Friday, 28 September 2012

Braving the elements (in more ways than one)

As gardeners we are all used to dealing with "the elements"on a daily basis - braving whatever the weather throws at us. Never has this been more true than this year. However, at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden we are a positive lot and thought we'd embrace "the elements" - but in a different way altogether.

Following on from a successful collaboration with our colleagues in the Department of Chemistry (the other "Elements") in 2011 to celebrate International Year of Chemistry, we have teamed up once again to deliver a new audio trail entitled "Chemistry at the Garden" which is available free of charge to all our visitors. During the summer, a group of enthusiastic science communicators got together to record the audio trail on location at the Garden. Helped by the very patient Josh from the University podcast team, we told the stories of how plants have provided inspiration for chemistry research both in the past and still today.

The audio trail leads you around the Garden, where, at the appropriate places you trigger the sound by pointing the nib of the audio pen on a specially designed map. You can hear about photosynthesis, how the lotus plant has inspired the development of new materials, what makes the wonderful caramel smell that is wafting across the Botanic Garden on sunny days at this time of year and how the plants at the Garden helped an Oxford chemist win a Nobel prize.
Each of the trail stops lasts just a few minutes and gives you an insight into what motivates the research chemists to pursue their work.

The new audio trail was launched on the 13th September. The weather was kind and all those who came had fun exploring the collections with the audio trail. 

Another fantastic group who have braved "the elements" over the spring and summer are the volunteers who have been working at the Garden alongside our team of botanical horticulturalists. This year we have welcomed almost thirty gardeners and weeders who have enabled us to tame the weeds in the face of one of the wettest summers on record. Their help has been invaluable in keeping our worst weed (Nothoscordum) under control and their never ending enthusiasm to eradicate this beast is much appreciated. On Wednesday this week we said a proper thank you to all our volunteers (whether office based or practical, Garden or Arboretum) as well as all those who have given their time to support the Friends of the Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum over the past year. This occasion was marked  of course by tea and cake (and more cake).

After consuming our bodyweight in cake we finished with a walk around the Botanic Garden, led by Gardens curator Tom Price.

It seemed only appropriate that is was pouring with rain!

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