Tuesday 25 October 2011

Plans for a Botanic Garden in Dundee

2011 is the year in which the University celebrates the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Botanic Gardens and Archive Services has a number of collections which relate to the establishment and management of the gardens. The archives show that idea of creating a botanic teaching garden dates back as far as the early twentieth century. (Sir) Patrick Geddes, Professor of Botany at University College, Dundee from 1889 to 1920, was a keen advocate of such an idea.

The Geddes Quadrangle c 1960s
The garden in what is now known as the Geddes Quadrangle was laid out according to an elaborate plan by Geddes to serve an educational function. Geddes designed the garden so that the specimens planted in each bed were from the same scientific group and the beds demonstrated the evolution of that group. He also took a keen interest in the layout of the rest of the College grounds. 

In 1906 it was reported that Geddes had proposed a scheme to create a large botanic garden running from the Perth Road to the edge of the Caledonian Railway at Magdalen Green, covering the site of Clarendon Park Nursery and extending eastwards. In 1909, following the failure of a scheme by the late Bailie Mathers to erect a winter garden at Baxter Park, Geddes contacted the Town Council to propose his own winter garden or botanic garden arguing that he had support from members of the community. He also requested that the University College Council appoint a sub-committee of its members to consider the proposal. However, the College Council opted not to pursue this matter, much to Geddes' regret.

Geddes did no teaching at the University after 1914, but his legacy lived on. As this document from 1929 shows the garden at the front of the College was carefully planned and maintained and showcased a number of species of tree. Proposals for a permanent botanic garden remerged in the 1960s and, with the encouragement of Principal James Drever, the current gardens were established in 1971.

Plan for garden in front of what is now the Tower Building, 1929

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