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Volunteers' Blog - June & July 2019

Several volunteers spent the morning working in the Alpine Garden. This area of the garden was a particular favourite of Dennis Michison, our greatly missed Volunteer Co-ordinator. Dennis spent most weeks working within the Alpine Garden. Invariably he would skip the Friends of the Garden, end of the month, walks with Mike Hughes, to continue his work amongst his alpines. A true plantsman, with experience gained working for the Royal Parks, he was full of amusing anecdotes and sage advice. It was therefore with sadness that the Volunteers continued his work. The paved area was swept, and weeds removed from the walls and around the Geranium Theatre. A particularly pernicious weed, whose leaves resemble a cyclamen, found growing within the limestone was rooted out. Order was once more restored. We hope Dennis would have been proud of our efforts.

With warm weather following the heavy rains at the start of July the weeds were growing a plenty. Much time was spent in the Woodland and Pond Garden rooting out horsetails. On our most recent Friends walk Mike pointed out that the primulas growing here seem to be out competing these ancient weeds. Perhaps in time this is a job we will no longer have to undertake. Or is that just wishful thinking?

Elsewhere, two large mounds of soil next to the new sculpture, Fungate, at the entrance to the Woodland, were levelled and raked over to provide a smooth slope between the different areas. In time this will be sown with grass seed and planted up with ferns.

Work continued, in the later part of the month, to maintain order within the Alpine Garden. The Friends Committee have approved expenditure on rabbit proof fencing for this part of the Garden, and the purchase and the instillation of new gates, which again will be rabbit proof. In addition, there has been a lot of deadheading of flowers, particularly around the seating area near the visitors centre and dahlia border, and the edges of the lawns have been trimmed back off the paths.

Towards the end of the month the Volunteers were treated to a concert by the Furness Music Centre Choir and Chamber Orchestra, who were visiting the Gardens as part of a tour of the North of England. In the warm weather, as we worked and then drank our refreshments, the sound of the orchestra and choir could be heard wafting over the garden. A very pleasant diversion.

The Britain in Bloom judges had a whistle stop tour of the Garden, on the last Monday of the month, as part of their visit to Durham. The Volunteers were on hand, to talk about their work and contribution to the life of the Garden, as they deadheaded dahlias and rhododendrons and weeded within the Woodland and Pond garden. Multitasking being a key attribute of a Volunteer.

As a footnote for those who are following the Monarda ‘Bee Balm’ story. You will remember back in the Spring, an area around the beehive was planted with plugs of bee friendly plants. At the same time Monarda seeds were planted and left to germinate in an outside greenhouse. The seedlings have since been potted on. I can report that the plants continue to thrive and are growing well but are still too young and tender, and therefore likely to be prone to becoming rabbit food, to be planted out into their final position just yet.

Alex Taylor.