Today I did something that seems oxymoronic. I put the BGCI (Botanic Gardens Conservation International) logo up on the home page of this website.
Ben and I are very proud to have joined this great organisation as institutional members, yet it seems a little strange to me that our small back garden should be a member of BGCI alongside such gardens as Kirstenbosch botanic gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Kew. There is however very good reason for us to have made this step.
Over the past few years, Ben and I have increasingly felt that our plants shouldn’t remain just a garden for our own personal pleasure. It became very important to us that we should be giving something back to the plants in return for all that they give to us. I have written before about how I believe that gardens can be arks for plant life and we wanted to take a step closer to this. We wanted to have something to work towards and to drive what we do here in the Fossil Garden. We wanted a purpose.
I have been a fan of the work of BGCI since I attended a talk, a few years back, by Sara Oldfield, BGCI Secretary General. Sara talked about things like the development of The Red List of Magnoliaceae, The Global Trees Campaign and BGCI’s work to protect montane forests in Latin America. All these things affect the relatives of the plants we grow here at FossilPlants. The issue, however, was that I felt that maybe a little garden in North Wales wouldn’t be able to be a member of BGCI. That was until, after a little persuasion from a friend, I picked up the phone and actually talked to the team at BGCI about it. They said ‘Yes, we would love you to join’. We were over the moon.
So does this make us a ‘botanic garden’?
We don’t have a café (we do have a kettle and a steady supply of tea and coffee for any visitors), we don’t have a gift shop (although there are plenty on the high street) and we don’t have income from ‘friends’, charitable trusts or government (our only income is that which we earn from our day jobs).
These are not the things that make a botanic garden.
So what does make a botanic garden?
If you google ‘what is a botanic garden’ the answer you get is……
‘An establishment where plants are grown for scientific study and display to the public.’
Just a bit further down the google results comes BGCI’s definition of a botanic garden from the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation.
“Botanic gardens are institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education.”
We keep detailed records of the plants we grow. We research the species in the garden and make them available for others to research too. We cultivate and propagate plants of conservation importance and we educate people, through this website, twitter and talks, about the species we grow. The garden is open, by appointment, to anyone wishing to visit and above all we have a very interesting collection of living plants.
I guess the bottom line is that, YES, FossilPlants is a botanic garden.
Joining BGCI has certainly given us some direction. The resources provided through membership have led us to develop a mission statement that will inform future decisions about what we want to achieve and it has pushed us toward updating the way we record the plants within the collection. In turn it is advising future plans and projects and allowing us to develop structured ideas that will be beneficial to plant conservation and the development of our little garden.
In short our decision to join BGCI means that out little garden hopefully has a BIG botanical future.