Latest News

Plants First! Designing with Plants

Speaker: Sarah Price, Tuesday 24th October at 10am in the Education Centre

Co-designer of the 2012 Gardens at the Olympic Park in east London and remaining at the core of the team planning the post-Games legacy design and maintenance of the gardens, Sarah is a Visiting Lecturer in Planting Design at the Department of Landscape at Sheffield University and at the KLC School of Design in London.

She writes for Gardens Illustrated and the Daily Telegraph and is a Chelsea & Hampton Court Medallist. Sarah believes in plant-driven design. She is developing a visual vocabulary using plants, their shapes, forms and patterns as the underlying compositional elements of a garden. Through an overview of past and current work she will give real examples and show how her design processes work.

Visit her web site for more information about Sarah and her work.

In Conversation with Danny Clarke - 1 October

Danny Clarke Danny Clarke

The BBC’s Instant Gardener was a welcome visitor to the Education Centre on 1st October. Danny Clarke, who describes himself as The Black Gardener, talked about his long career in garden design and landscaping, his recent TV series, and the reasons why he thinks the top end of gardening is so lacking in diversity. Danny’s appearance was one of a series of Special Sunday events organised by the Friends this year, to mark the opening of the new Education Centre.
Photos: ©J. Sinclair; M. Marsh

Steve Beech’s retirement - 29 September

Botanical Gardens supervisor Steve Beech retired at the end of September, after more than 50 years’s service for the Council. His helpful approach and ready smile have been a feature of the Gardens since the 1970s. Steve’s colleagues had arranged a vintage bus to take him to a farewell ceremony in the Lord Mayor’s chambers on his last day. In the afternoon over a hundred people joined Steve in the Education Centre for a retirement party, with home-baked cakes provided by FOBS members, speeches from senior Council staff and warm wishes from all who knew him for a long and happy retirement.
Pictures to follow

RHS Green Plan It Challenge - 19 September

Green Plant It launch
Sheffield pupils in the Gardens ©RHS

The Friends are delighted to be co-hosting the Royal Horticultural Society’s Green Plan-It challenge, a design competition for secondary school pupils. Six teams from schools in the Sheffield region attended a launch day at the Education Centre in early September. They were treated to tours of the Gardens by members of the Friends, as well information and ideas from RHS staff. Supported by local mentors, the school teams have 10 weeks to produce their garden designs, which will be assessed at a celebratory event back in the Gardens in December.

Heritage Open Day and FOBS Autumn Plant Sale - 10 September

HOD Poster
HOD Events
©J. Sinclair

FOBS cakes
The FOBS team provided wonderful cakes
©J. Sinclair
History Tour
History tour setting off
©J. Sinclair
Plant Sale Poster
Plant Sale Poster
©J. Sinclair

Local Garden S11
Setting up the plant sale
©S. Turner

Local Garden visit S11 area - 9 September

Local Garden S11
Local Garden S11
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S11
Local Garden S11
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S11
Local Garden S11
©S. Turner

New Gardens history book launched on 2 September

FOBS are delighted to announce the publication of a new book detailing the story of the early history of the Gardens.
Sheffield Botanical Gardens: a history - Volume I (1826-1844) was launched at the ‘Art in the Gardens’ event on Saturday 2 September.

History of the gardens

History of the gardens
FOBS Historian Alison Hunter signing books at 'Art in the Gardens'

FOBS historian, Alison Hunter, and former volunteer, Dan King, have spent years, assisted by other FOBS members, in gathering information relating to the Gardens. This is the first volume, of a proposed series, which explores the history of Sheffield’s much-loved Botanical Gardens. Careful research of records, books, gardening magazines and local newspapers was led by Hunter, chiefly at the Sheffield Local Studies Library and Sheffield Archives. This resulted in the accumulation of reports about the Society's meetings and events in the Gardens, all of which have been transcribed and, along with maps and illustrations, are included in the book. In this edition, the story traces the development of the popular movement to create the Gardens within the context of the growing town of Sheffield. A Botanical and Horticultural Society was formed to raise funds for the project and a design competition was held in 1834. The winner was Robert Marnock, a highly regarded landscape gardener, who was appointed the Curator with the task of laying out the Gardens in the fashionable 'Gardenesque' style. Local architect Benjamin Broomhead Taylor, one of the architects who designed the Cutlers’ Hall, was employed to plan the conservatories, gatehouse and other buildings. The Committee of Management forged ahead with plans, drawing up rules and recruiting shareholders. An estimated 15,000 people attended over the four opening days in June/July 1836.

