|South London Botanical Institute Garden||Lambeth|
South London Botanical Institute was established in 1910 by Allan Octavian Hume, a natural historian who had worked in India and was involved in the setting up of the Indian National Congress in 1883. He came to live in Norwood on his return in 1894 with the wish of 'converting the boy in the gutter and the man in the street to a love for our British plants'. Many distinguished botanists have been associated with the botanical institute he set up. The garden now has over 500 labelled species in themed borders; a pond supports native wetland plants and is home to frogs and newts. As part of celebrations for the Institute's centenary, a 'living museum of strange visitors' is being re-created, as the new garden was described in a newspaper article in 1912.
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South London Botanical Institute - Photo: Janne Watson
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Allan Octavian Hume (1829-1912) left India in 1894 and came to live in Norwood on his return with the wish of 'converting the boy in the gutter and the man in the street to a love for our British plants'. In his youth he had presented his collection of natural history, particularly ornithological, to the Natural History Museum in 1855, the largest single collection offered to the museum at the time. He established a garden and botanical institute here with which many distinguished botanists have been associated.
The Institute Garden fell into decline over the years after Hume's death in 1912 but was restored in 1975 under the Institute's Director Frank Brightman and 20 numbered beds with rare and unusual plants were created, including plants from John Gerard's Herball such as Mirabilis Jalapa., the 'four o'clock plant'. The garden now has over 500 labelled species in themed borders, with traditional medicinal herbs alongside plants used in current pharmaceutical research; British natives, ferns, scented plants, monocots, drought-tolerant plants and unusual vegetables are found alongside rare trees and shrubs from the southern hemisphere. At the heart of the garden is a pond supporting native wetland plants, and a home for frogs and newts.
The house contains an important reference library, a herbarium and collections donated by botanists including from the local area and London, such as Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society. As part of celebrations for the Institute's centenary, a 'living museum of strange visitors' is being re-created, as the new garden was described in a newspaper article in 1912. Projects for the future include a dye-plant bed, moss trail and an area of rare cornfield wildflowers. A centenary mosaic has been commissioned from artist Emma Biggs.
Ian Yarham, Michael Waite, Andrew Simpson, Niall Machin, 'Nature Conservation in Lambeth', Ecology Handbook 26 (London Ecology Unit), 1994; Michael Young 'Collins Guide to Botanical Gardens', 1987