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David Sim Paterson, Director of Horticulture, Kunming Botanical Garden
source:Kunming Botanical Garden, KIB     author:David Sim Paterson     2012-05-15

Name: David Sim Paterson

Position in KIB: Director of Horticulture, Kunming Botanical Garden

Nationality: British

Place of Birth: Scotland


When I was asked to write this short personal profile for our newly revamped website, I agreed with some trepidation. Writing about oneself can be challenging but I believe we all have a story to tell. China is a land of great diversity with a vast array of plants, animals, habitats and variety of cultures and with a broad range of ethnicity. Our institute also contains rich diversity, demonstrated by our work and found within our staff and student population. I hope this personal profile is the first of many and that my colleagues will follow suit and write a little about themselves, their work and aspirations.

I was born in Scotland in 1958 and raised, along with a younger sister and older brother, in a typically Scottish manner, where self reliance, frugality and honesty were seen as important virtues. I spent much of my childhood outdoors and developed a life-long passion for adventure, especially in the mountains. I was educated in Edinburgh and graduated with an Honours Diploma in Horticulture from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and a Masters Degree in Arboriculture from the Royal Forestry Society.

I carved out a career in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where I served for 30 years, attaining the position of Deputy Director. I spent much of my time on landscape construction and aspired to create integrated landscapes within the garden that were suitable for plant collection representation, public education and purposeful within a world class visitor attraction. Creating landscapes of high amenity value whilst at the same time serving the needs of science, conservation and education posed many challenges but ultimately positioned the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as a leader in the field of innovate botanic garden landscape design. 

Concurrent with my mainstream horticultural career, I developed a role as a field officer and participated in numerous expeditions around the world. My first major expedition to China was in 1990. This Sino-British expedition was undertaken by staff from KIB and three UK institutes. I visited the mountains of Dali, Lijiang and Zhongdien. We endured months of bad weather but I was undeterred and, on my homeward journey, vowed to return China to explore deeper into the mountains and wilderness. I have been fortunate insofar as I have visited China every year since 1990 and have made over 100 visits, varying in duration from a few weeks to several months. My early visits were mostly concerned with plant collecting but I also provided some modest assistance in the early establishment of Hua Xi Sub-Alpine Botanical Garden in Sichuan and designed and constructed the British Garden within Kunming Expo’. I was also involved in the establishment of Lijiang Alpine Botanic Garden and spent several months each year, over a ten year period, working with staff from KIB to develop the Jade Dragon Field Station.

I opted to discontinue my employment with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to allow me to seek new challenges in both work and life. In particular, I wanted to further develop my career in China and was attracted by the opportunity to work on macro-landscapes and assist in the major reconstruction of Kunming Botanical Garden. My aspiration for Kunming Botanical Garden is simple. I would like our garden elevated to the highest national standard and, furthermore, achieve recognition as an international botanic garden of merit. I am proud to manage a team of excellent horticulturists and ancillary staff and, with the support of KIB, I am confident that we can significantly raise the standard of Kunming Botanical Garden. We will endeavor to report our progress on this website.

Out-with work, my passion is for the mountains, especially the Scottish hills. In the summer of 2011, I reached the summit of my 500th Scottish mountain. Of course, Kunming is situated a long way from the Scottish hills, so now my weekends are mostly spent cycling and running. I particularly enjoy distance running, especially marathons and ultra-running. I recently competed in the Beijing International Marathon and have also run the China, Great Wall Endurance Marathon. Since moving to Kunming, I have spent many happy weekends cycling through the rolling hills that surround the city and I greatly enjoy the freedom of pedaling slowly through the countryside. 

In some ways, the reconstruction of Kunming Botanical Garden can be likened to running a marathon or climbing 500 mountains. It is a task that cannot be achieved overnight. We will require stamina, careful planning, resourcefulness, support and encouragement, ability and self belief. Every step a marathon runner takes marks progress towards the finish line. Within Kunming Botanical Garden, we are still far from the finish line, but we are making good progress towards our ultimate goal. Please visit and share with us our aspirations.

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