Botanics Marks Anniversary of Legendary Head Gardener
This week, as delegates at COP27 discuss the impact of global climate change, the life and achievements of a great unsung Scottish horticulturist of the 19th century will be celebrated through a series of new plantings at his grave, designed by Botanics’ Herbaceous Supervisor Kirsty Wilson, to provide colourful blooms in each month of a special anniversary year.
The name of William McNab (1780–1848) is largely unknown today, but the horticultural skills of the former Superintendent, or Chief Gardener, at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) were such that he was once feted by King George III and even received a diamond ring from the Tsar of Russia.
Now, in an event to mark the forthcoming 175th anniversary of his death in 2023, a variety of 220 bulbs, tubers and corms will be planted on his untended grave in the New Calton Burial Ground in Edinburgh.
Kirsty Wilson will plant the carefully curated collection on Thursday 10 November, with the first flowers – scilla and crocus – expected to flower in January 2023.
Each month next year will see the blossoming of a different species, from tulips in April to crocosmia in August, until the anniversary of McNab’s death on 1 December 2023 is marked by the white blooms of snowdrops.
The collection is expected to continue to bloom each year.
As well as his immense horticultural experience, McNab was also an innovator and responsible for the safe removal of thousands of plants from the Garden’s third site on Leith Walk to its current location in Inverleith. Using his tree transporting machine, McNab was able to successfully move large and mature shrubs and trees through the streets to the new site – an amazing venture that was celebrated in Sara Sheridan’s recent novel The Fair Botanists.
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