A club that has encouraged generations of local youngsters to learn about plants and wildlife is embarking on its fifth decade.
Long before the development of ‘eco’ groups and outdoors education, the much-loved Junior Hortus club at St Andrews Botanic Garden was sowing the seeds with children for a lifetime’s fascination with growing plants.
Founded by Bob Mitchell and Lee Cook in 1975 under the name of St Andrews University Botanic Garden Junior Hortus, the very first session saw 200 children enter the garden gates and leave with daffodil bulbs to plant at home to bring back the following spring and enter into a colourful annual bulb show.
Last weekend it celebrated its 40th anniversary with an apple day in the orchard, when past and present members enjoyed apple pressing, delicious cakes and toasting marshmallows in a new fire pit, a present to the club to mark the occasion.
Over the years more than 1600 children have been members of the pioneering club, with many going on to a wide variety of careers in botany, horticulture and academia.
“The club gives youngsters the chance to play outside, get muddy, explore the garden, learn more about plants and wildlife and engage with the natural environment,” said Andrea Roach, the Botanic’s education tutor.
“Perhaps now more than ever, children need to be encouraged to get outdoors and engage with the world we live in. Computers and smart phones have much to offer but cannot compete with the fun of putting on your wellies to build a den, going on a bug hunt or growing your own vegetables.”
After several years of uncertainty over the Botanic Garden, the creation of a new trust status has secured the future of the club for as long as there is a garden.
Andrea said: “We are looking forward to the next 40 years. We now have our own polytunnel, a new woodland learning pavilion opens next month and I’m looking forward to introducing the garden to future generations.”
Junior Hortus is for children aged five to ten and takes place on the third Saturday of every month between 10.30am and noon.
If you are interested in finding out more about Junior Hortus or one of the Planet Botanic holiday camps, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01334476452.