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Love, hard work and a lot of volunteers...that’s what makes the garden grow

Two weeks ago when I was at the Botanic Garden learning about the tremendous amount of work involved in putting the garden to bed, I was invited to join the team for morning tea. Of course, I leaped at the opportunity to warm my hands and to meet some of the other staff and volunteers. It was a Friday and there were about 8 or 9 of us sitting around the table. After introductions were done it took no time at all for the conversation to return to a friendly banter that put me in mind of a family gathering. It was all very insightful. There was talk of books, movies, a case of being mistaken for a celebrity, the perils of driving an E-Type Jag with a heavy foot, and cakes...there was lots of talk about cakes. You see, it would seem that as well as all the other things the volunteers do at the Botanic Garden, many of them can also bake a mean cake.
However, one of the most interesting things I learned that day was that some volunteers have been with the University of Bristol Botanic Ga…

Putting the garden to bed

We all have different approaches to our gardening. Mine is very much a ‘survival of the fittest’ style. You will not find any high maintenance plants in my garden and it’s not from a lack of interest – it’s merely a reflection of my personality and lifestyle. However, when you house over 4,500 species from all over the world, as the Botanic Garden does, there needs to be some serious plant coddling. Particularly at this time of year as the days get shorter, temperatures drop and rain is inevitable.  Plants that are adapted to winterless weather need some special attention and so the staff and volunteers at the Garden are very busy right now putting the garden to bed.
Andy Winfield, a botanical horticulturalist who’s been working at the Botanic Garden for nearly twelve years, toured me around last week to show me some of the special treatments the plants are getting in preparation for winter. The first stop...bananas!
A few weeks ago when I was here, these banana plants were lush and …

Through the eyes of bees

One of the many fabulous things about the Botanic Garden is that on any given day, you may find scientists out there conducting cutting edge research. There are currently at least seven research programs going on either directly or indirectly with the garden, making it not only a place of beauty, but also a place of scientific discovery.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a researcher from the University of Bristol’s Ecology of Vision group, who was in the garden photographing flowers with the most bizarre looking camera. I generally take notice of cameras anyway, but this one could hardly be ignored. It was essentially a metal box perched atop a tripod with a lens protruding out one end and an abundance of wires to connect it to a laptop protruding out the other. It simply begged the question – “what is that and what are you doing with it?”
“It’s a POL camera,” said James Foster, a PhD student in the School of Biological Sciences, “we’re imaging the polarized light reflecte…

Autumn in a new light

Some of my fondest memories of autumn are as a child holding my parent’s hands on a crisp afternoon, watching as my little red welly boots swished through the dried fallen leaves of the season. Even now as an adult, I can’t resist shuffling a little when conditions are right, just so I can watch the warm colours roll across my feet and listen to the rustle of autumn. However, last Friday Nick Wray, Curator for the Botanic Garden, opened my eyes to a whole new set of autumn delights – from winged bushes to exploding seed pods – this season is about so much more than just falling leaves.

Fruit and flowers      The first stop on our tour was the plant Gunnera tinctoria, which to the untrained eye looks very much like rhubarb on steroids, and as a result is commonly called giant rhubarb. This species is smaller than the one commonly seen in British gardens, Gunnera manicata, but otherwise looks the same. As the plant prepares for its dormant winter phase, the large leaves have started…

“WOW! That’s a lot of bees!”

I could hear my son’s enthusiastic voice coming from somewhere near the front. He had managed to squeeze through the crowd so he could see, while I stood at the back trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on. There were about a hundred of us gathered around a demonstration beehive in the University of Bristol’s Botanic Garden, listening to the beekeeper talk about maintaining beehives. He’d just pulled out a frame from the hive that was absolutely writhing. We all stepped in for a closer look, and despite having no fear of bees, I have to admit that I was grateful for the mist net that separated us. After all, 15,000 is a lot of bees!      Last month, my son and I were on a long walk when we happened upon the annual Bee and Pollination Festival at the Botanic Garden. The festival is a joint effort between the Botanic Garden and the Bristol branch of the Avon Beekeepers Association and this was its 3rd year running. This year, the event also partnered with the Bristol City C…