Dr Tim Upson, Curator and Acting Director, says:
We are thrilled to be sharing this beautiful Garden with so many visitors each year. We have been working hard to offer lots of interest through the seasons. At the moment, for example, there are lots of richly-scented, winter-flowering shrubs in the Winter Garden, and the tropical rainforests and arid lands of the Glasshouse Range are a perfect spot to warm up after a winter’s stroll. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the new bulb belt has thickened up after its first year. We’ll start to see snowdrops in February, followed by wild daffodils and naturalised tulips and lilies, creating a circular walk around the western half of the Garden.
The extraordinarily dry spring and Indian summer of early autumn will undoubtedly have contributed to the record visitor numbers, but the completion of the award-winning Sainsbury Laboratory earlier this year has also allowed the Garden to make some significant improvements for visitors, including opening a beautiful new Garden Café and staffing the ticket offices year round.
Not only does the Garden today attract record visitor numbers, but the audience profile has diversified significantly since the days, long-gone, when only University-nominated key-holders were allowed in on Sundays and perambulators were not permitted in the Garden!
Today, the Garden welcomes over 9000 school children every year to discover the incredible diversity of the plant kingdom, and runs family festivals and events through the holidays. With partners across the City, the Garden is involved in new projects like Bioblitz, which invited the public to help survey the wildlife at the Garden, while the brief of the Sainsbury Community Arts project is to deliver inspirational learning and recreational opportunities for a wide range of groups. Recent projects have included a sculpture workshop inspired by foliage and textures of the tropical collections for visually-impaired Cambridge residents; The Magic Brick Tree, a captivating children’s book inspired by the tree collection, was written and illustrated by young carers from Centre 33, who all provide significant support to another family members; and, a pop music video, was devised and filmed by children from the Red Balloon Centre, an alternative school for bullied children.
Dr Upson sums it up:
We have a twin mission at the Botanic Garden: to look after the plant collections of the University of Cambridge, and to make them available for everyone to enjoy in this green oasis for the City, and we look forward to welcoming visitors through the winter and into 2012, whether it’s just for a bit of fresh air and exercise, for a moment of calm or solace, for home-gardening ideas or to develop expert plant knowledge.