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Showing posts from January, 2013

The scent of winter

The last remnants of snow that recently blanketed Bristol, and indeed most of the UK, have been washed away by what seems like relentless rain. In the Botanic Garden, the staff and volunteers are seeking shelter in the potting shed and glasshouses, turning to indoor work during this inclement weather. Yet, despite grey skies and soggy soil, the Garden still has some delights to offer the senses.
Just outside the welcome lodge at the Botanic Garden, there is a delightful fragrance emanating from the Chinese plum, which is also known as the Japanese apricot (Prunus mume). This is an incredibly important plant in China and Japan and the delicate pink flowers feature prominently in much of the art from these cultures. Beneath the Chinese plum, Helleborus is in bloom – purple, pinks and whites – offering a beautiful winter display of colour.
Andy, a botanical horticulturist at the Garden, has taken time out of his busy schedule to show me around today...in the rain. As we enter through t…

Ro-botany: rotting robots in the garden

There’s something really exciting going on in the compost heap at the Botanic Garden. Don’t believe me? What if I told you that buried deep within the hot and humid milieu of the compost, lay the components of future robots that could help clean up environmental disasters such as oil spills. It might sound like a piece of science fiction, but in fact it’s part of a two year project by the Bristol Robotics Laboratory that is looking at the development of a biodegradable robot.
The aim of the project is to build a robot that is self-powered, can move and biodegrades at the end of its life.  It’s an idea that was conceived by Dr. Jonathan Rossiter from the University of Bristol and Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos from the University of the West of England (UWE). Rossiter is an expert in the development of artificial muscles and Ieropoulos is an expert in the development of microbial fuel cells. So, when these two put their heads together to think about the future and the biggest challenges that la…

Volunteers in the spotlight

This is my first day visiting the garden on a Tuesday. It’s a whole new set of faces around the coffee table as each day of the week brings with it a new set of volunteer gardeners at the Botanic Garden.  I've brought some home-made cookies – a sort of bribe or peace offering I suppose. You see, I want to drag a few of these lovely volunteers away from their work for a few minutes to ask them about what motivates them to keep coming back to the garden, donating their precious time, week after week, year after year.
After some discussion around the coffee table, Colin Bolton becomes my first volunteer interviewee. I’m not entirely sure he has actually volunteered himself...it rather seems that his fellow volunteers around the table have ‘volunteered’ him. He’s willing to go with the flow though.

Colin has been a volunteer gardener at the Botanic Garden for nearly ten years, coming in one morning a week. He is a chemist by training and is a retired lecturer from the University of …