St Andrews Botanic Garden describes itself, rightly, as a “hidden gem”. Tucked between Canongate and the Kinness Burn, on a 7-hectare site some distance from the old centre of the town (a number of signposts give the distance to the Botanic Garden in yards, with varying accuracy), it has a pond, rock garden, peat garden, glasshouses with both warm-climate and cold-climate plants, and space for educational activities, and is sheltered by trees on two sides, with rhododendrons and other flowering plants in the woods.
The pictures below are from a visit today, the first nice spring day we’ve had, so the flowers are not yet at their most spectacular.
The bad news is that the future of the botanic garden is in doubt.
The site is owned by the University. Since it no longer teaches or researches botany, it has given over the management of the garden to Fife council. Because of funding cutbacks, the council can no longer afford the full cost of running the garden, and is cutting its funding by 50% (a six-figure sum). The University has proposed that part of the land be sold for development and the money invested to provide a fund to pay for running the rest of the site as a botanic garden. Accordingly, it has applied for planning permission for mixed development of the whole site. It states that it does not intend to develop the whole site but wants the planning process to consider all options.
In the meantime, a steering group made up of members of the Friends of the Garden and the Education Trust has been set up, to consider what to do. A successful fundraising drive to make up the shortfall would be the best solution, but this will not be easy in the present climate. It is easy to say that a single banker’s bonus would secure the future of the garden in perpetuity, but the world does not work that way. (This is a tragedy without villains, unless you count the bankers who brought us to this financial mess in the first place.)
The steering group will report next month.
St Andrews has already lost the famous Byre Theatre to the cuts. It would be a sad day if this lovely garden, or even half of it, were also to be lost. The Friends have a petition which you can sign; it closes on 5 May.