Garden Talks this Autumn

Autumn Garden Talks at Hospitalfield

To celebrate the restoration of Hospitalfield’s Victorian fernery we invite experts to discuss ferns, garden history, decolonisation of the garden and working in the community, and the importance and culture around heritage seeds, potatoes and apples.

Fern Fever

Saturday 30 October
2.00pm – 3.00pm

Professor Mary Gibby former Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as well as a former president of the British Pteridological Society and Dr Bridget Laue, of the British Pteridological Society, in conversation discuss the history of ferns in cultivation.

The Victorian era was the heyday of the amateur naturalist. Pteridomania is generally considered a British eccentricity, but while it lasted, fern ‘madness’ invaded all aspects of Victorian life. Ferns and fern motifs appeared everywhere, in homes, gardens, art and literature. Their images adorned rugs, tea sets, chamber pots, garden benches – even custard cream biscuits.
Originally marketed in the 1830s as plants that appealed only to intelligent people, ferns soon became a nationwide phenomenon. The more exotic ferns you could find the better and if you had a fern collection you needed a fernery.

The fernery at Hospitalfield was restored in 2021 by architects Caruso St John and populated with ferns from the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

About Professor Mary Gibby OBE, FRSE, PhD

Following a research career in botany at the Natural History Museum in London, Mary Gibby served as Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) from 2000 to 2012, and now holds the position of Honorary Research Associate.
As Director of Science, she had responsibility for all aspects of science, for conservation and development of the herbarium collections, library and archives, for publications, art and scientific exhibitions, and events and interpretation.
She has been engaged with the conservation agenda in Scotland, the UK and internationally through her research at NHM and RBGE and has held membership of the scientific advisory board of Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB’s Committee for Scotland, Defra’s Darwin Initiative Committee of Experts, the advisory board of Chelsea Physic Garden, London and a partnership organisation of the Canal and River Trust.

About Dr Bridget Laue

Bridget Laue completed a PhD on marine microbiology at the University of Colorado. After moving to Britain in 1996, Laue studied horticulture and fell in love with ferns. For several years they worked on tree diseases at Forest Research, but since “retiring” they have worked with ferns as a volunteer at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. For the past twenty years Laue has been a member of the British Pteridological Society, serving on its national committee, and coordinating the activities of its Scottish Group.


Slides for part one with Prof Mary Gibby

Slides for part two with Dr Bridget Laue


Gardening Communities

Saturday 27 November

2.00pm – 3.00pm

Martha Adonai Williams, Glasgow-based grower and writer and Rachel Pimm, researcher and artist, talk about empowering people through gardening and the possibility and necessity of bringing a decolonial* lens to the practice of horticulture.

*What do we mean when we say decolonising the garden?
Garden history and the history of gardening in Britain and Europe was influenced by plant collectors gathering seeds and specimens from around the world. Much of the horticultural knowledge we have today comes from the 19th century study of plants brought to this country at the height of global trade. Plants were named and re-named and through this process of building scientific knowledge, gathered through the perspective of the West, meant that other plant histories and knowledge, already deeply woven into the culture of indigenous populations from where the plants originated, was lost. At Hospitalfield we are interested in acknowledging these rich and important histories, understanding the journey that plants took to come here and their meaning within other cultures. We are developing a programme where we all can learn and discuss and see beyond our own history of horticulture.

Booking your tickets here

Recommended reading:

My Garden and Among Flowers, Jamaica Kinkaid

‘Custard Apple (Annonaceae), Breadfruit (Moraceae), and Soursop (Annonaceae), 2021’ by Veronica Ryan OBE

Art and the Public Realm Bristol – Seeds of Change: Floating Ballast Seed Garden

About Martha Adonai Williams

Martha Adonai Williams is a writer, facilitator, producer, Black feminist and friend. Her practice departs to and returns from black feminist world-making, always, with regular layovers in front of trash tv or at the allotment. Her work considers the wilderness and margins as sites of resistance, refusal and homecoming. She works with writing and storytelling as therapeutic tools and as methods for community building. Her recent work has been shown as part of Fringe of Colour films and published in MAP magazine. She runs call&response black feminist writing community, programmes for Glasgow Zine Library and curates SBWN’s annual Metaphors for a Black Future programme.

About Rachel Pimm

Rachel Pimm (b. Harare, 1984, lives Northamptonshire UK) is a research based artist working in sculpture, text, photography, video and performance to explore environments and their materialities, histories and politics. They are interested in the potential of surfaces and matter to transform. Their recent UK based work has been included in programmes including Artangel, Focal Point, The Serpentine Galleries, Whitechapel Gallery, Jerwood Space, Chisenhale Gallery and The Royal Academy as well as internationally. Residencies include Loughborough University Chemical Engineering, Gurdon Institute of Genetics at Cambridge University, Rabbit Island, Michigan, USA, and as Whitechapel Gallery Writer in Residence 2019-20. Rachel is Associate Lecturer at Camberwell and has a forthcoming commission with Arts Catalyst in 2022 about the metaphor in nature writing.


Heritage and Heirloom plants

Saturday 11 December

2.00pm – 3.00pm

Heritage or heirloom varieties of edible plants have seen a resurgence in popularity with many believing they offer better flavour and are better for the ecosystem. By growing these plants you are also playing an important part in preserving the genetic diversity of plants and keeping alive a link to our past and local heritage.

John Hancox, supplier of Scottish fruit trees, writer and advocate for heritage apples, John Marshall, retired potato trader and tattie expert and Andrew Skea of Potato House, a renowned supplier of heritage, organic and traditional ranges potatoes, discuss why heirloom varieties are important and their cultural and historic significance.

Book your tickets here. 




This talk will take place in person at Hospitalfield and will be seated and amplified. Hospitalfield Café, Garden and Music Room is wheelchair accessible via a ramp into the Gardens and there are wide pathways throughout the Walled Gardens. The grounds are sometimes uneven with a mixture of bark and grass paths. Hospitalfield would like to prepare with you for your visit and give any information which could help, so please do get in touch by emailing or phoning 01241656124. There is accessible parking available on site by the entrance to the Garden.