Caitlin, who won a Student Scholarship of £1,000, while studying Horticulture with Plantsmanship at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) through Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), shares her news since receiving the scholarship…

“I am originally from Canada but made the decision to study abroad due to the impressive and world-renowned reputation of RBGE. Thanks to the scholarship money that I was awarded in April 2017 by the DCF, I was able to afford travel expenses to return to Canada for a month and a half over the summer. There, I took on a volunteer placement at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Botanical Gardens working on a hydrangea project that was facilitated by the curatorial coordinator, Beryl Zuhang. This project involved locating and collecting various hydrangea species in the form of photos and voucher specimens to be dried and pressed and used as part of UBC’s herbarium collection. It was great fun getting to know UBC’s vast 80-acre garden and becoming familiar with both ornamental and wild hydrangea species. Many of the species that I photographed or collected for pressing were “wild collected” from British estates in the 1970s.

It was very interesting learning more about plant hunting and collecting expeditions from the past as well as understanding the nature of how plants travel between botanical gardens. I enjoyed this project as I was granted almost total autonomy to explore the gardens and collect plant samples. It is also a great privilege to have contributed to this institution’s herbarium collection.

Not only did this experience contribute to my taxonomy knowledge, I also learned how to press plants in a professional setting and increased by plant record and database skills. This experience has encouraged me to take a Geographic Information Systems course this year to further develop my mapping and field survey skills. Furthermore, as a creative individual, this project nourished by ability to be innovative and do hands-on-work. I have attached a table to this document that illustrates the various hydrangea species I worked with, their accessions, taxon/name, bed location and lifeform.

As a horticulturalist, I am interested in the fundamental and practical aspects of horticulture, including ornamental horticulture and plant cultivation and propagation. I am also passionate about conservation ecology and the importance of biodiversity for a greener future. Ornamental horticulture is wonderful because it can facilitate the transformation of public spaces into places, enriching them with meaning and beauty. For me, botanical gardens are the best of both worlds as they are spaces that embody both ornamental plant cultivation with conservation and research. I am thankful for my experience at a new botanical garden and for the financial support DCF provides to fellow plants people. In the future, it is my goal to establish a small-scale business as an ornamental plant grower. I would like to take that a step further and provide workshops on urban plant propagation and care to promote awareness and understanding of the need for plants. It is possible to foster an integrative approach in public spaces by creating policies that incorporate horticultural practices into our societal sectors- from community gardens, to the education system, to the health and housing industry.

I am grateful for the generosity of this organisation that encourages new horticulturalists to continue planning for a more sustainable and green future.”