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About us
 
 
 
A new network of Botanic Gardens in the Baltic Sea region.
 
Bengt Rosén, Ph D, vice president, DBW Botanic Garden, DBW Society, Visby, Sweden (bengt.h.rosen@telia.com)
Bengt Jonsell, professor emeritus, overseer, DBW Botanic Garden, DBW Society, Visby, Sweden (bengt.jonsell@tele2.se)

In 2005 the DBW Botanic Garden in Visby on the island of Gotland, Sweden, in the middle of the Baltic Sea, celebrated its 150th anniversary.
During the reception the regional governor of Gotland approached the chairman of the board of the Garden, asking if we would be interested in creating a cooperation network between Botanic Gardens in the Baltic Sea region.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the liberation of the Baltic countries, the government of Sweden and its international development agency, SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), has been encouraging cooperation between all the countries surrounding the Baltic.
The regional government of Gotland has also found it important to develop cooperation with our neighbours on the other side of the sea. Gotland, in the middle of the Baltic, should play an active and central role not only physically but also functionally in different sectors of society.
 
The DBW Botanic Garden in Visby was founded in 1855.
It is situated in the middle of the medieval town of Visby, now a UNESCO World Heritage.
The garden is a small BG counted by area but receives more than 300 000 visitors a year,
coming from all over the world. Photo: Bengt Rosén, 2005.
 
The first general meeting between the BGs in the Baltic Sea region was held
in Visby in 2008. The 35 participants decided on starting a network
cooperation with general meetings once a year.
Photo: Bengt Rosén, 2008.
 
 
The Botanic Garden in Visby
The Botanic Garden in Visby is owned by the DBW Society, a non-profit society, founded in 1814 with the predominant goal to promote regional culture and research – “to do something useful for the public society” according to the rules of DBW.
In that sense DBW already in 1815 started a school, free for young boys.
In 1830 the Society founded the first bank on Gotland and – as mentioned – the Botanic Garden was founded in 1855. Since 1972 the garden is operated by the Municipality of Gotland. It is governed by a board consisting of representatives from both the DBW Society and the Municipality. The garden is open the whole year around, free of charge. It is visited by more than 300 000 visitors a year coming from all over the world.
The initiative taken by the regional governor in 2005 was well received by the DBW Society and after some preparations, in late January 2008, a first orienting meeting was held in Visby with representatives from one Botanic Garden (BG) from each of the countries in the Baltic Sea region: Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. For three days in January-February 2008 we discussed the initiative and then agreed that we had a lot of matters of common interest for a future cooperation, things that BGs usually work with, namely
  • Public arrangements, exhibitions, presentations and information.
  • Research and science and its transmittance to the general public.
  • Conservation of wild plants, in situ and ex situ.
  • Horticulture with special regard to the public interest.
  • Understanding of environmental problems, ecological connections and climate change.
  • Importance for health, recreation and socio-education.
  • Development of botanic garden tourism.
  • Documentation, botanic-genetic archives and plant material exchange.
  • Staff exchange and internal education.
  • Sustainability of energy and water supply and pest control in greenhouses and gardens.   
 
Beyond that the BGs of the Baltic Sea region also have a common background in
  • Geography
  • History
  • Culture
  • Climate
  • Environment/ecology
The network language should be English. With this agreement we went on to invite three gardens from each of the nine countries around the Baltic Sea to a meeting, again in Visby, in September 2008.
From the beginning our initiative was supported by SIDA that granted us 60 000 SEK (about 5 500 €) for the first meeting in January 2008 and another 300 000 SEK (about 27 000 €) for the following meeting in September.
With this we could afford to pay all the costs for all the participants, travels, hotel, meals and other conference costs.
For, as SIDA said, no one should decline with reference to financial shortage. At this meeting we all agreed to start our cooperation.
The work done and the goals achieved in 2008 were so promising, that SIDA kindly granted us another 300 000 SEK spread over 3 years, 2009 – 2011.
 
