did several tricks including carrying a man across, walking across unsighted and pushing a wheelbarrow. John Henslow, who in 1825 had succeeded Thomas Martyn to the Chair of Botany, negotiated to move the Garden from its soot-polluted location to a larger rural setting. Before his pupil Charles Darwin had finished his Cambridge studies, Henslow had secured the present Botanic Garden site. From 1833 University teaching buildings (the ‘Museums’ of anatomy, physic, botany, chemistry and applied
mechanics) were gradually put up in the old Garden. The plant collection was added to greatly during the 1840s and bit by bit transferred to the new Botanic Garden, which finally opened on ‘the London Road site’ in 1846. Much natural science has been born in the buildings where the first Cambridge Garden came to its short-lived end. The Walkerian Garden site has thus doubly contributed to the heritage of plant evolution that we hold today. Next time you take a short cut down Free School Lane ponder this serendipitous fact: DNA revealed its structure to science in 1953 in Room 103 of the Austin Wing of the Cavendish Laboratories, on the same spot where over a century earlier Darwin and Henslow would have walked and talked about plants in our first Garden.
Garden Gates: comings and goings, a birds-eye view from Judy Cheney, PlantNetwork Administrator My office for PlantNetwork is on the fifth floor of the Austin Building, built in 1939 on the footprint of an earlier building for Botany in the New Museums Site. From my window, I can see King’s College Chapel and the towers of St Benet’s Church and Great St Mary’s, as in the Westall aquatint, left. I’ve been trying to work out where the features of the old Garden were on the site as it is today. I’ve looked at a range of maps and drawings from 1574 onwards and associated information, but there is more I need to look at before compiling a fuller account with dates and references. I’ve been thrilled to find that my office is on the site of the old Botanic Garden, probably where the stove house was or just in front of it. Here I report briefly on part of what I’ve found out about entrances and exits to the old and new Botanic Gardens in Cambridge.
There were several entrances to the Old Botanic Garden. The site given to the University by Richard Walker in 1762 included the ‘Great House’ facing Free School Lane and the ground in front of it. This was part of the former Augustinian Friary, and it was here that Thomas Martyn began his course of Lectures in Botany in April 1763. But by 1783, the building was in a ruinous state and was sold to John Mortlock (his bank in Bene’t Street eventually became Barclays Bank), with the ground in front of it, all except for a house occupied by John Salton, ‘the Gardener of the Botanic Garden’, and a passage 16-feet wide leading from Free School Lane to the Botanic Garden. The entrance to the passage was through a small ‘Renaissance’ archway in Free School Lane, opposite the gate in the railings around St Benet’s churchyard (a little further north than the
present archway into the New Museums Site). What was later referred to as the Curator’s House was on the right of this passage at the east end, where I think the path then turned right into the Garden. In 1874, the Cavendish Laboratory was built over the site of this passage and house, and the stone archway was moved and incorporated into the new building, but in a different orientation (facing approximately north), where it still is today. In 1763, the Botanic Garden site was still open on the south side, but a few years later (probably about 1765) handsome wrought-iron gates were erected in what is now Pembroke Street/Downing Street. The gates were set between stone piers with a high semicircular brick wall on either side – forming a forecourt on the outside, where, perhaps, carriages might have drawn in. Friends’ News – Issue 89 – May 2012
From this entrance, a broad gravel walk led north across the Garden, over a long narrow pond, to the centre of a range of greenhouses built against the north wall. The gates remained there for over 140 years – they were slightly to the west of the current entrance to the New Museums Site, formed when the Chemical Laboratory was extended in 1909.
This 19th century engraving by John Le Keux of ladies stepping down into the old Botanic Garden reminds us that the Garden was intended to be, in part, a public garden from the outset.
This photo from the Garden’s archive shows the gates in the original setting on Pembroke Street.
This drawing of the original gates by Richard Bawden appears in Lister’s Hammer and Hand: an essay on the ironwork of Cambridge, and was for some years the emblem used on the front cover of the Friends’ newsletter.
