High summer, astonishing heat – days of record temperatures which make being indoors a welcome relief even for sun-lovers like me. There’s also a sense in which part of the life of a botanic garden goes on behind closed doors – or perhaps one propped half-open in the hope of a cool breeze – planning, running, development and outreach, learning – and of course the science which underpins the whole enterprise. I find myself thinking of the garden’s creators, trying to imagine what they saw as they designed and planted, how far a vision of the beautiful space which today’s visitors enjoy encroached on the need to establish a centre for study and research, and a living plant record.
|Nelson Street, Derby|
So I’m surprised by how fascinating non-live plant records can be. I spent yesterday morning in the university’s herbarium, chatting to Christine Bartram and looking through folders of plant pressings. Until recently I had never heard the word ‘herbarium’ so that my first encounter, in the Botanics’ own smaller version in Cory Lodge, reduced me to incoherent amazement: ‘Wow!’ I said, and ‘Wow!’ as door after door in the tall metal cabinets opened to reveal an extraordinary record: not living, of course, but ‘real’ specimens as opposed to a paper description. There are
|Lindley sheet with type specimen|
|Bloody cranesbill: I.H.F.|
|'Miss Sarah Anne Drake|
I suppose the painting, or much of it, was done indoors, but none of these women fit the bill of little women working quietly away behind the scenes, while their men were out and about
|Marion Seward: Centaurea Cyanus (detail)|