Structure
In Visby we agreed on a “structure” more than a formal organisation for the cooperation.
A “steering”, supervising, group was formed consisting of Professor emeritus Bengt Jonsell (DBW Botanic Garden, Visby), Dr Jette Dahl Möller (BG, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Denmark) and Dr Heiki Tamm (BG of the University of Tartu, Estonia).

The working group already operating from Visby was entrusted to form a basic committee for practical matters like discussions with SIDA about financial matters, producing memoranda, planning next meeting etc. This group consists of Mr Göran Allard, Professor emeritus Bengt Jonsell, Dr Lennart Lindgren and Dr Bengt Rosén, all from the DBW Society that is the formal owner of the financial support from SIDA.

The Regional Government of Gotland has continued to support the project through a part time secretary. From the start we found it essential to invite the BGCI (Botanic Gardens Conservation International), to support us with good advice from their experiences all around the world.

Since 2009 we have been lucky enough to engage Dr David Rae, Edinburgh, with his vast experience from building international networks.
We also agreed on having a second general meeting in 2009. This was later decided to be held at the BG of Vilnius University, Lithuania, hosted by its director Dr Audrius Skridaila and his colleagues who presented a rich and very interesting program. It was, for us the organizers, very encouraging to note that a majority of the participants in Vilnius 2009 also had visited the Visby conference the year before and thus rejoined the network.
 
Good meals in pleasant environments create a good ground for cooperation.
The participants of the second international meeting with BGs in the Baltic Sea region
outside the old stables at the Botanical Garden of Vilnius.
Photo: Bengt Rosén, 2009. 
 

The Botanical Garden in Vilnius has plenty of room not only for botanical collections
but also for art installations, just for fun, for education or interesting thoughts.
It has also, of course, huge clone archives, here for Dahlias. Photo: Bengt Rosén 2009.
 
 
In the continuing process of cooperation we found it appropriate to limit our efforts to some directly “tangible” goals:
  • Education of staff through exchange of work.
  • A common website should be created with links to all participating BG:s.
  • Creation of a phenology network for monitoring climate change through some common species.
  • A list of endangered species grown in each garden should be produced.
  • All the gardens should feel responsible for finding a financial model, for constitution and objectives of the network.
Accordingly the next conference was held in September-October 2010 at the BG of the University of Tartu, Estonia, hosted by its director Dr Heiki Tamm and his colleagues. As in Visby and Vilnius the programme consisted of a mix of formal lectures, discussions, visits to gardens, nearby universities and touristic sites, socializing while eating good meals etc.
The Tartu conference was ended by a visit to the Estonian capital Tallinn and the Tallinn BG, the old town of Tallinn and the marvellous baroque garden of Kadriorg palace.
 

The Botanical Garden in Tartu belongs to the University of
Tartu, the oldest one in Estonia, situated in the middle of
the old town of Tartu. Photo: Bengt Rosén, 2010.
 

The Kadriorg Palace in central Tallinn was founded in the beginning of
the 18th century by the Russian tsar Peter I. It is now well known for
its reconstructed marvellous baroque garden and its art gallery.
Photo: Bengt Rosén, 2010.
 
It was a general feeling after the Tartu meeting that our cooperation had advanced to a new “level”. As we got to know each other more and more, we also found a new understanding about our different circumstances, about our hopes for the future etc.
The BG: s involved differ a lot in area, in staff, in capacity to cope with the goals chosen for our cooperation.

