One of my favourite places in the world is the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. I have been there many, many times, in all seasons and in all moods. I wrote a little about them in the post Leaves, from way back in January. I don’t get to visit as much as I would like. I used to be there at least once a month but at the moment it is three or four times a year.
I was there last weekend and spent much of the time sitting in the midst of the sequoias thinking on something. (I came to a successful conclusion, incidentally.) I have thought a lot of thoughts in the Botanics. One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life was made sitting on a bench near the Glasshouses. I overcame my nerves about starting my OU degree on that bench in the John Muir Grove where I sat on Sunday. Most of the time, though, I don’t go there to make decisions. Nothing else would get done, for a start, as I would spend all my time in transit to the Botanics. I really go there because it is a place very dear to me, a place where I feel at peace, spiritually and mentally.
The John Muir Grove is the official name of the area of the Botanics where the sequoias are. I know that because I know more about John Muir than most but RBGE has only marked that recently by putting up a rather fine plaque at the base of one of the trees. I saw it for the first time on Sunday and it concisely mentions John Muir and that you can find a wider variety of sequoias at Benmore Botanic Garden in Argyll. If you haven’t been to Benmore, I would thoroughly recommend it. The sequoias there are the first thing you see after you’ve paid your admission money, a whole line of them flanking you like a guard of honour.
The Botanics also boasts one of the finest viewpoints from which to appreciate our capital city. I always say that it is the best place to see Edinburgh Castle as it looks properly imposing and threatening. From every other angle, it just looks like Edinburgh Castle.
A new addition to the Botanics is the John Hope Gateway, at the West Gate, featuring a rather fine exhibition space, restaurant, gift shop and most importantly the toilets. It hosts temporary exhibitions though has some permanent displays about biodiversity and the work of RBGE in plant conservation and research. On one panel is a quote from Patrick Geddes which features the theme for this month, ‘By leaves we live’, in its fuller context.
‘This is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent on the leaves. By leaves we live. Some people have strange ideas that we live by money. They think energy is generated by the circulation of coins. Whereas the world is mainly a vast leaf colony, growing on and forming a leafy soil, not a mere mineral mass: and we live not by the jingling of coins, but by the fullness of our harvests.’
There are worse ways to live by.