2 Apr 2016

Introducing… a surprising library

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

Most visitors to the National Botanic Garden of Wales probably don’t even know we have a library.

We may be one of the Garden’s best kept secrets… but we don’t want to stay hidden!  We welcome visitors whether researchers, students, the Garden’s members, or indeed anyone interested.

Because the library is run entirely by volunteers, we can’t always be around – but we aim to have the library open two days a week and can open by arrangement at other times. Our team leader is a retired professional librarian, but most of us are enthusiastic volunteers, united by our love for the Garden, for plants and, of course, for books.

Botany and beyond

Our books were all donated – but are far from being people’s cast-offs! Among our donors are notable botanists, gardeners and experts in natural history. And as well as botanical reference works, we may surprise you with our collection of books on botanical art, plant collectors, garden history and notable plant collections and gardens around the world.

Mad about mushrooms

One growing area of interest is mycology – the study of fungi – where we have had two major donations. Eminent mycologist Stan Hughes was born in Wales but spent his working life in Canada. He has given us a significant collection of scientific papers. Roy Watling, former head of Mycology at our sister Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, has recently contributed a large number of books, papers and journals. These two donations form the basis of our Mycology Library.

And we do a lot more than look after books. Our volunteers have researched a range of topics – from notable Welsh botanists, naturalists and plantsmen (and women!) to the history of apples in Wales, and contribute to exhibitions and events at the Garden and beyond.

A monthly library blog

In a monthly series of posts, to be published at the beginning of each month, I’ll be introducing you to some of the treasures of the libraries collection. ‘Treasures’ aren’t necessarily rare and valuable, but interesting, quirky, unexpected… they certainly all have a story to tell.

My first post was on Beatrix Potter, whose anniversary year this is, but who is better known for her delightful children’s books and illustrations than as a scientific mycologist. I hope this will be a taster for some of the topics I’m planning in the coming months.

I will be looking at plants and fungi in art, in medicine and science, in folk tradition and in history – and along the way I hope to introduce you to some very colourful, surprising and inspiring people. Welcome aboard!

The pictures show some of the books from our collections and a library exhibit in the Great Glasshouse for Fungus Weekend 2015.