Skip to main content


Scent and spring promise by Andy Winfield

The garden has taken a battering over the last few weeks with high winds and the heavy soil saturating rain has made gardening difficult. Despite it all there is interest with flower, colour and scent now and the promise of it in the next few weeks.
One of my favourites and a true signpost of January/February is the winter aconite (Eranthis hymalis); in a few weeks it will dot the borders with tiny butter yellow flowers. Growing naturally in deciduous woodland, this plant flowers before the leaves on trees shade out the forest floor and as the sun strengthens as it gets higher in the sky.
In the phylogeny display a small plant with a big name, Scilla mischenkoana 'tubergentana', is flowering its little flowers. Native to Southern Russia and Iran this plant can grow in a variety of sites, shade or full sun, drought tolerant and very tough, just plant it where you’ll be able to see!
Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is in full flower, you smell it before you see it as its …
Recent posts

Christmas and the Botanic Garden

Being out and about in the Garden gives a sense of the changing of the seasons, a sense brought about by the combination of light, temperature, wildlife and, of course, plants. This is felt most keenly at this time when we are the furthest from the sun that we will be, until next year. I find mid-winter an uplifting time; leafless trees show their bones and wildlife is easier to spot. It’s amazing how much life is flitting around in an old oak tree when you take the time to look into its branches. The sky seems bigger in winter and the sunsets more vivid. This might just be that we don’t get to see them so much in midsummer, but at this time of year we see the sun rise in the Garden and set in the Garden.
From this moment the days get a little longer and we begin to see movement in the soil, small signposts to spring that don’t occur before midwinter. Snowdrops and winter aconite emerge in January; tiny and fragrant flowers emerge on shrubs such as witch-hazel, Daphne, winter flowerin…

Winter and the sacred lotus

Late summer seems like a lifetime ago now the days are short and we’ve seen the first frosts of the season. But, if I cast my mind back to the first time I stepped into our tropical glasshouse this summer, as a shiny new trainee….I wiped clean my foggy glasses and was immediately blown away by the stunning Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), in full flower in the pool. The vibrant colours and sheer height of the flowers looked stunning against the backdrop of green foliage in the glasshouse.
The Sacred Lotus is a fascinating plant that’s been cultivated in China for over 3,000 years. It’s now grown around the world, not just for the gorgeous flowers, but for deep cultural and religious significance to Hindus and Buddhists, as well as a source of medicine and food.
It didn’t occur to me on that first day quite how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep this beautiful plant at its best every year. Over the last few months I’m very privileged to have found out how to grow the lotus first…

Native American foods

Having worked as a trainee at the Botanic Garden for nearly two years I am now coming to the end of my time with the garden. I have learned more than I thought possible to learn in just two years, have gained my RHS qualifications, have had the opportunity to work with an amazing range of plants and have acquired a huge amount of practical horticultural experience. Best of all, I have had the opportunity to work alongside some very wonderful people who have shared their knowledge and passion with me and have made me feel very welcomed into this beautiful community. 

In terms of my horticultural work here at the garden, my favourite part of this last year has been my project to work on the Native American Vegetable display. This included everything from designing the planting lay out, propagating and maintaining the plants, through to harvesting the food and collecting the seeds. Therefore, for this article I want to share with you some of the fascinating information I’ve learnt about t…

The Garden blog

By Andy Winfield
Here at the Botanic Garden we’ve decided to take a slight change of direction on the blog; while there will still be science based items, there will be much more about the day to day running of the Garden and various experiences of the small team who work here. There may be items from volunteers or staff and the subject matter will be diverse, you will be surprised at the areas of life plants take us.
First, an introduction; I’m Andy, a career change, I’d done this and that, warehouse work to office work ending as a Costs Draftsman for a Bristol Law firm. It was at this point I considered my future working life stretching ahead and didn't like it; and so I shifted direction and embarked on a career in horticulture. This was a good move! After a two-year course I landed a job at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden, this was 2001 and the little-known Garden was tucked away in woods beyond Bristol’s famous suspension bridge spanning the Avon Gorge. The gardeni…

The new Australian display

By Helen Roberts The newly established Australian display is thriving at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden. This new area has been developed over the last year few years with the aim of introducing visitors to the captivating flora from the Mediterranean climatic region of Western and Southern Australia. The new display is part of the strategic plan for the Garden and follows on from the creation of the Mediterranean and southwest South Africa zones (N Wray 2017, personal communication, 27th July). 
This display aims to broadly showcase some of the hardier plants of Western and Southern Australia but also concentrates on the highly diverse flora of the "Kwongan", one of a number of special habitats that make up the Southwest Australia ecoregion. This ecoregion is acknowledged worldwide as one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. 
Kwongan is the aboriginal term used for the mixed waxy leaved shrubland and heathland assemblage found in the southwest of …

The potential of honey: a highly topical application

By Helen Roberts The one animal that springs to most people’s mind for eating honey is bears. Especially a particularly round individual who gets his hand stuck in the honey pot numerous times. However, many animals around the world, including raccoons, skunks, opossums and honey badgers, feast on honey. They brave the fury of the hive to not only get at the sweet sticky stuff, but for the protein obtained from eating the bees and larvae themselves. We humans are fussier and prefer to stick to just the honey, though some people will eat honey on the comb.

For centuries, honey has been recognised not only for its culinary uses but its medicinal uses, due to its antimicrobial properties. The potential scope of honey in medicine is vast and still developing despite its use since ancient times; the ancient Egyptians and Greeks commonly used honey to treat wounds. Research into the medicinal properties of honey is ongoing and not only restricted to its use in promoting wound healing, but …