The Duke and The Duchess of Rothesay visit Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to mark 350th Anniversary
One year after the global pandemic wrecked celebrations for its 350th anniversary year, the value of science, conservation, education and community engagement at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has been recognised during a visit today (October 1) by Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and The Duchess of Rothesay.
Greeted by Dominic Fry, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Regius Keeper Simon Milne MBE, the first stop was the historic Botanic Cottage. In the great botanical teaching room of the Scottish Enlightenment, Their Royal Highnesses met key science staff and heard news of current research and forthcoming initiatives addressing the impact of the biodiversity crisis and climate emergency.
Out in the Garden, The Duke and The Duchess chatted with local people whose health and wellbeing has been seen to benefit from spending time with nature. They also spoke to staff and volunteers responsible for delivering a range of activities aimed at encouraging the wider community to engage with the environment.
The last time His Royal Highness, Patron of RBGE, was joined at the Garden by Her Royal Highness was in 2006 for the opening of the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden. Today, Their Royal Highnesses received updates on plans to rejuvenate the area for a new generation of visitors.
The Duke and The Duchess also had an opportunity to learn more about the imminent start of the Edinburgh Biomes project to restore the Garden’s A-Listed public Glasshouses and replace the aging research houses.
Before leaving, Their Royal Highnesses met horticultural staff and students and heard about new plant health initiatives, conservation horticulture and rhododendron conservation. Finally, a year on from the Garden’s 350th anniversary, they planted a young Sorbus pallescens from China to mark the historic event.
Commenting on the success of the visit, Simon Milne said it had provided a valuable opportunity to explain the diversity of the organisation and the experiences of some of those people with whom it engages: “The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh means many different things to different people. The one million visitors we welcome to our four magnificent Gardens each year come to discover 13,500 species of plants from around the globe. Increasingly, many are also discovering how being in a green space can bring real benefits to their physical and mental wellbeing. Yet, behind the beauty and tranquillity of our Gardens, is a world-class scientific institute and a centre of excellence for plant conservation and education. For those of us who work here, it is all these things. We are privileged to be part of one of the world’s finest and most respected botanic gardens and it has been an honour to share some of our stories with The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay.”
For further information please contact Shauna Hay on 07824 529 028, Suzie Huggins on 07385 491 460 or Sandra Donnelly on 07312 128 637.
The Botanic Cottage, central to the Royal visit, is at the heart of RBGE’s community engagement in Edinburgh. It formerly stood at the Garden’s third site, off Leith Walk and was the classroom of Edinburgh medics and plantsmen during the Scottish Enlightenment. After RBGE moved to Inverleith in the early 1820s, the building had various purposes before falling into disrepair. Following intervention by the local community, HLF funding was secured and, carefully dismantled stone by stone, the cottage was transferred to its new home a decade ago. It is at once RBGE’s oldest and newest building.
The Sorbus pallescens planted by Their Royal Highnesses was wild collected in China by RBGE horticulturists Martyn Dickson and David Tricker in 2016. This was during fieldwork near the Lijiang Alpine Botanic Garden and Jade Dragon Field station the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh shares with Kunming Institute of Botany and is part of our collaborative conservation programme.
Seed was collected and split into three shares, the majority going to the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species at the Kunming Institute of Botany. A small amount came to Edinburgh and the remainder stayed at the Jade Dragon Field Station where it was sown and the arising saplings planted on the slopes of Yulongxueshan, within the partnership’s conservation area.
Celebrations for RBGE’s 350th anniversary began with a reception at the Scottish Parliament; an anniversary film from HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay and various city-wide collaborations until the COVID-19 pandemic and UK national lockdown in March 2020 brought the programme to a temporary halt. Despite lockdown, it participated in the virtual Chelsea Flower Show and delivered a programme of anniversary talks to online audiences, attracting viewers from over 80 countries.
After a delay of one year, the world’s oldest Floral Clock in West Princes Street Gardens was unveiled in July 2021, showcasing the 350th anniversary of RBGE in its intricate design.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education, and plant conservation action around the world. In Scotland, its four Gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan attract more than a million visitors each year. It operates as a Non Departmental Public Body established under the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, principally funded by the Scottish Government. It is also a registered charity, managed by a Board of Trustees appointed by Ministers. Its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future.” Learn more: www.rbge.org.uk.
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