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New Gardens history book to be 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) will be launched at the ‘Art in the Gardens’ event which runs from Saturday 2 – Sunday 3 September.
The books will be available from the FOBS stand between 10.30am and 5.30pm on both days.

History of 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.

However, 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

ISBN-10 1546889752
ISBN-13 9781546889755

Also available from

Plants that receive the RHS Award of Garden Merit

Speaker: Don Witton
Tuesday 22nd August at 10.00am in the Education Centre

A retired schoolteacher and a gardener for over 40 years, Don has been really keen on hardy herbaceous perennials for 25 years and holds a Plant Heritage National Collection of hardy Euphorbia on his allotment at Harthill near Sheffield which has featured twice on BBC 2's Gardeners' World.

Don is a past chairman of the South Pennine group of the Hardy Plant Society, chairman of the East Midland group of Plant Heritage, and member of the Royal Horticultural Society, winning many medals for exhibits at the Tatton Park Show for over 10 years, including two Gold.

He has written two books on Euphorbias for the Hardy Plant Society and sells a large range of perennials, Euphorbias, and Euphorbia seed from his small nursery.

He enjoys traveling to visit and photograph Britain’s most interesting gardens, and continues to be a very popular and active speaker.

Visit the website for more information about Don and his passion for Euphorbias

FOBS Members free, Visitors £3

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.


Wanted someone to write articles about events in the Gardens and to liaise with the local newspapers and Radio Sheffield to publicise FOBS activities.
If you are interested and can help - please email the FOBS Committee or speak to the Chairman at any FOBS meeting.

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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