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Volunteers' Blog - February 2019

During February, the Friends of the Garden volunteers have continued to meet on Wednesday mornings. With cold weather outside, a companionable group of around a dozen members meet in the greenhouse classroom to clean and pack seeds. We also try to put the world to rights, but as you will know from the news, we haven’t succeeded yet!

Seed heads, originating from both members’ gardens and the Botanic Garden, are processed to remove the seeds from the chaff. The seeds are then placed in envelopes, which are labelled with the name of the plant and further descriptive notes. A small circular sticker is applied to the top right-hand corner to identify the contents as either annuals, biennials or perennials. This year we have packed so many annuals, those with a blue sticker in the top right-hand corner, that we have seemingly bought up all Rymans and WH Smiths stock of small circular blue stickers. Ever resourceful, a blue felt pen has been commandeered to provide the appropriate identifying circular mark.

This cottage industry, fuelled by chat and hot drinks from the café, has packed over 2,500 packets of seeds which are now available for sale in the Visitors' Centre, look out for the limited-edition annual packets with the ‘hand-written’ blue dot.

At the start of the month a number of members joined Head Gardener, Mike Hughes, on a visit to the RHS garden at Harlow Carr to research plantings for the Winter Garden. Back in Durham some of our hardier members, eschewing the warmth of the greenhouse, have been working outside. The Winter Garden area has been prepared for the new planting, bushes have been pruned and sticks, leaves and brambles removed ready for the new plants.

At the end of the month, enjoying the unseasonable warm weather, Volunteers worked in the area that is to become part of an extension to the Oriental Collection. Mike and his team had already removed many of the existing laurel bushes, leaving a large area available for new planting, other laurel bushes, reduced to stumps, are being allowed to regenerate.

Volunteers weeded the bare area, removing nettles and thistles from the rich sandy loam, prior to a final rotivation and planting. The many foxglove seedlings found in the area were “rescued” and potted up for use in the Garden. These will perhaps be planted in the Woodland Area near the bell ringers post called, appropriately, Foxglove.

Alex and Wendy Harris.