October Meeting

Words Sue Hopwood

A brief History of Botanic Gardens, with special reference to Cambridge University Gardens.

Before we became too captivated by Dr. Fox and her obvious enthusiasm for the botanical garden at Cambridge, we were reminded, by our esteemed president, that Chris Saunders, whose reputation goes ahead of him, will be our speaker in November. October monthly tips included mowing, lifting, (but not washing) and storing dahlias in a cold place and keeping an eye open for mice seeking warmth!

Dr. Fox, being the sister of Mary Howell, a committed member of our club,  reassured us that she would have somewhere very comfortable for bed and breakfast before returning to Cambridge.

The purpose of botanical gardens, of which there are many all around the world, includes conservation, scientific research and education. Recording the origin of plants and the safe exchange of seeds across the world. Think of them as the plant equivalent of zoos for animals.

There are 2500 gardens around the world,117 of which are in the UK. University gardens are under threat from cuts (is there anything which isn’t?) and opening them to the public brings in much-needed finance.

The earliest botanical garden is recorded in Italy in the 16th century as a source of plants for medicinal purposes.

The Cambridge botanical garden originated in 1762 and the current site was secured in 1831 following the appointment of, at the young age of 25, John Henslow as Chair of Botany. Henslow, as I’m sure you all know, became known later as ‘ the man who walked with Darwin ‘

A later bequest by Reginald Cory in the 19th century funded further development of the garden and in 1955 ( just about within the living memory of most of us!) a scented garden was created. This was followed by a Mediterranean, dry garden, built in conjunction with the water board to determine which plants will survive in dry conditions. (One can always hope) A genetics garden tells the story of wheat and there is also a fenland area.

By way of conclusion Dr. Fox told us a lovely story of the Chinese tree which flowered, in 2012,  the first time in 30 years. An artist was despatched forthwith to paint the plant in situ. Imagine the scenario, on arrival, to find that the plant had finished flowering before she got there. Surely she was not on a slow boat to China! The story ended happily for, on her return, she found she was able to paint the tree after all………..in the Cambridge botanical garden.

A most interesting and informative evening.