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Inspiring and Instructive Discovery

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This spring, going to the Cruickshank Botanic Garden is to go to a refreshing, inspiring and eye-opening place.

And, as a student looking for some academic inspiration on a sunny day in May, my experience within this paradoxical environment, where an arranged nature is rendered at its most attractive, became an insightful journey.

Initially, my visit in the gardens aimed at obtaining botanic information. Yet, against expectations, it provided me with a peace of mind, insightfulness and an ecological awareness.

Serene Revelation

Wishing to simply explore its 10 garden areas[1], my stroll under the singing birds firstly offered me a period of tranquility. By crossing the flourishing and perfumed gardens containing over 2500 labelled plants from all around the world, I could embark on an exotic journey. A journey which delivered pleasing smells and noises as well as an explosion of colours. By mixing blue, purple, pink, white, orange and green touches, the gardens immersed me in “natural” artwork reflecting an incredible biodiversity.

Therefore, the preceding elements being intertwined took me far away from my fast-pace environment, my books and laptop screen, giving me a visual pleasure as well as some mental rest.

Pinus Parviflora

Likewise, this sudden lasting connection with nature enabled my mind to blossom. Astonished by appealing species like the Pinus Parviflora, I decided to take photographs of the surrounding plants which were admirable by their diversity, and prompted me to create my own flowery gallery. You can observe at the end of this post, I later formed a hybridising world of nature and my own fantasy.

New Ecological Knowledge

However, towards the end of my excursion, this exhilarating experience took an instructive aspect when I met the curator of  the gardens Mark Paterson to ask some questions for my MLitt Programme.

As he explained, the impressive display I was looking at was not solely meant to delight my eyes; these beautifully diverse plants were also the results of vigorous work of conservation.

As it is commonly known, our world is witnessing 20170501_101459~2the destruction of our ecosystems. And wild plants, as fundamental elements of our everyday life[2], are equally suffering from unsustainable use, pollution and climate change. Therefore, as Mark mentioned, by ensuring the best growing cultivation, the Cruickshank Botanic Garden maintains its other main mission to protect and preserve current as well as future endangered species.

Furthermore, while ending my visit in the herbarium, my unfamiliar contact with catalogued and arranged dried plants finally showed me the latter also intended to preserve biodiversity.

I learnt that the internationally recognized institution, like other herbaria, was commissioned in conserving and protecting plants. By gathering 120 000 dried plants, mainly from the UK and South East Asia[3], it endeavours to preserve a part of our global diversity. The data and information contained in the specimens allow the researchers of the School of Biological Sciences to access comparative materials fundamental for scrutinising ecology, conservation biology, biodiversity, environmental change and extinction.  In other words, the herbarium was employing dried plants in order to find ways to ensure the diversity of our natural world.

Thus, leaving this site, I eventually realised the varied importance of botanic gardens like the Cruickshank Botanic Garden.

Indeed, from living plants to dried specimens, they offer us a peaceful environment and a source of inspiration. They also spur our curiosity and develop our environmental awareness. These first steps in the process could press us to expunge our plant blindness[4] and to understand that conserving and protecting plants are essential for our future.

Hence, by offering an insight into their conservation, the gardens are part of multiple institutions that energetically make one question oneself. Additionally, they try to compensate the recent lack of political involvement for sustaining our precious natural world.


[1]  The garden areas are the following: Southern Lawn, Rose Garden/Herbal, Sunken Garden, Herbaceous Border, Patio Garden, Central Lawn and Ponds, Scottish Meadow, Arboretum, Informal Picnic Area, Friends’ Summer House.
[2]  Plants are essential for the quality of our food and water, the constitution of medicinal products, the preservation of all habitats as well as climate regulation.
[3] The Herbarium contains approximately 120 000 specimens. It has over 22 000 sheets with specimens coming from South East Asia (mainly Thailand). The British collection gathers 55 000 specimens.
[4] Plant blindness was a term coined by the scholar Fred Powler in order to designate « the inhability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs. » – The Evolving Role of Botanical Gardens : Hedges against extinction, showcases for botany ?

GALLERY – Wandering in the Cruickshank Botanic Garden

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