This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

International Gardeners and Supporting Romania’s Horticultural Heritage

Lilium bulbiferum

The GardenMessenger groups, and I hope the audience for this blog, are international. I have been lucky in my life to see many gardens, and to work on gardening projects around the world and to realise what a great occupation and hobby it can be. There are so many different aspects to it that are fascinating, above and beyond anything that we might do in our own backyards. It is thrilling to be able to communicate through the Internet so easily with those in other parts of the world who grow things differently and know about plants that we have never heard of before. Which was really the impetus for me to start and develop these GardenMessenger international gardening communities.

Linaria alpina

So I guess GardenMessenger has become a bit like a gardening United Nations, but without any strife. Well not much anyway. Occasionally members fall out and get a bit naughty in what they say to each other, and I get told off if I do not act quickly enough. It is not always easy to be there at the time of any trouble. I may be asleep. For those who rarely travel far, it is often difficult to understand the problem of the time differences between us. When its noon Monday in Honolulu, it is 10am Tuesday in Auckland, New Zealand. So here we all are, an international group of gardeners who all enjoy our gardening and exchanging ideas.

Daphne cneorum

As we all know there are many parts of the world where financial constraints make the maintenance of horticultural projects that teach people about plants and gardening, both formally and informally, very difficult or impossible. This was brought up amongst GardenMessenger members the other day when I happened in passing to mention the botanical gardens at Cluj in Romania. Members from Romania then posted on our message board and explained how the former great botanical gardens of that country were experiencing enormous difficulties in ensuring that their collections of both conservation and teaching plants survived.

Gentiana lutea

To begin with I was a bit surprised, that apart from discussion between Romanians, a deadly silence. No other GardenMessenger member expressed any concern or sympathy with the plight of the botanical gardens. Then I got to thinking, of course, the Romanians are a long way away from most of us, and the majority of members are probably unsure of where Romania is on the map. However, Romania is very important globally with its unique flora, skilled gardeners and a rich horticultural heritage. I am sure that most members, and indeed all gardeners in the wealthier parts of the world, if they realised how dire the plight of these gardens is, would be prepared to assist their fellow Romanian gardeners, if only by giving their moral support. There is power in numbers, even when there is no money involved. We can all see that in the rising democracies of the world.

Gladiolus illyricus

If anything is to be done, a vehicle is needed to provide support and to keep the problem in the eye of those who can do something about it. I am in the fortunate position, that although I have not seen at first hand the plight of the Romanian plant collections, I have witnessed similar dire problems in Russia since the collapse of Soviet power. I also know many of the people in organisations that can advise and give international credibility to any support enterprise. I am also able to convey a message via this blog and the GardenMessenger groups to a group of people who are interested in gardening. So in conjunction with our Romanian members I am establishing a Romanian Botanical Gardens support group. The GardenMessenger community will adopt the botanical gardens in Romania and try to make a difference.

Leontopodium alpinum

I appreciate that most gardeners join the GardenMessenger groups for information and communication about their gardens and hobby, and while I will initially make a posting on all the group message boards about the support group, after that I will just make an occasional reminder posting for new members. I have no intention of the support group becoming any kind of issue within the groups. All I am doing is making those who are interested in supporting the project aware that it is happening and directing them to a place where they can meet kindred spirits and hopefully make a difference. So if you are interested in joining the Romanian Botanical Gardens Support Group click here.

Crocus scepusiensis

So what is the group, and how will it work? To begin with it is being formed with the blessing and guidance of the international botanic gardens co-ordinating body Botanic Gardens Conservation International at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London. Through them the group is co-ordinating its activities with the Association of Romanian Botanical Gardens which is based at the Bucharest Botanical Garden in Romania. Aside of that we have a small group of Romanian GardenMessenger members co-ordinated by Andrei Lenard, who will be the GardenMessenger practical day to day contact, and who will identify small practical gardening projects to assist the revival of the collections, and ensure that these tasks are carried out. He will also liaise with the Association of Romanian Botanical Gardens. That is how far we have got at the moment. Before going further it is important to identify supporters. So if you think that you would like to join the support group and you did not click on the link previously, you can do so now click here.

Rhododendron myrtifolium

The project is obviously about money, but I hope not without return. While any donations to a pre-determined practical gardening project within a garden e.g. repotting a rare orchid collection, are welcome once the facility to make such a gift is in place with the Association of Romanian Botanical Gardens, it would be hoped that rather than money being donated, it could be raised by gardening clubs or similar groups adopting the programme as their international charitable venture - perhaps at a flower show, or even a special gardeners’ question and answer evening or supper. There are endless possibilities. Raising money this way can be fun and can give both the club and the project valuable media attention.

Dianthus callizonus

In return, it is hoped that through the botanical gardens seed collection scheme, part of an international seed exchange programme, that the nine Romanian botanical gardens that are being supported will provide any club, society or group that raises funds for a project, with an exclusive collection of seeds from Romania for distribution to its members. The mechanism for this is presently being discussed. Apart from being a great opportunity for members to receive and grow an exciting new range of plants in their gardens at home, it gives some dignity and pride to the botanical gardens that the support group is assisting. There is still a lot to be done to put the structure of the group in place, but it is moving ahead quickly. If you want to be kept informed of developments, even if you only wish to lend your support to the group then click here to join. While active supporters are clearly required, it is not a condition of membership, identifiable numerical strength is equally important when making things happen.

Happy Gardening



PS. All the flowers depicted on this page are native to Romania and conserved by Romanian botanical gardens. The alpine pink, Dianthus callizonus, is only found in a small area of Romania. It occurs nowhere else in the world.

Photos:Lilium bulbiferum, Dianthus callizonus, Crocus scepusiensis - Bobonel.
Other photos Wikipedia.

To join the GardenMessenger gardening community
click here

To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
click here

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