Without the garden and glasshouses there would be no RBGE. The care and curation of the landscape and plants of RBGE is carried out by over 70 horticulturists, often working in collaboration with staff in the Science Division, and frequently supported by volunteers and students. 13,500 species are cultivated in the four gardens of RBGE. These plants are a resource which is not the result of just a few years of careful management and cultivation, but 350 years of knowledge gathered through innovation, observation, physical work and dedication. Sibbaldia the International Journal for Botanic Garden Horticulture has been publishing the outcomes of this work, and that of horticulturists and plant scientists worldwide, since its establishment in 2003. 2020 is the time to recognise this resource and the skills which have sustained the institution as part of the celebration of RBGE’s 350-year history. The Sibbaldia & PlantNetwork Conference 2020 ‘Promoting Excellence in Horticulture’ creates an opportunity, not only to recognise what we have learned from professionals who have gone before us, but the skills we need to face today’s challenges, and beyond.

2020 has not played out as any of us imagined it would. Where once we hoped to be a meeting of over 200 horticulturists sharing resources, ideas and the Garden in spring, we have adapted to develop an online event with some wonderful additions, borne out of the challenges recent months have brought to the surface. A programme very close to the original will run online from 28-30 October 2020, with 16 speakers from at least 12 organisations and businesses over the three main sessions and two parallel sessions. The speakers will address six themes running through the Conference: Cultivation, Collections, Conservation, Plant Health, Heritage and Education, and will be available to answer delegates’ questions.

In some ways, there is more to gain than ever from attending this online event. An hour-long free session ‘Promoting Excellence in Horticulture for all’ will start the programme. It will include live online polls and panel discussion from experts in horticultural education. They will be looking at opportunities for learners at all levels to pursue excellence in a career with plants. It is open to all – simply sign up via the links available on the Conference webpage (see the link below).

In an extra session covering contemporary topics we will hear from many voices in horticulture about the impacts of Covid, plant health issues, Brexit, and the need to increase diversity in horticulture. We are delighted that this session will conclude with an address from Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary and MSP Roseanna Cunningham.

There is no denying that we will all miss the opportunity to be in the Garden and experience the collections and glasshouses for real. RBGE staff are busy filming virtual tours to bring delegates a little closer to the plants and whet their appetites for when travel is easier.

One of the drawbacks of a virtual event is not seeing old friends and making new contacts. In the closing session delegates will have the chance to join a break-out room and meet fellow participants. Delegates so far include participants from the UK, Australia and South Africa. Will you be joining them?
The programme, speakers, booking and bursaries can be viewed here: https://www.rbge.org.uk/science-and-conservation/sibbaldia-conference-2020/

PlantNetwork is the plant collections network of Britain and Ireland and our collaborating organisers in this event. For both organisations it is important to encourage accessibility for all including an early and mid-career audience – the horticulturists and botanic garden users of the future. Bursaries are available to support attendance and further information is available on the website in the link above.

The Proceedings will be published online and in print in Sibbaldia, look out for them in 2021.