28 Jun 2018

Of English and Welsh Natives

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

The last time I wrote on this blog, I was coming up on the final six months of my Apprenticeship here at the Garden, frantically trying to figure out what I would do next.

I had applied to Cambridge Botanic Garden’s own traineeship as it would return me to my native part of the country and give me more of that oft-asked-for ‘experience’ that can be so frustratingly hard to find for those of us at the very beginning of our careers. It was about a month before I was due to travel to Cambridge for an interview, however, that a job advert was sent out on this very website – a job that I eventually found myself securing.

I grew up in the heart of the Midlands, in rural Northamptonshire, and I’ve often felt as though that countryside runs through me like a stick of rock. The little village of Geddington, with its thatched cottages and Saxon bridge, sits within my heart to cheer me up during the wildest, wettest Welsh winters. So why, when I’ve already been living so far from home for five years, would I take up a position to stay here indefinitely?

It’s a redundant question to be asking on this blog – you already know the answer! Wales is an incredible country, full of dramatic scenery and amazing culture. What finally clinched it, however, was the promise of working with Welsh wildflowers.

The Welsh Natives Project has been going since the Garden first opened in 2000, and I’m honoured to become one of its custodians. Wales is home to so many fascinating plants, some of which occur nowhere else in the world, and many are now threatened due to urbanisation, changes in land use and the introduction of invasive species. You may not know it but, behind the scenes here at the National Botanic Garden, we have a number of conservation projects from around the country that work to protect Wales’ most endangered species.

It’s an unusual horticultural job. I spend more of my time looking at what many of my colleagues would class as ‘weeds’ than shiny plant catalogues.

But the past 10 months in the job have been so rewarding and I’m finally happy to fill you all in on what’s been going on.

The Welsh Natives Compound is slightly off the beaten track. Walk past the children’s play area from the Stable Block, keep walking and you’ll come upon a shady path on your left that leads towards our nursery glasshouses. It sits nestled in among the glasshouses, opposite our collection of endangered British Whitebeams. The compound has been through a transformation in the past six months or so and I’ll be writing more blog posts in the future to fill you in on exactly what I’ve been up to. For now, why not take a wander into a quiet, peaceful part of the garden where you can sit and have a picnic surrounded by some of the rarest plants in the country.