The gates today are positioned as the western focal point to the Main Walk. Friends’ News – Issue 88 – January 2012
However, in the nineteenth century, these ornamental iron gates were usually kept closed. The more frequented entrance was through a small doorway at the southwest corner, to the east of the six Perse Almshouses (rebuilt in Newnham Road in 1890) formerly facing the King’s Ditch, which crossed the site of the Botanic Garden. There was also a small entrance on Downing Street at the southeast corner of the Garden. Over the years there must have been at least ten entrances to the present Botanic Garden. Under ‘University Intelligence’, The Cambridge Chronicle for 7 November 1846 reported ’We are rejoiced to find the New Botanic Garden fairly commenced. On Monday, the 2nd instant, the ViceChancellor, in the presence of the other trustees, planted the first tree [a Common Lime], on the west side, near the spot intended for the entrance from the Trumpington Road... We are looking anxiously forward to the speedy completion of a work calculated to add greatly to the reputation of the University, and ornament of the town’. The site for the new Garden, as for the original, was then on the outskirts of the town. In 1846, there would have been a simple footbridge over Hobson's Conduit. The cast-iron footbridge, posts and gates there date from 1851. In 1907, the wrought-iron gates were taken down from their position in Pembroke Street and stored on ‘unused ground’ by the Botany School, built in 1904. Through the autumn of 1907, the Botanic Garden Syndicate discussed whether the gates should take the place of the wooden entrance gates, deemed a woefully inadequate focal point to the striking, long vista down Panton Street and into the Garden. However, on 29 April 1909, the minutes of the New Botanic Garden Syndicate report that the gates from the Old Botanic Garden were being erected at the Trumpington Road entrance, set between stone piers with railings set into a low brick wall. Beds in the quadrants outside the gates were planted with yellow Calceolaria amplexicaulis edged with blue lobelia. Narrow borders against the wall contained red fuchsias edged with white Cerastium tomentosum. This planting was proposed because it would grow tolerably well in the shade of that first, now maturing lime tree. It was considered to meet ‘the general taste for colour, which may be
perfectly artistic, without being liable to the charge of “bedding out”, or the adoption of obsolete style... A geometrical design would be entirely out of character with the Garden and would be like a misleading title-page to a book’. In his book Hammer and Hand: an essay on the ironwork of Cambridge (1969), Raymond Lister writes that the gates are thought to have been made in about 1765, perhaps by a follower of John Warren – the naturalistic sprays of leaves and berries in the overthrow point to his influence. The light and graceful curve of the semicircular overthrow is unusual in having no horizontal transom bar. The semicircular forecourt on the west side of the gates reflects not only the overthrow of the gates but also the original entrance in Pembroke/Downing Street, so clearly shown on maps for many years – though at Trumpington Road it would be impossible for carriages to draw in to it! As in the Old Botanic Garden, there are steps down from the gates into the present Botanic Garden, with a vista down the Main Walk. As at the Old Botanic Garden, the gates are now usually kept closed, but their elevated position on Trumpington Road ensures a clear view of the gates and an enticing glimpse into the Garden beyond.
Blue Plaque for the old Garden The 250th anniversary of the founding of the Old Botanic Garden will be honoured with a blue plaque, under the City’s scheme for commemorating people and events that have made a significant impact on life in the city, the country or the world. Plaques are associated with a specific building or location within the city boundary, and ours will be installed on the walls enclosing the commemorative triangular garden adjacent to Free School Lane, where we still grow a selection of plants known to have been cultivated in the original Garden. A new working arrangement is in place for the plot’s maintenance: the University’s Estate Management and Building Service will be taking care of the fine railings and gates and keeping the site clean and clear – this may include contracting professional abseilers to take the runaway jasmine in hand! The Botanic Garden horticulturalists will then be taking a fresh look at the planting.
Horticulture Who’s Who in the Garden: Helen Seal, Alpine and Woodland Supervisor Could I do this job without yoga? Years of contorting and holding bizarre postures has indeed proved useful in stretching and bending in the Rock Garden, carefully positioning each footfall so as not to crush plants or break brittle labels. I do not have the ideal proportions of a rock gardener – tiny feet, immensely strong hands at the ends of orangutan arms – so I thank yoga for the last five years’ of meeting the physical challenge. Also the mental one: without gardeners, the rocks would be brimful of alpine weeds, colourful scilla, allium, geranium and oxalis in a sea of horsetails, the fragile alpine submerged under mats of thyme and helianthemum.
