Right on your doorstep

While sitting in a hospital chair with a nurse probing my hand for veins, we started chatting about where we lived. When I mentioned Marino, she talked enthusiastically about the Casino and how she had trekked across the city to visit it. I had to tell her that I had never been even though I lived on its doorstep for over a year. It’s often that we never visit places we walk by everyday. As I was making plans to visit the Casino, my mother called over and asked me to drive her to the Botanical Gardens in nearby Glasnevin.

The Botanical Gardens is currently hosting the annual Sculpture in Context exhibition. The sculptures led me from glasshouses to pine forests and all areas in between. The art brings you to less explored places that without it might be passed by unnoticed. I loved ‘Do Androids Dream of Mechanical Sheep?’ and a life-like limestone mattress lying against a glasshouse wall, ‘Insomnia’.

Even though art drew me to the Botanical Gardens, it was for science that it was originally created. They were established in 1790 to promote a scientific study of agriculture. In 1845, David Moore, the curator of the gardens, first discovered blight on the potato. With this knowledge he predicted this would cause a famine in Ireland. Despite his best efforts, he was unable to find a treatment for the disease. As time passed, the focus of the Botanical Gardens shifted away from agriculture and towards botany leading to its diverse plant collection today. Scientific research still takes place in the gardens in areas such as conservation of rare plants and control of invasive species in Ireland.

As a genetics graduate, I’ve always found botany fascinating as it was the origin of genetic study. One of the best examples of selective breeding can be seen in the variety of flowers in the rose garden. These have been bred for different types of size, smell and colour.

Relaxing in the coffee shop in the gardens, I saw how easily science and art come together. This month the gardens are full of sculptures but the layout and magnificent Turner glasshouses show that art has always been a part of the gardens. While the founding reason for the gardens was science, they have been designed with the enjoyment of people in mind. Driving home past the Casino in Marino, I remembered my promise to go see it. I suppose I’ll have to see it some other time.

Sculpture in Context runs in the Botanical Gardens from 8th September to 21st October 2011.

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