The Visby BG is by far the smallest both concerning area and staff. On the other hand it is one of the largest if we count by number of visitors. 
The Vilnius BG is one of the largest with its area of more than 250 hectares. All the BG: s except Visby are in some way connected to a university.
The BG of Warsaw (Botanical Garden – Centre for Botanical Diversity, Polish Academy of Sciences) seems to be one of the largest counting resources for research.
The DBW Botanic Garden in Visby has celebrated its 150th anniversary.
The BG of Helsinki (Botanic Garden, Finnish Museum of Natural history) opened a brand new BG in 2009.
The BG of Copenhagen (Botanic Garden, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Denmark) is totally reorganising its park.
We brought home with us an invitation for next year’s meeting, to Gdansk in Poland and some other interesting sites in the neighbourhood. We had even got a preliminary invitation for 2012, to the BG of Siauliai University, Lithuania. This is a confirmation for us that the members of our network find it valuable and worthwhile to meet and to cooperate on common matters.

The “tangible goals” to work with until next year (2011) were extended to
  • Completing the survey started last year by Marko Hyvärinen (then BG of the University of Oulu, now BG, Finnish Museum of Natural History, Helsinki) about the conservation work done at the different BGs.

  • The homepage (www.botanical-gardens.info/) is still to be developed. Dr Andrej Filimonov (St Petersburg Polytechnical University, St. Petersburg), Ms Svetlana Iakovleva (University BG, Kaliningrad, Russia), and Marko Hyvärinen (BG, Finnish Museum of Natural History, Helsinki, Finland) are responsible. As a supplement, while we wait for the completion of the homepage, we have produced a small brochure presenting the network and our gardens. Mr Göran Allard (DBW BG, Visby, Sweden) is responsible for that.  (A digital version could be ordered through Göran Allard, allard.g@telia.com)

  • Sharing ideas about education and PR. The homepage, when completed will be taken into use for this. Two of the participants, Dr Audrius Skridaila (BG of Vilnius University, Lithuania) and Dr Peter König (BG of the Ernst Moritz Arndt University, Greifswald, Germany) took responsibility for this. We should also examine the possibilities to produce and exchange exhibitions.

  • Horticulture and staff training is an important matter, since BG staffs are different from other gardeners. The plant material they are handling is extremely varying and biologically valuable. The best teachers we find among each other. Ms Katriina Rautala (BG, Finnish Museum of Natural History, Helsinki, Finland) is responsible for organising this exchange.

  • Gardens and climate change. The phenology project mentioned above goes on. Dr Magnus Lidén (Uppsala University BG, Uppsala, Sweden) is leading this project.
Fundraising is an essential task for all the participants to consider. Superficially cooperation between BGs may seem rather exclusive. But the common goals presented in the beginning of this paper are essential not only to us but, we may say, to the future of mankind. For what is more important than biodiversity, nature conservation and environmental education – all the better if it is combined with growing international cooperation and understanding?
 
 
List of the participating Botanical Gardens

1.      DBW Botanic Garden, Visby, Sweden
2.      Uppsala University Botanic Garden, Uppsala, Sweden
3.      Bergianska trädgården, Stockholm, Sweden
4.      Botanical Garden, University of Turku, Finland
5.      Botanical Garden of the University of Oulu, Finland
6.      Botanic Garden, Finnish Museum of Natural History, Helsinki, Finland
7.      Komarov Botanical Inst RAS, St Petersburg, Russia
8.      Tallinn Botanic Garden, Tallinn, Estonia
9.      Botanical Garden of the University of Tartu, Estonia
10.  Botanic Garden, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia
11.  National Botanical Garden of Latvia, Salaspils, Latvia
12.  Botanic Garden of Siauliai University, Siauliai, Lithuania
13.  Botanical Garden of Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania
14.  Botanical Garden of Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania
15.  Ecological Centre for Children, Kaliningrad, Russia
16.  Botanical Garden -  Centre for Botanical Diversity, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
17.  Botanical Garden of Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland
18.  Dendrological Garden Przelewice, Przelewice, Poland
19.  Botanic Garden of the Ernst Moritz Arndt University, Greifswald, Germany
20.  Botanical Garden of the University, Rostock, Germany
21.  Botanic Garden of the Christian-Albert-University, Kiel, Germany
22.  Botanic Garden, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark

 
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