FOBS News Archive 2014

Public Consultation about the New Education Centre Building

Meetings were held on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd November. The architect and project manager were able to answer questions from members of the public. The general reaction to the proposal was that replacement of the old classroom is long overdue! The planning application can now be submitted to the Council for approval.

FOBS Day Trip to Boughton House and Kelmarsh Hall - 12 August 2014

Boughton House - P Mabbott
Boughton House
ŠP. Mabbott, 12 August 2014

Boughton House - P Mabbott
Boughton House
ŠP. Mabbott, 12 August 2014

Boughton House - P Mabbott
Boughton House
ŠP. Mabbott, 12 August 2014

Kelmarsh Hall - P. Mabbott
Kelmarsh Hall
ŠP. Mabbott, 12 August 2014

Kelmarsh Hall - P. Mabbott
Kelmarsh Hall
ŠP. Mabbott, 12 August 2014

Kelmarsh Hall - P. Mabbott
Kelmarsh Hall
ŠP. Mabbott, 12 August 2014

Gardens History Tour - Tuesday, 22 July 2014

History trail
The story of the bears
Š R. Egglestone

History trail
Then and now - the restoration of the pavilions
Š R. Egglestone

On a day blessed with glorious sunshine, Alison Hunter (FOBS Historian) led a well-attended tour of the Gardens, pointing out features of special historic significance. Ever wonder why the south lodge is so far up the drive? It was the entrance to the Gardens in Victorian times - and the long drive down to Thompson Road was added after the Town Trust took over in 1898. Why was the Crimean War Memorial replaced by a fountain? A fountain was part of the design by Robert Marnock (our first curator). Did Pan ever have a musical instrument? A 1953 photo shows him holding a long pipe. Did the bears really kill a child? No documentary evidence from that time has been found. The connection with the house called 'Rutledge' in Clarkehouse Road? John Law, our third curator, was asked to resign after extending his freelance landscaping activities into hotel building. He moved across the road to run his 'Victoria Park Hotel' - this was renamed 'Rutledge' in 1863 after he left Sheffield.

The pavilions have been through many changes, originally built in the configuration they are today they were extended at each end in the 1850s. Dereliction in the 1890s meant they were reduced to three domes in 1902, these were damaged in World War II. In 1951 the city council took over management of the Gardens and with the aid of a War Damage Commission grant restored the domes by 1960. The central dome then became an aviary and the east dome an aquarium. The pavilions were closed due to vandalism and neglect in the late 1990s and beautifully restored complete with the intervening ridge-and-furrow glass houses in 2003.

The Rock and Water Garden was an Italianate garden before 1929 and was bordered by a tall stone wall. The Osborn brothers, William, Samuel and Frederick, whose mother had lived in Clarke House until her death in 1924, donated land to the Gardens in 1934 and the wall was moved - hence the name Osborns' Field.

Garden Tour "Valuable shrubs for year-round interest", 14 July 2014

Magnolia Lawn - J Dykes
Magnolia Lawn - Graft of M. campbellii on M. stellata rootstock resulted in a dwarf tree
Š J Dykes

Tour de France Planting
Tour de France inspired planting in the Victorian Garden
Š A Hunter

On a slightly overcast, but pleasantly warm evening Curator Ian Turner led an enthusiastic group of FOBS members and guests in a hunt for 'Shrubs with Year Round Interest'.

AGM Borders

  • Romneya coulteri - Summer subshrub - July 2014 Plant of the Month
  • Leptospermum lanigerum - Tea tree, in full flower July
  • Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb' - purple leaves year round plus flowers May
  • Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion' - Flowers late summer; striking purple berries in early winter
  • Camellia 'Winton' - early spring flower
  • Potentilla fruticosa 'Primrose Beauty' - commonly grown shrub but provides colour all summer

The National Collection of Weigelas
Plenty to choose from - most flower in June. Require regular pruning.

