Sunday, March 1, 2009

A cue for Kew

    Quite a historic occasion at Kew last night. The first time in nearly a century that the directors of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Edinburgh  and the Irish National Botanic Garden are on the same public platform – along with the director of the new Welsh botanic gardens. And I’m chairing it, along with Denis Murphy, Professor of Biotechnology at Glamorgan University. The format evolved out of the series of evening public conversations that Tim Richardson and myself have been having with figures in the garden world at the Garden Museum in Lambeth.
    I was nervous about the event, a bit beyond the safety zone. That inferiority complex that gardeners have about botanists and botanic gardens. Denis and I probed them on a number of issues, such as the possibly negative impact of the Convention on Bio-diversity on research and plant exploration, how the gardens relate their mission to the public, and how they see their mission conserving plants in the face of climate change. Two hours were hardly long enough. Everyone seemed to enjoy the event and find it interesting.
     The ‘Vista Debates’ at the Garden Museum are great fun, a bit like running a private dining club. We have an onstage discussion with a guest/s (last month it was Penelope Hobhouse), followed by a jolly good meal cooked in the museum kitchen – often quite adventurous cooking  - I shall never forget the delicious cardamom-flavoured polystyrene noodles we had on the first night we did. A lot of the success of the evening centres on the rapport Tim and I have with each other, coming as we do from different ends of the spectrum of what makes people interested in gardens. Lila Das Gupta on her blog recently called us the “John Bird and John Fortune” of the gardening world. 
    You too can listen on a podcast, generously hosted by Gardens Illustrated.

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