Access to the Gardens was restricted to shareholders and subscribers for most of the season, with only the concession of a few 'Gala Days' when the grounds were open to the general public for an admission fee. Horticultural shows were popular and exhibitors included such notable gardeners as Joseph Paxton of Chatsworth House and Joseph Harrison of Wortley Hall. However, a global recession hit the steel and cutlery industries hard and financial problems caused the Society to fail in 1844.

The first three appendices include a catalogue of plants in the Gardens, first published in 1838 by Robert Marnock, and biographic notes on the curators, architect and patrons researched with the assistance of FOBS members, Kay Keeton and Jill Sinclair. Of interest to Sheffielders, in particular, is Appendix IV; this was initially compiled by Dan King and includes details of more than 170 local shareholders who were responsible for the creation and development of the Gardens.

Book Price: £15. On sale at:
- All FOBS meetings and events
- Gatehouse Giftshop at the Botanical Gardens
- Sheffield Scene in Surrey Street
- Also available from amazon.co.uk
ISBN-10 1546889752
ISBN-13 9781546889755

Local Garden visits - Hardy Plant Society's Jubilee 20 August

Local Garden S7
Local Garden S7
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S7
Local Garden S7
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S7
Local Garden S7
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S10
Local Garden S10
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S10
Local Garden S10
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S10
Local Garden S10
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S11
Local Garden S11
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S11
Local Garden S11
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S11
Local Garden S11
©J. Mitchell

FOBS Day Trip to Castle Howard and Scampston Gardens - 8 August

Castle Howard
Castle Howard
©J. Sinclair
Castle Howard
Castle Howard
©J. Sinclair
Castle Howard
Castle Howard
©J. Sinclair
Scampston
Scampston
©J. Sinclair
Scampston
Scampston
©J. Sinclair
Scampston
Scampston
©J. Sinclair

Curator's Tour of the Gardens - 25 July

Curator's Tour
Curator's Tour
Broadwalk, near fountain
©J. Dysart
Curator's Tour
Curator's Tour
Rose Garden
©R. Egglestone
Curator's Tour
Curator's Tour
Edge of Asia Garden, opposite Rose Garden
©J. Dysart

FOBS Holiday to East Anglia - 2-6 July

Cambridge
Cambridge Botanic Garden - the glasshouses
©H. Kohler
Cambridge
Cambridge - Thunbergia mysorensis
©H. Kohler
Cambridge
Cambridge Botanic Garden - the fountain
©H. Kohler
Hyde Hall
Hyde Hall
©S. Leeson
Hyde Hall
Hyde Hall
©H. Kohler
Hyde Hall
Hyde Hall
©S. Leeson
Beth Chatto
Beth Chatto's Garden
©S. Leeson
Beth Chatto
Beth Chatto's Garden
©P. Plant
Hyde Hall
Beth Chatto's Garden
©S. Leeson
Bressingham
Bressingham
©B. Plant
Bressingham
Bressingham
©H. Kohler
Bressingham
Bressingham
©S. Leeson
Helmingham Hall
Helmingham Hall
©B. Plant
Helmingham Hall
Helmingham Hall
©B. Plant
Helmingham Hall
Helmingham Hall
©B. Plant
Somerleyton Hall
Somerleyton Hall
©B. Plant
Somerleyton Hall
Somerleyton Hall
©H. Kohler
Somerleyton Hall
Somerleyton Hall
©K. Keeton
The Old Vicarage
The Old Vicarage
©H. Kohler
The Old Vicarage
The Old Vicarage
©B. Plant
The Old Vicarage
The Old Vicarage
©H. Kohler
Anglesey Abbey
Anglesey Abbey
©H. Kohler
Anglesey Abbey
Anglesey Abbey
©B. Plant
Anglesey Abbey
Anglesey Abbey
©H. Kohler

Local garden visit - 17 June

Local Garden S17
FOBS Open Garden event - S17
©J. Mitchell
Local Garden S17
FOBS Open Garden event - S17
©R. Egglestone
Local Garden S17
FOBS Open Garden event - S17
©R. Egglestone

New members event and local garden visit - 20 May

New members event
New members on tour of the Gardens
©J. Sinclair
Local Garden S7
FOBS Open Garden event - S7
©H. Kohler
Local Garden S7
FOBS Open Garden event - S7
©H. Kohler

New facilities in the Gardens at long last

Old toilets
Old toilets - going
©M. Marsh 25 April 2017
Old toilets
Old toilets - gone
©M. Marsh 25 April 2017
New toilets
New toilets
©R. Egglestone 30 July 2017

Official opening of the Dorothy Fox Education Centre by the Duke of Devonshire - 15 March

Education Centre Opening
The Duke meets the Lord Mayor, Councillor Denise Fox; the High Sheriff of South Yorkshire, Dr Julie MacDonald; FOBS Chair, Jill Sinclair and the Vice Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire, Mr John Holt
©H. Kohler
Education Centre Opening
The Duke of Devonshire declares the Dorothy Fox Education Centre open
©R. Egglestone
Education Centre Opening
The Duke meets the Gardens' staff
©H. Kohler

The new education centre was officially opened at Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens on Wednesday 15 March by the Duke of Devonshire, Peregrine Cavendish. The Duke, who is a patron of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust, welcomed guests to the new Dorothy Fox Education Centre.

