How the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney are Using Podcasting to Interest People in Gardening

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The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney has recently released a podcast called Branch Out which discusses the local flora and fauna of the Sydney area. Each episode covers a different aspect of plants, whether it’s their poisons used in medicines, or their evolutionary history as “living fossils.” The podcast has been quite successful, as they are up to five seasons and 22 episodes.

Brett Summerell, Director, Research and Chief Botanist at RBG Sydney, was interviewed about the podcast, as he helped give expert advice in the first episode. Brett discussed how it was difficult to take something so visual as gardening, and make it into an engaging audio medium. He said that when the podcast is being released by the Gardens, there are plenty of visual attachments with it, so it comes to the consumer as a bigger package. While the podcast focuses on gardening, Brett mentioned that it targets more of the science of plants, conservation science, and environmental issues.

A podcast like Brett’s allows for a quick look into what the garden is doing, without even leaving the house. Listeners can learn more about plant facts, gardening, home remedies, and the activities held at RBG Sydney easily and quickly. It’s a great way to advertise the classes at the Gardens, and create buzz about upcoming events. The culture created around Branch Out sparks conversations bigger than just gardening or RBG Sydney. These conversations are about climate change and plant conservation, giving listeners the creativity and dialogue, they need to think about plants in their neighbourhoods, and how their actions can help better the society around them.

When asked what his favourite episode or plant was on the podcast, Brett responded: “that’s like choosing children.” He did answer saying that he enjoyed the episodes that put the work of Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney into a bigger context, particularly the episode on plant bio-security, focusing on the Sydney area and people’s backyard gardens. In that episode, Brett explains, there is a focus on plant diseases, and how those can affect human diseases, and the diseases of communities. It put healthy plants into a bigger context, as healthy plants can allow for healthy people, which can allow for healthy communities, especially within the agriculture industry.

Branch Out doesn’t just deal with big social issues, but also focuses on the weird side of plants. Some episodes include stories of parasites, like mistletoe, and others are about forensic botany and solving cold cases. Branch Out does in fact do what its title suggests, and covers where plants have touched all aspects of human society, from food to DNA to space travel. Each episode is no more than 30 minutes, and on the RBG Sydney website, where you can listen to the podcast, each episode has corresponding pictures to it to add detail to the stories told. It will be interesting to see what episodes come out next!

This post was written and made possible by BGCI Intern, Kenna Castleberry.

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