Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, it'll be great to be back

I haven’t been everywhere (man) but while working at three of the world’s great botanic gardens I have been lucky enough to visit lots of places, and pretty ones at that. I apologise, a little, for using that flabby and conceited word ‘great’, but Melbourne, Sydney and Kew are all up there (apologies now to all my friends and colleagues in the other great and pretty great gardens of the world…sigh).

You will have read in this blog about my various botanical travels (or travels with a botanical diversion or two) over the last few years. Today I can let you know I am travelling home

So where is this home? Well at the moment it is inside Kew Gardens in London. Fifty two and a bit years ago it was in the small country town of Nhill, in western Victoria, Australia. I started here:

As of March next year, it will be somewhere in Melbourne, hopefully close to the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne where I will be Director and Chief Executive.

For what it’s worth, I’ve lived (for periods of a year or more) in Nhill, Wangaratta, Euroa, Alphington, Yapeen, Parkville, East Melbourne, North Fitzroy, North Melbourne, Middle Park, Westgarth, Clifton Hill, Watsonia, Greensborough, East Lindfield, East Killara, Kew…and next, somewhere in Melbourne. So that’s Victoria, New South Wales, Surrey and back to Victoria.

This new job completes a strangely satisfying botanical garden circle: Melbourne, Sydney, Kew, Melbourne.  It's not the first time the botanical road has detoured via Kew to Australia.

I’ve now made the personal journey from maths and physics nerd, to botanical convert, to phycological fanatic, to scientific manager and wannabe science communicator, to head of a big botanic garden, to being in charge of about half an even bigger botanic garden and soon head of another biggish botanic garden.

Have I enjoyed my time at Kew? Have I what. It really is an extraordinary place (there, I’ve avoided at least one additional use of the word great). To watch the seasons change, the flowers flower and the international science and conservation flourish has been a (cliché warning) privilege. Truly. And returning to Australia with nearly two years of Kew experiences under my belt won’t have done me any harm. This is Kew yesterday morning:

Lynda and I have loved London. Before I arrived, London was all about Dr Samuel Johnson. Now I can add museums, theatre, music, and parks and gardens. Lynda has all that plus even more Spanish and French language and culture, as well as experience with the education side of Botanic Gardens Conservation International and Kew Gardens. Then there are the trips to Europe and the greater UK.

All good but we look forward to returning to Melbourne, and to its two botanic gardens. I’ve always loved the William Guilfoyle designed landscape in South Yarra. I have fond memories of course: working in the Herbarium during my university breaks, a year as a horticultural assistant after finishing my degree, and then editing the Flora of Victoria and heading up the research section before we moved northward to Sydney.

The botanic garden at Cranbourne has changed a lot since my time there, particularly with the recent opening of the Australian Garden (stage 2) but also the work on the wetlands, tracks and playground. I helped with the recording of data for the very first plantings out there, although I think most of these have been superseded by the Australian Garden.

I know many of the staff, some from when I worked there, plus a few new arrivals. I also know many of the plants! A lot has changed since I left in 1998 but it still feels like the botanical home where I was raised. Phil Moors has done great things in his two decades at the helm and part of his success has been to add new layers to Guilfoyle’s masterpiece and new ways to tell the Australian plant story at Cranbourne. I can’t wait to add my own layers and new stories.

It would be presumptuous to say Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne will be greater or the greatest botanic garden as a consequence, but I like a challenge. I have some ideas for Melbourne but best I share these with staff first – and pick their brains for even greater ideas.

And lest you think all the great things in life are to do with plants and botanic gardens, there is always coffee...


Lynda Newnam said…
Welcome Home Tim - I think this sums it up -

cheers, Lynda Newnam
volunteer RBG
Tim Entwisle said…
From one of the cities that never closes down, thanks!
Kirk Dale said…
I agree, Tim.
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne IS one of the great botanic gardens of the world - and as one who used to roam its grounds during my lunch break I think I am a fairly good judge.
Now I work in Germany but I have fonds memories to keep me company until I too return!
Bye for now,
Tim Entwisle said…
Thanks Kirk. My memories exactly. Tim.
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