The Centre has a library and three flexible classroom areas which can be combined to create a large lecture area. It will also offer educational opportunities for schools and practical courses for adult learners, as well as a programme of lectures, demonstrations, art classes and photography courses.

Education Centre Opening
Dr Joe Kavanagh
Chair, Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust
©H. Kohler
Education Centre Opening
Dr Sue Kohler
FOBS President
©J. Dignan
Education Centre Opening
Ian Turner
Curator, Sheffield Botanical Gardens
©J.C. Dysart
Education Centre Opening
Jill Sinclair
FOBS Chair
©H. Kohler

Development of a new education centre and educational activities has been a long-term aim since the completion, in 2005, of an ambitious restoration project, supported by an HLF grant, which saw the pavilions and gardens returned to their former glories. Since then, the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust and the Friends of the Botanical Gardens, Sheffield (FOBS) have continued to raise funds for the improvement of the site. Further money has also come in from private donations, from gifts from local charitable foundations and through legacies from generous supporters including FOBS members Barbara Holland and Mildred Rushby. Dorothy Fox, after whom the centre is named, was a Sheffield woman who loved the gardens so much that she left a house in her will to the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust. Her substantial legacy funded much of the development of the new education centre, so it was felt only fitting to dedicate the name of the building to her.

Jill Sinclair, Chair of FOBS, said: “We are thrilled by the opening of the new centre, which gives us chance to develop some exciting new initiatives. It has the potential to put Sheffield on the map as a major venue for horticultural education in the north.” Joe Kavanagh, on behalf of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust, said: “Many past and present trustees, patrons, members of FOBS and the Gardens Team have worked very hard to deliver this education centre. Constant fundraising by FOBS and the Trust, continued support from the Freshgate, JG Graves and Church Burgesses charitable trusts and some wonderful legacies have provided the funding.”

Education Centre Opening
The new Dorothy Fox Education Centre
©J. Dignan
Education Centre Opening
Some of the attendees at the
Education Centre opening
©R. Egglestone
Education Centre Opening
VIP tour of the Gardens
©H. Kohler

Inaugural Lecture draws capacity audience

Inaugural lecture
The lecture room, ©A. Houldcroft

Inaugural lecture
The way forward, ©A. Houldcroft

Inaugural lecture
A successful first lecture, ©A. Houldcroft

Tuesday 24th January 2017 marked a new chapter in the history of the Friends, and the Botanical Gardens themselves. It was the day of the first ever event in the new Dorothy Fox Education Centre. Replacing the leaky prefab that had existed in the Gardens for some 30 years, the Centre provides splendid accommodation for lectures, talks and classes.

The Friends were delighted to be the first hosts of an event in the Centre, which drew 160 people (our usual attendance for a Friends event is about 70). Even before the 10am start time, it was standing-room-only, and further chairs had hurriedly to be found! It was a joy to have so much space to be able easily to accommodate so many people.

Friends President Sue Kohler MBE addressed the audience, reminding us about the long story behind the creation of the Centre, and her pleasure that it had finally come to fruition. Then we were treated to barn-storming lectures from Professors Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough from the Landscape Department at Sheffield University. Both are old friends of the Gardens and of FOBS. Their lectures focused, in very different ways, on the urban planting communities for which both have gained global reputations. They gave us much to think about, to laugh about and to celebrate.

Thanks are due to the many people whose donations made the Centre possible, and to all those involved in its creation and in planning for this inaugural lecture. We look forward to welcoming Friends new and old to future events in the Centre, and to it establishing its place as a major venue for horticultural education.

Wednesday Morning Volunteers - Curator's Briefing Day 11 January 2017

Volunteer Briefing
Curator's Briefing, ©M. Thewles

Volunteer Briefing
Old toilets to be replaced, ©M. Thewles

On a wild and blustery day, the volunteers gathered in the large greenhouse. Curator, Ian Turner, commented that he had hoped that the briefing day could have been started in the new Education Centre, but the hand-over date had now been set for Friday 20 January. He stated that the first FOBS meeting on 24 January would definitely be held in the new building, even if chairs had to be borrowed. He congratulated the volunteers for yet again exceeding previous totals by contributing 3282 hours work in the Gardens - this in spite of all the difficulties caused by the building activities.

