Gardening, My Diary, The English

Cambridge University Botanic Gardens

Every time I go back home I go to the Botanic Gardens. A wonderful place beautifully laid out: you know it’s a Botanic garden because of all the labelling, but it’s also a park which people have loved so much that they’ve left money in their wills for benches for present users. It’s laid out in areas where you can lift ideas for your own garden maybe? Winter gardens, rock gardens,dry gardens,rose and scented ones as well as a bee border and if your plot is really big you can arrange a magnificent pool-side garden like theirs, surrounding their grand fountain.

They have an interesting chronological bed full of surprises. What, is that not a native English plant? No dear, It arrived from the Americas in……

The glass houses are organised on continent lines and are totally fascinating; learning here is a real joy. Did I say learning ? Well if that’s what it is, it’s purveyed with the lightest possible touch. What I did notice in particular this time was the new rising path (opened in 2018) with the guide to the evolution of plants written on the wooden floor of the path with illustrative panels showing how to look at the plants and leading to the highest point (that would be us until our natural world gives up on us and sinks back into a sea of heedlessness, a morass of folorn hopes as well as a cruel and totally self-centred theft of the kids’ future). Looking from the top of this spiral walk you gaze over a briliantly conceived open book of nature. It was one of the first to be laid out when the Gardens were moved to the present site in 1846. It is a showcase and teaching resource to represent the Swiss botanist A. de Condolle’s descriptions of monocotyledons and dicotyledons .They now have a problem: when the book was written the taxonomy was unaided by DNA detection, now what shall they do? Keep to the author’s historical layout or organize more precisely according to current knowledge? It’s a bit of a conundrum.

But apart from the gardens you have the interesting encounters too. The lady I asked “where did you get that lovely parasol from, Japan?” The unexpected answer had me dashing off to the gift shop! Would you believe it, that delicate concoction of rice paper and bamboo came from the gift shop!

Then I went for lunch. More typical English fare : baked potato with English Cheddar and ginger beer to drink. Potatoes from the New World and ginger from South East Asia! In the risto I met a sweet girl from Oristano who was desperate to speak Italian. I know just how that feels. She told me she had been in Cambridge for months trying to learn , so believe me when I tell you that you need to go with at least a basic knowledge otherwise your time is wasted.

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