Osborns Field

  • National Collection of Sarcococca - evergreen, small flowers of pink & white in winter - strong perfume (note S. saligna has no scent)
  • Pittosporum tobira (border-line hardy)
  • Acca sellowiana (border-line hardy)
  • Teucrium fruticans (border-line hardy)
  • Lonicera fragrantissima - winter flowering
  • Lonicera standishii - winter flowering
  • Lonicera x purpusii hybrid of above two - winter flowering

Slight deviation to admire the striking display of bedding in the Victorian garden, designed and planted by the staff gardeners in a tribute to the Tour de France - featuring yellow wheels and a variety of T-shirts including a white one with red spots (begonias).

The Gatehouse beds

  • Clerodendrum bungei - the Glory Flower, late summer/autumn
  • Paulownia tomentosa - the Foxglove tree, but in this bed it is coppiced to produce striking giant leaves


  • M. grandiflora 'Goliath' - summer flowering - best against a wall
  • M. campbellii - a dwarf as a result of grafting on to M. stellata rootstock (otherwise would be 30 metres tall)
  • Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' - hybrid with pink stellate early flowering
  • M. wilsonii - later flowering

Mediterranean Garden

  • Correa spp - Australian fuchsia flowers in winter, varieties in the Garden include alba, backhouseana, decumbens, 'Mannii' and 'Marian's Marvel'
  • Lotus hirsutus - Ian's name for this is the Hairy Canary Clover
  • Ceanothus - one of Ian's favourites with lovely blue flowers in late spring or late summer depending on cultivar. 'Pugets Blue' and 'Skylark' are worthy of mention.
  • Many of the Mediterranean herbs - such as rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram are both attractive and useful

Evolution Garden

  • Buddleja colvillei - an very unusual buddleja with large panicles of wine-red flowers not out so far, check again in August.
  • ...and finally running out of time we just had time to inspect the Fuchsia 'Riccartonii' in full flower at the edge of the path near the Woodland Garden.

FOBS 30th Anniversary Celebrations - Tuesday, 24 June 2014

2014-06-24 Chris Chadwell opening Himalayan Garden- A Hunter
Chris Chadwell offically opens the Himalayan Garden
Š A Hunter

2014-06-24 FOBS 30 Birthday Cake - A Hunter
FOBS President, Sue Kohler, cuts the 30th Birthday Cake
Š A Hunter
2014-06-24 Chris Chadwell with Lord Mayor - B Plant
Chris Chadwell with Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Sheffield
Š B Plant

2014-06-24 FOBS 30 Party - J Hinton
FOBS 30th Birthday party
Š J Hinton

The event started with an excellent lecture on "Plant Hunting in the Himalaya for the Sheffield Botanical Gardens" by experienced plant hunter, Chris Chadwell. The talk was informative, interesting and amusing, Chris was able to show plants in their natural mountain habitat and compare them with the same species now growing in Sheffield. He paid tribute to the local people in Kashmir, Nepal & Tibet who have worked with him over many years. He complimented long-serving FOBS volunteer, Eric Lee, for helping to sponsor the plant-hunting expeditions and for his successful raising of plants from the seed gathered on the trips.
For more information see Chris's website

A large audience gathered to observe Chris formally open the Himalayan Garden, near the Bearpit. There were many questions about the plants and the logistics of organising the expeditions.

The FOBS 30th Anniversary was celebrated with a delicious buffet lunch, provided for FOBS members and guests by Sheffield caterers 'PJ taste'. The Lord Mayor, Councillor Peter Rippon, gave a short speech of appreciation. Thanks to all FOBS volunteers who helped to make this a event such a success, especially FOBS Chair, Sarah Thomas, for coordinating everything - and the weather was brilliant too!!!

Plant Identification Course - Tuesday 17 June 2014

Plant ID course 1
The Tulip Tree Liriodendron tulipifera
Plant ID course 2
What is a zygomorphic flower?

