The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RGBE) is one of the world's oldest botanic gardens, established in 1670. Welcoming 900,000 visitors to four beautiful gardens in Scotland, RBGE conserves and cares for over 13,000 different species of plants from 157 countries, including some now extinct in the wild. Botanists and scientists from RBGE work in 40 countries around the world, exploring, conserving and explaining the world of plants for a better future.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh might be old, but that doesn't mean it doesn't look towards the future. For too long, botanic gardens tended to only attract visitors from narrow and elite sections of society. But if people are going to take action to protect our natural world from threats like climate change and habitat loss, we need everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, to be inspired by the wonder of plants.
This is where funding from players makes such a difference. Thanks to players' support, RBGE established the Edible Gardening Project in 2011, helping over 20,000 people from all walks to life to gain the knowledge and skills to grow their own fruit and vegetables. Community groups from a diverse range of backgrounds now visit the Edinburgh garden every week during the growing season to tend their own allotment plots, supported by over 20 volunteers.
A milestone report – How can botanic gardens grows their social role? – published this month and based on extensive research by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation demonstrates how botanic gardens can be instruments for social change. The report found programmes like the Edible Gardening Project changed how botanic gardens thought about their audiences, engaged brand new people – often from vulnerable or disadvantaged backgrounds – in their work, and helped participants grow in confidence, gain new practical skills and embrace healthy habits.
According to Ian Edwards, Head of Exhibitions and Events at RBGE, "The tremendous support from players of People's Postcode Lottery has transformed how the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh engages with people in understanding and protecting our natural world.
"It's no longer enough for us to open our gates and just let people see the plants in our collection. Instead, thanks to funding from players, we can encourage and inspire people to really get involved in exploring and conserving the world of plants. That might be by planting their own herbs one afternoon, or by building their confidence over time so they can volunteer at the Gardens or start a course studying horticulture and plant science.
"However people are inspired by plants and nature, the support of players of People's Postcode Lottery for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will have a lasting impact through helping more people access, understand and appreciate our beautiful living planet."
Thanks to the generous support from players in 2016 the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will expand the Edible Gardening Project with the introduction of new cookery lessons and additional plot spaces so even more people can learn to grow their own fruit and vegetables in the heart of the city.