On a bright and sunny Tuesday September afternoon, the Culture Connects gardening group met to explore the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin.
The group is made up of budding gardeners who first came together through our online Culture Connects gardening taster workshops in 2020. (Our taster workshops invite you to ‘give it a go’, as a first step, and then to find new ways to keep doing more of what you like, sharing ideas and forming connections.)
Led by our Eco-Gardener in Residence, Polly, people from across the city came together on Zoom throughout 2021 to explore the idea of getting started with home growing. Many participants were eager to continue sharing their knowledge and connecting over their shared interest, and so the idea for a gardening group was born. Together we set up a Whatsapp group and the group has been meeting every month online, guided by Polly.
The easy chats and good camaraderie between the group belie the fact that it’s the first time they’ve met in person. “Have I met you before? Oh of course I have!”
The group are meeting for their first in-person outing, to have a guided tour of the Botanic Gardens. Tour guide Pauline tells us that the Botanic Garden in Glasnevin was founded in 1795, and today has three main aims – to operate as a place of conservation, research and education.
The Culture Connects gardening group have come together from across Dublin – from Clondalkin, to The Liberties, Rathmines and even beyond the city itself. From first-time gardeners and those who became more interested in their outside space since Covid, to those with more seasoned green fingers, there seems to be a shared belief in the joy of engaging with nature.
Learning from the gardens
There is keen interest as Pauline talks us through many of the edible plants growing in the beds just inside the gates. In response to a question from one of our number, Pauline tells us everything is composted, which was of particular interest to the group as they embark on their own gardening adventures.
One of our eagle-eyed members also notices that there are plants growing right to the top of the glass houses. Pauline tells us that this is bamboo, which grows about a foot a week and so is constantly trimmed. The glass houses (which are still closed to the public) are equipped with automatic windows and misters to care for the tropical plants and it’s agreed that this would be useful to have at home.
We pass an impressive collection of dahlias, which prompts chat between the group of the style of flowers they prefer, and why they love to garden themselves, and with some of the flashier dahlias being deemed a little too showy for some tastes.
Wild Ireland and growing your own
In the “Wild Ireland” area of the gardens, we learn that there around 850 native plant species to Ireland. The often muted tones of the Irish flora in this area are noted and a few members of the group quip that it made them feel a bit better about their own garden.
The fruit and vegetable section prompted lots of discussion among the group, and the extra information from Pauline was always appreciated. There are heritage apple trees here – one from each county in the country. Some of the Culture Connects gardeners talk about their plum trees at home, there’s debate about what type of raspberries are on a vine and temptation to have a taste!
Along the way, there were memories shared about previous visits to the Botanic Gardens down through the years – a reminder of the important role it has played in the life of the city. The group were grateful for Pauline’s knowledge and passion and agreed that it brought another dimension and understanding to the living collection on display in the Botanic Gardens.
As the group began to disperse, and went in search of coffee and cake, there was talk of the next gardening workshop, plans for their own gardening endeavours, and potential locations for the next outing, with good cake being an important requirement.
Huge thanks to Tour Guide Pauline for welcoming us and sharing her knowledge.
If you’d like to learn more about gardening, we will be announcing new workshops with Polly very soon. Keep an eye on our website, social media channels, or sign up to our monthly newsletter to be the first to know!
If you’d like to learn more about the Botanic Gardens, you can book a free guided tour.
Sculpture in Context is running at the Botanic Gardens until 15 October. Discover around 160 artworks in the most unexpected places throughout the gardens.