A few FOBS members and several new people, on their first visit to the Gardens, were led on an intriguing and informative plant hunt by Dr James Bing of Aberdeen University. It didn't take long for confidence to grow as the mysteries of plant identification were revealed. James is producing a book which will guide people through the somewhat confusing process of deciding what a plant is - especially since the upheaval caused in the revision of plant nomenclature through genetic research. The group was part of an assessment of the usefulness of the book and we put it to the test in the classroom afterwards. Somewhat mixed results - but mainly because we needed more practice and perhaps more knowledge of technical terms - such as ligules and stipules. It was agreed that this was a very useful approach to getting through the higher levels of identification down to genus level. The paper version of the book is expected sometime in late July, but James hopes to launch the ebook version very soon.

Details of the book on

Garden Up - Saturday 7 - Sunday 8 June

FOBS stall
FOBS Stall
Garden Up
Garden Up at Sheffield Botanical Gardens

This event did not get off to the best of starts due to torrential rain! The stall holders and exhibitors put on a brave face and hoped for the best. Fortunately, several hardy souls did come along to investigate on the Saturday. The FOBS team sold plants and did their best to publicise the Friends events and fund-raising projects. Other members led mini-tours of the Gardens - these included 'Round the World in 30 minutes' which concentrated on the Himalayan Garden, the Asian Garden and included a visit to the Bearpit; 'Flowers and Fossils' which started in the Rose Garden and ended with a tour of the Evolution Garden and 'The East Side Story' which explored the almost hidden Osborn's Field, the delights of the Rock and Water Garden and our National Collections of Weigela, Diervilla and Sarcococca. Tour participants were few in number on soggy Saturday, but showed much enthusiasm and appreciation for the efforts of FOBS tour guides. Fortunately, the weather on Sunday was much more clement and visitor numbers increased significantly.

FOBS Day Trip to Norwell Nursery and Pure Land Japanese Garden - 20 May 2014

Norwell - A Hunter
ŠA Hunter, 20 May 2014

Norwell - A Hunter
ŠA Hunter, 20 May 2014

Norwell - A Hunter
ŠA Hunter, 20 May 2014

Pure Land - A Hunter
Pure Land
ŠA Hunter, 20 May 2014

Pure Land - A Hunter
Pure Land
ŠA Hunter, 20 May 2014

Pure Land - A Hunter
Pure Land
ŠA Hunter, 20 May 2014

Progress on the development of the Education Centre Sheffield Botanical Gardens

The Sheffield Town Trust, Sheffield City Council and the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust are working together on the design of a new education centre which is to replace the current demonstration centre. This project will form the final part of the Botanical Gardens' restoration project. The intention is to replace the existing dilapidated classroom with an attractive, ecologically friendly building. The new centre will be an education in itself. The Friends of the Botanical Gardens(FOBS) will be actively fund raising to support this exciting development.
Sarah Thomas
Chair FOBS

Tour Guide's Briefing Day - Wednesday 19 March 2014

Tour guide briefing - A Hunter
Ian briefs the tour guides at the Himalayan Garden
ŠAlison Hunter, 19 March 2014

On a glorious sunny day it was a pleasure to just be in the Gardens. The group of tour guides assembled for lunch and Kay Keeton went through this years' programme of tours. It looks like a fairly busy year with a variety of interested visitors. Curator Ian Turner was his usual enthusiastic self as he explained that this year he was concentrating on offering a choice of short tours rather than the full-garden experience, especially with the 'Garden Up' event happening in June.

Round the World in 30 minutes
The aim is to 'visit' representatives of all the inhabited continents. Starting with the Himalayan garden as part of Asia, Ian was keen to stress the involvement of FOBS volunteers, in the creation of this authentic collection of plants grown from wild seed collected by plant hunter Chris Chadwell in the Himalaya.
Moving on to the Mediterranean Climate garden, Ian pointed out that various part of the world enjoy similar climate conditions of hot, dry summers with warm, wet winters. The Mediterranean area (Europe), coastal California and coastal Chile (North and South America), SW Australia and the Cape Province in South Africa are all represented in the separate beds.
This mini-tour is scheduled to end in the bear-pit, as Ian realises that many visitors overlook this fascinating reminder that the Gardens included a small menagerie when they first opened in 1836. This phase was short-lived being closed in 1839, but two bears were re-introduced as a gift in 1856 as exhibits not for bear-baiting. It has been a very long time since real bears inhabited the bear-pit but of course we have our lovely metal bear as part of the Riddle Trail.

