Molecular Plant Sciences

Blog - 31 Years And Still Loving Plants

Supporting Plant Science: Gina Pegu Interviews our Greenhouse Manager Billy Adams ahead of his retirement.

(Author: Gina Pegu, Editor: Aranza Diaz)

Billy Adams

After spending the past 31 years looking after experiments in the plant growth facility and providing materials for undergraduate student practicals Billy Adams, our glasshouse manager, decided to retire. We are all very sad to see Billy go and he is leaving big shoes to fill. Before he left us final year PhD student Gina Pegu interviewed Billy on his long journey with the Institute of Molecular Plant Science (IMPS).

Billy Adam flowers 1

Gina: “Good afternoon Billy, it is so nice of you to agree to this interview. I am really excited to learn all about working in a glasshouse used for research. First, I want to ask how has this journey of 31 years working in IMPS been?”

Billy: “There has been a big change. When I started in 1991 it was a lot busier at the University. There seemed to be more students and academics, it was very busy. As the years went on the only thing that changed was that once we started charging for the facilities, the people coming to us decreased.”

Gina: “How has it been working with plants and plant scientists in an Institute like IMPS?”

Billy: “It has been wonderful, but it is not just been the plants. It is mostly about the amount of different people and different cultures. Lots of experiences with people from different countries. It has been great! When I started in 1991, everything was really hard labour because we did not have the technology we have got now. When I started, the first 2 years, my back was constantly sore after mixing the soil. We didn’t have any machines for mixing soils, we didn’t even have hoses for the first 2 years. Everything was done with a watering can, so we really were working hard. Nowadays, it’s a lot better, more modern. It’s just great! It’s great being outdoors, it’s nice having all the fresh air. I really like it. I will miss it when I go.”

Gina: “I can agree with you on the outdoors, especially in lovely days like today. I sometimes come to the glasshouse, and I see the joy with which you work, it’s really contagious. How did you develop so much passion for plants?”

Billy Adams Flowers 2

Billy: “Since school, I always wanted to work outdoors. My mum and dad were both gardeners, and when I was 17 to about 18 onwards all the old ladies wanted their gardens tidied-up and I went along with my parents. It was a great way of learning the plants from different gardens. I was lucky because my predecessor in IMPS was a real expert in every plant. I always went to him when I was looking to find, or work with, a plant I didn’t know. This also pushed me to better my gardening. It is really rewarding, especially if you start off in a new place. Even here, when the new glasshouse was built, there was grass, yes, but it was all nettles and docks. It looked terrible. When you see it like that and then you transform it into how it is today it’s the greatest satisfaction.”

Gina: “It really is lovely here with the beautiful flowers. What are some of your favourite plants?”

Billy: “My favourite plants are probably Azaleas and Rododendrons. They don’t need much attention as long as they are on a seat of soil, and they have pit around them. I think they give you a lot of satisfaction in springtime when they are all flowering.

I think alpines have the best value. You can buy tiny alpines in garden centres, but in a couple of years you can be splitting them and propagating them and swapping to your friends if they are keen in alpines as well. So, value for money, alpines are probably one of the best to put in your garden.”

Gina: “Talking about gardens, I hear you love gardening in your spare time?”

Billy: “I do! I love gardening. Can I tell you something? I was interested in running as well. I used to run marathons and everything. But, at the end of the day, the keeping fit and marathons came second to gardening. Gardening has always been my first passion, always. I just love it! It is also great exercise but apart from that being outdoors with the fresh air is great. I think there’s nothing worse than working in an office, it’s just good to get out.”

Gina: “Do you think the current young generations are less enthusiastic about gardening?”

Billy Adams helping

Billy: “I don’t know if that is true. I’ve seen a lot of the young generations really keen on gardening, especially when it comes to herbs and vegetables. I you’d asked me that 10 years ago, I probably would’ve said no. I find the young ones that are still living with their mothers or their fathers at home don’t seem to be so interested, but once they get their own house and their own space things change. The passion can be there. Especially the ones who are starting up, just got married and are really into the “going green”, if you like, will start up with their vegetables and herbs. So, I think that the young generations are keen.”

Gina: “What are some of your best memories about working at IMPS?”

Billy: “Years ago, one or two academics here needed to have certain plants flowering out of season. I think I was really good in collecting plants from many gardens and have them ready when they needed them. I was pretty successful.”

Billy Adams walking away

Gina: “Finally, how will you spend your retirement after 31 years?”

Billy: “I will still be doing gardening but I’m going to work on different things and read. I will probably go away with my family around Scotland and the north of England. I would like to tour different places and go to garden centres. I want to go to castles around Scotland as well. That’s how I want to spend it.”

You will be sorely missed here Billy! Everyone at IMPS hopes that you enjoy your well-earned retirement.

Billy managed the glasshouse, an integral part of research and teaching support for all plant science here at the University of Edinburgh. The Plant Growth Facilities are a paid-for service that is open to both internal and external clients. If you would like to find out more, you can read about the state-of-the art facilities we have and hear about exciting new developments here.