Green shoots of success delight city gardeners

Friends of the Botanical Gardens Plant Sale: Natalie Glass choosing her plants
Friends of the Botanical Gardens Plant Sale: Natalie Glass choosing her plants
Share this article

Annual spring plant sale sees more than 800 people with growing concerns at Botanical Gardens.

After 30 years and a £6m-plus restoration, the Friends of the Botanical Gardens are understandably proud of their achievements.

Friends of the Botanical Gardens Plant Sale: Paula Thomas selling hardy geraniums

Friends of the Botanical Gardens Plant Sale: Paula Thomas selling hardy geraniums

Last Sunday saw the annual spring plant sale, where over 800 people turned up with their hessian carrier bags to take home specimens grown by FOBS members, with long queues for bargains, raising another £2,000 for restoration funds.

“It’s all very exciting,” said the new FOBS chair, Sarah Thomas, casting her eye on the last piece of the garden restoration jigsaw, the ramshackle concrete and pebbledash structure not so lovingly known as ‘The Shed.’

Brought in from another (unknown) council location years ago as a ‘temporary’ classroom and education base, The Shed has a leaking roof, a patched up floor and a temperamental electricity supply, say FOBs members.

“I also think there’s a health and safety issue,” said Sarah. “Some of our older members could easily trip on the floor.”

FOBS have already raised £250,000, held by the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust, which will go a long way towards a new education centre for the gardens. This week saw a meeting between the trust, Sheffield Council and Sheffield Town Trust (which owns the gardens, leasing them to the city council at a peppercorn rent) which agreed to move ahead with the new building.

Illustrative designs by a Sheffield University architecture student include education and lecture space, a meeting room, and new kitchens and toilets all in a landmark low power building, which could have a green roof and straw bale insulation, as well as video feeds from nest boxes and beehives in the adjoining gardens.

Nothing is decided yet, said Sarah, but the SBG Trust has enough funds for design and building work, and FOBS are already gearing up for the extra £150,000 or so needed for the full ‘bells and whistles’, as Sarah calls the attraction she and her colleagues would really like to see.

“We’d like an architecturally attractive ecologically friendly building which is an education in itself,” she said.

In FOBS anniversary year, the Friends will continue their regular fortnightly lectures for expert and beginner gardeners, along with their tour programme and volunteer days.

On June 7 and 8, the council’s ‘design-led version of the Chelsea Flower Show’, Garden Up, will bring a showcase of design and horticultural work to the gardens to stimulate local businesses in the gardening and landscape industries.

And on FOBS’ actual anniversary on June 24, the new Himalayan Garden near the bear pit will be officially opened by Himalayan plant collector Chris Chadwell.

FOBS member Eric Lee has been in charge of the new garden after growing hundreds of Himalayan plants, mostly from seeds collected on Chris Chadwell’s expeditions to the region.

“We planted over 1,000 plants,” said Eric, “but we’ve had a lot of losses because we’ve had all sorts of weather, although I think 300-400 have survived.” These include cobra lilies, ginger plants, Spirea, Himalayan rue and Himalayan birch and the Rosa brunonii rose.

“There’s a possibility some of these plants have not been seen in Sheffield. I enjoy raising plants from seed, and there’s an extra buzz from seeding plants you’ve never heard of before.”

The restored gardens already bring in visitors from all over the UK, from Europe, the USA and Japan, and are seen as one of the city’s tourist attractions. The new centre will be the final missing part of the restoration project.

Friends of Botanical Gardens Sheffield