Flowers and Fossils
The 1950s 'Italianate' formal beds were replaced during the Restoration Project with an intricate pattern of beds designed to imitate the original swirling Victorian layout. Older varieties of shrubby roses are set out in the centre and the newer vigorous hybrids are planted around the edges. It is a high maintenance area involving half a mile of edging alone. Issues of pruning and the methods used to overcome rose replant sickness were discussed and the history of the Pan statue was mentioned.
The Evolution Garden is set out with information boards tracing the story of plant development from algae, through mosses, ferns, conifers to flowering plants. The centre-piece is a 300 million-year old fossil of a Carboniferous lycopod root.

East Side Story
The Rock and Water Garden was originally designed by Clarence Elliot in 1929 and has been delightfully restored. The water flowing through the ponds is captured rainwater from the pavilion roof which is stored in huge tanks beneath the promenade.
Osborn's Field, donated by Sir Samuel Osborn and his brothers in 1934, although having some difficult areas - either too wet or too dry - this is being used to trial tender plants including Telopea (the emblem of New South Wales), Geranium palmatum (from the Canary Islands) and Aspidistra.
The Sheffield Botanical Gardens are home to the National Collections of Weigela, Diervilla and Sarcococca. Again FOBS volunteers have played a major role in the creation and maintenance of these collections which continue to expand as new cultivars are bred.

Curator's Briefing Day for Volunteers 2014

Volunteer day - A Hunter
Volunteers at the beech tree stump.
ŠAlison Hunter, 15 January 2014

Volunteer day - A Hunter
Sarcococca confusa ŠAlison Hunter, 15 January 2014

A very mild day for January, if somewhat cloudy and damp, saw a record turnout of volunteers for the Curator's Briefing Day. Ian Turner went over health and safety procedures, basically a common sense approach to knowing your own limitations and being aware not only for your own safety but that of everyone else. Keep tools tidy, avoid leaving tripping hazards and remember not to overload collecting bags so that the staff can collect them without injury. Each volunteer has now been issued with a FOBS handbook describing procedures and working practices.

The tour started at the remains of an old beech tree outside the Robert Marnock Garden. The tree had become infected with Meripilus giganteus and had to be felled. A stump has been left and Ian hopes to plane down the surface so that annual growth rings can be counted and a display of local and world-wide events can be mounted to show the history of the Gardens while the tree was growing. The loss of this tree has made a huge different to the growing conditions in and around the Marnock Garden, essentially from deep shade to an open south-west aspect. New planting is being considered.

There are some exciting events happening in the Gardens this year, in June there will be a 'Garden-Up' event with show gardens, plant sales, demonstrations and equipment exhibitions. The 'Tour de France' will be celebrated in the bedding displays in the Victorian Garden and the beds immediately in front of the Pavilions.

The 'Spring' area in the Four Season's Garden has been totally replanted and we look forward to the sight of the new bulbs and plants - hopefully only a matter of weeks away! The Himalayan Bed has developed well, most plants having been grown from seed directly sourced from that region. Mulch has been ordered to improve the soil condition and discourage weeds and the area will be the 'star' attraction during FOBS 30th birthday celebrations.

As we haven't really experienced any severe 'winter weather' so far this year, the more tender plants in the Mediterranean Garden are doing surprisingly well considering they were only planted in May last year. Even the 'Money Tree' Crassula arborescens has survived outside so far. One major loss due to high winds in early December was the 'Headache Tree' Umbellularia californica, which will alter the environment in the Asia Garden. The Hamamelis Walk in the Woodland Garden is growing well - and scent of the Sarcococca perfumed the whole of the Gardens.


FOBS News 2013

FOBS News 2012

FOBS News 2011

FOBS News 2010