The Botanic Garden was founded in 1971 – a place where science, education and conservation take
centre stage, as well as a garden for the entire community of Dundee.
The Botanic Garden was founded in 1971 – a place where science, education and conservation take centre stage, as well as a garden for the entire community of Dundee.
In 1966 the need for a Botanic Garden was identified by the botany staff of the University of Dundee. After much discussion, a site was identified in the West End of the City of Dundee, and the Botanic Garden was founded in 1971 by the University to meet the needs of the botany staff.
The site chosen had a gentle southern slope, good soil, and a burn with very pure water coming from the Balgay Hill running from the western corner down through the gardens. This assisted the creation of several water features. Although initially quite barren, the site had great potential - it required a lot of new landscaping and new plantings related to the local needs.
The garden was well thought-out at its inception. The first curator, Doctor Edward Kemp, was originally the curator of the Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh. Doctor Kemp brought to the University a wealth of experience in gardening and arboriculture. This he applied with great conviction and forethought.
The principle upon which all genuine Botanic gardens are established is the acquisition of plant materials for teaching, research and public amenity. Conservation forms part of these functions, and the scope for conservation in the Dundee Garden is increasing. The tradition of using botanic gardens to illustrate the supposed taxonomic or evolutionary relationships of plants has never formed part of the policy of this garden.
The major areas of teaching and research are concentrated on the physiological function of plants, their survival strategies, ecology, symbiotic and family relationships. The Garden, therefore, has no brief to make large collections of plants based on purely aesthetic considerations or even on grounds of botanical curiosity. Indeed, the words of John Lindley, uttered in 1830 when he was invited to examine the role of the Botanic Gardens at Kew are always kept in mind when selecting plants for this botanic garden:
"It is little better than a waste of time and money to maintain it in its present form if it fulfils no intelligible purpose except that of sheltering a large quantity of rare and valuable plants."
In short, the ideal is that each plant grown can be justified by its contribution to the Garden's wider aims and objectives.
Honours year and PhD students carry out research in the garden as part of their course work and children from around the city visit the garden as a part of the curriculum.
Morag Hannah works on the University Web Team. Originally from Ayrshire, she grew up on the Isle of Arran, and studied English Language and Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. Past jobs include shop assistant, typist, reviewer, designer, singer, stand-up comic, armourer and ghost tour guide, and she's worked with the University of Dundee for five years.
Her hobbies include singing (she has sung with several university choirs), playing guitar and piano, digital and fine art, and most recently pottery, and she is a (pseudonymously) published writer.