I’ve written a book, which still seems a bizarre concept to me! A few months ago I was given the chance to compile a series of photographs from the Archives of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), research them and write captions for each which could then, with the addition of various introductions, be compiled into a book to be used to (hopefully) raise funds for RBGE’s work. We didn’t have much time to put the book together, so the idea was to try and keep the concept simple (insert wry laughter here) by sticking to one subject, that of horticulture at RBGE, as we have a fair amount of glass plate negatives and photographic prints showing Garden staff from the turn of the 20th century, many of them at work in the Garden. It also meant we could cover parts of the Garden, such as the Glasshouse displays and the Rock Garden which have changed beyond recognition over the last 150 years. It is not supposed to be a comprehensive history of RBGE, nor a horticultural handbook, but a chance to look at a small sample of RBGE’s collection of historic photographs, and hopefully find a story or two (or more!) that interests you.

RBGE Gardeners on a Tree Transplanter in March 1894, by A.D. Richardson [1/4DD04]

It was a project I could not turn down, as not only would it give me the chance to publish (show off) some of the Archive’s treasures, but also the time to find out more about them. The best part for me was seeing the images digitised (thanks to funding from the RBGE Membership programme) and blown up to A3 size, allowing us to really see the detail captured on the prints and glass plates. We then interviewed members of the Horticulture Department, delving into the images to find out what was going on, why things were the way they were and what has changed or stayed the same today. I really enjoyed this too – it was an interesting (and may I add fun?) process which revealed a lot of interesting facts and stories and something I hope to carry on in the future.
Yesterday I was treated to a tour of the printers at Tweedbank in the Borders to see the pages of the book roll off the printer which was a real thrill I can tell you! It looks like the book will be another week to compile, stitch together, cut and bind so should hopefully be available in the RBGE shop by the 16th December – just in time for Christmas!

Thought it might be useful to add that the book is called “How the Garden Grew”.

by Leonie Paterson, RBGE Archivist