Patiently and methodically we regulate the balance of the colonisers and the besieged. My three sons have also prepared me for the response of energetic and curious children to rock formations, water, thickets and trees of climbing potential. Perhaps I can divert the plant-insensitive youth with curious, slimy leeches and grass snake hunts? The garden of my own childhood was my parents’ passion, and I grew closely acquainted with a wealth of hardy plants long before I knew their names. I particularly recall the welldefended rugosa roses and gorse (where I played ball!) but also the excitement of the first blue Meconopsis. From every garden I’ve worked in over the last thirtyish years, all in the Cambridgeshire and
Suffolk area, from the roundabouts tended by the City Council, through the private gardens to country estates and the university colleges, I’ve learnt something which helps me tend and develop this wonderfully diverse corner of the Botanic Garden. I also owe my informal horticultural education to colleagues past and present, students, clients, garden-owners, fellow volunteer botanic guides and members of the Professional Gardeners’ Guild and the Alpine Garden Society. My first supervisor always wrote on every job sheet “leave the site tidy”, and a recent trainee gardener showed me the finishing touch of sweeping the rocks with a handbrush. It takes so many different inputs to grow a gardener, that most holistic of jobs. And the process continues.
Clippings and cuttings G The millstone commemorating the work of
staff & students past & present has been repositioned at the junction of the Middle Walk & the North Walk. A new plaque will be added at a later date.
G The Alpine Yard has been completely fitted
out with new raised benches to create traditional sand plunges for the reserve alpine collections, which include several of our national collections and much new material arising out of our collaboration of the Balkan Botanic Garden. Being able to grow the plants at waist height will greatly alleviate working conditions, and we anticipate seeing improved flowering as the growing conditions in the sand plunge will be much more stable. This major infrastructural investment has been made possible through the gift of Antigoni Iatrou, a noted botanical artist and champion of the Greek Island flora.
generous support, we have been able to source and plant semi-mature examples to create early impact. The silver limes are interspersed with chevrons of yew, and younger specimen limes.
The display will feature plants that are good for a low-allergen garden, such as Geranium phaeum, right, and those that should be avoided.
G We are experimenting this summer with
G On the Systematic Beds, the team are
tackling a knotty problem! The Japanese Knotweeds have become so entangled that this bed is now undergoing a combination of scorched earth policy and blackout to eradicate the current inhabitants. Once successful, it will be replanted and a close eye kept on the rapid, opportunistic growth. Elsewhere the Cannabaceae and Urticaceae have been split out into separate beds. On the Malvaceae beds, we will be trying again to introduce Okra or Lady’s Fingers (Abelmoschus esculentus) after last year’s failure to successfully transplant. Another mid-May successful transplant will be the Systematics Assistant, Simon Wallis, who is moving to Alpine & Woodland!
different wildflower meadows in a number of plots. To mark the Olympics, a field of gold meadow flowers will shine up at Station Road with some additional sunflowers self-sown from last year’s display. Along the new curving path through the research plots we have broadcast sown a patriotic mix of red white and blue to fly the flag in flowers for the Diamond Jubilee! The mix features Red Flax, Shirley Poppy, Red Orache, Bishops Flower, Baby’s Breath and Cosmos with Cornflower, Larkspur and Purple Tansy. The elegant curve in front of Cory Lodge has been sown with a mix carefully balanced for colour and succession of display. This will be a useful trial as we finalise plans for a perennial meadow here. Please do feel free to bring a picnic and use the tables and chairs here – it should be a lovely spot throughout the summer.
G Behind the scenes at time of press, Al G Along the Hills Road boundary, the Trees &
Shrub team have replaced the Horse Chestnuts, felled by canker, with a new, fresh and elegant planting of eight silver lime, Tilia tomentosa. With enormous thanks to Karen and Jos van Oostrum for their
Langley, Pete Michna and Simon Wallis are working hard to bring an enormous number of plants to peak condition for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in a display for the Royal College of Pathologists. The number of people with allergies is rising, but the reasons are not fully understood. Friends’ News – Issue 88 – January 2012
Dear Friend Another warm, early spring meant that we enjoyed a surge in Friends’ membership applications during March and April. While grateful for the extra support, it has unfortunately meant an increase in the processing time for membership renewals to four weeks. If your membership card is due to expire soon, we recommend renewing your membership at one of the ticket offices where you will be issued with a temporary entry ticket to use while your application is processed. The Friends early summer outings to Hidcote & Kiftsgate and Cottesbrooke Hall Gardens & Plant Finders Fair have proved very popular and are fully booked. This Friends’ News contains details of two additional summer outings arranged by Elizabeth Rushden and Jenny Leggatt, the visit co-ordinators, in response to their overwhelming popularity. As usual, places are limited so do book early. Other recent events include the Friends residential holiday to Holland in April which was a great success. Thank you to co-ordinator Margaret Goddin who has written a report below
accompanied by some lovely photographs. The Friends 30th Anniversary celebration took place on the Main Lawn and Glasshouses on 24 May with music, food and drink; a lovely evening, thank you to everyone who supported the occasion. Finally, I would like to remind all Friends that a valid membership card must be shown at the ticket offices when visiting the Garden to gain free admission. You will be charged for entry if you do not have a card with you or will be asked to leave your details. Joint members must each present their membership card. If you have any questions regarding your Friends membership please contact the Outreach Office on 01223 336271 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your valued support.
