Our understanding of how plants are related to each other, how they interact, and where they come from is changing all the time. To explore these relationships, we are creating a new feature in the Garden that will recreate some of Fife’s most threatened habitats, ranging from woodlands to meadows and dunes.

The name of this area will be The Tangled Bank, taking its name from Charles Darwin’s description of how species are related. Drawing inspiration from Darwin, the Tangled Bank will be an ecologically vibrant place to learn about evolution and botany. Here, students of all ages will be able to study how our local plants respond to the changing climate and gain new insights into Fife’s nature. With boardwalks that take you on an immersive journey through the dunes that fringe our coast, through dappled glades and into the heart of the Garden, the Tangled Bank will be accessible to all and provide opportunities for long term collaboration across Fife and around the world.

Help the Tangled Bank come to life in 2021

Over the past year, we have faced many challenges and been preparing plans to develop the Garden so we can educate the next generation of gardeners: throughout 2021 the Friends and the Botanic Garden will be fundraising to support the creation of this new part of the Garden with sponsored walks, events and activities. If you would like to make a donation, please visit the Gift Shop or use the donation form here. Your gift will help us create the first part of these exciting new projects and support the future of this beautiful garden.

“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about…”  Charles Darwin, “On the Origin of Species”

The Tangled Bank will be in the heart of the Garden, placing our local wild plants at the centre of what we do. On arrival, visitors will be able to see scattered trees amongst wildflower meadows and through to the rock garden, woodland and herbaceous borders. With new meandering paths through the ‘C beds’ and Poplar Glade, we will refurbish the Learning Den and create a board walk that leads visitors through the sand dunes, bringing plants such as Grass of Parnassus and Pyramidal Orchids up to your eye height. Accessibility is at the heart of the design, making the Tangled Bank a place that everyone can enjoy.

The focus of the first phase of the Tangled Bank is to create gradients of grassland habitats that reflect Fife’s rural plant communities, ranging from dappled meadows near the Gatehouse through to dramatic sand dunes in the centre of the Garden. In the second phase, we will be decommissioning the glasshouses and creating a complement to the first phase, this time looking at the wild plants we find in Fife’s towns.

This step is something that we have been working on and assessing for a long time now, and to an extent, is a decision that is being made for us: the glasshouses are in increasingly urgent (and expensive) need of repair whilst at the same time, imposing significant financial costs for management and pest control, and in light of the climate crisis, the Garden needs to make significant reductions to its heating. Faced with these challenges, the decision to take positive steps to not only reduce our carbon footprint but create a valuable and exciting new part of the Garden that can be used for teaching and conservation feels like the right decision at the right time.

We will be decommissioning the glasshouses in two stages, starting in August 2021 with those that need to be decommissioned before the winds pick up in the autumn, pausing over the winter and then completing the project in spring 2022. Developing the landscape will take time and funding support so during this period we will create a ‘meanwhile’ landscape, with exhibitions, consultations and seating. Alongside the creation of this new garden we will restore the Potting Sheds and convert them to community learning spaces and research laboratories, giving them a new lease of life.

Conservation

The glasshouse plant collection houses a number of plants that are important for conservation and a great deal of work has been invested in their curation. To continue this conservation work, we are sharing plant material with other botanic gardens and specialist plant collections in Scotland.

Sustainability

Sustainability is at the heart of this project – the Garden needs to reduce its carbon footprint, pest control measures and water consumption whilst at the same time, creating vibrant and resilient habitats that are inspiring to visit and work in. Phase II of the Tangled Bank will create exemplar urban habitats for Fife showing how to slow surface water flow, create urban habitats that are climate change resilient, and recycle building materials to create exciting and beautiful new garden features.

The centrepiece of this will approach is the Temperate Glasshouse, which is in need of urgent work to the glass – the glass and glazing bars will be removed and the structure will be converted into a pergola with climbing plants growing over the steel and aluminium frame.

Access

The building work will be carried out in stages to minimise disruption within the Garden. The project is intended to take 12-18 months, depending on funding, and during this time we will make sure that all visitors understand what works are being undertaken so that everyone can plan their visit and enjoy the Garden.

Community

The core plans for the second phase of the Tangled Bank are established and we are now ready to move to the detailed design stage. The Tangled Bank is intended to celebrate Fife’s wild plants and provide opportunities for them to thrive and we hope the same will be for the people who visit and use the Garden, so we need your help in these detailed design stages.

Consultation and community development will be key to making the Tangled Bank a success and enjoyable for all, so we will be holding a number of workshops in the autumn to capture the widest possible range of needs and interests for the future phases. If you would like to contribute to this in any way, or know someone or a group who is interested in the Tangled Bank, please contact info@standrewsbotanic.org and let us know.

Research

The Tangled Bank is designed to address some of the most urgent questions that Fife faces – we are on the edge of a biodiversity crisis and it is likely that many of the landscapes we love most will change significantly during our lifetimes. Researchers around the world are working on conservation projects to try and reverse this crisis but many aspects remain unknown or difficult to resolve, and need local expertise to address them. We will play our part by focusing on three strands of research:

  1. The relationships between native and non-native plants and their associated organisms, asking questions about succession, competition, mutualism, invasion and resilience of novel ecosystems.
  2. Researching sources of variation in plants, and developing models to predict and demonstrate the extents and causes of variation within species so that we might better predict response to environmental or climate change.
  3. Translating research into practice. The Garden should be more than a bridge between academia and profession: it should be active and strategic in identifying blind spots or ‘hard to identify’ questions that a botanic garden is uniquely-suited to address.

The reason we have created grassland, sand dune and urban habitats in the centre of the botanic garden is because these are some of the most threatened and sensitive habitats in all of Fife. The findings from our research will be shared in a wide range of formats, from workshops and conferences to newspaper articles, videos and academic journals: the aim for us is to share these findings as effectively as we can, so if there are formats that will be particularly useful for you, students you work with, construction professionals or conservationists you know, then please get in touch with info@standrewsbotanic.org so that we can work with you to prepare our findings.

Meanwhile use

Carrying out the second phase of the Tangled Bank is going to be a complex undertaking, and to an extent, will be dependent upon the funding support for the project. This means that we will undertake each step as we are able to do so and, in the meantime, that will mean that there are opportunities for temporary uses and features in the Garden. ‘Meanwhile communities’ are found everywhere in nature, with processes of succession between plants driving evolution and adaptation, and it will be the same in the Garden – we will create a series of ‘meanwhile’ features that are rich in plants and wildlife, adapting them and changing the landscape into its final form.

We hope that holding exhibitions and workshops here will bring new life into the Garden, and if there are things that you’d like to see happen or to host here, then please get in touch and let us know at info@standrewsbotanic.org.

Get involved

There are lots of ways to get involved in the Tangled Bank, starting with letting us know what you think of these plans for the Garden. The best way to do this is to write to info@standrewsbotanic.org or to see us in the Garden and share your ideas. Many hands make light work and there is much to be done! If you would like to volunteer and make the project a reality, then please contact volunteer@standrewsbotanic.org – there will be lots of different types of opportunities from plant conservation to construction projects and research so please do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d be interested in. The Tangled Bank is an ambitious project that involves a fundamental change to the heart of the Garden, and this will require funding support, so if you would like to contribute financially, then please write to info@standrewsbotanic.org or make a donation anonymously through the website.

Timescale

The first phase of the Tangled Bank is underway already and is likely to be completed in the autumn. The second phase will begin in August with the decommissioning of three glasshouses taking the glass off the frame of the Temperate House. In spring 2022 we will decommission the remaining houses and then begin work on the building restoration as soon as funding is in place.