Chairman's Letter, Spring 2017

Mark McGilchrist, February 2017

As I write to you, winter has not yet retreated and a disfigured birch tree in the Garden (shown on the front cover) appears to confirm this is the case. The Germans use the term krumholz for this type of deformed vegetation, shaped by exposure to strong, cold winds, although a simulation in this particular case. However, the winter months do not deny us use of the Garden as two community-engagement events run by the Friends demonstrate. Our Stride into ’17 event attracted around 70 participants on 2nd January to run, jog or walk along the 5km course that passes through almost all parts of the Garden, with hot drinks and nibbles at the finish in the Education Centre. This was the 3rd year for this event and we have seen a doubling of numbers on each occasion. We also joined in the West End Christmas Week with our traditional Walk in the Dark for young children. This year’s story-line was familiar, but the sounds effects were quite different with the Mains-of-Fintry pipe band leading the children around the Garden in the almost pitch black! I would like to thank Pipe Major Richard Smith and his band for their contribution.

Another remit of the Friends is to provide funds for projects within the Garden and the last six months have been no exception. The Discover Play project is now taking shape with a design (by Arborantics) for a living willow structure through which children can move and play. Garden staff have also positioned and modelled logs on which children can safely balance, and we hope shortly to select a number of wind chimes to be placed at suitable points throughout the Garden. This work is courtesy of a grant from the Alexander-Moncur Trust of £2,000 with a matched sum from the Friends. The total allows us to be quite ambitious.

We continue our commitment to the Native Plants Project through our funding of a horticultural technician position for one day per week, a resource of about £6,000 per year. As you know, the NPP is a major feature and endeavour within the Garden.

We are also supporting two summer trips by the curator and other staff members to the tune of about £2,000: one to attend the 6th Global Botanic Garden Congress being held this year in Geneva; and the other to walk the Parc National Du Mercontour in the southern French Alps to collect wild seeds from a range of Mediterranean plants from higher altitudes as part of the Garden’s conservation efforts. The curator will write and present on both of these trips at a later date.

Finally, we have made a small contribution (£500) to an ongoing citizen science project within the Garden which looks at the condition of the stream that flows through the native plants area from the Bandusian well. This contribution will supply chemicals for solute analysis and dipping nets and trays for the biotic aspects of the analysis. We will report back to you on this project also.

In all, our finances remain healthy and we have achieved a balance of generated funds and expenditure for 2016/17.

You will all be aware of the V&A development and its opening scheduled for 2018. It is important the Garden capitalises on the large number of visitors expected and your committee is now spending time looking at ways in which we can promote the Garden in this respect. Projects relating to improvements in Garden facilities, access to the Garden and publicity for the Garden are being pursued in combination with others. These projects are encouraging greater collaboration with individuals from various departments within the University and other organisations within the west end of Dundee, and I hope to be able to report to you in much more detail in the next newsletter.

There is, however, a particular internal project I would like to share with you at this time: the proposed shelter and viewpoint over the Tay and airport to be situated close to the large tree commemorating Sir Garnet Wilson. The inside-rear cover of this newsletter shows the position of the site and elementary drawings for this facility and we are identifying local providers for more detailed drawings and costs. We will seek grant funding since the costs will not be small. The design permits visitors to ponder the view and activities of the airport despite adverse weather conditions. We would welcome any thoughts you might have regarding this project.

We have again had a successful set of Sunday talks during the autumn with my favourites being those on recycling and community gardens both of which are important themes in today’s world. The talk on green gyms was unfortunately cancelled, but is expected to be rescheduled for the summer. However, our Endowment Trust roadshows were met with a little less success and we will be looking at more imaginative ways to engage with you on this topic in future. You will find our summer programme of events within this newsletter and on our blog. I would particularly draw your attention to our second Summer Gathering which will be held on Saturday 12th of August and full details of this will be made available in early summer when we renew memberships.

An interesting suggestion has recently been made to form a children’s gardening group, similar but not identical to the Garden Explorers Club at St. Andrews Botanic Garden. This might run continuously over spring and summer and could also allow us to regularise evening openings of the Garden. The Friends would run this group, ideally with parental help, and would be free to members, and your thoughts on this would be most welcome.

Finally, I would like to welcome Jodi-Anne George as a new (co-opted) member of the Friends’ Committee. As well as a senior lecturer in English with the University, Jodi runs the JOOT theatre company, which we hope you will be able to enjoy on a few occasions this summer. There is still one free position on our committee. We are always looking for volunteers to help with any of the projects I have talked about, and with our usual outings such as the annual plant sale and the Dundee Food and Flower Festival, so do make yourself known to us if you are interested.

I wish you a pleasant spring and summer.