Friends’ Events A booking form with full descriptions, details, times and prices is enclosed.
July Late night openings The Garden will open late til 8pm every Wednesday in July when we hope to again offer cushion concerts on the Main Lawn starting at 6.15pm courtesy the Cambridge Summer Music Festival, and with invaluable support from Mills & Reeve. Please check the website, www.botanic.cam.ac.uk for details. Wednesday 4, 11, 18 & 25 July 2012
Emma Daintrey – Outreach Administrator 01223 336271 email@example.com
Tiptoeing through the Tulips, with the Friends
Day trip to Kelmarsh Hall & Coton Manor
We certainly took the pretty way to Holland when after a smooth Eurostar service to Amsterdam, we boarded our cruise boat MV Princess Julianna and set sail. There were many highlights: outstanding meals, impeccable service and memorable sidetrips including an enchanting cruise through the narrow canals of Amsterdam and, the next day, a visit to the Arnhem Bridge, scene of one of the most difficult engagements for the British Army in WWII.
Built in the Palladian style, Kelmarsh Hall is the former home of soc iety decorator, Nancy Lancaster, with a terrace and avenues laid out by Geoffrey Jellicoe while garden designer Norah Lindsay extends Lancaster’s shabby chic charm to the plantings. The afternoon is spent at Coton Manor. Landscaped on different levels, it comprises a series of distinctive smaller gardens, enhanced by flowing streams, fountains and ponds and a colourful wildflower meadow. Wednesday 11 July 2012
First stop was the Floriade, an event which only takes place every 10 years. The vast site is traversed by a cable car from which there were fascinating views over the five zones. There was Education, Environment and World Show Stage, while Relax and Heal showed how horticulture makes our lives healthier by promoting our physical and mental wellbeing and Green Engine focused on green energy. Some of the group would have like more plant interest in the exhibition, but others found it an interesting experience. Having disembarked from our cruise boat, we continued on the next day by coach to the Gardens of Appeltern. Here we explored the 200 plus (and still growing) individual model gardens and sunny cafes set in a delightful 52 acre site along the banks of the river. We then travelled on to the Utrecht University’s Botanic Garden, established in 1633 as a medicinal garden, which has, like ours, evolved into a botanical garden of around 10,000 species for the use of the university and visitors. It has a particularly interesting and large rock garden built on the Friends’ News – Issue 89 – May 2012
remains of former military defences, and a stunning glasshouse plant collection with a wealth of subtropical plants. From here it was a short hop to the very peaceful Golden Tulip Hotel Amersfoort, surrounded by forest. The spacious rooms were greatly appreciated after the small cabins on board, and the lounge and dining areas were very good too, just the place to sit and enjoy pre dinner drinks.
The following morning we set off for Keukenhof, mesmerised along the way by field upon field of colourful tulips and hyacinths. Stopping to take photographs, we were captivated by the fragrance. Keukenhof is planted out each year with 7 million tulip, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs in thousands of varieties to create an utterly breathtaking sight, enjoyed on foot, from the windmill viewing platform or by boat! After saying goodbye to our brilliant driver and thanking Sara, our Brightwater rep, for all her help during the holiday, we were homeward bound. At this point I wistfully recalled the ‘thought for today’ printed on the daily programme and left in our cabins by the crew of the Julianna on our last night aboard, which said, ‘All good things must come to an end’! The 2013 trip will be to Cornwall, currently in planning. I do hope to see you again then.
Day trip to Marks Hall Gardens & Beth Chatto Gardens Marks Hall Gardens comprises an arboretum, lake and parkland as well as a walled garden, redesigned by Brita von Schoenaich, part of the team that has recently reworked Cory Lawn. Beth Chatto is world-famous for her groundbreaking water-wise approach to gardening in the Gravel Garden. In contrast, there is a beautiful water garden created around four large, natural ponds. There is also an excellent nursery where plants are classified according to their growing conditions. Wednesday 1 August 2012