25 Feb 2017

Hanoi to Cross Hands: Early days at NBGW

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

Hello everyone, my name is Will and I am the new Curator of Horticulture

I have been enjoying my first month at the Garden and a new adventure here in Wales. To introduce myself properly, I should tell you the story of my appointment from the beginning, and that starts not in Llanarthne or Glasgow, as you may suspect, but in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Back in November I had just finished an expedition to the mountainous region, north of Sa Pa. I was in the country as part of a coalition of UK-based botanic gardens and local partners, collecting and surveying plants for conservation and research purposes. My trip ended with a few days in the capital city, catching up with friends, relaxing and re-adjusting to urban life after weeks in remote and rarely visited places. On my final evening, while enjoying a beer and trying to watch the sunset through the ‘Hanoi Haze’ (less romantically known as ‘smog’), I got an email from Huw Francis asking if I would be available to discuss the vacant Curator of Horticulture position. Three weeks later I was standing in front of Huw, Natasha de Vere and a panel of trustees outlining my views and thoughts on what the core missions of botanic gardens should be. I can only assume that something I said resonated with them.

My partner, Sammi, and I moved to South Wales in late January and I started work soon after. My first meeting was not at the Garden however, it was in Swansea to see an inspiring community project at Vetch Field, the former home of Swansea’s football team. Huw, Bruce Langridge and I were given a tour of ‘Vetch Veg’ and we also had a chance to see the Brangwyn Panels at the Guildhall too. To me, this was a great start. I was delighted to see the Garden had plans to reach out to communities, not just in Swansea but across Wales and grow the organisation’s social role. It also epitomised what I believe a modern national botanic garden should be, a hub for conservation, inspiration and education for everyone across Wales, and beyond.

I started at the Garden the following Monday and so far all is going well. Everyone has been very welcoming and helpful. In horticulture for example, Dawn has helped me find all the forms I need, Tudor has pointed out many of the interesting trees and Martin has been ‘helping’ me spend the budget.

We have a great team in horticulture, and we’re going to achieve great things together.

I have come to learn that life at the Garden is always busy with lots of projects, activities and events happening on a daily basis. I have enjoyed collaborating with people from other parts of the organisation, meeting volunteers and members. The spring flowering shrubs and bulbs have all the while been bursting into flower – reminding us that the growing season has already started.

It could all be overwhelming, but the view from my office window gives me a great sense of perspective. This is an incredible opportunity and a beautiful landscape to live and work in (I am unlikely to find any ‘Hanoi Haze’ in Carms.). But best of all, this is a relatively young botanic garden, we have time on our side and I am looking forward to helping the Garden to flourish.