During the author's 37 years as Curator of Horticulture, Dublin Zoo transformed from an almost Victorian appearance to a verdant green ark. A progressive masterplan focused on animal welfare and themed habitats reflect the spirit of the animals’ natural homelands. Plants have been instrumental in achieving that, for the visitors, and the animals. A well-planted habitat gives shade, shelter, and natural enrichment for the animals, all increasing health and well-being. Choosing the right plants to survive is key!
Stories of animal interactions with the plants, and insights into the creative thinking well outside of the box of normal horticultural endeavour, make for an entertaining read. But it’s not just purely gardening. The last chapter details many educational stories about plants, their names, their history, their origins, or their interesting and unusual botanical points, especially any animal connections. There is something for everyone on these pages, irrespective of their gardening expertise.
1. Early days. A Victorian appearance 1
2. First successes, changing minds and becoming sneaky 8
3. First small projects 15
4. More developments, bigger and with a masterplan 30
5. Design and thinking ahead 35
6. Cooperation, learning from peer groups 49
7. Asian Elephants – Kaziranga Forest Trail 52
8. African Savanna, a totally different habitat 78
9. Family Farm, a small area for Irish farm animals – and plants 126
10. Gorilla Rainforest, a massive task for the horticulture team 141
11. Asiatic Lions and Sumatran Tigers, two very different habitats 182
12. Sea Lion Cove and Flamingo Lagoon, problems working with water 190
13. Orangutan Forest, more watery challenges 222
14. Soil Compaction and Urban Tree Soil, the answer lies in the soil 245
15. Mulching, a wonderful natural weed control system 265
16. Libertia, a most useful non-edible plant 271
17. Weed Control, a never ending and essential task 286
18. Fauna and Flora, uninvited guests, often welcome, but not always 291
19. Education, the most essential role for any zoo 299
Spanning 50 years, Stephen Butler's career has involved not just the world-famous gardens at Hampton Court Palace, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, but also a few years in Bangladesh. Travel around that area, including Darjeeling in the foothills of the Himalayas, and Calcutta in the plains of the Ganges, certainly broadened the mind.
He has had a keen interest in gardening societies such as the Irish Garden Plant Society and the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland. Equally, involvement with horticultural organisations such as the Professional Gardeners Guild and Plant Heritage in the UK has been productive. Zoo plant groups too benefitted from his energy and knowledge.
"Not every gardener must accommodate tigers, meerkats, and giraffes. This book is an insight into Stephen Butler’s special world."
– Mary Hackett, Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland, The Journal Autumn 2020
"In the 37 years that Stephen Butler was curator of the gardens at Dublin Zoo, it transformed from an almost Victorian appearance to a verdant ark."
– Dr Klaus Schuling, Tiergarten Magazine
"Gardening for Gorillas has set the stage for a new area of literature regarding the field of zoo horticulture, it is hoped that this book will encourage more work of this nature as it is truly a fascinating subject."
– Jude Lamph, keeper, Peak Wildlife Park
"If I were starting a zoo or held a directorship at one (we can all dream!), this book would be amongst the first I would put on my shelf – because I’d want my zoo to be a zoological garden."
– Tim Brown, Zoo Grapevine & International Zoo News
"Gardening for Gorillas [...] is a fascinating record of the 37 years he spent transforming what was a botanically dull and uninspiring landscape into a series of beautifully planted spaces"
– Fionnuala Fallon, Irish Times contributor specialising in gardening
"A fascinating book by Dublin Zoo’s head gardener explores his efforts to make animal environments more authentic."
– Michael Viney, Irish Times contributor, broadcaster, film-maker and natural-history author
"Stephen Butler has been an important figure in the gardening community for decades. His knowledge is encyclopaedic, fuelled by a robust curiosity that drives him to investigate the world of plants and horticulture from many angles."
– Jane Powers,, garden & nature writer
"It is time for those of us who complain about our garden pests, slugs and snails, greenfly, blackfly and aphids in general, vine weevils, leatherjackets, rabbits, foxes and badgers, even pigeons and pheasants to put things into some perspective"
– Paddy Tobin, book reviewer for The Irish Garden Plant Society
"This legacy of Stephen Butler‘s longterm work for Dublin Zoo is the first book about zoo ecology and condensed wisdom about zoo horticulture, particularly in climatic areas similar to Ireland. With his distinct style and sense of humour"
– Monika Fiby, chief editor, founder, & manager of ZooLex Design Organisation