The most exciting new attraction in Dublin is the Botanic Gardens. The gardens are situated in the northern suburbs of the city at Glasnevin, a pleasant carriage ride from town for a day’s excursion. After long years of campaigning the Dublin Society has achieved its goal of establishing this public garden to show off the best in new horticultural and agricultural practices. Lord Charlemont has always been very generous in allowing the public to stroll on his estate at Marino, and I have done so many times. But it’s wonderful to have a place which belongs to us all where we can walk any day of the week and learn new things every time.
We are living through exciting times as new lands are discovered and new plant specimens are arriving from across the world. Sir Joseph Banks is sponsoring voyages to New Holland (Australia) and that paradise on earth, Botany Bay, to collect new plants, fruits and flowers. I love to read books of voyages and discoveries, and I am particularly interested in the new flora and fauna being identified. As a child I loved George Anson’s Voyages which I read many times.
Captain Cook’s travels took place when I was very young and I have never forgotten the excitement in our house when his account was published. My father read it aloud to us and afterwards we pored over the maps and drawings, absorbing all the fantastic, and barely credible, events. Imagine the excitement of finding totally new species, and maybe having one named after yourself!
My father subscribes to The Botanical Magazine, he buys all of Philip Miller’s books and he maintains that Miller’s advice is the most practical and valuable for our growing conditions. I love all these books and I spend hours reading and admiring the engraved prints.
I do not have a country estate, nor do I have a team of gardeners who can compete for the annual prizes awarded by the Dublin Society for the best turnips etc, but I do enjoy being part of the new discoveries in the natural world. My friend and I go botanizing in the Dublin mountains in spring and summer. We wear our warm woollen skirts and thick walking boots and set out early in the morning by carriage as far as the foothills. From there we begin our climb searching for specimens on the way. We have found some unusual plants and we have been able to present some of our findings to the Botanic Gardens for their collections. I have a tatty copy of Dr Walter Wade’s catalogue of native plants, which we take with us to help identify new finds.
Dr Wade has done very valuable work on our native flora, back in the late ‘80s he advertised his definitive book on the subject, but I think he could not raise enough money and it was never published. [Link to online catalogue] I have gone to his botanical lectures at his home in Caple Street. He is such an enthusiast and everyone who attends is enthralled. He is often to be seen at the Botanic Gardens where he is superintendent, and he is ever willing to share his knowledge with members of the public. I really appreciate his enlightened discourse and the opportunity to view some of the dried specimens and living examples of the plants described.