351-year-old Botanics hosts the Antiques Roadshow
What connects the Scottish Cup, a stunning opal necklace and the magnificent Victorian Palm House at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE)? The surprising answer is the ‘Antiques Roadshow’, the BBC’s popular, long-running series, where all three will be featured this Autumn.
Filmed at the Edinburgh Garden over two glorious days this Summer, the first in a short series of programmes featuring the Botanics will be broadcast on Sunday 26 September. This opening episode will include a precious Maori artefact and exquisite silver crockery designed for a doll’s house. Paintings by female artists and, poignantly, jewels worn by the Russian imperial family will also be showcased.
However, at almost 200 years old, the star attractions remain the Garden’s stately Victorian Palm Houses. Built in 1834 and 1858 respectively, the Tropical and Temperate Palm Houses are normally home to exotic species including ferns and palms, many of which are tender and even endangered. Now, the Palm Houses are being emptied of their precious plants prior to the beginning of an ambitious restoration programme.
The show’s presenter, journalist Fiona Bruce, was given a tour of the Temperate Palm House by the organisation’s Regius Keeper, Simon Milne MBE, who explained: “The Edinburgh Biomes project is arguably the biggest and most important programme in the history of the Garden.
“These wonderful A-listed Victorian Palm Houses now require extensive refurbishment, and we need to save them for the nation. Even more importantly, the restoration will prevent the catastrophic loss of up to 4,000 species in our public and research Glasshouses. Many of these plants are threatened with extinction or may even be extinct in their native lands. They provide an invaluable collection for our research scientists and delight our visitors.”
To enable the refurbishment to begin, earlier this year, the Garden’s team of dedicated horticulturists began the delicate process of decanting an incredible forty thousand plants from in and around the Glasshouses. The Palm Houses are now empty for the first time since they opened in the 19th century, awaiting their much-needed restoration.
Construction on the project will begin in Autumn 2021 with the restoration of the Glasshouses and the creation of new facilities at the Nursery site. An energy centre will help to significantly reduce the organisation’s carbon emissions, while a new plant health suite will invest research into combatting the increasing numbers of plant pathogens in the environment. The final part of the project will see the creation of a stunning new Glasshouse that will revitalise the entire Glasshouse Experience.
The first Antiques Roadshow to feature RBGE will be broadcast on BBC1 at 8pm on Sunday 26 September. The remaining episodes are expected to be shown in early 2022.
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