Although several experienced FOBS volunteers were present, it was a pleasure to welcome relatively new helpers to the group, there are now 98 people registered. Maximum number attending on one day was 44, minimum was 2 on an awful day - pouring with rain! On wet days work is available in the pavilions, but no-one would be expected to turn up in deep snow.
Health and safety issues are a matter of common sense and careful risk assessments. Make sure your working area is tidy to protect yourself and others from accidents - what Ian called "Slip, Trip and Fall" hazards. Use the correct tools, if you have to strain you are using the wrong one; for example secateurs for pencil thin twigs - loppers for larger ones - a saw for thick branches. A staff member requested that forks and spades should be pushed into the ground, not left lying around, and that other tools should be laid next to them, not on the paths. Be careful when lifting, use your leg muscles, protect your back and assess the weight of any object before attempting to lift - people have been known to hurt themselves by putting too much effort into lifting light weight objects as well as those too heavy. Ask for help, but if in doubt do not do it. Don't overload the collection bags so that the gardens staff can lift and transport them safely.
Finally, if you notice a potential hazard, please inform the staff, "See something, Say something".

The good news for this coming year is that the old toilets are to be replaced. Planning permission has been granted and work is due to start in April. The new building will be constructed in a similar style to the Education Centre. Once the builders have left the site, the first gardening priority this year will be attention to the Thompson Road Drive area, which has necessarily neglected during the construction project.

Volunteer Briefing
Prairie Garden, ©J. Dykes

Volunteer Briefing
Long Border, ©M. Thewles

Volunteer Briefing
Mediterranean Garden, ©M. Thewles

Volunteer Briefing
Olives in Sheffield! ©A. Hunter

The Prairie garden is definitely not at its best at this time of year, the process of cutting back the plants is in progress. In mid-March the area will be scorched with a weed burner, killing off early germinating weeds and allowing the established perennial plants to flourish later in the year.

The Long Border was replanted by FOBS volunteers in 2006 and, although regularly maintained at the southern end by John Potter, like elsewere there is an ongoing weed battle. The soil also needs to be improved, this year lots of mulch will be applied to ameliorate both problems.

First priority in the Mediterranean Climate Garden is to finish clearing the autumn leaves as the plants here dislike the cold wet covering. Weeding is particularly important to maintain the different collections in their respective areas. Ian was delighted to demonstrate that not only the olive tree was growing well, but it actually had olives.

Volunteer Briefing
Four Seasons Garden, ©M. Thewles Volunteer Briefing
East Lawn, ©M. Thewles

Volunteer Briefing
Ilex aquifolium 'Handsworth New Silver', ©A. Hunter

Volunteer Briefing
Variegated foliage bed - Same area March 2016, ©A. Hunter

After an overview of the progress on the Himalayan Bed and noting the swelling buds of the nearby magnolias, Ian updated the group on the pollution monitoring planting carried out in cooperation with the Engineering Department at the University of Sheffield. Results of last years growth have yet to be published and the proposed network of similar projects at York, London and Edinburgh seems to have fallen through due to lack of funding, but Ian hopes to continue the experiment in Sheffield.

Moving on to the Four Seasons Garden, it was evident that the effort to rid the Autumn Bed of couch grass, by treating smaller sections year by year, is nearing a successful completion.

Near the top of the East Lawn, the old variegated foliage bed, planted in the 1970s, had been cleared to reveal the lovely Ilex aquifolium 'Handsworth New Silver'. Ian explained the plan to create a new bed to showcase the original ten Weigela species. Comments were made on how much the clearing of the old foliage plants had opened up the vista and how that reflected Robert Marnock's (the Gardens' first curator) Gardenesque approach. Would the new planting re-obscure the view? Ian thought that the Gardenesque principle of planting each tree or shrub to show its features in an all-round way would still be followed.

The tour finished at the AGM Borders where again Ian praised the work of the volunteers, thanked everyone for attending and admitted that without this wonderful freely given help the Gardens would not be so well maintained.

Building Update - getting closer

steps - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 14 January 2017
cold frames - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 14 January 2017
more work - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 14 January 2017

Building Update - almost there - but more work needed at the entrance

decking - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 3 January 2017
front door - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 3 January 2017
entrance - P Kohn
©P. Kohn, 3 January 2017

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